It's the End of the World
Friday, March 13, 2020
So here’s what you need to know about me – my memory is absurd. Specifically, memories from childhood and high school just stick. Whenever two of my buddies are reminiscing about something that happened in high school, and they end up disagreeing about their respective recollections, I am called in as the official arbiter of our time machine.
For example, last night I reconnected with a guy I played soccer with from age nine to thirteen. His name is Craig and he was one helluva player, and his dad was my first travel soccer coach. Anyway, we ran into each other at the Mercer 33 banquet a few months back. I was serving as the guest speaker. Craig’s daughter, not surprisingly, was selected as one of the 33 best female players in Mercer County. We didn’t have much time to chat that night, but we decided that we should go grab a drink some night and catch up. Last night was that drink.
As we were recalling our glory days, I think I surprised Craig when I told him that when we were nine, he played for Mraz Optical. Now most people may remember what team they played on forty years ago, but who on earth remembers the teams that the other guys played on back then? Me, that’s who. I went onto mention that my team beat his team in the league semi-final, two nil. I could have gone on to say that their goalkeeper was Dave Fowler and that I scored both goals, but that would have just been showing off. Anyway, my point is that my memory can be absurdly keen. Which is why I know the next story is also true.
It’s preseason – junior year of high school. Coach Potter has us in line for a shooting drill. After I take my shot and return to the line, one of my teammates, a guy we called Nello, was waxing philosophical, as he was prone to do. He was breaking down the Beach Boys song Barbara Ann, and urging the rest of us to see beyond the literal lyrics.
Lyric: Went to a dance
Nello: Okay, so he’s going to the city.
Lyric: Lookin’ for romance
Nello: Maybe to find a job, right?
And it went on until it was Nello’s turn to shoot and the topic sorta died. Anyway, today I was reminded of Nello’s philosophy when I again heard REM’s End of the World, and I wondered just how close the band’s singer/lyrcist, Michael Stipe, came to predicting our current pandemic. So now with an incurable case of free time and no job for the foreseeable future, I thought I would take a look at the first verse and see what’s what. So, let’s get our Leonard Bernstein on and see how Mr. Stipe did, shall we?
Lyric: That’s great it starts with an earthquake…
Analysis: Yes. Metaphorically speaking, the earthquake is an outbreak in China. Strong start.
Lyric: Birds and snakes, an aeroplane…
Analysis: For 2020, the animal for the Chinese New Year is the bird. Just kidding. It’s not. But wouldn’t that have been something? However, if this thing hangs around ‘til 2025, it will be the year of the snake. More literally speaking, this thing is sort of like the bird flu, so that’s half a point, but the big winner here is the aeroplanes – because they are a major o'part of the spread.
Lyric: Lenny Bruce is not afraid.
Analysis: Even before he met Mrs. Maisel, Lenny Bruce was a prominent stand-up comic, ahead of his time in the use of vulgarity in his act. Based on the memes I saw last week, a lot of my friends fancy themselves as comedians and laughed off coronavirus as a media hoax. As did another famous vulgarian, this one of the orange variety.
Lyric: Eye of a hurricane
Analysis: Welcome to Seattle!
Lyric: Listen to yourself churn
Analysis: That’s the shortness of breath talking.
Lyric: World serves its own needs
Analysis: Looks like it’s every country for itself right about now.
Lyric: Don’t misserve your own needs
Analysis: By underplaying the reality of this thing and pretending it’s not as bad as the seasonal flu, and by not washing your freaking hands.
Lyric: Speed it up a notch
Analysis: Testing, anyone?
Lyric: Speed, grunt, no strength
Analyis: Ummm… yeah. All that.
Lyric: The ladder starts to clatter with fear of height, down height
Analysis: The clattering ladder is surely the rising panic about the dearth of toilet paper
Lyric: Wire in a fire, representing seven games
Analysis: White House messaging has been the definition of crossed wires. Representing seven games, clearly a clever allusion to the Seven Dwarves, all who are deceased because Sneezy couldn’t cover his freaking mouth. And let us not forget the closure of Disney World. Coincidence? I think not.
Alternative Analysis: Seven games: Where is this thing headed? Seven continents. BOOM!
An alternative to the alternative analysis: How many rounds in March Madness which was just cancelled? That's right - seven. Again, BOOM!
Lyric: And a government for hire
Analysis: Uh, Mr. Stipe… You’ve got Nostradamus on line two.
Lyric: And a combat site
Analysis: See ‘seven continents’ remark.
Lyric: Left of west and coming in a hurry
Analysis: Where’s left of west? East. Where’s China? Far east. Good God, the man is a prophet.
Lyric: With the furies breathing down your neck
Analysis: Furies is obviously the 80s spelling of cooties, a.k.a. coronavirus.
Lyric: Team by team, reporters baffled, trumped, tethered, cropped
Analysis: Oh you must be kidding me. Mr. Stipe, George Orwell’s here for your two o’clock.
Lyric: Look at that low plane, fine then
Analysis: It's those damn planes again!
Lyric: Uh oh, overflow, population, common food
Analysis: Okay, now I’m scared.
Lyric: But it’ll do, save yourself, serve yourself
Analysis: Hog all the damn toilet paper. Like you’re the only one with a butt.
Lyric: World serves its own needs
Analysis: Stipe trying to double dip on this one. No points awarded. First warning.
Lyric: Listen to your heart bleed, dummy
Analysis: Apparently how you feel when you have it.
Alternative Analysis: The bleeding heart liberals are the ones who tried to tell you it wasn’t going away, dummy.
Lyric: Tell me with the Rapture and the reverend in the light, right
Analysis: Oh Rapture.
Lyric: You vitriolic, patriotic, slam fight, bright light
Analysis: You know who you are. Yeah, I'm looking at you.
Lyric: Feelin’ pretty psyched
Analysis: If you’re selling Charmin, then yes.
Lyric: It’s the end of the world as we know it
Analysis: For some, many even, it actually is. Keep that in mind and wash your damn hands.
So there you have it. After a deduction for the double-dip, Michael Stipe scores an impressive 8.75 out of 10 with his doomsday predictions. And (for now)…
I feel fine.
Now, time I had some time alone.