What You Will

Another Burma Shave billboard on the information superhighway. Random thoughts about arts, faith, culture, music, language, literature, and the shortcomings of the Hegelian dialectic. (OK, just kidding about that last bit.)

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Location: Edmonds, Washington, United States

I wonder what goes in this space?


Be very afraid...

of this.


Horton Hears The Who

(Composed in honor of Michael Crowley's 40th birthday. With the requisite apologies.)

On the fifth of November, in London’s Hyde Park,
On a stroll through the evening, just out for a lark,
While the effigies burned and the fireworks soared,
Potatoes were baking and bonfires roared,
Past the crowds and the cries of importunate boys —
Old Horton the elephant heard a small noise.

Said Horton, “That’s different. Good heavens! Gosh dang!
That’s not an explosion, a boom or a bang.
It’s nothing whatever to do with Guy Fawkes,
It sounds more like music — but music that rocks!
It’s catchy! It’s fun! It’s exciting! Appealing!
It gives me an all-over tingly feeling!
I’ve got to get closer! I’ll lay in a course
For whatever might be that wondrous sound’s source!”

So he pricked up his ears and he followed along
Through the dark foggy streets toward the sound of the song.
The closer he got, well, the louder it grew,
Till he reached Warwick Road, number seventy-two,
A tiny hi-fi shop that sold radios
And reel-to-reel tape decks to kids in sharp clothes.

’Twas the shop’s record player that put out the sound,
And a group of teenagers had gathered around.
“Whose record is this?” Horton asked a young mod.
“That’s right,” she replied.
Horton answered, “How odd.”
“Not a bit,” said the girl. Then she let Horton see
The name on the front of a brand-new LP
Titled My Generation. That’s when Horton knew
That the noise he had heard
Was a band
Called The Who.

Horton bought the LP. Then he took it on home
To his Burbage Road flat, near Herne Hill Velodrome.
There he played it, and played it, and played it some more;
It shook all the windows; it rattled the floor,
Till his neighbour cried out, “Sir, unless you will stop
Playing that wretched music, I’m calling a cop!”

“Do your worst!” Horton said. “I’m a big elephant,
And I’ll play this record as loud as I want —
No matter the time of the day or the night.
I don’t care what you say, ’cause the kids are alright!”

But the bobby who came was another Who fan.
He cried, “Stuff the LP, mate, and go hear the band!
They’re playing a club somewhere out near Thamesmead!”
And off Horton raced with the greatest of speed.
He saw Pete do the windmill! He heard Roger bray!
He heard the Ox thunder! Saw Moon flail away!
That night was life-changing! That night was amazing!
He saw guitars smashing! He saw drums a-blazing!
“I’ve found my life’s purpose!” cried Horton. “I know
I’ll follow this band now, wherever they go!
By tube or by railroad, by boat or by flight,
I’ve just got to be there, ’cause the kids are alright!”

From Wembley to Leeds to the Isle of Wight
He followed them round as they played every night.
In fourteen long years, not a concert he missed,
And soon Horton topped The Who’s V.I.P. list.
Across the Atlantic he took the exploit —
From Woodstock to Memphis! Chicago! Detroit!
In the clubs he’d hang back, never seeking attention.
(The elephant in the room, folks never mention.)

Then one tragic evening in seventy-nine,
Poor Horton’s trip came to the end of the line.
Cincinnati it was — Riverfront Coliseum;
The Who had a show, and he went there to see ’em.
As he stood in the crowd waiting for the event,
He spied a white mouse crawling out of a vent.
Horton just couldn’t help it. He panicked. He fled,
Leaving eleven kids trampled and dead.

And shortly thereafter, the world’s loudest band
Had to embargo their own biggest fan.
“It’s OK,” Horton said as he choked back the tears,
“Imagine the toll on these gigantic ears
From all of those shows in the past fourteen years.
Why, I can’t hear more than an old fence post hears!”

So Horton retired. Now he lives at a zoo
And no longer goes to see shows by The Who.
Sometimes he’ll get a visit from Roger or Pete
And they’ll reminisce about when life was sweet.
(His memory’s still so amazingly keen
He recalls every Who show that he’s ever seen.)
He’s learning sign language, and needlework too;
He does the things most old deaf elephants do.
But sometimes, say the keepers, they’ll hear a strange sound
From the elephant barn when no one is around,
When the stars are all out and the moon’s shining bright —
It’s Horton. He’s singing “The Kids Are Alright.”