Tuesday, November 23, 2021

To Play Jesus To The Lepers In Your Head

The other day I read a BBC article about the U2 song One and learned how many people shared my love for it. I knew it was a popular song way, way back in the flannel choked 90s but I did not know that so many people had lasting affection for it. When it came out in November 1991, I played it on repeat alone in my bedroom into the early morning hours night after night and month after month. I was eighteen years old and chained to a sunken wreck of deep depression with no hope of surfacing. This was not the typical teenage angst, but a worsening of what I had coped with for several years. It may seem silly to the more jaded set, but I loved that song. It carried me through dark times and provided some air at the bottom of the sea. 

I was a U2 fan in the 80s and through the early 90s album Achtung Baby before my tastes shifted, though my fascination with Berlin where the album was recorded endured. I also learned from that before-mentioned article that I had misheard the lyrics to the line, "we get to carry each other," all these decades. I had heard, "we got to carry each other." That bit of knowledge changed my perception of the song to a minor degree from a commandment that we were all in it together and should help each other through life to something else. Instead it meant that whether we like it or not we are obligated to carry one another like a burden. Some of the good feeling I had etched into my heart for the song flaked off. Hope and optimism were misplaced by hearing what I wanted instead of the reality. Perhaps that is a universal truth about the 1990s and Generation X too?

The question at the beginning of the song, "is it getting better or do you feel the same," was met with my unequivocal answer of no in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. My answer would waiver between the fun times for the rest of the decade. I kept listening to the song at a time when my social circle was the smallest it ever was and I withdrew to life atop my gated hill. I sometimes saw my father, but I was alone at most times. If you read Dweller On The Boundary and Terminal Wake and thought that it could not get worse, then you would be wrong. As I said to someone in private conversation, "it didn't get any easier in the 90s no matter how many times I crossed or uncrossed my heart. I was staked to that promise with my feet dangling, but that was the least of it." It came down to whom would be the last person standing atop Aviary Hill. At that time I wore the crown of whom had continuously lived there the longest. Longevity was a thin grade of armor.

Me in 1992
singing along to
One on VHS. 
It was difficult to write much of what is in contained in my first two books and it has been no easier in writing what is in my next novel which is in the second draft stage and due in 2022. Listening to One in the next to last month of 2021 and watching the 1990s video tapes of myself that document what I only could share with a camera has returned me to the darkness I shed later in life. Living it then was bad and writing about it now is almost the same.

Returning to the question at the beginning of the song, "is it getting better or do you feel the same," I can answer that it is better and has been for a long time. I can resurrect my old self in videos, journals and eclipsing brain cells when I want for needed purposes and the environment can do it at other times. I am retreating again at the new house; some of that is because of work and some of it is daring to touch that broken and sharp past again. The mind becomes lost mowing grass or raking the autumn leaves and I come up with fantastic notions that this retreat is because I have not had a haircut in eight months and the shaggy weight is dragging me down. Last month another song that I buried for thirty years unearthed itself on a local Atlanta radio station and I was right back in my old Z Car with a grip too tight on the steering wheel. Music, that constant friend and sometimes enemy, transported me from the morning traffic of Atlanta to the rural roads of the past. Objects may be closer than they appear holds true not just for car mirrors, turning around at anytime I see all of the past behind me like the coming rain. I can not always outrun it, nor do I always try.

A friend from the West Coast that I had not seen for twelve years came by over the last weekend. It was the usual catching up until she pulled out a copy of Dweller On The Boundary and asked me to sign it. The sight of the book in the hands of other people is unfailingly strange for me, after all that is my life or a good chunk of it between their fingers - metaphorically carrying my life I suppose and for a moment maybe we are my version of One. When I have signed books, I have had a difficult time writing more than a thank you and this occasion was no different. It is an honor to be asked and to know that any person ever cared or was curious enough to try to understand the raindrops and dandelion parachutes trailing me. I am thankful for every reader this Thanksgiving. As for the curious onlooker, I do not understand you.

Achtung Baby turns thirty this month and alone on that gated hill decades ago I did not expect to be around for that or even the following year. I am glad that I am here even if I do sometimes get drenched.

Here are a few specific details that I can share about my next novel set in the 1990s, the first chapter is titled Unknown Soldier and the book has a firm title.

Thank you for reading.