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Mychal Wilmes: Sound of youth, tempered with age

It's a shame that Ponce de Leon failed to find the Fountain of Youth in mosquito-infested Florida in the 1500s. The discovery would have saved today's consumers millions of dollars.

Then again, if he had found the fountain, the companies that offer wrinkle-free cures and brown spot removing products wouldn't exist. The search for miracle water has been around since Eve took her first bite of the apple.

Sam, who thinks I'm aging fast and content to watch while the world spins on its axis, encourages me to recapture my lost youth. His latest attempt involved a surprise early Christmas present — a ticket to watch Scott Weiland & the Wildabout perform at the Wicked Moose in Rochester. Although I initially protested because the tickets seemed expensive and a 60-something would be lost among the young, I agreed to go because it was important to him.

Weiland, the charismatic former frontman for the Stone Temple Pilots, and his band hit it big in the grunge scene in the 1990s. Familiar angst themes were seasoned with social consciousness. An anti-rape song that some wrongly misinterpreted to mean something else caused both controversy and increased sales.

Other than that, Weiland's life was rock-n-roll cliche — drug addiction, treatment, relapses and failed relationships. The talent that allowed him to reach listeners came with a demon that threatened to destroy.


Still, Weiland's death on a tour bus last week startled. Demons can consume no matter how determined the fight.

My sister and brother battled alcohol as did an uncle, who when not drunk was a practical joker. There would have been much more laughter and far less tears had the battle been won, but those who could have intervened didn't. We were no more useful than accident-scene gawkers who talked but did little useful. People can only save themselves — an adage that absolves others from blame.

A public TV Christmas special featuring crooners Frank Sinatra, Andy Williams, Jack Jones, Vic Damone and Dinah Shore took me back to a simpler time. The black-and-white TV world might not have been any more real than the fake snowflakes that fell on their suites and dresses, but was reassuring nonetheless.

We did not know then that Shore hid her black ancestry out of fear that she might be discriminated against, and that Sinatra's Rat Pack ran wild.

Such warts are no longer hidden. To some extent, freakish behavior itself leads to celebrity status.

"The Bishop's Wife," "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Miracle on 34th Street" will yield more simplicity in the weeks to come. Age seasons things with a sense that whatever happens it has happened before. It goes way beyond a rock star's death. The hate seen in the California and Colorado murders has always been. It was obvious in the Polish ghetto when the Nazis killed thousands of innocents; it was seen in history's assassinations; and when people are killed for the color of their skin.

What's important is how we respond. The immediate reaction is an increase in gun sales, requested prayers and promised legislative action. Bullets and bills cannot protect us from the demon inside, nor can doctrine or mental illness explain what cannot be explained.

A friend — who tends to see evil everywhere — suggests that I purchase a handgun. He has one, which he insists will protect him when the worst becomes even worse. I'm not going to do that, given my belief that good always bests the evil. The evergreen holiday shows teach us that, as do the good books that most religions — Christian and otherwise — teach.


I remind Sam that in cultures where lifespans are much shorter anyone who has reached 60 years is celebrated for their wisdom and experience. He has a new appreciation for me, after I listened to six Stone Temple Pilots songs in a row.

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