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Blitzkrieg Pop
by Sara Bir
Magazine Issue: U.S. Vol. 5.1
Or how rock 'n' roll changed my life. . .and why I love Champagne because of it.

Perhaps I was not such a socially inept twit back in the days as I recall, but I can vouch that my personality moved up a couple notches for the better thanks to a couple cosmic-type influences. Two of the biggest, the ones so adored that they became internalized and indistinguishable from the rest of my fetish gallery, aren't so easy to explain to most people. I don't care. Anyone who refuses to make an evening of quaffing Champagne with the Ramones' "Judy is a Punk" blaring in the background under the assumption of incompatibility is missing out. And that's their problem.

The Ramones and Champagne were revelations - chivalrous heroes on swift crystal steeds who rushed in to rescue my sluggish soul from a vast indifferent quicksand of muck. But before the Knights of the Champagne Crusade could march across the plains of a receptive psyche, before blanc de blancs and ros├ęs could creep into the boudoir of worldly love affairs, I had to first crash historically into a creature of an unruly, lascivious and rebellious nature that was the yin to Champagne's yang.

Swaddled in flowy hippy skirts and scholastic idealism, I went off to college in search of lofty scholastic ideals, a collection of moody indie rock records in tow. This was not a winning recipe for social funnery at a gigantic university teeming with baseball caps and raging keggers. I was restless, a misfit among non-conformists. College bound my knickers in a huge knot and had me furious with something so vague I couldn't even focus my anger on anything decent.

Enter fate. The Black Rider's heroic messenger knocked on my cold metal door one evening and invited himself in. Amazingly, I actually became friends with two guys who lived on the 11th floor of my crummy dorm building. Their room was a den of rock 'n' roll, with more Ramones paraphernalia per square foot than a T-shirt booth at Lollapalooza. The Ramones motif was courtesy of Mike, room 1007's most dynamic inhabitant. He was adamant about all things within his power being good and right, and to him good was interchangeable with Ramones; he was, essentially, a Ramones machine.

Looking at four hoodlums with the world's worst haircuts frowning from a poster tacked on the wall, I was skeptical. Mike was too much fun to overlook because of some weird ugly band, and I didn't have any friends to pick and choose over anyway. We went out to the Blue Danube restaurant to down endless pots of coffee and play pinball, driving around aimlessly afterwards...and BOOM! -- somewhere in between White Castle and North Campus Video, I can pinpoint the exact instant the Call of the Wild vibrated through my innocent eardrums. We zipped down crazy back alleys at velocities far too great to tolerate a banal soundtrack for the lame and brainwashed, blasting "RamonesMania" through the night and saturating the filthy street and the inky sky with the strongest distillation of punctuated cymbal crashes and throbbing guitars available to mankind. A chain of unfiltered and unfined rock 'n' roll bullets shot out into the dark and rolled over everything like a blitzkrieg of raw, jagged elation. All of the wonderful things lurking behind the front of black leather jackets and sneers came to light and made perfect, clear sense. The world was suddenly divided into those who did not understand and those who did.

From then on I was a creature possessed; this is how a frumpy art chick makes the leap from Sara Bir to Sara Ramone, rock 'n' roller. Running through my blood like opium, it took four songs in five minutes to get me hooked on three-chord smack.

Strange bedfellows, it would seem, are Champagne and rock 'n' roll; one is the epitome of refinement and sophistication, while the other is the proverbial cigarette butt in the beer bottle. But at the core of each glows a golden pit of perfection and simplicity. These two pair up like nymphs and satyrs.

Just as I was not truly hip to rock 'n' roll, I was a late bloomer in the Champagne Slut department. As a nerd way short on Bacchanalian experiences, my history on the sparkling wine tip consisted of plastic-stoppered splits of gas-mart Asti spumanti. I had had Faygo that was better. With an introduction like that, who could blame me for my assumption that Champagne mysticism was bunk?

De-bunking came many moons later in the guise of a Champagne tasting fronted by a slick French cat whose job it was to travel around in nice suits, look charming and promote Champagne. No drag, this gig. Three glasses later all my nasty memories of clumsy plastic cups brimming with Asti on uneventful New Year's Eves melted away. From then on my heel went the way of Achilles, a filigree "Champagne" tattooed smack dab on it. A newlywed in the rapturous honeymoon of a bubbly love affair, I was soon to encounter the forces that make this fizzy nectar the stuff of gods in the know.

Champagne is all about gratification. It will wrap around a sour mood and lovingly buff all notes of bad mojo away; it will spread itself along the backbone of existing joy and elevate it to picture perfect sister dimensions. Instant goodness is a matter of peeling back gold foil, twisting off arabesque wire cages, easing out the shapely cork mushroom, finessing the yielding sigh and the breath of mist from the awakening genie inside. A bottle of Champagne is not a routine of poking about with jagged metal spirals and levers. Digging up this luminous treasure is a ritual, a mating dance of reverence and respect.

The many charms of Champagne are uniquely fluid, befitting the most micro to macroscopic of celebrations, and if listening to the Ramones and drinking Champagne is not a celebration, I don't know one. It is the zenith of kooky punk rock marriages, the piedmont of mad-scientist experiments that can, for maximum rascal factor, be topped off with a couple slices of pizza. Popular logic would have the two clashing in a messy wad of discord, but they actually polarize to reveal untold lands of bliss. The Ramones are all about massive frontal assault-complex, no, but dynamic and powerful. Putting the needle to a Ramones record is comparable to the frothy explosion after sabering a bottle under eight atmospheres of pressure. A thousand tiny popping liquid spheres can have the same effect. Such Champagne would not make you shout for joy, but rather chant for joy. The music's straightforward sneer sets off Champagne's pearly smile flawlessly.

With a bottle of Champagne and a stereo, anyone can be a rock star! To hell with inhibitions! The spritzy spell of Champagne will guild the most tender bruised ego; a couple sips and presto -- I am clever, I am sexy, I am going to dance around, I will look smashing in tight shiny pants. A good dosage of loud glam-rebel excess is the perfect remedy for real-life fear and loathing. The next morning you wake up with a lingering fairydust spell and everything is beautiful. Who would have guessed that songs about sniffing glue could do that?


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