Wednesday, March 28, 2018

U2 Retirement Party: A Long Super-fan Essay for My Children (or, Who Has Time For Any Decent Stalking?)



An Introduction:
In the summer of 2001, I wrote an “open letter” to U2, called “Love Rescue Me: Entering the Holy of Holies” (Image, Issue 31). You might imagine the hilarity. In it, I pretty much gave up U2 after years of mildly obsessive fandom. In the decade or so that followed, however, I continued with the completely-sane-and-legal stalking (from afar).
My kids thought the Bono poster in the office in our house was a big picture of their dad.
Like they really thought this.
So on September 19, 2017 (some sixteen years after my published lie), U2 was scheduled to come to town for the thirtieth anniversary tour of 1987’s The Joshua Tree. By now, I was forty-seven, married, the mother of two girls, a breast cancer “survivor” (meaning I’d probably be dead soon), a part-time college prof, and the author of two books.
I began—for my girls—a countdown fifteen days prior to the big 2017 concert, which we would attend along with my best friend from childhood, Laura Cerny. Laura was an added bonus, as I had seen most of my major rock n’ roll shows with her—including the original 1987 U2 concert.
Again, I declared my “retirement.”
This time, it had very little to do with the band. I just couldn’t do that stadium thing anymore: the cacophony, the ringing ears, the standing—combined with my post-cancer/post-chemo incessant hot-flashing which would likely intensify in crowds, my exhaustion after nine-thirty p.m., and my anxiety about going out at night without Tim (my unlikely husband—man, are we an unlikely pair) who really has no desire to see U2 whatsoever.
I’d pass the torch—so to speak. For me, this was all about my girls. I’d take them, and be done with it. Done with rock n’ roll. Or at least done with this aspect. I’d sing a long to the oldies station.
And I now offer this countdown: On September 19, 2017, I’d retire (for real)—but I wanted to be there with my kids to celebrate the end.


Fifteen Days before U2 Retirement:
In 1987, Laura and I went to Paradise Valley Mall at the crack of dawn and waited in a real, physical line outside of a Dillard’s department store, which I guess still exists. There was no Ticketmaster. Pearl Jam had not yet fought its losing battle against the almighty ticket-selling monopoly. But, know this and know it well: Eddie Vedder was probably doing the same thing that we were in Seattle: standing in line for U2 tickets.
Yeah, I bet that even Eddie liked U2 back then.
 Laura and I were not in line for tickets, though. We were in line for line tickets, tickets to tell us how to get back in line to buy the actual tickets.
A wild, frenetic tension filled the air. Given our demographics, however, we were all surprisingly polite and orderly, savvy in our rock n’ roll ways.  Then, at the given hour (9 a.m.?), we marched—still in order—through back hallways and a stairway to the Box Office Counter, and there, there, we spent, like, twelve bucks each on our golden ticket that got us into our own Gen X Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory.
We didn’t even know we were Gen X yet.
This was for my first U2 concert. 
Thirty years ago.
I was seventeen.


Fourteen Days before U2 Retirement:
I actually really did give up U2 for a few years in the nineties. This is true, but it's mostly a forgotten era because I lived in New York City and I was in my twenties and it's all part of that shadow existence I apparently once had: Did I really live in New York? Had I really given up U2? Who was I back then? Not this mom, this broken-bodied woman? Who was that girl-child, unruly and awkward?
It happened with Achtung Baby.
I still don’t like that album.
This was that weird time when Bono got all leather-y and started posing in photos with Christy Turlington, and Naomi Campbell was around. Do you remember that? The age of supermodels draped on ugly rock stars, suddenly making them hot?
(Minority opinion—Zoooropa is a better album.)
My tune changed as I got older, did some selling out myself, wore my own masks, tangled with my own supermodels, and slunk back to the studio. Incidentally, I've never seen Bono's purported arrogance as anything other than the sin of the artist, the mixed bag of talent and shame in artistry, a kind of loudness used to overcome "the horror, the horror." They sold out, but who hadn't? Achtung, Baby, indeed!
Thankfully, the entirety of that period without them was in between world tours.
And I never really missed a thing.


