Turn That Smile Upside Down

If California slides into the ocean
Like the mystics and statistics say it will
I predict this motel will be standing
Until I pay my bill
— “Desperadoes Under the Eaves,” Warren Zevon

Let’s face it, a good chunk of the time life is not exactly tea with the freakin’ Queen.

We’ve got war, poverty, disease, rap music, whack-jobs in the White House, corporate welfare cheats, rap music, puffy-lipped pretty boys and silicon boobed floozies shilling every type of shit you can imagine 24/7, GMOs, rap music, hantavirus outbreaks and Ralph Klein. Did I mention rap music? And to top it all off, Christmas is on the way, which means I’m supposed to be all positive for the next six weeks. Plus the price of good whisky is getting beyond my reach. Like Norm from Cheers once said, “It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and I’m wearing Milkbone underwear.”

Misery, as they say, loves company. There’s nothing worse when you’ve got a bad case of the down-and-outs than being forced to endure the company of some upbeat Anthony Robbins-type asshole who doesn’t even have the decency to admit that he’s as scared as the rest of us. So, as far as I’m concerned, you can keep your Dr. Phils and your Deepak Chopras, and give me people who know how to call a tumour a tumour.

As anyone who has ever fallen madly in love with blues music knows full well, there’s nothing like listening to somebody opening up the dark night of their soul to you to make you feel just a little bit better. If you’re ever dumped from a relationship in the middle of November and find yourself moving a Naugahyde recliner and soggy cardboard boxes at midnight in the middle of a freezing rainstorm with nobody to help, try listening to Luther Allison or John Lee Hooker, and tell me they’re not salve for the soul.

By the same token, when the world is going to all to hell, nothing cheers me up more than a good, jaundiced bit of cynicism like that little gem from Mr. Zevon quoted above. Before he died of cancer a couple of years ago, the wickedly sharp-tongued singer had carved out an impressive career writing intelligent pop songs about werewolves, fraud artists, crooked politicians, homicidal maniacs, and violent rednecks. His songs, I can tell you, will be in pretty heavy rotation around my house for the next few weeks.

As a little band from Georgia once said, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”

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