My mom has these catch phrases that we have heard so many times growing up they feel like age-old proverbs, even though I’m pretty sure she was the one to invent them. One of these catch phrases was interactive; she would say it when we were doing chores and something of personal value turned up: a toy that we had lost ages ago and considered gone forever, an important homework assignment we had resigned ourselves to redoing; a favorite article of clothing that had been missing since laundry day. It would happen on chore day, or perhaps just an isolated, inspired moment of cleaning. The lost item would turn up, maybe we found it, maybe it was our mom, and we would cry out for joy. Mom, never missing a beat, would smile knowingly and say, “Pays to…” and we, the kids, would have to admit, “…clean.”
Mom: “Pays ta…”
I wish that written words had the capacity to convey the nuances of voice inflection in this beautifully familiar phrase, but alas, this is oral history. You have to have lived it or heard it passed on to truly understand.
So speaking of oral history, the other day I was cleaning (wouldn’t mama be proud?) and came across a CD which I had long since forgotten about.
“Pays ta clean.”
It was an old bootleg concert recording from October 10, 1998. Elliott Smith singing at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis. At the time I received the recording I didn’t know him well enough to appreciate it, so I let it get lost among all of my other things. Finding it this past weekend, I was ready to love it. Backing Elliott in this recording are Sam Coomes on bass and Janet Weiss on drums (you know, Quasi),another element I wouldn’t have appreciated at age 16. It’s great. I want to share some of it with you:
(right click and “save link as” to download)