Toast to Innocence

[A quick note:  this is actually something that I posted on an old blog of mine about four years ago; I decided to repost it here because while I was getting a post ready on Christmas songs, I remembered this and thought it was worth the repost.  I’ll have another, all-new post before the weekend.]

So I’m driving to the most depressing Food Lion on the face of the earth and I have Z 95.1, our local “Lite Rock” station on because they’re the greater Charlottesville area’s source for “All Christmas, All the Time” every holiday season and I hear that song about drinking a toast to innocence. Turns out it’s “Same Old Lang Syne” by soft rock god Dan Folgelberg. I don’t know why it’s on the holiday playlist but someone out there likes it.

Anyway, it’s been going through my head and while this particular commentary had me laughing my ass off, I still couldn’t help but look up the lyrics to break them down. And analyze them. Because it’s what I do best, right?

Same Old Lang Syne

Okay, so by looking at the title, I can see where this might fit into the holidays because “Old Lang Syne” is the song sung at New Year’s, and the phrase, according to Wikipedia, means … literally as “old long since”, or “long long ago” or “days gone by”. So perhaps there is some theme of reminiscing of days gone by or remembering things from long ago, which is what you tend to get from your average soft rock song.

Met my old lover in the grocery store
The snow was falling Christmas Eve
I stole behind her in the frozen foods and I touched her on the sleeve
She didn’t recognize the face at first but then her eyes flew open wide
She went to hug me and she spilled her purse
And we laughed until we cried

So we start out in a grocery store. The guy’s shopping for some peas or something like that, which is pretty interesting considering that the guy in the song is supposed to be Fogelberg himself and at he was a pretty successful musician in his day. But people have to eat, so maybe he was standing in Waldbaum’s in his leisure suit with a wide-collared shirt, gold chains and classic soft rock beard looking over a shopping list going, “Okay, got the chicken and the Potato Buds. They were out of cheddar, so I got swiss cheese. Shit, I forgot the paper towels. Oh well, I’ll get them on my way toward the register.”

He’s doing his shopping and he sees and old flame. But not just any old flame. A LOVER. You’ve gotta emphasize the word LOVER because it is quite possibly one of the dumbest words ever. There are only two ways I can accept the use of the word LOVER. The first is if you’re talking about someone you are screwing around on your wife with. That’s technically a LOVER. The second is if you’re Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch in that SNL sketch where they play that creepy couple who says “My Lover” a lot.

Anyway, he sees his old lover and she doesn’t recognize him but then the embrace and laugh until they cry. This has all the charm of a late-1970s phone company commercial, doesn’t it? Sure smells like one, anyway. I don’t know about you but I don’t know if my old girlfriend saw me in the international foods aisle of Harris Teeter trying to choose between salsas that she would embrace me and we’d laugh until we cried. I’m pretty sure that she wouldn’t recognize me at all considering the weight gain and hair loss and would probably keep on walking. MAYBE she’d say “hi.” We wouldn’t embrace, though. And she wouldn’t spill her purse.

We took her groceries to the checkout stand
The food was totalled up and bagged

Wow, are those two of the most mundane lyrics ever written. You went to the checkout stand and the food was totalled up and bagged? Did she pay by cash, debit, or credit? How much money did she save using her club card?

We stood there lost in our embarrassment as the conversation dragged
We went to have ourselves a drink or two but couldn’t find an open bar
We bought a six-pack at the liquor store and we drank it in her car

Let’s put aside the fact that MADD would be all over that last line. The conversation drags. I kinda get that. When you run into someone you haven’t seen for a while, you don’t exactly know where to go with the conversation beyond the basics … married, kids, etc. This person has not been a major part of your life for years, and odds are they won’t beyond this chance encounter, friending you on Facebook and maybe a high school reunion or something. So you have an awkward pause or two and then what?

Well, usually you part company and go home. These two try to go to a bar and continue the conversation. I wonder if she likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.

We drank a toast to innocence, we drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness but neither one knew how

Ah, the song’s immortal chorus. At one point they were in love but those were innocent times and “now” is complicated. Kind of like how you once had a hippie beard but now have a soft rock beard.

She said she’d married her an architect who kept her warm and safe and dry
She would have liked to say she loved the man but she didn’t like to lie
I said the years had been a friend to her and that her eyes were still as blue
But in those eyes I wasn’t sure if I saw doubt or gratitude
She said she saw me in the record stores and that I must be doing well
I said the audience was heavenly but the traveling was hell

Things are okay for me these days, got a good job, got a good office, got a new wife, got a new life and the family is fine. We lost touch long ago, we lost weight, I did not know that you could ever look so nice after so much time.

Okay, was ANYONE happily married in the ’70s? Except for my parents? Seriously, she’s stuck in a loveless marriage to Ted Moseby, architect and he sees her and compliments her and she is totally ready to jump him right in that car. After a couple of beers. Talk about a cheap date.

We drank a toast to innocence, we drank a toast to now
And tried to reach beyond the emptiness but neither one knew how
We drank a toast to innocence, we drank a toast to time
Reliving in our eloquence, another ‘auld lang syne’

Chorus repeats, but now they’re drinking toasts to time. And getting all nostalgic. Are they going to do it or not? This is getting boring.

The beer was empty and our tongues were tired and running out of things to say
She gave a kiss to me as I got out and I watched her drive away
Just for a moment I was back at school and felt that old familiar pain And as I
turned to make my way back home the snow turned in to rain…

So they get bored of even themselves and she gives him a kiss and then drives away. And he’s left with all of the memories of their relationship when they were “at school.” Then, the snow turns into rain, which symbolizes how a moment like this turns from something innocent to something that will haunt and torment him because rain brings nothing but malaise and will literally help him drown his memories.

My money says he went back to the liquor store and got some Scotch.

Here’s what gets me though. He flashes back to when they were at school, so this means that he dated this girl in college. Now I know this is the 1970s, the decade that gave us insipid tripe like “Love means never having to say you’re sorry,” but come the fuck on … don’t even tell me that he wasn’t the guy with the guitar in a freshman dorm who lures the girls in with his half-drunk renditions of Indigo Girls tunes at 2:00 a.m. on a Saturday night and hooks up with one, maybe two of them only to turn around to dump them a week later so he can write a song about it to impress the next girl.

Drank a toast to innocence? Heh, innocence my ass. It would have been more accurate if you were drinking a toast to the cheap beer and bong hits that got you into bed with her in the first place.

One can only wonder what happened to the characters in this song, btw. My guess is that he, as I stated earlier, bought some liquor, called up some other “lover” and had empty sex while thinking about his old lover. And she? Well, she blew a .25 and had to do 30 hours of community service, which included picking up trash on the highway thrown from his tour bus.

Greatest holiday song ever.

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