Midlife crisis averted courtesy of AC/DC

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Photo: Paul Failla

Thank you AC/DC for stepping in front of the train that is the midlife crisis and bringing it to a halt, because it was about to roll right over me.

Last night the band played at Wrigley Field — a show that completely and utterly rocked, and not only entertained me but also brought a bit of the fountain of youth back to seeing live music.

Lately, seeing bands has not been so good for my fragile midlife state.

First there was the Phish show where my husband had to hold me back from telling a collection of 17-year-old boys smoking way too many bowls that their mamas were waiting at home, hoping they’d come back in one piece, so please just stop. My latest midlife angst was brought on full-scale earlier this year by seeing Van Halen perform… on Ellen… playing “Jump.” Our vow to no longer pay money to see old 60s artists perform occured after seeing far less of Crosby, Stills & Nash than we should have due to all the Baby Boomers getting up to use the bathroom.

After a quick text conference with my husband and the luck of finding a sitter to watch our kids (who are more B-96 than WLUP) we headed to Wrigley to get some tickets. (Bargain shoppers would be impressed by how much we paid.)

After passing up the $10 light-up devil horns to get our $11 drinks, we found ourselves right on time to not hear the opening song so well (public service — don’t get 300-level tix for guitar-based music at Wrigley) but moved toward our section (500 level, up high but great sound) for the second, “Shoot to Thrill.” It just got better from there.

The people-watching was superior. The diversity of generations was surprising, and for once we might have been older than the average age. There were plenty of the expected rock dudes and guys formerly known as such. But there were also“kids” in their 20s and old rockers in their 60s. We saw middle-age moms wearing the devil horns with their middle-school sons. We saw college girls humoring their moms who were dancing in the aisle to every single song. There were clusters of GenX chicks throwing from their elegant wrists some of the daintiest horns I’ve ever seen, their diamond-y watches flashing from 10 rows down.

These folks sound like cliches, but how many of us appear our unique selves to the outside world? Didn’t matter. Everything about that AC/DC show was about rock-n-roll. Everyone in that stadium (except for maybe the worried-looking woman in front of us) was enthralled with the spectacle that it was.

The highlight of the show was the closing song before the encore — “Let There Be Rock,” the song that inspired my fingertips to text our sitter and see if she was free that evening. Until that point the walkway that extended from the main stage and ended at a smaller circular stage in the crowd had been unused. At the end of the song Angus Young played his way to that circle to launch a God-knows-how-long solo. When he got to the center, he flopped on his back as ticker tape exploded from all around the stage lit like fireworks from the lights. I don’t care how Spinal Tap such antics might seem, it was awesome!

And he kept playing, making his was back to the main stage. Everything went dark, but you could still hear him playing guitar. When the single spotlight came up a few minutes later, he was on top of his wall of amps, the single shadow of his school-boy-uniform figure on the giant black curtain. It was exactly what I needed to see.

Witnessing this, I might have been envious of his energy or felt old because I don’t have it. I might have imagined with regret a younger me climbing on my husband’s shoulders in the first row. Instead Angus invited me in, like he did for every other person in that stadium. For my place and time, there was nothing better to remind me of who I used to be and actually still am.

Thanks again, AC/DC. This one might last me until I turn 50.

Chicago woman has mixed feelings upon hearing B96 blasting from child’s room

A Lincoln Square mom reported today that she was both horrified and heartened that her 10-year-old son was cranking B96, a station heavy on artists like 5 Seconds of Summer and Ariana Grande, on his clock radio.

“At first I wondered if it was some car rolling by, but then I realized that the sound of auto-tune was coming from upstairs,” she said. “When I opened my son’s door, I found him lounging on his left side propped up on his elbow, reading Minecraft: The Essential Handbook and tapping his foot every-so-slightly to a salsa beat.”

Though her son told her he was listening specifically for “Blame” by Calvin Harris because the station was known to play it on an hourly basis, the middle-aged woman, who prefers to the term “midlife,” suspected peer influence. According to her, B96, which she vaguely remembers being called “Party Radio” a few decades back, has never been included on their car’s radio presets.

Son with Little Martin.

Three chords and beyond…

The 40-something GenXer says that she has spent years preparing her son to study rock’s canon as a teenager, fully expecting him to develop an interest in Radiohead or even Rush at some point in his adolescence. Already he showed promise by regularly differentiating between Paul McCartney, after whom he was named, and John Lennon, and correctly identifying the masterful guitar work of Eddie Van Halen. Every once in a while he hums the opening notes of “The Immigrant Song.” She had recently introduced Prince to his educational repertoire.

But the rock-obsessed mom admits to going through a “Killer B phase” when she attended college in Northwest Indiana and was exposed to Chicago’s diverse radio market.

“Sure, back when they were playing ‘Rhythm Nation’ and Dead or Alive, I listened,” she said. “I guess I should be happy that he is recognizing the current trend of producers taking the credit for songs, because being able to hear a producer’s touch is a pretty advanced listening skill.”