Thirteen Days before U2 Retirement: 
As a result—a direct result—of my U2 habit, I was launched into politics. True story.
Those of you who know me personally can blame U2 for my obnoxious facebook politics which probably lost me half my friends. Bono! That Mofo!
Wait. Isn’t that one of their songs?
When I went to college, it was a given that I'd major in creative writing or English. I mean, I wasn’t good at anything else. But U2 forced me to double-major in Political Science.
You gotta understand something: A U2 Concert especially in Arizona in the late eighties  was a political event. Every one of their shows involved Amnesty International petitions, Human Right Watch gear, flying white flags. But we had Governor Evan Mecham (January 6, 1987 – April 4, 1988), who was shrewder than Trump and perhaps crueler. He is most known around here for wanting to cancel the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. This caused a nationwide protest. The state was boycotted. Impeachment calls abounded. And U2 got in on it.
No proper U2 fan in AZ will ever forget that era.
From there, my now defunct career was launched.
Certainly, through U2, I learned about Burma, El Salvador, the IRA, Apartheid, Amnesty International, the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, International Women's Day, and others. Can you believe I went on for a Masters?
I really can’t.
What was I thinking?
Trump and I have one thing in common: we are atrociously unpolished.
Which means this: we'll never be able to sit at a dinner table and say the right things. NEVER.
I had no business in politics.
MLK Forever!
But it's all U2’s fault.


Twelve Days before U2 Retirement: 
Was I, am I, crushing on, um, Bono?
I mean, really, c'mon!
I’m not.
When the U2 thing hit, I was—for sure—a teen-aged girl with all the usual complications. I was, however, proud of myself for my clean-kind-of-love for the band.
I was so mature!
Like a real connoisseur of The Arts! 
Bono wasn't exactly a pretty boy.
And I liked pretty boys. 
But, then, yeah, I had a crush on him by the nineties. (Who didn’t?) But this is really what happened: There was just no way I was capable of making my fantasy life somehow compatible with reality. In my head, I couldn’t possibly kill off his real wife. I just couldn’t.
I bet this is just me.
By the time I hit my early twenties, I was disaffected—listening to Liz Phair, PJ Harvey, the Tragically Hip, Tom Waits.
Bono was just an old friend.
Which is where he has remained.
Familial, almost.
When he does one of his dumb stunts, I blush for him and think, Dude . . .


Eleven Days before U2 Retirement: 
Why retirement? Why so dramatic?
First, there's my own questioning about the validity of rock n' roll and aging. Who writes the good songs? Who can best hit the emotional notes, capture longing and loss and desire? Have you ever heard a middle-aged person write a song like Morrissey's "Late Night, Maudlin Street" or even that dumbass, theologically ignorant song by The Verve Pipe, "The Freshmen"? Have you ever heard a middle-aged person write a song as politically-charged as "Sunday Bloody Sunday" or one as existential as "Bad"? How old was Tori Amos when she was pounding those piano keys, centerstage, only her and the piano, vamping it up and playing like a prodigy and singing nonsense lyrics that burst open arteries like, "You're really an ugly girl, but I like the way you play?" How old was Led Zep when they, alone, like no one ever else would or could, wrote music that was intrinsically sexy?
In short—and this is hard for me to say—maybe rock 'n roll and its passions are for the young. 
Not that "older" artists lack emotional depth.
Rather, our songs or books are more tempered, wiser, less given to fleeting pleasures, less—perhaps—whimsical? Am I wrong?
We. Can't. Do. That.
We've been through too much.
Frankly, I think the last few U2 albums are "okay." My motto has always been this: A bad U2 album is better than everyone else's good one.
I’ll stick by that.
There is minimal profundity in the last few U2 offerings.
I have to look really hard for profundity.
And there are no more anthems.
Second, well, they're not just old; I'm old too.
It's late.
It's loud.
I have to stand.
U2 isn't even cool.
IN FACT, I'M UNCOOL!
I'd probably have a better time putting my kids to bed and watching "Call The Midwife" with Tim till ten p.m. and then going to bed.
Third, my husband has no interest in U2, never has. He went happily to see Bruce Springsteen with me. We did a little Earth, Wind & Fire once. Don Henley, for some reason.
Yes, he did go to that one U2 show.
But he hated it, especially since we were up against the stage with the diehards, reaching over the barricades, standing next to speakers.
And married people: are rock concerts for them? 
Like, should he stand behind me, hold me, and sway during the poignant love songs, like "One" or "With or Without You"?
What is the correct rock n' roll posture for married people with kids?
We actually recently went to a show together to celebrate our thirteenth anniversary. In The Valley Below. He picked, and he's cooler than I. Hipster/White Stripe-ish outfit with a surprisingly Pet Shop Boy-sound. We were at the Crescent Ballroom in Downtown Phoenix. There were two opening acts. Our band got on stage close to eleven.
And we were dying.
We were absolutely dying.
Tim, on our thirteenth anniversary, turned to me—his long-ass-suffering wife who lost her good looks right around the time Kurt Cobain died—and said, "This is the worst night of my life."
Ha!
He said it on his anniversary!
So I'm done with this bullshit.



