Discolor Online

Weblog of the sweetest person you never want to piss off.


Elvis Costello

When I was 16 my dad allowed me to go on a train trip to visit my aunt in Arizona over Christmas break. I took the train from Minnesota, across the Great Plains and down the west coast to L.A. where I was to change trains and cut eastward to Arizona. On the way home I was to travel east for some distance, then north along the Mississippi to Chicago, where I was to again change trains and back-track to Minneapolis and home.

I was an insufferable twit, being 16 and all. I thought I knew everything, I believed I was invulnerable and behaved in a deplorably selfish manner in retrospect. I impulsively jumped off the train mid-way through California when I realized the train stopped in the hometown of a friend. I grabbed my shit, exited the train at some ungodly pre-dawn hour and then called my friend's house to see if they wanted to "meet me for breakfast". They immediately freaked out because I was in a bad part of town and insisted that they pick me up right away. They put me up overnight without notice, treated me kindly, gently prodded me to call my aunt to tell her I would be a day late arriving, and got me back on the train when the next one rolled through 24 hours later.

When I was in Arizona I called my boyfriend long distance and talked for over an hour every night, about no goddamn thing at all, but I was convinced it was the end of the world if we couldn't speak to each other. I never even thought about the bill, being 16 and completely self-absorbed. My blessed aunt never said a word to me about it, then or at any time for the rest of her life. I'm still appalled at my behavior looking back on it.

When I hit Chicago I was immediately set upon by scam artists. The way the train connections worked out, I had a 23 hour layover and there was no way I was going to just sit in the train station for an entire day. I wandered around in downtown Chicago. I visited the Sears Tower. I went shopping for cassette tapes. At the music store, I was hit on by a "helpful" young clerk who, upon hearing that I was in town trying to kill 23 hours offered to take me back to his place. You know, just so I didn't have to wander around the city. Amazingly, I had enough of a weird vibe (and perhaps just enough basic sense) that I refused his offer and got the hell out of the store, but not before buying Elvis Costello's latest release, Blood and Chocolate. The friend I'd stopped to visit in California had been on and on about Elvis Costello and I decided to get myself some.

After leaving the record store I wandered around aimlessly for a long time. Finally I decided to treat myself to a movie. I had walked a good 12 or 20 blocks from the Sears Tower by that time and had nearly no idea where I was except that I hadn't strayed more than two blocks off whichever main street I'd been following. I found a theater showing an Eddie Murphy double feature. One of the movies was The Golden Child. The other was probably one of the Beverly Hills Cop movies, though I can't honestly remember. I was immediately being hit on my the ticket taker, who tried to get me to go up to the balcony with him before I'd even set foot inside the theater. I declined. He asked if he could come sit with me during the movie. I laughed, "As if you could find me!" He countered, "Honey, you're the only white girl in the place." God, I was stupid.

During the movie an "older guy" came and sat down right next to me, even though the theater was half empty. Between films he introduced himself and asked if I wanted to hear his poetry. Looking back, he was probably in his late twenties or early thirties at most. At the time, he might as well have been 50. He insisted on walking me back to the train when the movies let out because it was quite dark and late and, he insisted, not safe for me to be wandering alone. Then he led me off toward the L because he thought when I said I was taking the train I meant the elevated train, not the Amtrak. Finally, after quite the wrong detour, he kindly led me back to the Amtrak station (because after following him to the L, there's no way I would have gotten back myself). He, also, offered to let me stay the night at his house and (amazingly, since I apparently had brain damage on that trip to judge by my reckless behavior) I declined. I wasn't even trying to be outrageous or adventurous on this trip... I was merely young and ridiculously naive.

So, back to Elvis Costello. When I bought Blood and Chocolate, I was hoping to hear something like Alison, or Radio Radio, or Pump It Up. I was maybe pre-figuring a little (What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding. What I got was bitter, divorced thirty-something Costello: Uncomplicated (Blood and Chocolate / I hope you're satisfied what you have done), Home is Where You Hang Your Head (But you know she doesn't want you / But you can't seem to get it in your head / Oh and you can't sleep at night / And she haunts you when you go to bed) and I Want You (Go on and hurt me then well let it drop / I want you / I'm afraid I won't know where to stop / I want you / I'm not ashamed to say I cried for you). To say I didn't "get it" would be an understatement. I owned it. I kept it and listened to it. I thought I "got it" a little, anyway. It's a gorgeous album but I didn't know the half of it at the time, just like I didn't know a thing about the rest of the world that I was blundering my way through.

We took Kate and her friend bowling this weekend. At 9:00pm they dimmed the lights, turned on the neon and the black light and the disco balls, lowered video screens and started blasting music and videos (from some dreadful Toby Keith American patriot garbage to Queen). Among their choices for the evening was Elvis Costello (doing Pump it Up). Since seeing that video, I've been craving Blood and Chocolate again. I no longer have the cassette. Rhino recently released a remastered CD (with a second CD of bonus material) but they don't offer it at the iTunes store or anywhere else as a MP3 download. I've tried listening to My Aim is True as a substitute but it's not the same. I love Mystery Dance in a very different way, but tonight, after the kids have finally ended their sleepover hijinx and with the full weight of my age and experience upon me, it's Blood and Chocolate that calls to me.


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Anonymous Kara Says:

At varying ages, I too found Chicago to be full of bizarre horny men.

Although, we did have 1 incredibly kind man escort us from the L stop to the Sears Tower because we had no clue where we were going.

Still love the city. ;)

But yeah, looking back on the stupid, stupid things I did at 16, such as staying at complete strangers' houses because we all told each others' moms that were staying at each others' houses so we could go to the midnight showing of Rocky Horror...EVERY Saturday...we are so lucky we weren't tortured and decapitated.


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