New York (Songs for Amanda #4 – The BlogHer Would’ve Edition)

Still, I’m staying on to figure out my mid-life crisis . . .

~ U2, “New York”, 2000

BlogHer. Sooo last weekend, right?

Indeed. Such is my life as-of-late, always running late. I make it to work on time, however, so there’s that. But publishing posts about quitting and U2 and those sorts of things? I’m as timely as a leisure suit during Eighties Week.

But let it never be said that I am one to let my lack of punctuality – or, rather, my knack for not being Johnny-on-the-hip-spot – hold me back. I’ll say what I want, when I want to say it, and not one single, solitary minute sooner.

Some things need to percolate . . .

So, BlogHer. I didn’t go, for two reasons:

1) They didn’t invite me to speak.

2) . . .

Number Two. All the real reasons I didn’t go. Too numerous to enumerate.

(???!???)

I would have arrived feeling a bit giddy. My head would have been all spinny and weightless. After checking into my room and donning an appropriately casual yet I’ve Got My Shit Together ensemble, I would have headed out. Only I wouldn’t have had a posse. An entourage. Peeps I know and hang with on a regular basis. Like Pee Wee Herman (and yet so NOT like Pee Wee Herman) I am a loner.

A rebel.

Yet I would have decided to not let this part of me keep me from connecting. Through the match-making wonder that is Twitter, I might have learned of a get-together at this or that bar, or in this or that corner of the lobby, and moseyed that direction. I would probably have recognized a person or two and chatted them up, but eventually I would have made my way to the wall and adorned it with my wallflower self. Ever the observer, I would have relished the opportunity to just sit and watch. And yet at some point, I would have realized that one doesn’t go to New York to be an observer.

One must jump in.

So I would have jumped. I would have attended this or that session and listened to this or that Blogging Superperson and taken some notes. I would have smiled if they glanced my way, and I would have picked their ear if the opportunity had arisen. And at some point over the course of the weekend, I would have surely thought:

I can do this! I can be a maddeningly successful blogger! I can hone my content and gain readers and create a clearinghouse of cheekiness that people will give their right arm to partake in.

I would have gotten all dizzy with this realization and finally have forced myself to leave all my heroes in the lobby and go to bed. They would have begged me to stay, but I would have waved them off and retired. To my room. Where I would spent hours considering these two opposing parts of my personality . . .

One side that wants to be a part of the crowd, and the other part that abhors the possibility. The me in the lobby vs. the me in my room. When I am either, I want to be the other. And the challenge lies in figuring out how to reconcile the two . . .

*****

46:13:33:28

*****

All this – my ruminations and fumbling keystrokes – come to you courtesy of my contemplation of various U2 songs. They are my spiritual companions during this effort to quit smoking. And “New York” is one of those songs that sneaks into your psyche and says everything you have been thinking about. Dwelling on.

So, I offer this one to Amanda, who went to BlogHer. In New York. I hope she had a better time than I might have. And to @Kat1124. She begins her smoke-free journey today. Here’s to success, my friend . . .

In New York, freedom looks like too many choices
In New York, I found a friend to drown out the other voices

Voices on a cell phone
Voices from home
Voices of the hard sell
Voices down a stairwell

In New York
Just got a place in New York

In New York, summers get hot, well into the hundreds
You can’t walk around the block without a change of clothing

Hot as a hair dryer in your face
Hot as handbag and a can of mace

New York
I just got a place in New York

In New York, you can forget, forget how to sit still
Tell yourself you will stay in, but it’s down to Alphaville

New York

The Irish been coming here for years
Feel like they own the place
They got the airport, city hall
Dance hall, dance floor, they even got the police

Irish, Italians, Jews and Hispanics
Religious nuts, political fanatics in the stew
Happily, not like me and you
That’s where I lost you

New York

In New York, I lost it all to you and your vices
Still I’m staying on to figure out my mid-life crisis
I hit an iceberg in my life
You know I’m still afloat
You lose your balance, lose your wife
In the queue for the lifeboat

You better put the women and children first
But you’ve got an unquenchable thirst for New York

New York

In the stillness of the evening
When the sun has had its day
I heard your voice whispering
Come away now . . .

