Thursday, October 21, 2004

Pixie Dust

Last night, at the end of the travel writing workshop at the FHL, one of the workshoppers (Kathy, who had also signed up three years ago at one of the first workshops I'd ever facilitated) treated us to a show of her fire spinning skills, which she'd learned during the extended stay in South Africa which she was preparing for the last time I saw her. It doesn't really sound like much if you describe it--two flaming balls of fuel-filled balls of Kevlar, being twirled on the ends of metal chains--and even Kathy says it took her only two weeks to learn. She offered to teach me for free.

Hm. Hmmm...

Okay, the truth is that fire spinning doesn't hold any particular thrills for me, and I don't really feel any compelling urge to take that up. But it did make me think about my landmark birthday coming up, and how I don't have any plans for it just yet. (So far, there are only two words on the Birthday Plans page in my notebook: "drink" and "unconsciousness.") Why not do something that frightens me? I think everyone should do something they're scared of once in a while--it's good for the soul.

And this relates to music how, you ask. Wait, I'm getting there. There's an interview on Salon with Charles Thompson of the Pixies, and it's the kind of interview that I dream about. It's also the kind of dream I wake up screaming from. I mean, here you have an interviewee from a band that you truly respect, and he has very strong opinions about music, and he's smart and articulate, and I'm really interested in what he has to say--but he also hates interviews and interviewers. "One thing that hasn't changed about Thompson is his interview style. He can be variously tangential, disengaged, ecstatic and bored," says writer Scott Thill in the introduction to his Q&A. Not to mention downright hostile.

I feel so conflicted and confused reading this interview. When Thompson attacks music magazines for being gossipy, there's a part of me that wants to applaud, like, Yeah, give 'em hell, Charles! But then I remember that I also belong to the opposition. "I want to be Lou Reed and I want the writer to be Lester Bangs. Know what I mean?" Thompson says. "I want him to be so into it that he's arguing with me about the validity of a song I wrote. I don't care if it's insulting. I don't care if it's challenging or whatever." And I'm thinking, Yay! Lou Reed! Lester Bangs! . Just before it dawns on me that I'm never going to be Lester Bangs, and no matter how much of a Pixies fan I am or how mellow Charles Thomspon gets to be in his advancing years, he's going to hate me.

This was like the time they offered us a Garbage phoner, with either Shirley Manson or Butch Vig. I'm a really big fan of their music, but the thought of interviewing either of them scared me so much that I gave the phoner over to Bernie. It turned out to be Butch Vig (!), and he turned out to be a sweet, easy interviewee. To this day I envy Bernie for that interview, but I still don't know if I'd do it, given another chance.

Of course, 30th birthday fast coming up, there are but a few things I would say no to these days.

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