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Graham Nash Still Really Gives a S#!*

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Posted on Aug 5, 2012
Mr. Fish

By Mr. Fish

Music is moral law.
—Plato

The first time Graham Nash made me want to talk back to grown-ups was in the summer of 1977. 

I was 11 years old at the time and my hair was finally long enough to look amazing when paired with leather sandals, a braided belt, my grandfather’s Hai Karate cologne and a mood ring. I couldn’t believe how cool and downright sophisticated I looked the first time I caught a glimpse of myself fellating a red, white and blue Rocket Pop in the front window of Hartnett’s Five and Dime. The sun was blazing and it was early July and I was wearing mirrored sunglasses and a beaded headband and had the cool, damp stem of a freshly picked dandelion tucked behind my ear, the tantalizing combination of everything being precisely what I imagined the neo-nouveau masculinity movement of the time was all about. Having already successfully petitioned my grandmother for a fringed suede vest and a peace sign medallion the previous Easter, I figured that all I needed was a pair of mesh bikini briefs, a pierced ear and a Dexedrine addiction but I didn’t know how to get any of those things onto my Christmas list without cueing the Santa Claus at the mall to gingerly lift me off of his knee as if I were a sleeping beehive and take my mother aside for the purpose of suggesting that a series of prolonged beatings with a closed fist might be a more deserving and character building alternative to what I’d asked him for. 

It didn’t matter to me that practically everybody who looked at me from afar or at a glance saw me as just another pretty girl. In fact, the whole point of my look was to prove that I was so unabashedly cocksure in my manhood that to suggest I even had a cock would be admitting that I needed a prop in order to overstate what should have already been obvious: namely, that I was such a ladies man that, like a plastic, unblinking duck set adrift on a fetid, mosquito ridden pond, I was the decoy self-deployed to attract the warm breasts and elegant necks and amorous tail feathers of innumerable, unsuspecting fowl. I was the incessant quacking where there was no quacking at all, the purpose of my life to be determined by the number of flying Vs I would be able to pull down from heaven and have given wet bottoms. 

To make myself all the more captivating to the opposite sex, I was also taking guitar lessons with a real hepcat named Denver Dragonetti, whose bacon grease comb over and Sansabelt slacks and wire frame glasses, which clung white-knuckled to lenses as thick as Lucite ashtrays, made him the grooviest 25-year-old I knew. “Let’s pick a song for you to practice,” he said to me one afternoon while closing the door to the tiny windowless room where, for 30 minutes every week, I came to furrow my brow and to stare hard at a music stand and Morse code out an emaciated translation of what I was reading on my guitar. “Let’s pick something for you to get really, really good at,” he said, sitting down on a stool next to me and bringing his ax onto his knee. “How about ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’?” he suggested, not waiting for me to answer before throwing himself full force into an eight-minute version that in no time had his nose running, his eyes closed and his Kermitty voice cracking with the sort of raw emotion that one typically associated with natural disasters and crime scene reporting.

“How about ‘Handy Man’ by James Taylor?” I suggested, while he dried his eyes with his sleeve and took a series of deep breaths in an attempt to regain his composure. I imagined myself pirouetting slowly at the center of a rotating playground merry-go-round, my guitar slung high across my chest and my face lifted to the sky in song. “Hey girls, gather round/Listen to what I’m putting down/Hey babe, I’m your handy man,” I’d sing. I saw myself surrounded on all sides by beautiful hippie chicks, the tiny tassels on the hem of my poncho flickering in the breeze like birthday candles begging to be blown, when Denver launched into Graham Nash’s “Teach Your Children,” the urgency of his singing sounding like somebody straining hard not to be misunderstood during a 911 call.

First, he pleaded with me to teach my children well and then he pleaded with me to teach my parents well and then he pleaded with me to teach my children well again and then he pleaded more about teaching my parents. Then he improvised a jazzy segue into an 11-minute instrumental of “Bye Bye Blackbird” that involved an unforgivable amount of whistling. Then he segued back into “Teach Your Children,” this time in Spanish. When he invited me to clap along I put my hands up and said, “Whoa whoa whoa.”


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