Ten Days before U2 Retirement: 
So, the last U2 show I attended was a disaster, and I have only recently begun talking about it. I think I devoted a whole chapter to it in my stunning, unpublished cancer memoir.
U2 came to Phoenix in May 2015. I thought Songs Of Innocence was very mediocre, and—how dare they?—the boys had pulled that stunt by giving it to us for free in our music libraries.
But the truth: I'd be there.
Of course, I'd be there.
There was no question about it. This was a matter of fidelity.
F.I.D.E.L.I.T.Y. 
This time, however, I wanted to go with my whole family. I wanted my kids to go. I wanted Tim to be there. I wanted this to be a special family thing. U2, God bless them, is okay for the kids. No one was going to eat a bat's head, simulate sex, or burn an effigy. So, I bought four nosebleed tickets—gone were the days of floor-level stampedes and anxiety-driven stage rushes.
And the four of us went to see U2 in downtown Phoenix.
Here's where our stories suddenly, inexplicably, diverge.
In my version, the kids begin holding onto their ears and complaining about the noise immediately. Then, they cry. Tim takes out one child. I wait with the other, guilt-ridden: Bono but an ant on the stage below. I wait—maybe a minute—till the other kid is also crying. And then I take her out too, and we all go home. The End.
In the kids' version, we stay for numerous songs, like 50% of them.
I promise you: my version is the correct one.
Then, within a month, I was diagnosed with cancer. My kids felt a wave of guilt for having deprived mommy of what might have been her final U2 concert. 
And that was the last one I attended.


Nine Days before U2 Retirement: 
When one goes to a concert, one hopefully does not go alone.
When one loves a band, one hopefully loves the band with friends.
Once, I had a dear friend who loved U2 almost as much as I do with whom I attended many shows. We "broke up," which is a special kind of weird and tragic and damaging when it's hetero-female friends. That’s another story.
Once, there was a guy. I confess it here. As with Voldemort, we do not say his name aloud. The first superfan I met was, luckily and unluckily for me, a really hot guy in my freshman dorm when I was eighteen. From him, in addition to my PTSD, I inherited something like twelve to fifteen rare and original U2 posters that are in mint condition and might be worth something. They're under plastic in my closet.
Let me know if you’d like to buy them.
I’m joking.
For now.
But, in truth, there is only one real concert companion with whom I can truly be myself in the rock n’ roll arena—because everyone knows how self-conscious one is at a show unless one is drunk or stoned (and I'm not)—and that person is, of course Laura Cerny-Ciaccio.
No one else.
Only Laura allows for me to be myself in that weird concert world in which everything is artifice, part-performance and part-wishful thinking. A short-livid communion with strangers.
What should I tell you? We've been best friends since second grade and we're in our freakin' forties now. Her childhood home is so permanently etched in my memories that I could still enter it and search for cans of Orange Crush or the toy guns (!) we used to play "Charlie's Angels." The memories are thick and wild and sometimes dorky. From staying in from recess so we could read L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz Books to rebelliously donning concert t-shirts at our Christian school, from trying to stalk Patrick Swayze at Arizona’s Rawhide (sweet, dead Patrick Swayze) to dealing with the losses of my dad, her mom, and then her dad. We both moved to Tucson (not together), we both got degrees, we both ended up getting married and staying married, and we're both moms.
Middle-aged moms.
Ho-hum.
Our relationship has changed, and I do get sad about it. We are no longer immediately in one another's life, nor have we been so for decades. We probably fell away from each other in college. We had different groups of friends. In short, we've never again experienced that no-holds-barred intimacy of childhood because, maybe, we just became different women.
Laura and I turned out to be surprisingly different than I would've expected. I still can't believe she's a granola in Tucson, loving her chickens, and eating all these vegetables. 
Really?
Still, when I think of her, I think of her as my forever friend, one with whom there will never be any permanent break.
And, yes, we've been to many rock n' roll concerts together. U2, of course. Mildly dangerous ones like The Stone Temple Pilots—where I think it turned into a Lord Of The Flies scene that seemed to involve adolescents dancing around a bonfire. A-ha, because, we were girlie-girls. Rick Springfield because he meant so much to us. The Power Station and Duran Duran. A Sinead O'Connor show when she was young and breathtaking. Parents accompanied us when we were kids.
Then, we went alone.
Finally, together, rock n' roll girls. 
And we’ll do it again.


