Friday, March 15, 2013

#87 The Wall - Pink Floyd

"Look Mummy, there's a drone up in the sky..."  :)

My encounter with this album evoked the most surreal experience I have had yet throughout this project.  I should have expected that with Pink Floyd, but I'm not talking about the way my brainpiece processed their information the way they wanted me to perceive it.  I'm talking about something else entirely.

The first time I listened to it, I was invigorated and awestruck.  There were moments when I felt like crying--because (ironically) I thought, these people feel the same way as I do when they perceive an institution and those who wander around like zombies.  They also could understand the appealing nature of building a proverbial wall against all the other breathing thoughtless creatures who occupy my immediate space, or identify with how good it feels to just shut people out while scrambling to paradoxically not be alone.  Of course, Roger Waters and his friendies are in their box feeling just as alone as all those people plugged into their phones (listening to PF!) or those of you watching trash tv with a box of wine.  or two.  Ironically, we are all as alone as the next guy; try as we might to "stay connected."  Obviously, we can invert this entire paragraph and claim that no person is an island, try as they might to get away.  Like someone chatting with babes on the Interwebz is actually alone and not at the same time.

But this album resonated with me on such an eerie level.  God, I thought, I must really be screwed up to identify with Pink Floyd, of all the bands so far.  When I heard "Another Brick in the Wall pt 2" I immediately thought of my short-lived teaching experience.  Quitting teaching was sort of the best thing that ever happened to me; Roger would OBVIOUSLY agree.  I'm glad I don't have to indoctrinate people anymore or lie to them and tell them they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up as long as they work hard and try.  Or tell them college will help them get a job.  Or encourage them to take out student loans to go to school, which only enslaves them into the system to spend their lives paying it back with time at a soulless job under fluorescent lights that smell like burnt skin and fried dreams.  Whatever happened to teaching people to just grow up and be happy?  And why the fuck do they still make people respond to bells?  And when will people learn that time is an illusion and they've all been programmed to respond to clocks (thanks to the public education system!)?

This album made me realize that hopefully, I'm not the only person walking around so lost inside my own head that I feel like I can't function normally sometimes in social situations.  Maybe everyone feels so incredibly alone that they mask it with their own walls and distractions.  Like drinking or watching grown-ass men in colorful foamwear mount one another homosocially to fight for an oblong shaped brown ball with laces grunting over gained yardage.  My tactic for distraction is no better; I mask it with humor.  Like making someone laugh creates a semi-real bridged connection with another being to distract from the constant isolation.  So I just make people laugh and I think, is this normal?  Is this real life?  Am I interacting just fine with these people?  And then I just keep piling bricks upon bricks.  Or feeling at odds about things other people find to be so normal, like sleeping, eating meat, or old horror movies, for example.

"Is there anybody out there" made me recall the five minutes I stood frozen by the inundating waves of shock and fear when as a child, I walked into the living room while my brother was watching The Shining.  And something inside of me broke that night in those five minutes, and I felt so utterly alone for the first time.  I've never seen the whole movie, but there was an aura about being so helpless and alone that not even your parents could save you and it fed my childhood realization that maybe nobody is ever really connected to another person.  We are all so alone and I, at the time, was more alone than anyone else because the images in that movie built a wall around me that didn't allow comfort or compassion to enter when it came time to sleep.  Whereas, my brother processed the information like he was watching just another cartoon.  And that disconnected and unshared experience isolated me further and reenforced the terror that movie (and this album) creates because he was able to just blow it off when I wasn't.

And then, as an eight-year-old, the lights went out and I was in bed.  There were expectations of sleep.  And the suffocating anxiety about sleeping crept up, like a cloudy hand from under the bed to pin me down by the chest and force me to stare up at the ceiling in tears until dawn because sleeping was so unnatural to me.  We willingly shut down, like machines with dead batteries and give up all of our power to become vulnerable and exist in a mind state without senses.  On purpose!  (some crazies even take NAPS) And I thought, I might not wake up tomorrow.  I might not wake up ever again.  And then like always, I succumbed, after exhaustion took its toll and night after night, in a struggling battle against sleep--I would fail and as sleep took me into the night, I acquiesced to the fact that I was going to die alone again tonight like the night before and the night before that.

That feeling is almost as terrifying as being around a lot of people--because the more people that are around, paradoxically, the more alone one feels.  Like being at a concert, which I believe is the very idea that inspired the concept for this album.

Understand me a little better now, college roommates?  Childhood friends who I bailed on for sleepovers?  Sorry Mumsey for never napping as an infant.

Many years later, I listened to a This American Life podcast about the Fear of Sleep, and someone else had an experience with The Shining that was similar to mine and I wondered how many terrified youngsters were out there unable to sleep for decades because of just FIVE whole minutes of the movie.  You are not alone, my fearful friends.  Get the mother fucking twins out of the mother fucking hallway.  nuff said.

So, in the midst of all this thinking, I asked my husband if he would watch the movie "The Wall" with me.  He looked at me, shaking his head and said that if I chose to watch it for this project, I'd have to do it alone because it really creeped him out and he'd rather not see it "or the marching hammers" again.

um, after watching the trailer, that's just out of the question.

After the dreadful recollection of my childhood hypnophobia, I relistened to the album but this time, I couldn't suppress the memories of my bedtime rituals that would help to stave off the anxiety I associated with sleeping (i.e. turning on and off the lights 15 times.  Kissing all of my stuffed animals over and over etc.  Like the little narrator in Proust's Swann's Way, begging Mumsey to come up and check on me before she went to bed) nor could I disassociate my reoccurring Zombie nightmares from the album--I forgot to mention those; I have them often.  So, take all that unnecessary baggage and top it with the idea of a fascist regime taking over a population, inspired by my husband's description of "The Wall" and watching the trailer and you probably wouldn't want to listen to Pink Floyd again either.

So I reached down and touched the pause bottom halfway through the song "The Trial" and left all that weight, bad energy, baggage, and bullshit lying in the middle of the sidewalk behind me as I changed the music to Bob Dylan, who pretty much makes everything better, and kept walking.

Leave the childhood fears behind.  We don't need no friggin triggers.

The album is amazing, literally seamless, flawless, and hits so close to home that I just couldn't bear it any longer.  I have nothing bad to say against the album but I don't think I can handle listening to a song from them again because I just get so heavy with angst and bad energy that I could never get "comfortably numb" to Pink Floyd.  The surreal experience was the drastic change in perception from the first listen to the last.  I went from loving this album to being completely unable to listen to it--and my fascist 1984 private room 101 hell would be at this concert plus Jack Nicholson, a sleepover and some hallway twins (and pickles).  Which was pretty much what they were going for, it felt.

I hate your Lonelier than Thou attitude, Pink Floyd.  I'm so creeped, I don't want to look up the album cover to put on this entry.

Columbia, 1979
Pink Floyd's most elaborately theatrical album was inspired by their own success: the alienating enormity of their tours after The Dark Side of the Moon [see No. 43]. As the band played arenas in 1977, bassist­lyricist Roger Waters first hit upon the wall as a metaphor for isolation and rebellion. He finished a demo of the work by July 1978; the double album then took the band a year to make. Rock's ultimate self-pity opera, The Wall is also hypnotic in its indulgence: the totalitarian thunder of "In the Flesh?," the suicidal languor of "Comfortably Numb," the Brechtian drama of "The Trial" and the anti-institutional spleen of the album's unshakable disco hit, "Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2." Rock-star hubris has never been more electrifying.

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