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Life in Wartime

November 2019

Decades ago, during my single years, I routinely attended an aerobics class led by a gal who became a good friend. This aerobics instructor was about five years younger than me; she formed a virtual treasure trove of musical compositions I would not have otherwise known. One of the songs she used consistently, and with verve, in her classes was “Life in Wartime” by Talking Heads.

I’d never heard of this song, or the group, but once I exercised to this music, the experience was not forgotten! To this very day, whenever I hear the driving beat, I have to restrain myself from performing various aerobic moves.

The lyrics fascinated me. I eventually mentioned the song to Dear Husband. He had, of course, heard this song from 1979, years before we met. He still finds this line very appropriate to me:

“I changed my hair style so many times now, I don’t know what I look like.”

Even more apropos to me is one of my favorite expressions: “I don’t have time for that now.”

When I began to scout out music to put me “in the mood” and in the right frame of mind for writing THE DAWN, I immediately thought of this song. I would play this music during certain phases of composing the draft, sometimes for ambiance, sometimes for fun. The life of a novelist is not all work, and no play!

When recently I had to use deprivation measures during the most recent series of useless blackouts in northern northern California, I very much mimicked Camille living in Roussillon, in a summer house — without electricity or heat — during World War II. Life in wartime felt a bit more real!

The 1979 album from which this first single was released is named Fear of Music. With so much fear being peddled currently by so many hucksters, I think these prophetic and yet archetypal lyrics of Life in Wartime can be helpful for any of a number of reasons. Listening to the song only adds to the pleasure of putting perspective into life de nos jours : nowadays.

Heard of a van that is loaded with weapons,

Packed up and ready to go

Heard of some grave sites, out by the highway,

A place where nobody knows.

The sound of gunfire, off in the distance,

I’m getting used to it now

Lived in a brownstone, lived in a ghetto,

I’ve lived all over this town.

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,

This ain’t no fooling around

No time for dancing, or lovey dovey,

I ain’t got time for that now.

Transmit the message, to the receiver,

Hope for an answer some day

I got three passports, a couple of visas,

You don’t even know my real name.

High on a hillside, the trucks are loading,

Everything’s ready to roll

I sleep in the daytime, I work in the nighttime,

I might not ever get home.

This ain’t no party, this ain’t no disco,

This ain’t no fooling around

This ain’t no Mudd Club, or C.B.G.B.,

I ain’t got time for that now.

Heard about Houston? Heard about Detroit?

Heard about Pittsburgh, PA?

You oughta know not to stand by the window

Somebody see you up there.

I got some groceries, some peanut butter,

To last a couple of days

But I ain’t got no speakers, ain’t got no headphones,

Ain’t got no records to play.

Why stay in college? Why go to night school?

Gonna be different this time

Can’t write a letter, can’t send no postcard,

I ain’t got time for that now.

Trouble in transit, got through the roadblock,

We blended in with the crowd

We got computers, we’re tapping phone lines,

I know that that ain’t allowed.

We dress like students, we dress like housewives,

Or in a suit and a tie,

I changed my hairstyle so many times now,

I don’t know what I look like!

You make me shiver, I feel so tender,

We make a pretty good team

Don’t get exhausted, I’ll do some driving,

You ought to get you some sleep.

Burned all my notebooks, what good are notebooks?

They won’t help me survive

My chest is aching, burns like a furnace,

The burning keeps me alive.


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