She added that maybe it’s time to teach him about the influence of Mutt Lange through his work with AC/DC and Rick Rubin’s ground-breaking cross-genre vision on the landmark Run-DMC album “Raisin’ Hell,” which she notes she owns on vinyl and CD.

“Do not get me started on the Aerosmith vs. Run-DMC ‘Walk This Way’ thing unless you have a half an hour at least to talk,” said the self-proclaimed amateur rock music analyst whose husband has shared his differing opinion on the topic. “We are never coming to an agreement on that around here. But at least we can present both sides to our son and let him make his own decision, which I know if he’s listening to me will be the right one.”

Nearly 8 Ways This GenXer Felt Old This Week

Nevermind Baby Grown UpYou may have seen this photo on various sites in the past week or so. The phrase, “A picture says a thousand words,” comes to mind. But, in this case, the image needs only three to get its message across — “You are old.”

Those of us who remember the release of “Nevermind” or the demise of Nirvana’s frontman, Kurt Cobain, are supposed to feel their age when shown this image. But I was already feeling that way this week due to a variety of other harbingers of maturity.

A department head named Dakota.

I was reading a trade publication for work the other day and came to the section where they announce promotions, new positions, etc. There was a listing for a woman named Dakota who had just joined a company as director of one of their departments.

Disclaimer — I am not one of those people who thinks that a guy named Buck can’t be a sommelier or a woman named Ginger won’t land a “serious” job. But the fact that kids born in the era of Montana and Sierra are now leading groups of people in manufacturing companies made me realize that quite a bit of time has passed since the Heathers and Dawns of GenX entered the workforce.

Not a single person in my writing class understood my cultural reference to Rob Lowe.

In the GenX female dictionary, look up the definition of “hot,” and you will find the words “Rob Lowe.” So in the spirit of “show-don’t-tell,” I described a character as looking like Sodapop from The Outsiders. No one understood the reference. It was so off that many of them actually called it out in the notes they wrote for my workshop. When a classroom full of mostly adult women does not totally get Sodapop, you know that you’ve crossed the threshold of time. It makes me wonder if they even know C. Thomas Howell!

The contents of my purse.

I’ve been known to say that the size of a woman’s purse indicates her age. In college, we didn’t even carry purses out to bars, because the possibility of losing them in all the excitement that a $3-pitcher establishment offered was so great. As a female acquires more responsibility, the bag she totes around gains more stuff.

This week, though, it was not the size of my bag but what I found in it that made me feel my age. If the contents of one’s purse reflect that person’s life, I think that a child’s molar, reading glasses and a tube of Motrin for my pending fourth root canal sums it up tidily.

The fact that I went to college when pitchers cost $3.

Granted, it wasn’t the kind of place I seek out these days. But still…

Frances Bean is not a baby.

If the dude from the Nirvana cover is 22, then Frances Bean, Kurt and Courtney’s daughter, must be legal drinking age as well, or at least close. I could google this, but I’d rather retain the small measure of doubt that this is true.

I referred to a portable CD player as “obsolete.”

My daughter received a clock-radio-iPod docker for her birthday, so I removed the CD-player-radio combo we got from my FIL from her room, saying these words as I picked it up and put it on top of the whites load in the laundry basket to be carried to the basement. And while I realized how weird it was to call such a thing “obsolete,” I noted how she had never used it… of course because she has never owned a CD.

I realized I don’t have a Pintrest account.

Wait, scratch that. If I am a 40-something woman, I’m supposed to have a Pintrest account. How GenX of me to reject the mainstream 🙂

Sometimes you’ve gotta go home

My midlife crisis is in full swing.  It wouldn’t take more than three minutes for my husband to convince me to pack up what I could in an hour, hit the road and leave everything behind (aside from the kids, who’d come with us).

But, I’m unlikely to find myself in that situation.  I’m not a flight risk as long as he and the kids are here with me.  But, I imagine the wheels rolling down Lake Shore Drive, the four of us taking off in the pursuit of the ultimate freedom.  Better yet, because I don’t like long car rides, we’d be on Amtrak, pulling out of Union Station on the way to the Pacific Northwest.

When I get in these moods, I find myself reaching back instead of forward.  The future is an unknown.  And for a person who doesn’t feel the need to be rooted (an Aquarian trait, I suppose), it’s ironic that what soothes me are songs that have no other place in my life than in my youth.  I picture my childhood bedroom or riding in my electric blue Dodge Colt.  I can only return to these places in my mind.  My parents sold the house years ago, and the Colt’s metal probably has been recycled 20 times by now.  So it’s inside those songs that I go to relive where I’ve been before.

Thanks to SongPop, the greatest thing to happen to Facebook ever, tonight it’s this one… (click on the photo to hear the song).

