13 January 2008...11:36 pm

The Newspaper Said Say What You Doing In Bed I Said We’re Only Trying To Get Us Some Peace

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I stayed with my parents in New Jersey last night. As I was leaving the train station I ran into Brent Martone. He was leaving the comic book store, which is probably the coolest place in South Orange to be leaving. Besides the train station.

I recognized him before he recognized me, so I said

Hi, it’s Emma. Rebhorn.

It was another twenty minutes, after he’d walked with me up the hill to my parents’ house, before he said

You haven’t mentioned my name, yet.

I mentioned it, victoriously. Brent and I were enemies of some sort in high school; we were in the same freshman English class. Our teacher was Mr. Levine, who outraged me in various ways. The final indignity was spending the last week of class watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and then taking a final exam full of questions like

What does Cameron tell Sloane Ferris will be when he grows up?

(Fry cook at Venus). Anyway, I was far too much of a brat to realize that Mr. Levine was actually super cool on the Ferris Bueller issue, even if he did have to teach the horrendous adolescent literary canon, which includes grotesques of metaphor like The Lord of the Flies and Fahrenheit 451.

As I remember it, it was the Bradbury that really ruined my (previously nonexistent) relationship with young Mr. Martone. I think he burnt a book to illustrate the travesties of fascism. I was mortified. I was also, as a matter of habit, incredibly annoying.

Brent! You burnt a book and stuck it on posterboard!

It was for a project!

It doesn’t matter! You’re just as bad as the censors!

Suburban New Jersey was crawling with censors in the 1990s. I was perhaps the only one aware of this lurking evil.

It was Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul!

Brent presented an irrefutable point. I did not concede this at the time.

Because I actually like fascism far more than I was willing to let on in 1998, I spent a few hours last night reading about Franco, as inspired by this Times piece. I was confused about accounts of tension between Britian and Spain over Gibraltar, because even though I’d been to the Straight thereof, I didn’t realize it was still considered internationally valuable territory.

As it happens, it so internationally valuable that it is actually exactly the kind of miniature, temperate Anglo enclave where my family would go on vacation. We were in Bermuda for Christmas; it was completely weird.

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My Bermuda-inspired Gibraltar research also revealed that John Lennon and Yoko Ono had been married on the rock that, as Lennon sings in The Ballad of John and Yoko with the syllables all together like marbles in his mouth, is “Gibraltar near Spain.”

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Then I did some other research on the song–recorded only with McCartney, a last Abbey Road-era hurrah–and found this incredible cover by The Persuasions. It’s do-wop, I guess? It’s completely perfect, is what it is.

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Because I really want to hear the Ballad cover but simply can’t imagine remaining sane and listening to a capella all day, I have committed myself to an inadvertent playlist of only songs in my iTunes library with “ballad” in the title. You should try it, soon, because my results are stunning. Except you have to buy the Persuasions yourself. Sorry!

1. The entire, brilliant, Slaves’ Graves and Ballads (2004) by our own Mr. Longstreth and his Dirty Projectors. In the actual execution of the playlist I use only two songs from the album, “(Throw On) The Hazard Lights” and “Because Your Light Is Turning Green,” lest we forget the balladreason we’re all here. Also, Dirty Projectors + The Persuasions = a lot of balladeers from Bed-Stuy. I love facts.

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2. Leonard Cohen, “Ballad of the Absent Mare” from Recent Songs (1979).

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3. The New Pornographers, “Ballad of a Comeback Kid” from Electric Version (2003).

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4. The Persuasions, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” from The Persuasions Sing the Beatles (2002).

5. Prince, “The Ballad of Dorothy Parker” from Sign o’ the Times (1987).

the-ballad-of-dorothy-parker.mp3

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