A Cinecle View – Sue’s Crusade, Part 1: The Toadies are f@#$ing garbage
Like everyone, my family has it’s share of … colorful personalities.
Among those sharing varying amounts of my DNA are former organized crime figures, a few disorganized crime figures (i.e., those that usually get caught), an editor of reality television programs, a legend in our local oldies music scene, master craftspeople and various shifty lay-abouts and or ne’er do wells.
It’s not often that the “average, solid citizen” slice of my familial pie jumps out of the far right lane of life’s highway, crosses three lanes of traffic without looking let alone signaling and ends up on a pedal to the floor hell ride into local infamy; but it looks like in spite of my valiant efforts to discourage her, my mom has found a windmill at which to tilt.
“Possum Kingdom” by Toadies. Yes, the one from 1994.
Not familiar? Here’s a crash course …
I know what you’re thinking: “Really? How could a woman in her 60’s with no cable, no internet and a CD collection (yep) consisting mostly of mellow Christian music possibly become so fixated on what was at best a modest U.S. hit (#9 on Billboard’s mainstream rock chart) 23 YEARS AGO that she has decided to make it her life’s mission to eradicate it from the face of the planet?”
Right? I was thinking the exact same thing! Cue my ringtone: “Coolidge” by Descendents.
“How are you?”
“You’re always busy. How are Danielle (my wife) and Leo (our cat)?”
“Well, one bites and scratches me when I don’t let it have it’s way and the other is constantly high on catnip. I’ll let you figure out which is which.”
“I know. What’s new?”
“Well, speaking of terrible, I was in the grocery store the other day and I hear ‘DO YOU WANNA DIE?’ over and over again from the sound system …”
I started to laugh.
“I forget the name of the song, but I know the one that you’re talking about – it was popular in the 90s …”
“WELL IT’S GARBAGE! Why would you play something like that in a grocery store?”
Apparently, two of the 90’s most respected music critics agreed with her assessment…
“Well, off the top of my head I would guess because it was popular at a time when people who are now in their late 30’s or early 40’s with families listened to pop music so the store is catering to what they think are the musical tastes of that demographic.”
“That’s what the store manager said.”
Oh, fuck me gently with a chainsaw (a movie reference aimed at the very same demographic), she talked to the store manager. I could see where this was headed.
“Do they not understand that there are people walking around thinking about suicide and mass shootings and that blaring ‘DO YOU WANNA DIE?’ at them could trigger them?”
“Well, I don’t want to sound unsympathetic … but there have been murderers that acted because their neighbor’s pets told them to kill … Censoring art because it may trigger someone’s mental illness is a slippery slope that can only end with the complete censorship of all art. You can’t possibly be for that?”
“No, I’m not. But this isn’t art, it’s fucking garbage!”
Okay, you caught me; my mom would never say “fucking”. But, man that would have been cool if she did!
“The store manager said that ‘corporate’ selected the music, so I wrote a letter to the editor and I’m sending a copy to (REDACTED)’s corporate office.”
“Look, mom, I don’t remember anything about the song, so I can’t possibly defend it. But please, pump the brakes on the letter for a day or two. Let me at least Google it, read the lyrics and see what the song is about. Maybe it’s not as … triggery in context.”
“Okay,” she agreed reluctantly.
After a quick read of the lyrics convinced me that no amount of context was going to change her mind about the appropriateness of eight demonically growled “DO YOU WANNA DIE”s to the international food aisle, I headed over to the modern day Oracle at Delphi, Wikipedia, for one last grasp at finding some poetic value and higher meaning to “Possum Kingdom” that would defuse her anger and preemptively end her war against the Toadies …
The song’s origins lie in folklore from the band’s native state of Texas. Possum Kingdom Lake is a lake in North Texas near Fort Worth. In the documentary Dark Secrets: The Stories of Rubberneck, Lewis further elaborates that he intended “Possum Kingdom” to be a continuation of the story told in the song “I Burn.” While he envisioned “I Burn” to be a story about cult members immolating themselves in order to ascend to a higher plane, “Possum Kingdom” was about one of the immolated people becoming “just smoke, and … he goes to Possum Kingdom [Lake] and tries to find somebody to join him.
Yep, just the kind of artistic merit she was bound to appreciate.
“Hey, mom, I Googled your new favorite song.”
“What? Oh. And?”
“It’s the conclusion of a two song rock opera that begins with cult members setting themselves on fire to achieve spiritual ascension, then one returns as a ghost to find an eternal bride, who … of course … will also have to kill herself.”
“Fucking garbage. I’m sending me letter.”
Yeah, she didn’t say fucking that time either … but she sure as shit sent that letter.
TO BE CONTINUED.
Tony Marion is a writer and filmmaker who splits time between Lancaster, PA and Baltimore, MD. He lives for the work of Descendents (the band), Chuck Palahniuk and Rian Johnson. Check out the digital embodiment of procrastination he calls his website here.