Eight Days before U2 Retirement: 
The Africa Connection.
As a good Gen X/underemployed/over-degreed/Amnesty-imbued politico, Nelson Mandela's freedom and presidential victory were so very big, so very personal, so very special to me that I had to go to South Africa.
U2 had trained me for this, of course. They had taught me.
And I was a great student. 
All I can really say about myself is sad stuff: I went to post-Apartheid South Africa, joining a cadre of American youth who really should’ve been adults by then, looking for adventure, surprisingly disaffected by life except when—without announcement—they were on their knees in tears, romantic and cynical.
I became that.
Yikes.
"Bittersweet Symphony" by the Verve was usually playing at my cushy hostel run by Afrikaners. I did start to write my first book, The Freak Chronicles, which was fully South Africa-inspired.
As it should happen, U2 touched down for the first time ever in South Africa right about then. Some contextual information: Little Steven van Zandt led an amazingly successful anti-Apartheid effort, and U2 did not go to South Africa until March 16, 1998. (Um, look this up—not the U2 part, but the Little Steven part.)
I was living in Cape Town on March 16, 1998.
I attended with a very beautiful German girl named Nina. We were not friends. We knew each other from the hostel.
On Nina. You don't really know how American you are till you travel abroad, and realize You Are Super American. For an anti-nationalist, wannabe expat this is very disconcerting. Suddenly, you see yourself, and you know it so well: you walk into a room like an American, you think like an American, you say American things, you assume American things, you believe American things.
Everywhere you turn, you are American.
So Nina and I shared, briefly, a room. And this is what is etched crazily in my mind. She slept topless (which an American girl might do), but with the sheets exposing her bare chest and at her waist: I remember that exposure. I'm not so sure that an American girl, in similar, entirely non-sexual circumstances, would ever sleep that way.
Do we?
American girls, who will barge into any room with their Americanness, will not expose their breasts with that kind of lavish freedom, that "liberated" self-exposure, in sleep, under such vulnerable circumstances.
We cover up, protectively, modestly even.
The sheet will certainly be over our breasts.
I remember looking over at Nina at three in the morning, and thinking, "American girls don't do that."
No moral judgments here. But isn't it interesting?
It was an awful but packed stadium concert. No energy in the audience. Bono referred to Cape Town as "Sleepy Town" in Afrikaans. I remember very little about the actual show except for its historicity. 


Seven Days before U2 Retirement: 
I'm running out of material.
I realize this is dumb.
Haven't you ever loved a band?
Do you own possessions you might leave for your children other than the tinged-with-madness prose you've written along the way? 
Where were we?
At this point, it'll degenerate to really boring stuff. There's nothing worse—except maybe hearing the dreams people had last night—than hearing about all the great opening acts you've seen or that great show in Chicago or how you drove all the way from Phoenix to San Diego (!) or how, of course, Laura and you were there for the filming of Rattle And Hum, of course we were.
So, I figured I'd spend a minute or two on that time my mom and I stayed at the U2-owned hotel along the River Liffey in Dublin, The Clarence.                    
That was in 2003? Things are all messed up in my mind from the time I came home from South Africa, more or less in ruins, to the time I married Tim in 2004, for a new kind of ruin.
(I exaggerate on all fronts.)
(Not really.)
I know I got my MFA, 9/11 happened, my father died in a car accident, I went for a week to Cuba on a teaching Visa, and I went to Ireland for a wedding. My mom was invited too. Then, my life lost the blurry edges and I got my own familial unit which often excludes her but gives her something too, thereby making my widowed mother both happy and sad at the same time.
I'm truly wanting to write a novel about this. Our complicated relationship. The co-dependency. The guilt. The love. The anger. Man, I hate being associated with her. She's crazy and not like me one bit except for how we feel about Trump and cats. She thinks my house is dirty and that we spend money on stupid stuff and I'm not as holy and good as I should be. Do you know her? She'll take care of your kids better than anyone, she'd probably single-handedly take down a Neo-Nazi, she's shockingly not bitter despite more losses than most people could ever handle, and you almost always know where she stands.
But she's nuts.
I want for my novel to start in a bar in Ireland, drinking Irish coffees, laced with Bailey's. The two of us, mother and daughter, grown women.
My mom and I once stayed at The Clarence. It was posh, minimalist, elegant. There were no signs of U2 anywhere. We ate dinner there. It was lovely, but I bet I've seen better for less. We rented a car in Ireland, drove on the wrong side of roads, touring all over the Irish countryside, drinking Irish coffees, and stopping in churches and castles. 
I did not make her go on a single U2 pilgrimage.


