Raving about Joe:
What if grandad showed up at a rave? You’d probably be smart to dip out of the nearest exit and find your kicks somewhere else that night. Or maybe you could just gyrate over to a dark corner and hope that all the dry ice, electro-lightning bolts and shock-and-awe subwoofers would dazzle and dumbfound your aged relative and he wouldn’t even notice you were there.
But your judgement—if you can call it that—is a touch clouded by that cocktail of chemicals and lies you’d slugged down before the night got going.
Grandad has his own set of prescriptions, too. He takes lots of pills every day—and night. Lately (and by that you mean for as long as you can remember—which is a lot longer than grandad can), he really hasn’t been looking too sharp, nor acting it either. Like last summer at the family Fourth of July clambake when he didn’t seem altogether there and called your cousin Jake “Mayor Pete” and later slapped you on the back and said there’s nothing a like a “corn feed in Iowa come Caucus time”—which seemed weird since you were at the family place in North Shores, Delaware at the time. There were thumb prints all over the lenses of his aviator sunglasses and ketchup on his white shirt whose buttons were in the wrong holes. His fly was undone. It turned out that he was the one who had stepped in the dogshit with really expensive leather shoes.
The thing is, the rave you’re at was totally lame even before gramps showed up. You’ve got nothing against old folks. There are tons of hall-of-fame hippies who could show the next four generations of partiers a thing or three about fun.
It’s true that your grandad was never one of those gonzo dudes, though he likes to talk about how in his younger days he partied a lot with a “good buddy” named Strom at some club called the Senate Cloakroom. Sometimes Grandpa did get a bit out of control at Christmas and would give your aunts long hugs from behind and smell their big hair.
But at the rave we’re talking about there were no shadows to hide in.
The lighting was terrible, bright and bleached. You could see way too much, basically everything . All the DJs and other “entertainers” and “celebs” were spread across a Zoom screen. The event was by RSVP and they wanted you to pay at least fifteen bucks. The thing opened not with mind-altering wham but a goofy cast singing a lame song from their own little squares like on that show the Brady Bunch you saw a meme of. Some guy topped by a bowler hat like Alex in A Clockwork Orange and wearing a purple-sequined tuxedo jacket (not like Alex) with a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt peeking out from the upper chest triangle was the ring leader. It looked like an After School Special jamboree with singers beamed in from their own playpens. They tried to make it cool and retro by having the squares moves around the screen. The dude with the bowler sang “Reason to rejoice is we know … we can help Joe”— Hey, that’s your grandad’s name, too! The white guy with the beard and all the rest of this rainbow-coalition Brady Bunch then chimed in with stuff about “abuse of power” and “finest hour” and “getting our country back on track by helping Joe go all the way.”
Usually at an EDM all-night bash you can’t hear the sound of your own voice, never mind that of the person thrashing next to you. But social-distancing was in effect and so you texted your friend with a “WTF?” That friend is into musicals (Broadway sucks, but you’re not judgmental) and said that these were new words to a song called “Got Magic To do” from a musical called Pippin from, like, the early 1970s. Come to think of it—even though you’re not doing much thinking—that’s when, as grandad won’t stop telling you, he started “serving” in the U. S. Senate.
You should have been long gone from this do, but then a white-haired doughy guy popped up. Your friend said this beardless Santa Claus used to host something called the Tonight Show. Funny, because Leno J or whatever his name is is so last night. Last Century. He kept telling “you kids” to spread the word on “social media” and “give money” by PayPal or whatever. You’re at the party and they won’t stop hitting you up as the tally of incoming cash tabulating on screen keeps getting bigger? Santa kept chortling in a sinister happy way about “change” — you guess he means to the past, as in time travel. It’s a “hundred days to the election” he says. Election? What election? You didn’t even know there was one.
Then John Legend—yeah, that John Legend—and some woman you don’t recognize start singing some opera by someone called Whitney Houston and getting all sentimental and sickly sweet that the “children are our future.” You didn’t realize kids could vote and had credit cards. If they did, Grandpa Joe would want higher interest rates for kiddy credit.
Your joy juice must have started to kick in cause then it really got weird: all these pretty normal people started saying how “Joe” was the greatest guy ever. They sang more shitty songs from a church where the rave should have been happening in the first place. Someone called Billie Jean King talked about “freedom.” I think she was a Senator, too, maybe from California, because she came to our clambake one time and had a really good backhand.
Then things got even weirder: the Joe they were talking about turned out actually to be your grandpa. Santa and some Four-Star General dude met him—your grandpa—at a little airport and started to race a couple of Corvettes. Like wow, dude, you actually worked on that car one summer for grandad! “I can flat shift this thing from second” gramps smack-talked the general. With the help of cranes that were obviously edited out of the video, Grandpa Joe and Santa got into the convertible and sped down the tarmac like with Powell in a new Corvette in “hot” pursuit. Electric guitars growled on the soundtrack. The only change they were heading for was an oil change—and maybe a prostate check. “The question is, can he drive?” bluffed grandad. Guess he passed his eye exam after all …
A guy in a leopard-skin shirt did a song “Ready to Run” tying things together with the senior citizens’ road race. The trio behind him wore black Covid masks and matching panties visible through between crotchless chaps. Fast cars and babes: now that’s the kind of Democratic Action we can all get behind, especially, Grandad.
The Rave raved on: Legend doused the crowd with more schmaltz liquor. Some white dude named Black gave a sermon on “Hope” which seems to be handcuffed “Change.”
An android engineered to look like Barbra Streisand (you know about her from Meme Land, too) mumbled through her facelifts some mumbo-j about “checks-and-balances” — which you guess meant the bigger the check the bigger the balance in the Biden “war chest.” An unbeardless guy named Dave Matthews pledged totally to support grandad, and started into some wispy song about “When the war is over …” which it never is.
You were stuck in a time loop: Legend again, again. The only change you could see was in the numbers: two hours in and nearly a million bucks counted. The war-is-over guy came back for an encore and then there was a video about grandad Amtracking back and forth from DC to Delware: four hours of travel “not just going home for his kids, but going to work for them.”
The Rave went on for two hours and twenty minutes but seemed the longest one you’ve ever been to.
And there are almost a hundred days still to go. But to what …
(David Yearsley is a long-time contributor to CounterPunch and the Anderson Valley Advertiser. His latest book is Sex, Death, and Minuets: Anna Magdalena Bach and Her Musical Notebooks. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)