Captain Geriatric and the Old-As-Brown-Dirt CowboyWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
I have yet to yell at any kids to get offa my lawn or aim my bifocals at the AARP magazine, but I am increasingly aware that my pop culture references are aging as the years pile up behind me like discarded fiddlehead roots at the feet of William Howard Taft.
The April 25 Elton John concert at HunCen was an inspiring three hours; watching the 63-year-old musician pound on his Yamaha piano and run through two dozen songs as the audience worked to keep up was invigorating. I would charitably guess John has played “Crocodile Rock” live about 6,000 times, but he zipped through it at the concert as if he were still discovering new twists and nuances in the pop song.
During “Crocodile Rock,” the Jumbo Tron displayed me and the young woman I was with bopping and singing “na-na-na-na-na.” I did not see us on the screen, but yes, I appreciate the irony of being my size and being displayed on the Jumbo-Tron, and yes, I assume the degree to which I looked silly was proportionately Jumbo Tronned to the degree of blissfully ignorant fun I was having.
The best text or Facebook comment I received about the moment was from the Metropark’s Scott Carpenter, who wrote, “I leaned over to my wife and said, ‘Christ, that guy’s everywhere!’”
The coolest thing about the concert was found in the HunCen lobby. For $25, the company simfyLive provided a flash drive and Web link, http://simfylive.com/, with the April 25 Toledo show in full.
Way to hit the bootleggers in the mouth, Elton!
The soundboard-quality MP3 files captured the entire Toledo concert, including John’s minimal between-song comments. My date and I climbed into our Dodge Caravan, plugged the simfyLive flash drive into the dashboard USB port, and re-experienced the concert highlights on our way home.
I know it’s not like the first caveman discovering fire or Ben Franklin connecting the dots about electricity, but really, how awesome is that? We saw a concert, picked up a tiny device that plugged into our car and took the concert home with us. Perhaps younger, more tech-savvy people aren’t awed by this development, but I am.
The next day, I met Columbia Gas of Ohio Community Relations Manager Chris Kozak at the Downtown Jed’s at the Yard to talk about coverage plans for this summer’s Smoke on the Water Ribs for the Red Cross, which will feature Mini-KISS, Gin Blossoms and a very hip and cool country act to be named within the week.
Jed’s does two things very well; it combines cheeses, sauces, chicken chunks, various toppings and potatoes into plates of tasty, heart-clogging dishes that make suffering through the occasional Jumbo Tron joke worth it, and it hires hottie waitresses, several of whom dress like ZZ Top is in town to audition video vixens.
Kozak and I were seated in the central area of Jed’s, in front of a giant wall mural featuring several rock stars. It shows Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bono, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Elton John, Mick Jagger and … some long-haired guy wailing into a microphone.
As a proud, lifelong fanatic for rock ‘n’ roll music, and a student of its history, I was taken aback that I could not identify the singer. Kozak, a fellow music lover, stared at the mural with me and we made a few guesses. Bob Seger? Kurt Cobain? Metallica’s James Hetfield? None of those seemed right.
The next time our waitress dropped by, we asked her who it was.
“I don’t know any of them,” she admitted with cheer. “I was born in 1983.”
Well, hand me a truss and call me “granddad,” you little fetus.
In 1983, I was halfway through high school, listening nonstop to The Police album “Synchronicity,” playing football for Libbey High School and trying to reconcile what I knew about women with what I knew I did not know about women. And while I was in that 17th year of life, unto the world our Jed’s waitress was just being born.
“You know,” I told her, speaking slowly so my dentures wouldn’t fall onto my plate of Bacon Double-CheeseBalls, “Mozart was alive in the 1760s, but you know who he was, right? Jesus Christ was born more than 2,000 years ago, but you’re familiar with his work, right?”
Our patient and good-natured server smiled and said she would ask other staff if they knew who the long-haired singer was. At one point, one of her co-workers joined us to ask who the other musicians on the wall were.
I pointed at Hendrix and said, “That’s Prince.” Gesturing to Joplin, I said, “That’s Crystal Bowersox,” but before I could identify Bono as Buddy Holly, the ladies caught on that we were teasing them and we supplied the real names. And as we went through the hall-of-fame litany, it was clear they had no idea who those people were.
It’s really not fair of them. I know who Justin Bieber and Rhianna are; they should know who Elton John and Mick Jagger are.
Eventually, a man came out from the kitchen and informed us that the mystery man was Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, and while he acted like it was obvious as 2+2, the face on the mural doesn’t look like Vedder any more than I looked like a cool young hipster singing “Crocodile Rock” on the Jumbo Tron.
It’s not just a generation gap; it’s aging like a candle in the wind, and while I’m still standing, I’m a lot less rocket man and a lot more madman across the water, especially through the eyes of a waitress born when I was in high school. And I guess that’s why the call it the blues.
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.