Six Days before U2 Retirement:
I've been thinking about artistry. There's a line in "The Fly" that I think Bono wrote, though it almost sounds like Andy Warhol: "Every Artist is a Cannibal."
Do you think Bono came up with that one? Do you think that's true? Is every artist a cannibal?
I think so. 
I guess this has been part of the U2 charm: I find the blatant self-aggrandizement of Bono, coupled with instances of apology and public humiliation and lyrics penned about one's own hypocrisy, to be, well, endearing.
Artistic.
What artists do.
A good artist is a cannibal. But maybe that is not the correct connotation. A good artist does not feed on others, but a good artist eats him- or herself alive. For the sake of art, for the sake of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.
I don't think this is a popular opinion among my mostly anonymous writer-friends, who do not cling to old fashioned notions about Artists as somehow special, magical beings—given to bouts of cannibalistic fury which produce true beauty. Most of the writers I know are hell-bent on showing that Artists are just ordinary people, not monstrous or self-destructive, just part of the millennialist's all-inclusive philosophy. Artists are not special. And they're certainly not cannibals.
Well, I disagree!
Or, at least, I will say that this is my own guiding aesthetic: I will certainly eat myself alive for my Art.
I will use my own self as a painter's palette, spilling out my own self, if need be.
This is all very dramatic. Sorry.
Perhaps, though, it is the cannibalism of U2 that appeals to me, the willingness to stand up for what's right and the willingness to look like an idiot and the willingness to expose foibles and the willingness to say, "I'm freakin' good at this."


Five Days before U2 Retirement: 
You may want to cover your eyes on this one, secular humanists. It's about religion. 
I would be remiss if I did not address it.
Laura and I, teeny-boppers, were all about pop rock pretty boys. If you were around back then, you know there was no group prettier than Duran Duran. Simon Le Bon with his Elvis-chiseled face and sunset yacht cruises, his New Romantic lyrics and nonsense wordplay. John Taylor, perpetually eligible, my favorite even though I have my doubts he really played the bass and he couldn’t sing worth shit as evidenced on the 9½ Weeks soundtrack. Nick Rhodes, with his early show of hetero-androgyny: those rouged cheekbones sharp, his eyelids glittery, his hair oft orange—somehow glamorous, somehow the bona fide artist in the room, still enigmatic to me today if I were to admit it aloud. Roger Taylor, bulky, quiet, respectable? Not much to say about Roger other than to note that his quietude was affective on a teenage girl in search of “depth.” And Andy Taylor! Poor Andy Taylor! Who really cared about Andy Taylor? 
So when Barry, church guy, maybe about five years older than I flippantly handed me an old cassette—the way older men flippantly handed teenage girls cassettes back then, I took it. He said, “Here. To get you off that pabulum.” I took the cassette, not skeptically since I had a crush on Barry, but not really expecting to abandon my claims on the artistic integrity of Duran Duran.
I didn’t even need to look up the word "pabulum," since I was one of the smart kids.
The cassette was U2’s War.
And the rest, as they say, is history?
I’ve written about this many times over the years, and it all starts to sound pretty silly after a while. Apparently, the cassette gift was the equivalent of getting hit in the head, and my rock n’ roll adolescence was officially over.
Right then. Right there.
It was not just a phase.
What was it then? It was this: the unequivocally unique combo of real Christianity with real rock n’ roll with real instruments and no insipid lyrics and a brand new political passion I thought about before but maybe not so grandly.
It was just that my own artistic and religious and political eccentricities were suddenly validated. I could be an artist, a Christian, a political something-or-other!
The End?
I can only say, kids—I’m talking to my kids—that it was pivotal and transformative and a little weird. At first, it was teeny-bopper transformative: that mindless, lusty pin-up preoccupation was threatened permanently.
Then, I was given this highly imperfect but entirely authentic example of Christians, spiritual expats, at large on a damaged planet.
Next, I heard a political voice—still Christianized but not like other Christians I had heard: compassionate (!), not otherworldly, not dismissive of earthly anguish, with a big emphasis on race which was my little area of “expertise.”
Finally, there were Christian Artists here who didn’t do dumb, second-rate, totally inauthentic, fake art. 
This last thing was subtle; I don’t think I understood it myself very well. I knew I had these writerly aspirations but they seemed pipe-dreamish. My plan was to go for a career in politics. Writing would be a side thing. But U2 was intrinsically important to my own bubbling identity. I knew I hated those Campus Crusade songs. Why? I knew I felt ill-at-ease with the happy façade of the Christian community. Why did it make more sense to me to sing “Sunday Bloody Sunday”?
Do you mean to tell me I didn’t have to listen to Amy Grant? Petra? I rejoiced. 
That’s it. 


