To California | California | Living in Mexico

To California

Tomorrow we're flying to California for Granddaughter Kiely's sixth birthday.

One of the disadvantages of living in a foreign country is that we don't get to see our families and friends enough. It's been a year since we last visited Northern California—too long. Also, we suffer from reverse culture shock. When we go north we get: frantic people, pothole-free roads, high costs, honest cops, lousy weather, sushi and "have a nice day." It's disorienting.

Today I'm acculturating myself. NetFlix has sent me Alien, one of Roger Ebert's Top 100 Movies of All Time. That Roger should include it almost makes up for his placing My Dinner with Andre on the same list. For me, what catapults Alien to greatness is the five minutes of footage of terrified Sigourney Weaver in her underpants. Pure art, if you ask me.

I'll be watching it in just a minute.

Also, I've loaded up my iPod with the oeuvre of Bo Diddley, possibly the inventor of, and certainly the greatest Rock 'n' Roller of all time, as well as a truly great American.


OK. So compared with Chuck Berry or Elvis, he was a minor figure. But I contend that this is because audiences simply could not comprehend his vision.

I first saw him on the stage of the Brooklyn Paramount Theater at an Alan Freed Rock 'n' Roll show in 1956. Dressed in a red sequined zoot-suit-length sport coat, he entered from stage left to the opening chords of that anthem of Rock 'n' Roll, "Hey Bo Diddley" while duck walking and playing a guitar shaped like a lightning bolt.

It was the defining moment of my life.

Soon he was into "Who Do You Love?" I was swept away by the sheer poetry of his lyrics:

"Take it easy, Arlene / Don't give me no lip."

"You shoulda heard / Just what I seen."

"Arlene took me / By the hand,
She said,'Ooo-eee Bo / Y'know I understand."

Some of you may disagree with my assessment of the greatness of these lines, but they were, by God, good enough for George Thurgood whose pathetically derivative cover of "Who Do You Love?" probably made him more money than Bo made in his entire career. Oh, the unfairness!

Anyway, with the iPod all loaded up, I'm good for a couple of hours of '50s Rock 'n' Roll while we're in the air, and when we land at SFO, I can hit the ground running.