[Flickr photo is by kennymatic and is protected]

Ultraviolet (Songs for Amanda #2)

There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it’s the price of love
I know it’s not cheap

~ U2, “Ultraviolet (Light My Way)”, 1991

Fourteen days, fifteen hours, eleven minutes, three seconds.

A pile of moments without a cigarette.

Moments I am now even more grateful for, having just read Amanda’s latest post.

I had planned to come here and write about how this week’s selection in the Songs for Amanda series has seen me through some very long, dark nights of the soul. How when one takes the leap and sees, even if only in the recesses of the imagination, what the naked eye cannot, then that thing becomes more real than anything we may ever experience. It is a mysterious and slippery thing that has many faces, and speaks in myriad voices, but is intensionally one.

But I will spare you my ramblings. Instead, I ask that you go, hear her bleed, and love on her.

Please . . .

Sometimes I feel like I don’t know
Sometimes I feel like checkin’ out
I wanna get it wrong
Can’t always be strong
And love it won’t be long

Oh, Sugar, don’t you cry
Oh, Child, wipe the tears from your eyes
You know I need you to be strong
And the day is as dark as the night is long
Feel like trash, you make me feel clean
I’m in the black, can’t see or be seen

Baby, baby, baby…light my way

You bury your treasure
Where it can’t be found
But your love is like a secret
That’s been passed around
There is a silence that comes to a house
Where no one can sleep
I guess it’s the price of love
I know it’s not cheap

I remember
When we could sleep on stones
Now we lie together
In whispers and moans
When I was all messed up
And I had opera in my head
Your love was a light bulb
Hanging over my bed

[Flickr photo is by NASA Goddard Photo and Video and is protected]

Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own (Songs for Amanda #1)

And it’s you when I look in the mirror / And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone

~ U2, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”, 2005

I’m ten years old, or so, and wandering the streets of the apartment complex where we live, somewhere in northwest Ohio. A headstock, stained the color of an individually-wrapped caramel abandoned in the sun for too long, sticks out of the corner of an industrial-sized and green garbage bin. To me, it is a rose, blooming and beautiful. I pluck out the instrument and drag it home. That is bookend the first.

The second is me dragging it again, only this time back to the garbage bin.

The stuff in the middle is timeworn and difficult to decipher. For example, I can’t recall anything else about the guitar, its color or make or whether it had strings or hardware. Nor can I remember why he told me I couldn’t keep it. Odds are the guitar had sustained irreparable damage, something I would have had no inkling or ability to recognize. Or perhaps my father had no inclination to go down a road paved with lessons and the endless practicing, and requisite noise, that come with learning an instrument. In many cases, desire is not enough. Or maybe the brush off came after no thought at all, for him a moment of annoyance that could be ended simply because he said so.

Those details are lost to me, but the bookends remain.

***

Bono shares of a similar experience in U2 By U2, the band’s 2006 coffee-table-style autobiography. His grandmother owned a piano, and as a child little Paul Hewson would stand under the keys, reach up and pluck them one by one, “playing with it the way kids do, just making noise – but it is not really making noise, it is making music.” Years later, as a tormented teenager, “I would put my foot on the pedal and hit keys and I remember how the room would change shape, because the note would get this cloud of reverb around it, become cathedral-like.” After her death, the family had to decide what to do with the piano. Bono searched their small home for a corner where it could sit, but his parents wouldn’t have it. In a home abounding with dark, deep humor but short on romanticism, keeping the piano lacked practicality.

