The Smiths and a Grump Walk into a Coffeehouse 

I jumped ship Sunday afternoon and went to my favorite local coffee place.  I was getting cabin fever but had rough luck renegotiating my exercise contract last week (current status:  SIT.  STAY.), and it sounded like it was about to be aerobics time* upstairs.

*Unlike some of my more obvious flights of fancy, I do think that one is accurate; in college one year, there was an aerobics enthusiast in the dorm room above, so I’ve heard this one before.  Me picturing the full-on ’80s Jane Fonda setup is complete projection, admittedly. 

Post image is Starbucks– not the coffeehouse. I’ve undertaken guerilla lyrics-doodling. Yeah, yeah:  get a life. 

One reason I like this particular coffee place is that they generally play good music (read:  music I like) at the perfect volume:  audible, but right at that level where it drowns out nearby conversation without preventing you from reading (or whatever), even though the seating is tight.

Accordingly, I’d gone armed with my current book (A Light that Never Goes Out:  The Enduring Saga of The Smiths, the follow-up to Girls to the Front:  The True Story of the Riot Grrrl Revolution; I’m on some sort of music roll).  I incidentally thought that brooding behind a book that prominently featured the famous disaffected Manchester group might scream “over here!  Single!” without actually having to sing “How Soon Is Now?,” but perhaps Morrissey sends the wrong message . . . . Also, I tend to forget I’m old.  Really, really, super-old.


Credit: Kaineiribas, DeviantArt:

Credit: Kaineiribas, DeviantArt:

I sat down next to a guy affixed to his computer who, oddly, tapped his headphones when I sat.  The Unstated Coffee House Code of Conduct generally forbids that sort of thing, so I was puzzled, and I had no idea what was particularly of interest about his headphones.

I found out pretty quickly.

I can normally tune people out when I’m reading, and, as I said, the music generally is a good cover here.  Maybe it was the pitch of this girl’s voice?  Only the scientists who hunt her down and trap her for further study will have the answers.

Here’s a sampling of what I learned in the short period of time that preceded putting my headphones in (sitting down –> waiting for my order to be called):

*Religion is not the same as spirituality.  Religion is Baptist.

*Saddam Hussein was/is President of Iraq.

*America is not the world police.  (cue me mentally humming Team America theme song)

*Her parents are worried that she is a spinster.  She’s almost 24 already!

*She can take care of a dog, so she is totally ready to start having babies!

*Her parents are worried about her brother-in-law because he hasn’t produced any children yet.  (No, I didn’t understand, either.)

All attempts at further socialization went into the toilet once I hunkered down with coffee, as that’s when my headphones went in.  At first, it was something about the tone of her voice that made her hard to tune out, just on an aural level.  Then it was these– aphorisms?– that kept coming at her companion (and everyone else in the vicinity) that turned into can’t-turn-away utterances.

It was headphones or live-tweeting, and I figured no one could miss me doing the second.  Also, I can’t type that fast.  Or read while live-tweeting, which would defeat the whole purpose of coming to get a quiet cup of coffee in the first place.

I get the feeling it might be a problem.

I get the feeling it might be a problem.

In the end, The Smiths [book] and I had coffee with The Smiths [music].  Party of three, alienated and with a thorn in our side.

Unnecessary bit at the end, by way of seriously lightweight book reviewing:  The review of the book I’m reading now (A Light that Never Goes Out) is accurate; the book is full of information, but the pacing is sluggish, and Fletcher is no writer.  I’m on page 161, and the band hasn’t even formed.  For every great quotation or musical reference, there are pages of so much detail that I end up flipping back.  Clearly, I haven’t read enough to say much more than that.

Girls to the Front, by contrast, is practically page-turning, and it’s interesting that both books cover limited spans of music-time (a briefly-lived band, a briefly-lived movement).  Marcus clearly also did serious and exhaustive research, but she doesn’t exhaust the reader with the weight of it.  If you’re interested in early Riot Grrrl, this is a good one.  As this review acknowledges, the only real thing of note is that she sometimes lets people and the issues that divided them off slightly more easily than they may have deserved.  There’s generally enough context that you can spot these points yourself, though.  

If you just (like me) read Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, this is a good time to pull this one off the bookshelf (where it may have happened to have been sitting for far too long) (cough).  My review of that one is on LibraryThing and Goodreads, for what little that’s worth.


Please use this space for Profound Thoughts or Utter Nonsense.

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