Some of the Old Songs
"Some of the old songs, Sam." Yes, spoken by Ingrid
Bergman to Dooley Wilson (no relation) in the film Casablanca. What are the old songs?
Old songs are any songs older than the new songs. (Who said you had to be a genius to
understand these things?) The old songs are the songs we remember from our youth (any
year prior to this year when we suddenly aged) to which we attach strong emotions and
In my case it is old rock and roll. Now the old songs
pose a good-news-bad-news scenario. On the one hand you have rock and roll associated
with wild horse, fast women, and good liquor (to paraphrase an old western song). On
the other hand you have heartache, somebody-done-somebody-wrong.
The old songs are not always a guarantee of fond
memories. I believe that Dr. Joyce Brothers is right when she concludes that men tend
to live in the past, while women tend to opt for the present and the future. While Ron
Wilson replays all of the tapes of a bygone relationship, overflowing with "he said
she said" kinds of reflection and "if only I'd done this or she'd done that,"
the woman (bless her) is reaching yet another crossroad in her life and finds herself
saying like Scarlett O'Hara, "Oh well, tomorrow's another day."
For a man, a man what is a man? I sometimes
think of the joke we little boys used to hear in the Days of Yore. It goes like this:
A little girl comes crying to her mother and says, "The boys make fun and won't play
with me because I don't have a pee-pee like they do." She adds, pointing, "All I have
is this." Her mother takes the girl in her arms and answers, "Don't worry, Dear. With
one of these, you can get all of those you want."
"Oh, laugh if you will," says Captain Renault in
Casablanca. But truth is truth because it oftentimes stings. And this joke stings me.
A television entertainer I watched recently talked disparagingly about a self-styled
expert on male-female relationships. He remarked, "This guy says that women don't want
to have sex with men they don't know." Hey Doc, "women just don't want to have sex with
It's an old song. Ilsa wanted to hear some of the
old songs. Rick did not. Sam simply didn't want anyone to shoot the piano player. He
was only the messenger.
So I listen to the old songs . . . the 50's, 60's,
and 70's. I think of my days at Washington State University. One in particular. It's
evening and many students are assembled in the field house. Bonfires usurp the chill.
A football game or something is the purpose of the rally, but my brain is numb as well
as my limbs. I spot the most beautiful girl on campus and I can't look away from her.
All I know about her is that she comes from California. Why on Green Earth she is in
Pullman, Washington, I do not know. She is beautiful, I think, as I gaze at her long
blond hair and womanly features. She stands there alone, absorbed by the speaker's
words and clapping her white mittens when the others around her do.
I could never bring myself to speak to her, but I
secretly realize what the outcome would be should she ever speak to me: anything,
everything she could ask of me I would do. From suicide to sex I wouldn't hesitate.
Just ask and it is yours. That you would ask me is all the validation you need for
the request to be fulfilled. Just open your mouth, say what you want, and instantly
you have it from me. Any possession, any act (legal or illegal), any sacrifice, any
humiliation, demerit, or penalty just ask and it shall be given unto you. I
surrender everything I have, readily, eagerly, greedily.
Have you ever noticed that "fat chance" and "slim
chance" both mean the same thing? She had the power, but never used it. Why? Because
I was a non-entity, nothing, nada. Hey Doc, "women just don't want to have sex with
you." She couldn't see me because I was invisible, cruelly without substance. I was
the runt of the litter, the one they took to the pound.
Some of the old songs? Please, just one or two.
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