On Being A Non-conformist conformist. And skiing. Of course.

Buckle your seat belts in my blog reading public.  It’s going to be a long read tonight for our fireside chat.  Scroll down and skip the prose for the pictures.

So I promise this will circle back to skiing eventually, but right here we’re going to discuss the aforementioned non-conforming conformity.  Or the conforming non-conformity.  I can’t remember which way it went. Oh well.  Let’s just start.

So up until 8th grade I was major league, out of control obsessed with the Beatles.  I could tell you every song, every album, everything about the band.  I could tell you their history, about their time playing the Reeperbahn in Hamburg.  I mean i took it upon myself to learn what the Reeperbahn even is or was in the days when the Beatles played it.  I loved that band.

When I got to junior high school in the god forsaken hell hole we moved to when I was 12, I found out quickly that liking the Beatles was profoundly uncool.  Not only had I made the mistake of having spent the first four years of my life in the wrong country, but now I was listening to the wrong music.  I was still in my Beatles t-shirt in a sea of New Kids on the Block t-shirts.  But I stuck to my guns through it all.

Well in ninth grade, the New Kids on the Block t-shirts got turned inside out and became Pearl Jam and Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirts.  I stuck steadfastly to my Beatles until a friend made me a mix tape with a few heavy metal songs on it.  Among them was Unforgiven by Metallica.  I really thought this was a great song and they were very musical.  The guys in the band seemed to have some kind of integrity and their drummer was from Denmark, geographically close to Poland.

Music in general in that time period changed.  Pop went quiet for a while and grunge sort of took over.  Music became serious.  Everyone was angry.  At what I have no idea.

A lot of bands suddenly became famous during the time period like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam and Nirvana.  Still others got more famous like Metallica and Guns and Roses.

As soon as I kind of declared myself to be a fan of this music, I was labeled a poseur.  No where was this more evident than the song “Under the Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  To this day I consider this to be one of the most perfectly created pieces of music ever created.  I remember sitting in my teenage bedroom just listening to this song.  It made an impact that’s for sure.

But here was the thing.  You couldn’t just like the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  One does not simply like the Chili Peppers FOR ONE SONG.  So I found out at the age of 16.  You weren’t a Chili Peppers fan if you just liked that one song.  You were only a fan if you were a Chili Peppers fan before Under the Bridge.

The same went for Metallica.  “Unforgiven” was very popular at the time, but again, you weren’t a REAL Metallica fan if you only liked that one song.  You could only call yourself a fan if you had listened to Master of Puppets and Kill ‘Em All.  The fact that these albums came out when most of my peers were still carrying Flintstones Lunch Boxes to their fourth grade classes seemed immaterial.

There was this one kid who was a fan of Green Day, before they were really popular, before their songs were played at every single prom and college graduation in the Western Hemisphere, including mine.  He was crazy about Green Day and they were poised for fame.  The band was just there on the edge of it.  I knew that once we all started listening to “his” band, he would let us have it because “he liked them first.”

For what its worth, one of the most memorable moments from my college graduation was hearing Green Day’s “Time of Your Life.”  Somehow it felt like exactly the right thing to hear at exactly the right time.

When I went to college, the whole thing got even worse.  In my freshman year, I fell in with some people who were into hard core music.  Well more specifically, my college roommate, who is still my best friend, her boyfriend at the time was a fan of this music.  At the time I would have called him a friend but now I’d call him an age equal peer whose interests dovetailed with mine.  Slightly.

There wasn’t much to do at our upstate college so we went to a lot of “shows.”  This is how the shows went.  We’d be gathered in a room the size of your average finished basement.  Then a heavily tattooed young man sporting many piercings would take the stage.  He’d make a call out to the spirits and begin to yell into the microphone.  This was the “show.”

After the show, everyone would gather back together.  Usually there was a discussion afterwards about music.  But not one where a person could freely express what they actually thought.  It was more a discussion of which bands had “sold out.”  If you think that means that they sold out every ticket at their show, you’d be wrong.  No, it meant that this band had gone corporate.  They had sold out to “the man.”  Even then I found this talk tiresome and boring.  The conversations would go something like this.  A random group member would name a band.  Inevitably, there would be a chorus of “they sold out.”  OMG, their video was on 120 minutes!!!!!!  (A show at the time on MTV that highlighted lesser known rock acts).  (Deepest eye roll).

I think I might have said at some point that I liked Metallica, which was meant with a chorus of “OMG, they SO sold out.”  They were actually popular and popular things were to be derided.  “Popular” things were only liked by the sheeple.  Being a “nonconformist” meant you didn’t follow the sheeple.

I know if you’ve read all the way down to here, you are very tired of all of this.  Don’t worry.  We’re getting there.

I remember even at the time thinking that all of this talk was downright stupid.  It is the dream of every professional musician to make a living playing music.  Only a small percentage of even professional musicians make enough money to live on from their music.  I guess once they did, there would be a bunch of haters nearby to judge them.

After all of this, my taste in music basically became a state secret.  I NEVER shared this with anyone.  I mean why would I after being so harshly judged for it, right?

Then something kind of interesting happened and its connected to skiing.  Thank you for patiently waiting for this all of reach a conclusion.  The ski resorts blast music a lot of times on the slopes.  It adds to the general atmosphere and hey, it makes people feel good.

I was at Wachusett recently and they were playing Good Vibrations by Marky Mark.  Another time I was at Sunday River and they were playing Return of the Mack by Mark Morrison.  At the same resort, I remember there was a band playing Billy Joel covers in front of the lodge.  The music just adds to the great atmosphere at the resort.

For quite a few years, I would tell myself that it was wrong for me to like this mass market, conformist kind of music.  I was a “sell out” for liking these songs, even if I did actually like them.

Last Saturday I was up at Loon, in New Hampshire.  It was one of the top ten skiing days I have ever had in my entire life.  Everything was perfect.  Perfect conditions, perfect temperature.  It just all lined up.

In the lift line, they were playing classic rock, which is usually going in these places.  The Lenny Kravitz song “It Ain’t Over, Til Its Over” started playing at the base lift area.  Everyone was in a really good mood and people started singing along to the song.  I was singing and kind of moving around, as were many of my skiing compatriots.  It was one of those types of beautiful moments you only see in skiing.

I realized at that moment that music should unite us, not divide us.  I know I took too many paragraphs to say this very simple statement, but its true.  I certainly did not stop my fellow skiers and quiz them on when they started liking Lenny Kravitz or if they thought he was a “sell out.”  We just enjoyed the moment all together.

Photos go here.  If you have just scrolled down here, you missed a spirited discussion about musical preferences.  But again, photos go here:




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