Four Days before U2 retirement: 
A few confessions today:
1. I wear earplugs. I think I have since 2001.
2. I miss the days when we all used to walk out of the stadium singing "40."
3. It was more fun when you could go to Zia Records in Phoenix to find a bootleg cassette of unreleased songs, when there was some kind of underground; there is no more underground. It's all above ground now. 
4. I never watch U2 videos or look up stuff anymore. I have kids. Who has time for any decent stalking?
5. Things I really never liked: Bono's sunglasses, the cover of Songs Of Innocence, and when Bono was hanging out with Christy Turlington (Men Suck!).
6. I've never actually been to The Joshua Tree National Park, even though I live in Arizona.
7. I probably couldn't fully sing along with any U2 song post-All That You Can't Leave Behind with the exception of the following: "Moment of Surrender," "Raised By Wolves," and "Ordinary Love."
8. I do think people got whacky on U2 when they gave away their album for free. People will make a big deal about anything.
9. Did you see when Black-Eyed Peas opened? What was that all about? Do you think a U2 fan wants to see the Black-Eyed Peas? No, we do not.
10. Marriage made me realize how great "One" is.
11. Those first few albums were so exquisite. I give them my support. I bring my kids. I wish them well. I hope they stop touring before they're playing some casino with Hall and Oates.


Three Days before U2 Retirement: 
This is largely ceremonial, a way to commemorate an aspect of my life for my girls in the wake of aging and a really bad cancer scare.
I am entirely aware that U2 is no longer cool, but the beauty of being a happily married middle-aged woman who is still kicking is that I Don't Care.
Yesterday, Laura and I dug into concert logistics: driving, parking, wristbands, General Admission. That old wave of concert anxiety washed over me, but it was nice to have Laura calmly tell me we needed this parking pass over there and we didn’t need to rush the stage or anything.
I will drive, kids in the back.
Tim is scared.


Two Days before U2 Retirement: 
Yesterday, I was asked what the last great U2 album was.
This guy wanted my expert opinion. 
(To be entirely honest, I’m often asked for my expert opinion on U2 stuff—not on writing, not on literature, not on motherhood. On U2.)
The last great U2 album, the point after which things began to decline, was Rattle and Hum. A friend called the album a mess.
Oh, he’s right!
It's a beautiful, authentic mess! Bono was twenty-eight and I was eighteen and he looked so adorable, the best he'd ever look, and they filmed in MY HOMETOWN, and Laura and I were RIGHT THERE, and this was—they said it!—their album about their love affair with America. It's this beautiful, authentic, young—so young!—mess of bright-eyed, MLK-inspired, Irish-imbued, ego-charged, freakishly gifted artistry that actually has something to say about something the artists are not: America.  
It’s a mess, the way an impressionistic painting might be a mess. If one gets close to a Monet, does one only see the pale green and pink dots? What does it take to see the gardens, Giverny, water, lilypads? 
Did I just compare U2 to Claude Monet?
Damn, girl.
So yes:  Laura and I were there, and I remember magic.
The movie? I love that too!
My memory might be tricking me. Did I see it opening night the old Cine Capri on Camelback, that beloved old movie theater where I also saw Star Wars and the Indy movies, before it was torn down? I saw it again at Gallagher theater at the U. of AZ., didn't I? Who was I with? Did I see it with that guy? Was it an accidental date, or was I with my crew? I loved the movie so very much, except for the mildly silly part in which Larry walks mournfully around Graceland, all sad about Elvis. But who am I to blame him for such sorrow?
Can I possibly blame Larry for his tears over the death of Elvis?
I cannot.
So there's U2, stepping on American toes. There they are. If they're not posing in photos with our presidents, they're calling for some boycott or telling us what to do, singing songs about our country, telling us how to make it great again.