Gen X at Midlife without a Sports Car?

Check out this piece from Forbes.com .  The writer spends some time moaning about the state of the GenX midlife crisis, and I think it is interesting.  For many years, I grumbled about the unfortunate position GenXers were put into, especially being on the older end of the generation and leaving college into a nasty job market.  Moaning about our lot, especially in comparison to the Baby Boomers, is a generational imperative… a result of our apathy, our disaffected disposition.  The tone of this piece certainly begins woefully, and like many articles and essays of its ilk, wraps with the silver lining of how many things GenX does have going for it.

This reminds me of something I saw the other day on The Today Show.  Al Roker was interviewing a financial expert on the — gasp! — increasing trend of grown children not leaving their parents’ home.  Wow!  How did this come about?!  Al even said something to that effect, feigning (I hope) mild surprise on this odd state of young adulthood.  Well, I think Al was around in the early 90s when many of us were still living with mom and dad, post-graduation and then even a few years more.  In the news cycle, perhaps enough time has passed to make this new again, but I recall the same topic covered ad nauseam by media when I was not living in my parents’ home but paying a decent portion of my paycheck for a studio apartment the size of my patio in the pre-dot-com 90s.  (This says a lot more about the size of my apartment than it does the size of my patio.)

The article certainly calls out the role of circumstance in a generation’s misfortune or good luck.  I am not entirely sure that I agree that things are so dismal for GenX.  The writer says that GenX has hit its “collective wall,” and I am assuming that is measured only in terms of earning power.  True, GenXers have suffered through two horrible economies.  And, they are approaching what has been understood to be peak earning years during one of these downturns, but this is all based on assumptions of how things are “supposed” to work.   And hasn’t each generation had to suffer through their own challenges and bask in their own advantages based on the circumstances at the time?  We can’t continue to measure ourselves by the generation that has come before, precisely because things are different.

My parents are on the initial crest of the Baby Boomers, and they never had a sports car or any of the other trappings of the midlife crisis.  When they entered their forties, they had the pleasure of paying for college for three kids.  My neighbor who just turned forty has been rolling around town in a new BMW convertible.  It’s all situational, and perhaps it doesn’t have as much to do with what generation you are in as it does choices you have made (my parents starting a family in their early 20s), and whether or not you have benefitted from the economy past, present or future.

Did the stock market downtown hit your retirement savings or the income you live off of in retirement now?  Did you start your career expecting to stay with the same company forever and have a great retirement pension, or did you know going in that it was completely up to you to save?  Do you have a huge environmental mess on your hands?  (This, I think, is the worst legacy we’ve received, and it is multi-generational.)  These things are generational.  But many other factors can influence the outcome of one’s life too.  Perhaps the GenX midlife won’t be associated with sports cars, but it might be associated with something else… like launching a second career, entrepreneurialism or re-inventing one’s life.  Regardless of what it is, it also a reflection of personal circumstances as it is of birthdate.

No record contract for Morrissey? What is up with that?

I was driving around today listening to WXRT when I heard an unfamiliar song that I just knew had to be Morrissey.  Not only did I recognize his voice, but the lyrics about a broken back or something instilled a brief auditory flashback of the song, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.  At the end of the song, Terri Hemmert devulged that Morrissey is currently without a record contract.  What?  No label representing Morrissey?

When I got home, I did a little research.  I found out that this is old news, but it is still “news” because it is still going on!  (And, this also was re-affirmation that I am, in fact, midlife, because this information came to me months after it was initially revealed.  So much for my young-life self’s declaration that I would never lose touch with what is going on in the music business.)  Why would such a thing happen?  Apparently, Morrissey has an album ready to go.  Has he misbehaved in a way that offends record companies?  Morrissey himself has a few theories.

I can’t imagine that this will go on much longer.  Morrissey is still a relevant and influential artist, both a cult figure and accepted by the mainstream.  In my opinion, Morrissey belongs to GenX.  In our bedrooms, friends’ basements and dorm rooms across the country (and the world, for that matter), we indulged in Morrissey’s and The Smiths’ angst while forming our musical tastes for the lifetime ahead of us.  To a certain extent, we made him and he defined us.

The glimmer of hope is this…  With all the buzz generated by this story, perhaps some record company influential will realize the value of all this publicity (at the very least, putting Morrissey back on the radar of lifelong music consumers) and will get Morrissey a contract just in time for the release of his autobiography coming later this year.

Midlife Crisis Cure

Looking for a way to chase those midlife blues and still maintain a sense of style?  Check out this wine bag.  It’s at Scandanavian Design Center and an assortment of other places online.  My friends saw it on a recent wine weekend in Southwest Michigan.

Just stick your bag of wine in, and you have a fashion-friendly alternative to dragging a box of wine around wherever you go.  Definitely time to swap out the old bota bag for this!  Once word gets out about your new wine bag, you’ll be everyone’s best friend.