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The Chris Chandler Show

  • Lightning Bugs and Fireflies / Stand By Me (7:15)

    from Matadors


    Lightning Bugs and Barflies

    Sometimes, on the road - when I’m tired... trying to stay awake... I will listen to classic rock. Because, it doesn’t matter how old, how young, how middle aged you are... you will go through the rest of your life listening to the music you listened to - in the ninth grade. And you will go the rest of your life dancing the way you danced - in the ninth grade.

    ********

    I was thinking about this while driving along the Pennsylvania Turnpike in mid summer towards Pittsburgh when I found myself driving through a sea of fire flies. The radio was playing “Stand By Me,” and the fire-flies began to blink in unison with the orange construction hazards.

I think back to the last time I was in Pittsburgh back in March. I walked down to my favorite little Irish bar to sit and write. Usually this is a quiet Irish bar where I drink Jameson's and scribble silently until I have hallucinations of being Dylan Thomas. But on this - St Patrick's Day weekend - my sweet little retreat has hired of all things a Karaoke DJ. A sign on the door announces that "Ladies Drink for Free." 



    ********

    The funny thing about fireflies is that it is only the male that flickers. They do this in the hopes of attracting a female. If no female firefly can be found males will join forces and begin to blink in unison in hopes that their combined brilliance will reach the heart (or at least the thorax) of their beloved. 



    ********

    
At the bar in Pittsburgh, barflies are garnished in blinking green shamrocks and unbearable green paper hats, yet I cannot break from my own tradition. After all, I came here to write, and this is what is happening. I order a green beer, accept my own blinking shamrock, and find the only open table. 

Familiar acoustic guitar chords leak from the sound system as the Karaoke DJ rummages for a potential participant. “Stand... Stand By Me.”



    ********

    I wonder, what do fireflies think as they enliven their luminous bodies, captive in a giant mayonnaise jar. Do they dream of trying to pick them selves up by their tiny little bootstraps as they slide down the glass?

    At the bar I get into an argument with a libertarian who tells me, “The poor deserve what they get and they should pull themselves up by their bootstraps.”
    
A single firefly escapes the windshield of my car and burns in a rhythm all his own. One lone brave soul steps to the karaoke microphone to intone the ubiquitous.

    “When the night has come and the land is dark And the moon is the only light we see.“

    ********

    
Other lightning bugs announce their presence - one - then the other - and then - some unseen force makes two of them blink together -- just once. 

Someone at the table next to me mutters beneath his breath, "No, I won't be afraid, oh, I won't be afraid Just as long as you stand, stand by me.”
    
Strangers saunter in and join in the chorus, "So darling, darling, stand by me.”

    ********

    Once-hollow eyes gleam like fireflies. Strangers clink glasses - and swear undying friendship - bound by lyrics inscribed upon our psyche by the tattoo needles of elevators, and grocery store ambiance.

    At the bar, the libertarian fumbles for change. I pick up his tab singing “Stand... Stand by me,” and it occurs to me that the reason some people want us poor folks to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps...
    ...is to get us to bend over. 



    ********

    
The highway looks as if it were webbed by a single strand of Christmas lights -- dazzling in harmony, blinking as one - while a thousand car radios are tuned to Rush Limbaugh - ironically spewing an alternate reality. 

The whole bar sings together. “Darlin’ Darlin’ stand by me. Oh, stand by me. Stand by me. Stand by me.”


    
Aware of my own awkwardness in accepting the fact that such an absurd pop song has captured the zeitgeist of my generation; too wrapped up in the group experience to care - I strike my cigarette lighter and hold it in the air. 

Others follow suit. 

Cigarette lighters slice open the darkness, The world is illuminated as I realize that we, like fireflies, are greater as a collective, as a whole - as a union - than we could ever be alone. 

People begin to sway back and forth. Strangers link arms. Some go home together. 

Darkness descends, as one by one each solitary sparkle is extinguished. 



    But in that darkness...
    ...a new generation of fireflies...
    ...is created.


    Credits:

    Lightning Bugs and Barflies/ Stand by Me
    Chris Chandler/ Ben E King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller

    “Yet what force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one?” Ralph Chapin

    Paul Benoit: Guitar, Bass and Vocals
    Frankie Hernandez: Trumpet and Vocals
    Dan Weber: Drums
    Hugh Sutton: Accordion, Piano, Vocals
    Chris Chandler: Spoken Word

    Recorded and Mixed by: Blake Harkins at Lost and Found Studios, Seattle, WA
    and by Dirk Price in Ashland, OR

    Lightning Bugs and Barflies/ Stand by Me
    Chris Chandler/ Ben E King, Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller

    Published by: 9th Wave Publishing/ Ben E King Music
    Licensed by Harry Fox

    updated: 6 months ago