One Day Before U2 Retirement: 
The good news is that Tuesday is Taco Tuesday, so Laura and I have that going for us.
The bad news is that my husband stresses about me going out after dark with friends.
I've written about this before: it’s a post-cancer development, in which this mega-loudmouth/working woman/let-me-do-my-thing girl clings to her husband desperately and says, "Don't leave me."
Don't worry.
The B-sides. Someone else asked again for my, um, “expert opinion.”
About what do you get asked for your expert opinion?
Girls? I’m talking to you.
I hope it’s not U2.
My first thought: what B-sides? Isn't that old school, like the integrity of the "underground" in which we found bootlegs and rare copies of "lost" songs? Are there still A-sides, which can turned over for a B-side?
Wait. What treasure is rare nowadays? 
(I tested these ideas out, and asked my college students if they knew what a B-side is; they did not. Which means my kids certainly do not.)
But, for the historical record (!), my favorite B-sides are the following: “Luminous Times (Hold On To Love),” “Sweetest Thing,” “Electrical Storm,” "Dancing Barefoot" (Patti Smith cover!), and "Walk To The Water." I could be talked into listing others. 
Ahh, kids these days: when Melody was, maybe, 2 1/2 and in a car seat, we were driving somewhere, and Buffalo Springfield's "For What It's Worth" came on the radio. Melody said, "Will you turn this song up?"
            B-sides, for what it’s worth, are now obsolete.


Bottom of Form
Count-down to U2 retirement: It’s tonight! 
And on this, the final day, I dive into utter drama by presenting my favorite song by U2. I think, if I were to put it out there (which of course I will), this song is my own aesthetic anthem—everything I want for my writing to be, as well as a catalogue of every artistic crime I’ve committed. It’s brash, bold, passionate, in-your-face, religious, cocky, political, existential, melodramatic, the most over-used descriptive word ever—“edgy,” profound, subtle, about now, about the future, about America, about the planet, so sad, so silly, so right, about redemption, about hopelessness, about grace, minimalist, maximalist, naked, shameless, shameful, intimate, exaggerated, fictional, true, elusive, illustrative, compassionate, self-condemning, self-righteous, self-indulgent, full of self, about selflessness, too much in every way, Dr. Seuss-meets-the Devil, naïve, sexy, ugly, vulgar, lovely. 
Has there ever been another rock n' roll song more lyrically beautiful?
“Bad.”
Thank you for being here for this live, barely edited, essay for Wendy and Melody . . . 



Epilogue: the Concert
We had a fabulous time! So thankful that Laura was there for this. U2 is finely-tuned, and it was super high caliber. Maybe the most blatantly political concert of theirs that I've ever seen. Hard-core politics. I'd be squirming, if I didn't agree with them. Also, it was an amazingly pro-America show, I thought: a vision belonging to the outsider looking in, more profound than the canned patriotism of the insider, maybe?
My boys are getting old, as was the audience. Yes, I was the median age. Yes, we were ready to go home BEFORE the encore, but we stayed anyway.
My kids did great. No complaining. Wendy was more into it. Melody got tired (my baby!). They knew “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” “Bad,” “Pride (In The Name Of Love),” most of The Joshua Tree album, and they got all excited when they could sing “Elevation”: a mole digging in a hole!
"Exit" was particularly stunning.
They had this high-def film thing going, which was fab but it was better when the screens were on them—for my kids' sake.
Sometimes, Bono sounded weird to me?
Beck was old school perfection. Loved seeing him.
OVER AND OUT!

Show me to my lawn chair!

1 comment:

  1. This is so sweet! It was lovely going through this post. I might also write like this in future. There is still time to my retirement but before that my best friend is retiring and I am planning to do something special for her. I will look for a beautiful event space San Francisco and organize something nice.

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