All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

Goodbye stranger

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
A BBQ joint parody poster of Supertramp's "Breakfast in America" album cover from 1979.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – Picking up a family member at the Bricktown movieplex, I noted my hunger pangs and popped into an Earl’s Rib Palace nearby. I was in a bit of a hurry as I stood in line where a dad and his son took forever to figure out what they were going to order.

As I stood there, somewhat annoyed, my eyes were drawn to the front of the counter. It was a poster – a poster that was a literal parody of Supertramp’s 1979 album Breakfast in America complete with a porcine waitress holding a plate of pork and ribs and such – and called “Barbecue in Oklahoma.” Additionally it read: “Celebrating 23 years – and still smokin’.”

Needless to say, I was stunned by this. Not only because of the 23 sync mention or the links the Breakfast in America album cover has with the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 – which have been analyzed here previously ("What goes on?" is a good place to start). Recall that Americans were enjoying "breakfast" the morning of September 11, 2001. And we see Libby (Statue of Liberty) the waitress holding a saucer with a tall glass of Florida orange juice. The breakfast-foods version of Manhattan island are in the background, the nameless boxes stacked on top of one another representing the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, all seen from the perspective of someone looking out the window of an airliner. Note Libby's vaguely nervous expression ... it's almost like the Joker, masking the horrors yet to come.

The inverse (or mirror image) of the 1979 Supertramp album cover for Breakfast in America.

but what just happened to be playing over the restaurant speakers at that moment: it was “Goodbye Stranger” by Supertramp! It was a single pulled from the Breakfast in America album in June 1979. It was incredible!

Variations of Supertramp's "Goodbye Stranger" single sleeve. The Twin Towers loom large in the left single sleeve. (A&M Records)

In my 2015 Dust Devil Dreams post "Fiver," I note the significance of the Breakfast in America album related to 9/11. A lot was percolating up in 2015, as we approached the date of October 21, 2015, the date Marty McFly arrives in the future in Back to the Future II.

And then there's a May 2015 Dust Devil Dreams post, "Wires," I note how Supertramp's 1974 breakthrough album, Crime of the Century, features the title cut with these lines that resonate, in light of the ongoing 9/11 mysteries - with the attacks being the "crime of the century," no less:

Now they're planning the crime of the century
Well what will it be?
Read all about their schemes and adventuring
It's well worth a fee
So roll up and see
And they rape the universe
How they've gone from bad to worse
Who are these men of lust, greed, and glory?
Rip off the masks and let's see.
But that's no right - oh no, what's the story?
There's you and there's me
That can't be right

There is something unsettling about Breakfast in America, from the album art to the lyrics that the fine pop sheen can't entirely disguise. 

I also note the 1979 Buick Century station wagon my family had - and I inherited - that we purchased in March 1979 - the same month of the release of Breakfast in America, and the Michael Douglas film The China Syndrome, about a nuclear plant meltdown in California. This video was brought to my attention, regarding Michael Douglas and 9/11 and Sirius "dog star" references in films he has appeared in. It was noted because of the death this week of actor Rip Torn, who appeared in the 2000 film Wonder Boys with both Douglas and Tobey Maguire, which was shot in Pittsburgh,, Pennsylvania. Maguire would star as Peter Parker in Spider-Man in 2002, scenes featuring the still-standing Twin Towers were scrubbed out post-9/11. Meanwhile, Bob Dylan's song "Things Have Changed" was featured in the film and would win a Grammy for best original song in early 2001. There's so much more there ... 

It was also the same month - oddly enough - of the very real partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which is about 120 miles from Shanksville, Pennsylvania where United Flight 93 went down on 9/11/01. I mention it, once again, because that car, nicknamed both "Chris" and "The Runtmobile," appeared in my dream last night. I sold it at an auto auction on Feb. 14, 1996 - four months before Earl's Rib Palace opened up - in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, along the mysterious 94th meridian. 

I discuss the "Runtmobile" name and the insane synchronicity involving its name and the date it came into my mind - October 11, 1989 - the very same date that Back to the Future III was filming in California and the showdown between Marty McFly and Mad Dog Tannen was being filmed. Mad Dog looks at a pocket watch and threateningly says, "Time's up, runt!"

Now, I had not been in this particular Earl’s location, having popped into the original on Western Avenue a time or two. And while my patience ran out and I left Earl’s without ordering anything, I could not help but dwell on the synchromystic aspects of the Breakfast in America parody poster and hearing “Goodbye Stranger” at the same time. In fact, it was exactly 40 years ago this summer that "Goodbye Stranger" was climbing up the pop charts.

The smooth, soft-rock song was written by Supertramp's Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson. My interpretation (and that of many others) is about a guy who is a traveling musician, meeting women in every town on tour. He sleeps with them and leaves them, never looking back. Is he defending his behavior? Maybe? Maybe not. But it seems that the relationships seem to end somewhat amicably, as the two voices talk back and forth to one another. 

