Issue # 53
August 18, 2001
Sitting Around and Listening to Van Halen(E1)

By Rich Wilhelm

Hey everybody. It's August now. I'm feeling pretty lazy. In fact, all I really want to do at the moment is sit around the house and listen to Van Halen.

Here's how I came to be in this state: for various reasons, my current daily life seems rather complex. Nothing too serious, just complicated. The other night I realized that, along with various kinds of positive interactions with my wife, my son, our families and our friends, what I want more than anything else right now is to find the most fun, least ironic music in my record collction. The first thing I stumbled upon that seemed to fit the bill was Van Halen's 1982 album Diver Down. For those of you unfamiliar with Van Halen's oeuvre (man, what a pretentious word, I'm not even sure how to pronounce it, but I can't resist using the phrase, "Van Halen's oeuvre," in a context that actually makes sense), Diver Down is often considered the band's lamest album from the "Lee Roth era." The whole album clocks in at a paltry 31 minutes and 29 seconds, and original songs make up only about half the album, the rest being cover tunes. It sounds like they couldn't have put more than a few days into the entire production of the album. It's Van Halen at their laziest. And yet, it's so much fun, even for a very casual VH fan like me.

I dropped the needle (yes, we're talking vinyl here) down on "Intruder," Eddie Van Halen's totally cool guitar intro to their totally cool pop-metal rendition of Roy Orbison's totally cool classic, "(Oh)Pretty Woman." Although I had qualms about introducing Jimmy to VH's version of the song before he ever heard Orbison, I played it for him anyway, and soon he and I were singing along and playing some mean air guitar. We listened to "Intruder/(Oh)Pretty Woman" four times in a row and I loved it more each time. It was quite simply fun and it was very easy to check my sense of irony at the door, just like Quincy Jones asked Diana Ross to check her ego at the door at the USA for Africa session, although hopefully my sense of irony isn't as humongous as La Diva Ross' ego, though that's neither here nor there. My long-winded point is that Diver Down is just what I need at this juncture of my life.

So, anyway, that's what I'm going to do for the rest of August: sit around listening to Diver Down every chance I get. I'm not going to write again for the website until after Labor Day, simply because I don't feel like it. And I'm OK with that.

But lest you think that I want to trade the complexity of my current life for the "simple" days of my Diver Down-listening high school years, check this out: last week I drove up to Northeast Philadelphia to pick up Donna's mom so she could spend the weekend with us. Since I was in the area anyway, I drove over to the apartment where Donna and I lived from '92-'96. Actually, first I drove over to the laundromat I used to frequent, Sparkle City. Sparkle City is gone now, it's inherent quirkiness and distinct United Nations-like clientele replaced by a rather dull notary public office. It wasn't until I was actually sitting in the used-to-be Sparkle City parking lot that I realized that the CD I'd been listening to while driving into town (Urge Overkill's brilliant Saturation) was one I'd listened to many times while sitting in Sparkle City and watching our dainty underthings spin 'round and 'round, as Ratt so eloquently sang back in the dawn of the Hair Metal years.

After revisiting what was once Sparkle City, I parked in front of the duplex where we lived and took a very brief look around the old neighborhood. Being there reminded me of a somewhat simpler time in my life: after Donna and I were married, we went through a period of a few years when it was relatively easy for us to cocoon and somewhat isolate ourselves from family and friends. We just hung out at home eating tacos and watching Hard Copy and endless reruns of Unsolved Mysteries on the Lifetime Network (gotta love that Bob Stack--Donna dug the "true crime" stories, while I was a sucker for any tales of Sasquatch or space aliens). Our life then was like that Grover Washington Jr. song, "Just the Two of Us," except that Robert Stack or Barry Nolan from Hard Copy was singing it rather than Bill Withers. In many ways, it actually was a fun time, but we couldn't go on like that.

Compare that to the here and now: Jimmy has been with us for over three years and we're trying to do the two-working-parent thing as best we can for him, while also trying to preserve our sanity as best we can. Evening tabloid television has been replaced by videos with names like There Goes a Fire Truck and Awesome Farm Machinery. Our jobs seem ever more demanding and grinding, and we have bills to pay that we wouldn't have dreamed of back in our Hard Copy days. We look around at our friends with children and we see that, whether both Mom and Dad work outside the home or not, they're all struggling with many of the issues we are--this is the time in all of our lives to deal with some pretty big issues. And who knows where the future will lead us?

But, as I got back in the car to leave our former neighborhood and pick up Jimmy's Grandma Fisher, I realized how happy I am to be where I am now rather than where I was when we lived on Passmore Street. Yes, our lives are more complex, and that complexity makes me a little crazy and stressed out at times, but "Right Now" (to quote a Hagar-era Van Halen song) is a very good place for Donna and me to be. I drove away from our old apartment knowing I wouldn't be going back anytime soon.

However, I do intend on spending the rest of this month listening to Diver Down. So Happy Trails until we meet again in September, OK?

(Please feel free to email to others who may be interested or to print a hard copy for them but remember: The Dichotomy of the Dog is copyright 2001 by Rich Wilhelm. If you plan on making a bazillion dollars from this piece of writing, please let me know so I can sue you or something.)