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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The ultimate meaning of life is to embrace that which compels you to act in spite of fear.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Looking for the down escalator

The song, by The Chameleons, was a frontal assault of buzzing angst and booming vocals, the guitar rising and falling with urgent melancholy that suited the title - "Up the Down Escalator." This was one of those deliciously gloomy tunes about a world gone mad that came out in the early to mid-eighties, when post-punk and goth were giving over to industrial, when the club scene in Toronto was about dancing, music, and the tragedy of young adult disappointment (before the real tragedy of guns in the hands of the young clubbers.)

On many nights songs like "Up the Down Escalator" kept me company (whether I was alone or not) in my car, in my room, or on the dance floor. And then the band, like many, just disappeared. Those times, which I occasionally recall with pangs of bittersweet longing, seem innocent twenty years later. Ah, the clubbing in the eighties...

...Ah, searching for music in the 2000's. I wouldn't call it pangs I feel, but slight annoyance. For years now I've searched stores and online in the hopes of finding the studio version, but without luck. Sure, I managed to download a live version I found on iTunes. But this performance, though full of the energy I remember, is a little off: the melancholy of the guitar is overpowered by the buzzing angst. Who was on the mixing board during that show?! The studio version is strong and balanced, like youth itself... Okay, maybe "balanced" doesn't apply.

But no matter. The live version, like life itself, is imperfect and often difficult to make out. And yet it contains the passion of the studio version, as does the grown up version of my own life. In fact, I would say my life today is better than my life when I was 21, in so many ways. While the world still has problems, I have a clearer sense of direction, a better understanding of my options, and greater control of my personal power. Not perfect, but improved. Perhaps this is what is called wisdom.

As for the song, I can always replay the studio version in my mind while listening to the downloaded one. In a way, I get the best of both worlds. Besides, I've come to accept that reality rarely lives up to the down escalator of one's memories.

Sometimes it's better.


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