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[personal profile] omorka
Okay, so I had a transcendental moment at, of all things, a health food grocery store this evening.

I’ll put the story behind a cut because it’s kind of long, and if you follow me on Twitter you probably already read it. It involves Phil Collins and me unsuccessfully looking for barley flour.

So the closest grocery store to here is a Whole Foods, which we only go to in emergencies because their labor practices aren’t much different from Wal-Mart’s. The next two closest are both Krogers, and we go there occasionally to pick up stuff, but they tend to truck in produce from California. The next closest after them is a chain health-food-ish grocery whose name I always get wrong (and I'm too lazy to look it up on Google Maps right now) that resembles what Whole Foods looked like about 15 years ago and has a huge, delicious produce section. We were there to get milk (which they were out of, drat my luck), some fresh veggies, and boneless skinless chicken breast, which they have on more or less perpetual sale if you buy the family-sized package.

I was filling a bag with green beans when I happened to notice that “96 Tears” was playing over the store’s sound system. Now, one reason that band is called Question Mark and the Mysterians is that they were all Hispanic, and at the time, getting their music played on the radio would have been difficult if that were widely known, so they went by the stage names of ?, X, Y, and Z. (Also, ? thought it was a cool gimmick). They managed to seize the #1 spot on the charts for exactly one week. (Interesting coincidence that I hadn’t known until I fact-checked myself on that last - the record that knocked them out of the top spot was “Last Train to Clarksville,” because of course it was. It all comes back to either Ghostbusters or the Monkees eventually with me, doesn't it?)

So I finish with the green beans and I’m drifting over to the salad dressing isle, thinking about the shameful history of racism in pop music in the US, and the long fade-out of the song finally fades out. The next track comes in with a synthetic drum track with a very specific sound; I recognize it by beat three - Phil Collins’s “Sussudio.” Sure enough, here comes the brass line.

Now, this song is in my top 50 pop songs of all time, so I start singing along - “There’s a girl that’s been on my mind, all the time.” And I realize the older lady, maybe 15 years older than I am, at the other end of the isle, also started singing along, and also didn’t change the pronouns.

I turn the corner to the next isle, and there’s a couple there, much younger than me - just out of college, probably. There’s a skinny Latino dude in a white trucker cap, sleeveless shirt, cute tribal-ish tats on the arm I can see, also singing along and doing his best impression of a Chippendale’s dancer right up on his girlfriend. She’s laughing - the good kind, not the “ugh quit it” laugh - and then she sees me, starts to get embarrassed, and taps him. He turns around and sees me just about to walk past, and stops for a second.

We’d just finished the first verse and are about to hit the first bridge. The timing was perfect; I couldn’t help it. I looked her straight in the eye, smiled, sang the “Whoa-oa!” right at them, and kept walking.

They both burst out laughing. As I reach the end of the aisle and head towards the bulk section, I hear the dude say, “That was amazing!”

The song is now in the first bridge - somewhere around “I’d come running, anywhere.” I’m hunting around in the bulk section to see if they have barley flour (they do not, alas), still quietly singing along, and the song slides into the chorus - “If I just say the word, Su-su-sudio!”

You know how, if two people are whispering a few yards from you, all you can hear are the S’s and the SH’s?

There’s a little choir of about half a dozen “sss, sss, sss” sounds throughout the whole section, all around me. A handful of us, all singing along under our breath to this silly little pop song.

It was glorious. After this week of hatred and death, it was just this connective moment, religious in the original sense of re-ligio, to tie back together, with all of us in this little health food grocery linked by this nonsense pop song sung by a former prog rock drummer way back in 1985, before some of the people singing and dancing to it here were even born. It was a fabulous bit of religious humanism and coincidental phonomancy, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Thanks, Phil!
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