David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 239: The Crash Test Dummies (Afternoons and Coffeespoons)

April 1, 2023

In 1994, at the age of 32, my wife and I did a summer vacation to Massachusetts to visit my childhood friend and his wife. I had completed my dissertation that year, was (unknowingly) on the threshold of my first full-time teaching job, and staring complete adulthood in the headlights. Within two years, we would own our first house, bring on our first dog, and a few years after that, add Lincoln to our family. In some ways, this vacation represents the last one without a full slate of adult responsibilities.

We drank a lot. We ate a lot. We played a lot of goofy parlor games. We walked the streets. We walked the beach. And through it all, we heard over and over "Afternoons & Coffeespoons," The Crash Test Dummies' minor follow-up hit to "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm." All I know is that some parts of the country must have refused to play it, because, going by the Boston radio station(s) we listened to that week, it certainly should have risen higher than #66 in the charts.

We heard it while stubbornly refusing that our own youth had disappeared and we were staring at the Prufrockian future so well expressed by the Crash Test Dummies. We watched Beavis and Butthead and mimicked the "hhhuhhh" all week, but could only tolerate so much. Our evening party games with additional friends (a version of "Balderdash," as all you need is a dictionary, "Outburst," even "Bridge" --I guess maturity was coming faster than I thought) ended much earlier than they did in 1980, as most or all of us were exhausted by 10 or 11. Our frolicking in the chilly waters of Hampton Beach was much shorter than we hoped, our bodies simply unable to adapt to the cold. Our ability and willingness to put up with Boston-area traffic so deteriorated that we ended up at Hampton Beach and not our intended destination. We even left the Red Sox game before it ended to beat the traffic.

We already were those stupid characters in that damn series of Progressive Ads; all we lacked was Dr. Rick and his irritating tips on how not to be our parents.

Through it all, the Dummies mocked us. How appropriate. We may not have quite been there, but we should have understood that Brad Roberts' bass-baritone voice was predicting our nearing futures, not just his.

"Pajamas in the daytime?" If it is a weekend, hell, yes. With the pandemic, everyday ended up a weekend.

"I try to stick to my prescriptions." Again, absolutely yes, all 4 of them. (I don't think it is insignificant that I go on my first medication, blood pressure medicine, within a half year of landing that first full-time teaching job.)

"I've smelled the hospital hallways." Heck, for a month there in 2017 I was that smell in the hospital hallways.

"Disappearing hairlines?"  O.k., I got lucky there, although not necessarily my friends.

And although the Dummies don't appropriate T.S. Eliot's "I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled," I know there have been times I have wanted to protect those bad boys from water or snow. What's wrong with using some common sense, T.S., B.R., or Dr. Rick?

I have always been disappointed that this song, more literate (literally) than The Dummies' "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm," was a much smaller hit than the latter. I suppose I underestimate the listening public's ability to respond to a mono-syllabic title idea versus a catchy, literary-canon, inspired title.

Pix and I had actually seen the Crash Test Dummies in May 1994, at Pine Knob Theater outside of Detroit when they toured with Elvis Costello, as part of his Brutal Youth tour. This was almost exactly less than a month from the release of "Afternoons & Coffeespoons" as a single, as well as our New England soirée. The show(s) pretty much forecast the brutalization of my youth later in the summer. Little did I know how it would wash away faster than the sand sculpture my friends did at the beach.

P.S. Unknown young girl sitting in background, probably thinking more about the mutability of life than the people who created the sand sculpture. Of sadder note, she is probably in her early 40s now. I wonder if she bores her kids with stories of the sand lady created by the old farts that summer of 1994.

The Crash Test Dummies. "Afternoons & Coffeespoons." God Shuffled His Feet. Arista, 1993. Link here.

Day 238: Let's Active "Every Word Means No"

Day 240: Mark Knopfler "Speedway At Nazareth"

See complete list here.