Cold Hands/Chapped Lips – Hot Panda – 2009

My six year old son’s favorite song right now is Cold Hands/Chapped Lips by Hot Panda.  He makes me drive around in the car so he can listen to it over and over again.  He calls it the “yeah yeah no no” song.  And I’m not just humoring him (although I am humoring him but not ‘just’), I like driving around and listening to a song when I’m into it as well.  And there’s something detoxifying about the song which seems very necessary for us right now.

“Saw a girl I used to know.”

I had a friend in Houston that we all spent a lot of time with.  We had a lot of fun doing ridiculous stuff.  And really I almost don’t where I’m going with this because I was a lot wilder at that time too.  But we would hang out and do dumb things like mixtures of mystical readings.  Like two people did Tarot readings, but they had different decks.  I did the I Ching.  Her thing was numerology.

“She’s got a job that’s so adult.”

I don’t remember a thing that any of us talked about but none of it was very serious.  It was just something to do when we were all broke.  Sit around drinking tea and coffee in someone’s living room and do stupid readings.  She was in law school at the time.

“Now we’re shaking hands.”

Years later I ran into her, and I didn’t see any remnants of the person I knew.  We had a very polite conversation and went our separate ways.  And I always thought of it as her being the one that changed.  By that time, she had graduated from law school and passed the bar.  It never occurred to me until just now that maybe I had changed just as much by that time.  I was no longer wandering around the country.  I had a haircut, and I was working as a programmer.  Maybe my change was far more dramatic.  She had actually been in law school the last time I had seen her.  So becoming a lawyer had been on her agenda even at that time.  I went from anarchist nomadic rebel to oil and gas programmer.

“Yeah yeah yeah yeah…”

And even now in my haste to get from one place to another, it’s only me that’s changing.  The world hasn’t gone anywhere.  It’s still round.  The sun still rises.  The moon and the stars were still there the last time I checked.  I can do my best to make the circumstances worse by focusing on how I can’t relate to all of the changes.  Or I can bring one of my biggest rules to live by: All organizations are defined by my involvement.  I can shake things up as much as I want.  Or I can decide to feel persecuted by every sidelong glance.  And really, that’s not my style.

“No no no no…”

And I can’t see where Iggy is right now.  He’s playing all of his cards pretty close.  I know he’s going to be fine, but I also know that he’s going through some life defining changes right now.  Everything was one way, and now it’s another way.  I could make all of that mean something too, or I could let him define it however he wants to.

It’s easy to make situations worse as a parent.  When they fall, you have to hold off your reaction to see if they are actually hurt.  They are constantly looking to you for reassurance, so if you freak out before knowing if they are actually hurt, you could actually be the cause of the trauma as well as the comfort after the trauma.  But I can’t help but feel a little sad.  He’s having to do some growing up right now that I hoped could be put off for a few years.

Hot Panda seems to have taken every dramatic rock and roll presentation style that’s available and morphed it into a single style.  David Bowie, The Who, Iron Maiden, Daniel Johnston, Genesis…  I guess I could go on but it’s pointless.  There’s something indescribly familiar, adolescent and comforting about even their most chaotic songs.  And the final comparison that keeps popping into my head is the artist, Cy Twombly.  On the surface, everything looks like a child did it.  But with further observation, you can tell that the child like nature is measured.  There’s a specific point to the metaphor.  And maybe it’s a simple message, but it’s still powerful.

So during the crazy bridge that happens in the middle of the song, I was looking at Iggy in the rearview mirror.  He was very thoughtful.  He saw me looking at him and he said slowly, “That’s so awful.  But I love it.”

“Yeah yeah yeah yeah…”

And really that about sums it up for me.

“No no no no…”

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