You know what I always say: There’s nothing like some good rap music to cool you down in the summertime. Yesterday I was angry because my mom asked after the status of her tax forms, which, as some sick joke of the cosmos, are MY responsibility. I developed a headache, not because number crunching is difficult—it’s the easiest thing in the world, in fact; insultingly so—but because my nerves shift into high gear anytime mother surfaces: I suffer a general, full-body tension, like waiting under the guillotine; yet the blade never drops, and you can’t tell if that is a good thing or bad.
So I listened to some old rap from the late 80s, and it cheered me. My spirits lifted. I really love that old rap music. I wonder if my taste is truly superior to that of others who like other music, or if I’m just beguiled by nostalgia. My first job was at a burger joint, and I used my first paycheck to buy The Low End Theory, an album by A Tribe Called Quest. That’s not what I listened to yesterday, but it’s worth mentioning because the datum is biographically accurate. People love to know all the official happenings: they think that it gives them insight into the life of a fowl. (Dorking is a breed of chicken, F.Y.I.) But the album that I listened to, among others, was Jeru’s debut: The Sun Rises in the East. That’s my all-time favorite rap tape.
And now that I look at the release dates, I realize that I’m referencing early 90s stuff, not late 80s. But I stand by my statement that I love late-80s rap best.
I also have learned to love much of jazz. Bebop and hip-hop: they are the rare high points of U.S. culture. But let me quote my text exchange with my mother, again just in the service of maintaining a true history of current events:
I got emails saying that both your federal and state tax forms were accepted, and I was therefore able to complete the property tax form too, so ALL the taxes are now done. You should see your refunds deposited soon; however, remember that the prop tax will be processed at the end of September (that’s the normal timeline for the MN revenue service), so watch for that amount to show up in your account a little later.
That’s what I said. Note how boring it is. That’s because business is never personal. Now here’s how my mom responded.
Thank you very much, Bryan, for taking care of all that! I’m with Dad because the hospice nurse told me he won’t be here much longer; maybe 1 or 2 weeks.
For the fraction of the world’s citizenry that hasn’t been following my public-private diary, I should explain that my dad lives (rather, “lives”) in the vets nursing home because he lost his memory and cannot talk or feed himself. So the above conversation establishes, on my end, that I finished my mother’s taxes, whereas, on my mom’s end, it casts sorrow and guilt on the reader about my earthly father’s mortality. For it is MY fault that he shall die someday (although I still don’t believe such a thing is possible), because I wished upon a star for it repeatedly. Because I am a selfish middle-aged fan of late-80s hip-hop. If you know that a loved one is dying, you should not enjoy the fruits of capital, such as audio discs purchased with earnings from your fast-food employment. Especially if your loved ones aren’t much loved. (And your wages are minimum.) Look at me: I’m kind of an expletive. I inherited that trait from my father, who inherited it from his father, etc., etc… At least I’m not endowing the curse on another – that’s my paradise pass. Or at least my Get-Out-of-Hell FREE card. Because God is a dealmaker.
They will not believe it until
they behold the painful punishment.
It will come upon them unawares,
and they will not comprehend it.
Then will they say:
“Can we be given respite?”
Do they wish Us then to hasten the punishment?
Just think: If We let them enjoy (the good things of life)
for a few years more,
And then what they were promised comes upon them,
Of what avail shall their enjoyment be to them?
That’s from Ahmed Ali’s contemporary translation of Alcoran, which I read every day NOT as a believer but because the book perplexes me. Why is it shaped like this? Is this good writing? Is it bad? Does my opinion even matter? Is the voice speaking to me personally; or am I too foreign to receive the message, relegated to the position of outsider? Should I be scared or smug or indifferent? Will my own books ever drive anyone up the wall?
Let me now quote one small couplet from Edward Lear’s “The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo”:
There he heard a Lady talking,
To some milk-white Hens of Dorking
I copy these lines here only to bolster my fancy—Lear is like 80s rap to me—and also because at the beginning of this entry I referenced a certain breed of chicken. I like the name of that town in England so much that I want to quote this whole Lear limerick:
There was a Young Lady of Dorking,
Who bought a large bonnet for walking;
But its color and size
So bedazzled her eyes,
That she very soon went back to Dorking.
Why must divinely inspired books contain threats of punishment? Why can’t they be happier, lighter? Who made the rules of religion? What if Edward Lear were our holy scripture? …I’m founding a new culture; please join me.