You can laugh at my behaviour / And that'll never bother me / Say the devil is my saviour / But I don't pay no heed
And I will go on shining / Shining like brand new / I'll never look behind me / My troubles will be few

In the 1999 film Magnolia, released 20 years after "Goodbye Stranger" was on the charts, William H. Macy's tragic character Donnie Smith walks into a bar and "Goodbye Stranger" is playing as Davies sings: "Now I believe in what you say / Is the undisputed truth / But I have to have things my own way / To keep me in my youth" Donnie had been a child prodigy but that was in the past. He is fixated on oral surgery and meeting the guy of his dreams, staring at Brad the bartender as "Goodbye Stranger" plays, adding to the melancholia of this amazing, cinematic scene. And the song choice by director Paul Thomas Anderson is absolutely spot-on, in light of the lyrics and subject matter.

A few folks out there have analyzed the connectivity (or lack thereof) and synchronicity of Magnolia (here and here), a film whose meaning remains ambiguous, right down to the frogs raining from the sky. Like a plague of frogs in Exodus 8:2.

But back to the rib joint ... 

The poster also featured a sort of Oklahoma City skyline silhouette, with the Devon Tower and the lighthouse that is on Lake Hefner. It's a popular spot for photographers. But I though it was interesting in light of my prior Dust Devil Dreams post, "Keys need doors," where I emphasize lighthouses. 

The “story’ of Earl’s Rib Palace involves Earlywine “Earl” Jackson who perfected his barbecue over the years, even finding a fan in one Elvis Presley (ha!)

The website says that on June 20, 1996 – 14 months and one day after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City – Earl’s great-grandson Merle Jackson gave “two young BBQ aficionados” the sole copy of Earl’s Official & Unabridged Handbook of BBQ Recipes, Sides & Such to bring the spirit and authenticity of Earl’s BBQ vision to folks here in Oklahoma City.

Probably more than I wanted to know, but an interesting backstory, nevertheless. I'm not here for the ribs. I'm here for breakfast. 

WHO SELLS OUT?

I want to add at this time that my dreams over the past weeks have been remarkably detailed and intense. It's as if I am not really sleeping at all but slip into another world that is "parallel" to this one but somewhat different. Not quite Alice through the looking glass, but weird enough for me. At least I have Dust Devil Dreams as a forum to get these thoughts, ideas and gonzo zaniness out there, even if not a single person reads it. 

One powerful dream that happened on Sunday morning, July 7, 2019 (7/7) was detailed in an email I sent to myself so I would not forget. In summary, I was looking at a stage and I saw white, young people - young journalists, apparently - standing in front of a line of white elephants. I took this to be a symbol for the Republican Party. And these young people, who had been idealists and determined to report the truth had given into a Borg-like conformity, afraid to dig and report the truth. As Hunter S. Thompson once said, "Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism." No doubt about it. I criticized the media gatekeepers for years. Now I have found my niche and am quite happy, even if journalism is put by the wayside for a spell and I devote my days to writing books, which I'm already starting to do. And I must say that I am much happier, although the dreams remain unsettling (in last night's dream, I was approached by a person in an office building, handed a business card and offered a writing job. I was hesitant ...)

But I digress ... characters named "Shaggy" and "Zedlar" (Rip Torn's name in Men in Black was "Zed") were in this dream and they were all about protecting the power structure that runs pretty much everything. I know all about it. How could you not? Yes, Red Dirt Report is winding down. I have serious mixed feelings about it. I created it 12 years ago this past week - July 4, 2007.

I did what I could in the context of independent journalism between 2007-2019. But things are changing. Journalism, at least independent journalism, from what I can see, is - to quote The Princess Bride, "mostly dead." Blogging seems to be on life support. Now we're down to Tweets and mediocrity and instant gratification. Hey, I Tweet. I do social media. You have to. But at what cost to the dissmenation of information and knowledge?

A thoughtful talk show host like Dick Cavett could never survive in our cutthroat entertainment environment, where the ideas strike me as stale and boring, for the most part. Sure, there are signs of life, here and there, but you really have to dig these days. Just like new music. To get to the good stuff, you have to dig through layers of garbage to find the true gems.

Will there be a writing renaissance? I sure hope so. It could happen. I think that was what was happening in my dream. My Jungian interpretation is that the collective consciousness was reminding me that moving on will be hard, but it's the right thing to do at this moment of my life. My identity for so long has been that of a reporter/journalist. I will still be that, writing Dust Devil Dreams and the occasional review, but the author of books is where I'm heading, if things work out the way I hope they do. Now, if I can just finish this book!

In the meantime, goodbye stranger. I only wish you the best as you head down the trail. Or, to quote "Goodbye Stranger," - "Goodbye stranger it's been nice / Hope you find your paradise / Tried to see your point of view / Hope your dreams will all come true."

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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