‘Til we grow beards get weird and disappear into the mountains— • 29 July 2008

Something about these crazy arm balances, I tell you. I went into the hip-hop archives of the Owl House CD shelves Sunday, and drew out The Eminem Show. I cannot endorse this record because it exhibits high levels of misogyny, pandering to children, preening rhymes so obviously non-spontaneous he probably copped them from a songwriting dictionary (but who doesn’t), and, sort of, the dreaded cultural appropriation. Also: it’s good. Sorry, embarrassing; but yes. I thought about stemming my habit on Monday, but it’s been the Show all week here. In my fragile 5:40 am state, it’s true that I can hew to the lowest common denominator.

The record was already two years old and tired four summers back when I was learning the first series. But I stayed in a similar can’t-quite-change-the-record groove for days on end at exactly this point in late July that year, and it worked. The rhythm was a little different: the Editor and I would go to campus around 8, and for two hours I’d write notes in preparation for my upcoming field exam in Economic Sociology. At 10:10 I’d sneak back up the parking garage, and secret through the backstreets of Beverly Hills listening to that record loud like a white university-schooled fool while the middle-aged men from Michoacan and San Salvador trimmed trees and hauled grass clippings at the curbs. I’d cut back to Wilshire at Comstock, where the country club forces you back into the big arterial, and hit just a couple of lights before landing at a now-bought-and-decommissioned (thanks, YW) beautiful little studio in the heart of downtown Beverly Hills. Park in the free garage on Beverly drive and take a manduka and change of clothes from the trunk, in time to be on the mat with hair braided up at 10:30.

Interesting that these are still my practices—Econ Soc, astanga, driving my Civic—and that a return to this place in the annual cycle shows me how much it is the same person now and then. Also, the country is weirdly the same one that the record—with its backwards E evocative of financial crisis and much to say about clueless White America and horrible wars and dirty Dick Cheney—addresses: will we throw everything away as manaically as we did in Fall 04? It took the dense evocations of Eminem’s bad but good record to see me and us in this light again. What’s different? Some edges softer and some harder, I guess, a shift in sense of humor and ideas about this and that. Maturity in some areas, loss of orthodoxy in others. Oh, and an even more obvious alternative come November. On both levels, this year’s shift in context will be a little dramatic. The four-year cycle is concluding.

In aught four the Eminem show ended when I parked the car for a week and flew to another city for the annual disciplinary meeting. Same this year. When I come back, it will almost feel like fall.