Man, I am old.

It's a reality that I've wrestled with for a while, but this past weekend, I realized it's true. However, what brought this epiphany on was not what you might expect.

I was old-man achy after a Saturday morning workout, and I ended up falling asleep in front of a movie on Friday night, standing up a friend who was waiting for me downtown. My Saturday afternoon was spent at the Downtown Pour, listening to music so smooth it was shiny while walking around trying to find a good glass of wine among people who either looked like my parents or slightly older versions of the assholes who tormented me in high school. (I did find a great wine. I just forgot which one it was.)

There was the late-night discussion about jazz with one of my friends (more on that later) and the incredibly out-of-place feeling I had at the Grandma Party Bazaar. (I ascribed that sensation to the blistering heat in the Stardust parking lot and the realization that all the Funbalaya "indie" kids are just hippies with good taste in music.) Did these things bring on that elderly sensation? Nope.

What made me feel old was the Dayglo Abortions. There I was, transferring my vinyl into iTunes (old guy!) and as I'm rocking out to "Wake Up America," it suddenly hit me that this 20-year-old punk record (Feed Us a Fetus) is actually confrontational. It's not just the baitingly offensive title or the grotesque, reductionist cover art (a fanged Ronald Reagan about to feast on a jellybean-and-aborted-fetus chili); the whole attitude is so different from what's being peddled as punk rock these days — which is usually about how heartbroken and vaguely disenfranchised the youth of today are.

The Abortions were disenfranchised, but instead of espousing inchoate unhappiness, bands like them took an unequivocal (if rudimentary) stance against what they saw was wrong in the world, and then called it by name. Hawthorne Heights have songs about bad breakups. The Dayglo Abortions had songs about how the Canadian Prime Minister "sucks dogshit through his nose."

They weren't alone. Suicidal Tendencies proudly proclaimed "I shot Reagan." The Dead Kennedys ranted about "Hellnation's when the president asks for four more fucking years/Hellnation's when he gets it." Now? A convoluted concept album by Green Day that's certainly grandiose, but far from Agnostic Front coming out screaming: "Our country has sold the Constitution." Everything else is eyeliner and self-pity.

With but a few, still-low-profile exceptions, punk bands refuse to get pissed off about a President whose abominations certainly exceed those of Reagan and Thatcher. When putative punks talk about revolution, it's usually in the terms preferred by the likes of Tony Brummel, who thinks that having a Victory band in the Billboard charts somehow makes the world a better place.

Ineffable complexity

So, there I was muttering to myself about "kids these days" and "when I was a dirty punk" and so on. And it made me feel old. So I went drinking. The Downtown Pour was pleasant: great weather, good company, excellent people-watching opportunities and plenty of different vintners pimping their products. But why on earth does every wine event feature soft rock/smooth jazz, while every beer event features Black Oak Arkansas? Wine can produce just as much debauchery as beer, and a good beer can be just as subtle as a good wine.

This question was answered about five bottles later at a friend's house, when the discussion turned to jazz and I realized that people tend to have similar feelings about jazz and wine. (Like I said, we'd been drinking for a while.) My brilliant, philosophical realization was that many people are intimidated by both of them. While there are some who indulge in either (or both) casually, knowledgeably and without pretense, there's a small, noisy contingent who insist on subcategorizing, using arcane terminology and complicating the actual process of consumption. Vintages, sidemen, cork-sniffing, alternate takes. Jesus, no wonder so many people drink Corbett Canyon and listen to Kenny G.

My realization turned into some brilliant, philosophical advice: Just start. Go to Park Wine Merchants and buy a $15 bottle you've never heard of, then slip over to Park Ave CDs and buy any jazz CD from between 1955 and 1965 by someone you've kinda sorta heard of but who isn't Miles Davis or John Coltrane. Crack open that bottle, put on that CD and use the senses God gave you to enjoy 'em. Figure out what you like about 'em, go back to the stores and repeat ad infinitum. It's that simple.

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