I watch a lot of concert footage on YouTube. I watch concerts from classic rock bands like the Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin. I watch video of musicians that inspired the classic rock bands like Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins. And I watch stuff from bands that were inspired by classic rock bands like The Black Crowes and Gary Clark, Jr.. Sometimes I watch bands that most people haven’t heard of like Wishbone Ash and Molly Hatchet.
The other night I was feeling a bit punkish and dialed up some Ramones. I’ve never been a big fan of the band - I am mostly just familiar with the hits that got played on the radio when I used to listen to radio like Blitzkrieg Bop, I Wanna Be Sedated, and Rock & Roll High School. So, I’m not sure why they popped into my head, but they did, and I found a video of a concert from the Rainbow Theater in London, England in 1977.
In 26 frenetic minutes Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy bounced, jumped, danced, and swung through 14 songs at breakneck pace. It was an impressive performance and even though I obviously wasn’t there at the time, I was still able to see how into it were the Ramones, and watch the crowd react to that. It made me feel good to be alive.
Afterwards, as my head still buzzed from what I had just seen, I scrolled down to read the comments - something I hardly ever do because who really cares about the opinions of people who sit around and watch YouTube videos?
In this case, I learned that The Ramones are dead - all four musicians passed away years ago. It caught me a little by surprise because just moments before I had witnessed them for the first time in their blue jean, leather jacket, and guitar glory - full of punk and in the prime of life.
It was a wistful moment, knowing they were dead. But it was an easier pill to swallow knowing how they performed and the energy they inspired in thousands of bouncing fans while they thrashed through their set. I knew they had done what they wanted to do while they were alive.
Death has hit closer to home for us this week - reminding us how precious is our time.
First, it was my Mom’s birthday. Ordinarily, of course, a birthday is a time of happiness; but my Mom passed away in 2012. She isn’t eating any more birthday cake. So, what would have been her 72nd birthday was both an occasion to celebrate her life and to mourn her death.
My good friend’s father passed away after a long struggle with cancer. A relief perhaps in one sense, but nevertheless, an irreplaceable loss for Chris and his family.
A former neighbor, not much older than R and I, had a stroke and died.
And, most heartbreaking, a friend who we have known for almost 16 years - since her daughter and Coconut were both only weeks old, and who, as R put it, “learned to be moms together,” died from pancreatic cancer that was diagnosed less than two months ago. She leaves behind a heartbroken husband, two young teenagers, and a hole in our lives.
Each of these losses affects our lives a little differently, but the message they collectively send is clear. No matter how long you live, life is short.
When we first visited San Miguel a few years ago, we didn’t like it. We felt that with all the gringos around, it wasn’t ”Mexican” enough. We didn’t like that you could get a lamb burger at the Saturday morning organic market, or spend an entire three weeks in town and not speak a word of Spanish. We agreed that we loved Mexico, but could never live in San Miguel.
How surprised were we when we decided to move here in January 2018!?
How that came to pass is another story, but now that we actually do live here, and as we have come to know the gringos, we admire them. We have come to realize that they have each made the decision to do something that they were not sure about, and were probably told they couldn’t or shouldn’t do.
Picking up and moving to another country isn’t an easy thing to do - at least, it wasn’t for us.
Yet something within each of these people compelled them to move in a direction that they chose even though it isn’t the direction that society or their grandmother accepted.
In a way, they are all rock stars. Not in the guitar-driven, drum-pounding, snort a line of coke way (though some are), but in that they’ve looked at the world from wherever they were and whatever they were doing, and with rock and roll spirit said, “Hey, fuck you. I’m going to go do this now - which is what I’ve really wanted to do.”
No matter the reason for an overseas move, whether work-related, chasing a love interest, or just seeking a change in lifestyle, things are left behind. Family and friends won’t be seen as often. The creature comforts taken for granted in the U.S. may not be available. There are uncertainties with safety, finding work, and creating opportunities for your children. In many places outside of Virginia there are scorpions - so there is a risk of getting stung, which, I have been told, does not feel good.
Maybe moving overseas isn’t for everyone, just like the Ramones aren’t for everyone. But, if you think of “rock n roll” as doing what you want to do and not what you are told or expected to do, you can not like the Ramones and still like rock n roll.
Maybe you want to study to become a yoga instructor. Maybe you want to read more books, or take up stained glass design. Maybe you want to go to England or Italy, just once. Whatever it is, what you can’t keep saying to yourself is, “I just don’t have the time right now.” Because, you know, if you keep saying that, someday you are going to be right.