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rock of ages
rise up, gather round
by jeff miller (@jmillerboston)

I tried to avoid writing a tribute piece or a memorial retrospective this month - partly due to the fact that there are plenty of excellent writers who have been on staff longer than me who I felt would do a better job of it, and partly because I just don't have a solid point of view at this time. As I read website and news articles and watch TV, my personal politics shift to and fro like an empty Snapple bottle on the floor of a Green Line train.

Obviously, I have failed in my efforts to avoid the subject. It doesn't matter that there have been times in the last two weeks when I almost felt normal - even extended periods during which I watched no news at all. I've spent time laughing with friends, worrying about money, writing business plans, washing my car, playing with the cat - all the things that people do when not thinking about horrible disasters and impending new-millennium wars.

I was hoping an article would just ooze out of me that might allude to the disasters without focusing on them completely - something entertaining, maybe even funny, but not inappropriately so.

When I finally sat down to do the writing, however, I realized that for all of the 'normality' that's been superimposed over my workaday life, I have an underlying need to share what's shifting, twisting, and turning below reality's skin.

It's like something's gone loose inside - a leftover screw after a rushed repair job. It's clanking around, jamming up the works here and there, sliding around in a distracting way as I try to work and socialize.

My wife and I had a sushi party at my house last night - the first such gathering since September 11th. Three couples just sitting on the living room floor eating fish and drinking wine, whiskey, and a little more wine. It started off with lots of love and smiles all around - I think we were all just feeling the simple comforts of togetherness. We listened to a lot of CDs - a little Michael Hedges during dinner, then on to the funkified old school Hip Hop of Digital Underground. It was cool breeze all the way, and we were all grateful for that.

Eventually, lubricated and high on wasabi and raw tuna, we all relaxed into the sofa and our few chairs, we began telling stories about where we were when we heard the news - what we were doing, who was the first person we saw afterward.

That loose screw started banging away at my insides again, and for a moment I was reliving that morning in vivid clarity. I was immersed in the fight or flight hot zone, remembering a flood of emails between my family and friends - most of the phones weren't getting us anywhere - and someone in my office flying out to buy a TV at the Mall across the highway so we could all tune in and see just what the hell was really happening.

I think we all felt better after sharing our various experiences, and after a short while we were back to our more typical conversations of music, computers, the Internet industry, making plans for outdoor group activities. Maybe a rafting trip in the spring? Sounded good to me...

One funny thing - well, funny to me, anyway. I recently watched a horrible made-for-TV movie on VH1 - Hysteria: The Def Leppard Story. Now, I know what you're thinking: There goes Miller again, spouting on about some 1980's Heavy Metal amusement park ride that he never seems to want to get off! - but hear me out.

Watching that movie reminded me just how much I LOVED that band, their album "Pyromania" in particular. What possible relevance could any of this have? Well, I'm just wondering if anybody else out there, as they watched the second plane hit the tower, was immediately struck with the vision of that album cover - a furiously burning, blue-tinted skyscraper as viewed through crosshairs.

I guess what I'm getting at is that that symbol, that very average painting of a flaming skyscraper, was already a sort of archetypal image for me. Now its essence has been charged with new meaning, changed forever in my mind.

As reality's skin grows thicker, and the forgotten screws finally settle into some unknown, tight corner or simply fall out altogether, this is the kind of random association of imagery and events that will somehow help me to make sense of the senseless.

I'm sure it will be different for everyone - we all have unique forces at work inside us, willing us to move forward, urging us to produce our life's work. For me, it's a chorus of 'Rock of Ages,' for someone else it's the voice of a favorite uncle or the memory of a dream from a younger, more innocent time.


Brown eyes, brown hair, bluejeans and a T-shirt. Digs loud guitars and good design. Easily hypnotized by green-eyed blondes, shiny leather, B-movies, and brightly packaged foods. He's got a bustle in his hedgerow - but he is NOT alarmed.

more about jeff miller


nostalgic anxiety
of hummingbirds and feathered hair
by jeff miller
topic: general
published: 5.6.05

here comes the judge
meet me at baggage claim
by jeff miller
topic: general
published: 12.11.06


tracey kelley
10.15.01 @ 12:13a

Well Jeff, you'll be happy to know that I've linked this column to the DefNet fan site, so prepare for the rush!

I pulled my Pyromania album out and sure enough, that's just weird.

If you visit the Def Leppard official site and sort through the News, you'll notice a very poignant letter from Joe Elliott about the Sept. 11th events.

tracey kelley
10.15.01 @ 12:23a

Soory - I misspoke. Joe Elliott's comments are under the "Backstage" section under "Diaries."

jeff miller
10.15.01 @ 9:57a

an excellent site - I'm actually very impressed. They have an area for fans to suggest a title for the next DL album. i suggested that, since it will be their 10th album, that they call it Pyromania II and expand the view from the original cover painting. Stupid? Tasteless? Probably.

Since I wrote this article, we've started bombing the hell out of Afghanistan, and Anthrax has shown up three times. I still don't know what to make of it, but I am getting some excellent material together for my next metal masterpiece.

adam kraemer
10.15.01 @ 12:25p

Do you think crocheters all over the world have stopped making Afghans?

jeff miller
10.15.01 @ 1:40p

No, however all blankets formerly known as Afghans will now be referred to as 'Our Partners in Enduring Freedom.'

adam kraemer
10.15.01 @ 2:52p

Speaking of which, I'd like to have a nation-wide referendum on the name "Operation Enduring Freedom." I think it sounds wussy. My vote (and I need your support behind this one) is "Operation Stop Killing Civilians, Whoever You Are."

mike julianelle
10.15.01 @ 3:55p

I can get behind that.

adam kraemer
10.15.01 @ 4:42p

Thanks. Now all we need is a petition and a few hundred thousand more people. I'm also toying with "Operation You Started This, You Hypocritical Sick Bastards."

mike julianelle
10.15.01 @ 4:51p

Even better!

jeff wilder
10.15.01 @ 11:58p

How about "Operation Take Out The Garbage"? Sounds better than the commonly suggested "Operation Trash Bin"

adam kraemer
10.16.01 @ 11:55a

Or "Operation Trash Bin Laden."

jael mchenry
10.16.01 @ 11:56a

Operation Has Bin?

jeff miller
10.16.01 @ 1:27p

I Bin up

I Bin Down

Take my word

I Bin around...

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