One of the things that I used to love about my alma mater, until they destroyed it and subsequently all chances of eking a donation out of me (I hope you’re listening, Cardinal Fund), was that alumni could access all library resources remotely. For someone like me, whose lifeblood used to be LexisNexis, this was not just a matter of post-graduate privilege, but a serious lifestyle issue. I LexisNexis’d everything, all the time, and especially late at night. It’s extremely entertaining to read academic takes on popular culture, especially those articles that make it clear someone brilliant to near-pathological levels has accidentally watched a reality series marathon and doesn’t know what to do with such blunt debasement other than write it out.
Anyway, long story short: I recently came across a trove of articles I had saved from several years back, all sourced by LexisNexis’ing the phrase “Dick Dale.” I really love the following, from “Surfing the Other: Ideology on the Beach” (SURFING THE OTHER, oh my god, Wesleyan, I will never forgive you for taking LexisNexis away from me) by R.L. Lutsky:
“The turbulent social and political issues of the 60s never seemed to intrude upon the beach… the appeal of surf music, like that of surfing itself, has indeed been presented as a matter of fun. [Yet] clearly, the notion of fun involved here — from wild surf to wild bikinis, wild rides to wild dancing — is not readily described as clean.”
Clean fun! What even is that, these days? This is a real question, and if anyone would like to answer it you can find my email address to the right. I am charmed to pieces by the thought that wild surf, wild bikinis, wild rides, or wild dancing would be anything other than clean fun — not to mention Dick Dale’s music, which would never, ever be described as sexual, dark, edgy, or dirty.
In any case! Below is a video of Dick Dale and the Del Tones in 1963, with their particular brand of unclean fun:
The Paris Review Daily was kind enough to post a piece I wrote about my grandfather, audiobooks, and Marcel Proust (sort of).
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fall 2008
“Like any New York Times-reading child of the ’80s, I knew that AIDS was a sexually transmitted disease. I also knew, somehow, about sex—at least, I’d been forced to take our tenth-grade sex-ed class. I was relieved to know my mother hadn’t been infected, but that raised uncomfortable questions about my parents. My father said he’d known something might have been wrong since I was six. Was the disease the real reason I was an only child? What hadn’t they been up to? Perhaps it was a kind of only-child possessiveness, in which each parent existed only for me, never for the other, but I always had great difficulty thinking of them as sexual beings. My parents’ bed, for instance, I always thought of as my father’s; he was usually in it, my mother usually not. It was a place for instruction, listening to music, reading, and rest.
And yet, could it have been … Yes, my father really did give me condoms! Before I left for music camp in Tennessee, where my violin teacher had recommended I go study with a friend of hers. How farcical it made actual sex seem at the time. How strained, too, that moment, as though he’d told me to go fuck with his blessing and then attached the curse of precaution, another self-consciousness added to my own.”
— From Marco Roth’s forthcoming The Scientists: A Family Romance. Excerpt in Harper’s here.
“I was alone for a while after that. I got rid of everything in my apartment. I worked ten- and twelve-hour days. Each night, I went to hot yoga. They had a studio between my home and work, on the fifteenth floor of this building, so that, across from you, while you were sweating, you could look in at people living their lives, and see all these slow-moving domestic scenes, like a man standing in front of a microwave. After yoga, I liked to walk home. I liked the cold. I bought a Mediterranean style salad from the same place every night. The woman who worked there was Lebanese and studying to be a doctor. I ate my dinner in front of the TV, watching Sans Soleil. […] At that time, I slept on an army-style cot. I ate on it, too, lying down with the food under my face, in the posture of a dog. This was the posture I was in several days later, the fourth time she called, and I answered.”
— From “William Wei” by Amie Barrodale (Paris Review No. 197)