it's been raining for days here. of a song i nearly posted the other night, i wrote, "it's not great to be miserable in nice weather--although people in san diego seem generally better adjusted than those in seattle--but it does occur to you, 'well, at least it's not cold.'" mid-day, i had recourse to my car's heater. let's get happy, shall we?
dexy's midnight runners - "this is what she's like" (from the don't stand me down lp, import available for purchase here.)
colpo di fulmine.
the italian word for "thunderbolt," that is. (to be pedantic, it translates literally as "bolt of lightning." i don't speak italian myself, but i knew a man who did.) it means to be suddenly and unexpectedly struck by love at first sight. stendhal writes, "i noticed tonight that there are exact words in italian for hundreds of particular situations in the affairs of love which it would require the most laborious periphrases to describe in french"--english, too, for that matter. why i bring this all up will make more sense 10:06 into "this is what she's like."
what may not be any clearer, though, after twelve minutes or so, is what she's like. this may v. well be the point, that the limbic resonance between two specific people is impossible for any other two people to understand. so while i don't know what she's like, i do know what it's like : when kevin speaks, i feel like we're two old war buddies down at the bar at the american legion hall.
it's rare that i remember the first moment i met someone, unless i had been anticipating that meeting. in one of my valentine's day offerings, billy bragg sings of how he wishes that he could remember the first time he met his beloved. ah, i've got you there, billy (but you've got the girl still, don't you? last laugh). it was christmas time--or to annoy the ultra-cons, the holiday season, and me wanting nothing so much as to get out of there--until seeing the figure standing on line, in need of help, just past the computer, and wanting nothing so much as that. i stayed a little later, helped her out, and was glad out of all proportion to the extra fifteen minutes of pay i received that day. she was all i could tell anyone about. but what did i tell them? (and "what's he like?" she might have wondered. why, the sort who thinks dexy's never made a bad record and he'd know, owning all of them.)
i, too, was left to periphrasis, "indirect and circumlocutory speech," says the noad. it's the thing that "this is what she's like" is made of, from the opening as billy asks kevin what they'd been talking about before he entered, kevin hemming and hawing; to kevin taking the long way around, talking about what she's not, and launching broadsides against everything he hates most in the world (at which point you're surprised it's only twelve minutes long); to kevin's dilatory practices during the song proper--if "this is what she's like" can even be described as a "song proper."
no, i think "this is what she's like" aspires to a classical piece, a hopeless and happy failure, w/ movements and sections. or it's kevin's approximation of the "broadway melody" sequence from singin' in the rain, all colors, tempos, and heat, a sequence too demanding for the film's diegesis, just as "this is what she's like" seems too big for one's stereo equipment (or "hi-fi"). or it's the spring of 1970 and you're changing the am dial every three minutes or so, sometimes even stopping for commercials. or it's kevin turning to song--choking on his words like otis redding, sighing like julie london, sha-la-la-ing like tom waits--in the way that i've turned to literature, looking for answers, while freely quoting from the songbook and adding his own commentary. he runs out of words eventually, noting that the italians have a word for it, and saying lastly, "that's my story, the strongest thing i've ever seen."
and then something unusual happens, in a song bursting w/ unusual things : the music continues to play. in pretty much every song i've ever heard that's over ten minutes in length, the song comes to a full stop, the ship pulling into port after a long voyage. "this is what she's like" fades--it might still be playing right now if not for human intervention. (while the song may be all about periphrasis, what it does not welcome is paraphrase, in the form of a murderous single edit or, i should note, in the form of this attempt to capture its force.) knowing how deliberate kevin is, one feels compelled to search for the meaning. where language ends, music picks up and that this is why kevin prefers to translate "fulmine" as thunder (for sound)? that there are no words? or perhaps that, twenty years later now, had the music kept playing, one would be no nearer to understanding the mystery.
i'm no nearer to understanding the mystery of what passed between her & i that day. early on in our exchanges, she asked me what my favorite song was and i said, w/ more than a little ulterior motive involved, hinting at just what she'd done, that it was this. she said that it was a song v. worthy of being one's favorite. but i've had no word from her in nearly a month now; i'd v. much like lightning to strike the same spot twice. else, i'll have to hope for another featureless day to be rent, w/ the concussive force of kevin singing the opening line to this song, by a bolt from out of the blue.