Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The ghost of Tom Joad

I’m a serial fan. Just look at me. Today I wanted to write a posting in homage to the once-object of my affection, Conan O’Brien. Friday marked his last evening as the host of “Late Night” after a15-year run, a run I became entrenched in during the summer after my sixth grade year. From those hot summer nights watching a not-yet-fully-Conan Conan on the fuzzy TV in my kitchen, which was stuck permanently on NBC because the channel knob broke off months before, all the way through high school, my heart pounded to Late Night’s theme song. (Wasn’t it also Max Weinberg’s beats that ushered me into the era of Bruce? Is my life just a flocking from one Weinberg drum solo to another?) My adolescence was all about Conan. I even wrote him a letter asking him to my prom. When he didn’t respond, I composed an anthology of tortured-by-Conan haikus that I mailed him as well. The most poignant I turned in as an assignment for English class:

I wrote you letters
Saying “come to my school dance,”
You don’t read junk mail.

So I was going to tell you all about why I loved Conan and why you should love him too. Then I thought, anyone who’s reading this is going to think I’m a real dipshit. This is a Springsteen themed blog! And here I am, confessing that somewhere during my freshman year of college I went to the poster store and traded all my Conan prints in for Boss ones. (Metaphorically speaking, of course. I think the only poster I ever owned was a 5 ft x 6 ft Les Miserables glossy that I hung over my bed. HUGE fan of musicals. Maybe you’re starting to see why Conan snubbed my prom invite.)

Then, I watched Obama’s address to congress this evening. I thought about how by the time I got to know Barack Obama, I’d turned my “Miss Saigon” t-shirts into cleaning rags and moved out of my dorm. I see Obama through a cloud of cynicism that’s come over me with age. I’m not the little bleeding heart that got carried away with Conan and Bruce. chalked up his idealism and his demands that we share it to naivety. Those idiots in congress will drive him crazy, he’ll ditch the bipartisanship, scale back his goals, and stop reading all those letters the good people of America send to him.

But watching Obama tonight with Conan and Bruce in the back of my brain made me realize what I love about these three men: they take ownership of their reality. They demonstrate that when you reject the shitty circumstances of the outside world as absolute, you defeat them. Believing in who you are, and honoring that you, casts a shadow over your obstacles, makes them perish from lack of sun. Goodness can morph into silly idealism only when you let the world talk you out of your perspective. But these men don’t. It’s not teenage hormones still lingering in my bloodstream that make me love these men. It’s my desire to emulate them. They’re great, but only as an afterthought. What they really are is good.

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