Years later, his own death imminent, Bono’s father Bob confessed that he’d always regretted never becoming a musician. In light of that, Bono writes:

. . . you would think that the first thing he would do is to make sure his kids have that opportunity. But no – sell the piano. Sell the fucking piano. It’s amazing. If you were a kid like me, that is like someone taking away your oxygen tank. You can’t breathe.

There’s a lot in that. I think the seeds of ambition were sown, paradoxically by this repression of the spirit. If you keep telling somebody not to do something then that might just be what they become driven to do. Megalomania might have started right here. I was going to have my revenge on the world. Everyone was going to have to listen to me! Of course, I didn’t know what it was I was actually going to say or play, but the world was going to have to listen. Which, of course, is really psychological shorthand for ‘my father would have to listen’. When it gets down to it, there’s only ever really one person in the audience.

***

According to the Quit Smoking Tracker installed on my Palm Pre Plus, as of this very moment I have been smoke-free for 6 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes and 55 seconds. I have not spent $57.15 on cigarettes (Instead, I bought some relatively inexpensive plastic storage shelves for the garage and a new hose – kink-free and sans holes – for the garden), and have avoided 230 cigarettes. It also tells me I have not inhaled 0.35g of nicotine and 4.62g of tar.

Numbers. Like seconds, they pile up.

My father and I get along fine. At this point in our relationship, there are so many nuggets of this or that, rooted deeply in the dirt of the past and refusing to yield to whatever tools we may wield in our attempts to dig them up. We can do dates and places and events, but the stuff that we felt, and still feel, is like that iconic mosquito stuck in the amber of time. We can look at it, but never again bring it to life, no matter what Michael Crichton says.

Maybe that’s for the best.

But there are time when reminiscing about the stuff of the past can be fun. For example, the other day he came with me up to the BSA camp to spend the evening with my youngest son. His grandson. I had made arrangements for him to be shuttled around on an EVI because previous and lingering injuries to his hips and back would preclude a walk across the camp. He protested a bit, said he could make it, but he soon realized I had thought this all out to his advantage. And in it there was no shame. We sat and chatted with the scoutmasters about Wood Badge and old-school scouting, back when he directed Chicago’s Scouting for the Handicapped program. Seeing him smile at remembrances of long ago made me happy as well. The scars diminished, and the pain subsided, even if only for as long as it took to scarf down some dutch oven cobbler. He has surgeries coming up that hang above his head like Damocles’ sword, reminders that time is slipping away, and life is never as easy as we often strive to make it look.

So we have today. I will see him this afternoon. I will pile my brood in the van and I will drive them up there, where we will all swim and then cook out and eat and then watch the sky as it is set ablaze. We may even talk about this post. He reads this, you know, when he’s not harvesting crops or hatching baby emus on Facebook. As much as I like to think I write for each of you, he is often the target audience. I say things here I can’t say out loud, or couldn’t with any modicum of clarity or profundity. And he is perhaps hearing me clearly for the first time.

***

Tough, you think you’ve got the stuff
You’re telling me and anyone
You’re hard enough

You don’t have to put up a fight
You don’t have to always be right
Let me take some of the punches
For you tonight

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don’t have to go in alone

And it’s you when I look in the mirror
And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

We fight all the time
You and I… that’s alright
We’re the same soul
I don’t need… I don’t need to hear you say
That if we weren’t so alike
You’d like me a whole lot more

Listen to me now
I need to let you know
You don’t have to go it alone

And it’s you when I look in the mirror
And it’s you when I don’t pick up the phone
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

(This is it)
I know that we don’t talk
I’m sick of it all
Can, you, hear, me, when, I, sing
You’re the reason I sing
You’re the reason why the opera is in me

Well hey now, still gotta let ya know
A house doesn’t make a home
Don’t leave me here alone

And it’s you when I look in the mirror
And it’s you that makes it hard to let go
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own
Sometimes you can’t make it
Best you can do is to fake it
Sometimes you can’t make it on your own

[Flickr photo is by tofer618 and is protected]