Saturday, August 16, 2008

What do Al Yankovic and Ghandi's Passive Resistance Movement have in common?

Tonight I saw Al Yankovic at the San Mateo County Fair. He was awesome! I went with a buddy, and then also met a college friend and his son. On the way in before the show I grabbed some information for my political interests. I found there is a Republican with the last name of Conlon (my middle name, from maternal lineage). I also watched a bit of a flower-arranging class. More on that will be reported in Flowers in the Cracks. I also spoke to electricians and insulation experts about solar power and energy-saving materials that leads into my 20/20 by 2020 thoughts.

Then the big event! I got some t-shirts. Sat down. Me and my buddy were all excited. I recall clearly how I felt instantly transported back to 1986, as the sound system played the pre-show tunes of Joe Jackson singing “One More Time” (“One more time, one more time, say you're leaving, say goodbye, One more time!”) and INXS singing “What You Need” (“I’ll take you, I’ll take you, where you want to be...”).

Then the lights dimmed and the show opened! We sang! We cheered! We were totally laughing and living it up. Around us, the mostly white-and-nerdy audience was enthusiastic, clapping a lot, but somewhat resistant to stand up and dance.

In fact, my buddy told me to sit down at one point. I did so, yet felt vindicated when seconds later Al himself asked everyone to get on their feet! Everyone was enthusiastic, at least as far as clapping and cheering, yet reserved. Withholding a bit. Staid. Passive. Resistant to moving themselves. I saw some other people on the far side of the room up on their feet and wondered why such enjoyment was isolated.

I mean, holy canole!!! It was a great show! The band was tight and polished! The video clips, especially with Kevin Federline, were hilarious. The musical segueways were as polished as the reflective wheels on Al’s Segway. My bud and I sang the lyrics we knew with a gusto! The encore of Albuquerque was awesome! My head was rocking back and forth like a dashboard bobblehead. I am sure people sitting next to me wondered if it was going to snap off my neck.

For those now eager to go see him live, one note: bring your cell phone.

We all gathered together afterwards and talked about a myriad of things over Italian sausages and Pepsi — subjects ranging from rental housing lawsuits to healthcare costs in America. On the way to the car, I ran into a couple I hadn’t seen since Celebrate History in 1999! Yet I clearly remembered the woman in the couple and even pointed her out to my buddy. She was in the Greater Bay Area Costumer’s Guild, and was indeed the woman who was the subject for Dr. Mesmer’s experiments in hypnotism as part of our 18th Century Salon. They have a nice little business now: Then, with email and phone numbers exchanged, it was off for home.

After I dropped my buddy off down near Campbell, I was still in a great mood and utterly not tired. So on a lark, I went to Alberto’s Night Club, on West Dana Street, off Castro Street in Mountain View.

Although I usually expect to hear salsa music when I go in, tonight the place was filled with the desi music of India. The place was like a massive Bollywood party! India turned 61 years old today. The “July 4th” of a different culture. Apparently Fridays are now Bollywood night! I blinked a bit when I was told the cover was $45. (More than the $30 price for a VIP ticket to see Al!)

I walked away a bit, got under a light in front of Books, Inc., and finally extricated and counted out enough squunched up bills in my pockets. Turned around and headed in.

It was a blast! Dizzy dancing all around! I soaked it all in and felt like I was 23 again. Everyone was partying with everyone. There was a freedom, a joy, an exuberance that was utterly liberating. High-fiving! Enthusiastic shouts of joy! Smiles on every face. I danced with guys showing off their masculine moves. I danced with a very nice and pretty young woman in a traditional sari. I peeked up in admiration at the beautiful costumes and women in the Bollywood movies showing up on a video screen to the side — Disney has no monopoly on making feel-good musicals!

I lost myself in my own happy dance listening to the rhythm of music from half-a-world away, yet recognizing the same sorts of beats and banter patterns to be heard from any modern DJ anywhere in the world from Mumbai, India to Mountain View, California, from Mayo, Ireland to Montevideo. Here was no passivity. There was a bit of passivity and resistance from a few corners to get up and dance. Yet so many made up for it!

Bump, bump, bump! Went the beat.
Dance, dance, dance! Went the feet.

The place was filled with shimmying, swirling, swishing bodies. The men were all tigers, on the prowl. Though most all of the guys seemed as harmless and friendly as Tigger. The women all seemingly-innocent lambs, though I caught a bit of an alluring arched eyebrow and an enticing smile here and there indicating they were possibly looking to get caught! Yet not by me. I did indeed feel my age. Though the dancing made me feel young, I had an “I remember when” feel in my heart. Some of these young people were probably not alive when I was first out of college and dancing in the New York night clubs.

One point of correction I must make for myself. First I thought it was the 60th anniversary of India’s birth. No, I was wrong. The partition was 1947. Perhaps I was thinking of Ghandi’s assassination, which occurred this year on January 30th, in 1948. Regardless, the place closed down to the enthusiastic singing of songs in foreign tongues and the to-be-expected lingering of clumps of friends and the pretty young women leaning into quite handsome young men for a closer conversation.

I wandered back to my car around 2:00 am. It had been about 6 and a half hours of pure fun since Al Yankovic took the stage. Probably one of the most totally fun times in my life. Certainly one of the most refreshing experiences I had all year.

On the surface, the obvious connection is that on the same night, I saw a show by Wierd Al and danced to celebrate the Indian independence that Ghandi’s movement brought about. On a second level, I was able to see and compare how at both events passivity and resistance of people can be used to bring about social change (getting up and dancing the night away), or it can be used to avoid getting involved in the world around us. They are also connected, at least in my life, because Al Yankovic and Ghandi both inspired me in different ways. Wierd Al with the ludicrousness and humor of existence. Ghandi with the sublimity and profundity of it all. They are a yin and yang pair.

Afterwards, I logged into WoW just to see if some friends were still online. They were, but I really didn’t do any questing. I just chatted with them about movies, games and books. I conceded to read Atlas Shrugged finally, though I have never been an Ayn Rand fan, philosophically. I also inspired a friend to watch the movie Witness.

One final note: As I was typing this up, researching the genre that is Indian desi dancing, I came across this video, which reminds me of a hybrid of Wierd Al does Desi. (Though he’d probably be more likely to do Desi Arnez.)


  1. I can't stop laughing at this post.

  2. I can't stop laughing at this post.