2. METALLICA, ...AND JUSTICE FOR ALL

 

My dad was always the grade school principal.  Kindergarten was taught by my mother.  First and second grade are too distant to recall anything other than constantly wetting myself from laughing too hard (and subsequently faking water fights in the bathroom to disguise the telltale dark circles on the front of my pants).  Third grade featured my favorite teacher Mr. Poak, who constantly had to remind our snickering class, "It's POH-ack, people!  My name doesn't rhyme with JOKE!  Yes, "Mr. Poke" happened to be gay (he obviously had no clue as to why we were really laughing), and he happened to break his leg during a jump rope pledge drive (I can still see/hear him falling to the playground asphalt in front of everyone, screaming in pain).  Fourth grade meant ukulele lessons (tuning ukuleles meant singing "my dog has fleas" until we were all magically in unison).  Fifth grade was summed up by a week of camping on the North Shore where a girl named Tiffany told me we were meant to be together because my name was Danny, and the singer Tiffany had a song called "Danny" (even though this made complete sense to me at the time, I was still too shy to talk to her). 

 

And then, finally:  Sixth Grade at Trinity Lutheran School, Wahiawa Hawaii, meant it was time to join the school band.  Here, the seeds were planted.  

 

Our little school was much too small to have any sort of "band geek" distinction.  Our entire class was told to pick an instrument, and an elderly Haole jazz pianist (complete with ponytail and fragrant underarm sweat rings) named Tommy "Pokey" Polkson was left to teach us the rest, singlehandedly.  Most of the girls chose flutes.  All the boys made it deafeningly easy on Pokey by choosing the drums.  Come to think of it, our band was way ahead of the minimalist-instrumentation-featuring-questionably-talented-drummers curve.  White Stripes, eat your hearts out. 

 

Drums were my passion from the second I heard Rikki Rockett playing those little snare rolls that signal each verse of Poison's "Fallen Angel" ("...rollin' the dice of her life... bum, bum, bum, bum, ra-ta-ta-ta-tat, ra-ta-ta-ta-tat, ta-ta-tat!").  I was still over a decade away from actually sitting behind a full set of my own drums, but in my head, I was already light years better than Mr. Rockett.  Literally in my head, that is.  I began using my teeth to create my first (and still, best) percussive tones, that only I could hear (I hope).  The inside of the human skull is an amazing acoustic instrument.  Every day was spent excitedly thinking about putting all of this chattering and sniffing (nasal exhalations were the cymbal accents to my lightening-fast snare drum/incisor rolls) into real life practice.  But my skin-pounding destiny would have to wait.  After the first band assembly, my parents were told that I needed to validate the lanky length of my arms with a trombone.  I didn't even have time to initiate a Pokey vs. Poison debate.  We drove to the student rental store.  

 

I would not allow myself to be forever banished to the lonely life of a rock trombone player.  This was still several years before ska hit the mainstream, making horns temporarily cool (along with skanking, checkerboard patterns, and Save Ferris).  And I was still a decade away from Neutral Milk Hotel coming along and gradually helping me stomach that braying, sliding sound again.  Right about this time, Metallica saved my life.  

 

Stryper won the initial battle for my metal heart, like true Soldiers Under Command.  They had a lock on the parental approval angle, which was huge in a family known for ripping up Garbage Pail Kids and force-feeding the VHS propaganda of Hells Bells and A Thief in the Night to their prepubescent kid.  Then, Poison made a few compelling arguments for their consideration, but as with Stryper, I couldn't justify any long-term dedication to a band that I probably only liked in the first place because of the ravishing beauty of their female lead singer.  Metallica wasn't pretty.  And they eventually won the war, not with sheer testosterone, but with a secret strategy that even the holiest of holies couldn't combat: Skateboards.  There were Metallica skateboards!  This of course meant to me that every member of the band was as good at Method Airs as Tony Hawk, and therefore should be worshipped accordingly.  When Billy - my new bad influence friend - solemnly gave me the left discolored earbud of his walkman and shoved the other into his right ear and pressed play on the ...And Justice For All cassette, I was already ready.  

 

The music was brutally fast and heavy.  The refreshingly ugly singer barked out tales of limb amputation, imminent insanity, and corporate greed.  I understand none of this now, let alone back then.  I just thought he sounded like Satan Himself, and this was good enough to help me ollie higher than ever.  I imagined the band ollieing right there with me, all of us at once, our hair weaving together in mid air, blocking out the sun. These are the deep Metal-induced thoughts I started thinking.  Rebellious thoughts.  I was angry and my insides were threatening to act out.  Fortunately, I was able to limit these heavy metal-induced acts of violence to the occasional firework in dog poop or the weekend house egging.  Thank God I never bought a Judas Priest tape.  

 

After wearing down my back molars by perfecting the machine gun drum rolls that punctuated the glorious second half of "One", I knew I could no longer forsake my original calling.  My trombone stopped traveling with me from my locker to the band assembly room.  Pokey either didn't notice or didn't care that his noisy ensemble lost its brass section.  I was finally drumming.  

 

By the time I hit high school, skateboarding and Metallica had parted ways.  I decided to stick with skateboarding.  Wearing trench coats and Pushead shirts as a sign of rebellion had lost its edge.  Metallica was a world famous metal band now, with only a few years left before my idol drummer Lars decided to sever ties completely with the majority of his original fanbase by criminalizing them for downloading MP3's.  The band's music had definitely changed too.  The blindingly fast riffage had slowly morphed into a slower, thicker chug.  Could I still appreciate the early years?  Yesterday, I decided to test the waters by viewing the "One" video on YouTube.  So yeah, I sort of still loved it.  However, instead of sitting here trying to articulate exactly why, I'll let user "coldfeet129" pick up the slack.  Here is his poetic synopsis, in complete unedited format:

 

"best song ever

metalica is one of the greats of this whole country

and this song is a really good song

if you acually listen to the story of the song you might understand that

in war he lost his sight shpeech hearing arms legs it would suck to be him just talking to myself in my head shit i would want to die to"

 

Amen, Brother.