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Entry date: 2-9-2024 – This World Reminds Us Sometimes – Letter to My Friends

Dear Friends,

 

Yesterday was a good day. It started off better than most of the last few weeks because I just felt better. I’m still not 100% and probably won’t be for a bit, but I ditched the cold medicine and made it through the day.

 

Cold medicine doesn’t really seem to help this crud. I’ve gotten some relief from the sinus part, but the dreams have been wild. In the past two weeks, I’ve had some of the most intense dreams in a long time.

 

Maybe it is sobriety, too. Who knows. If the dreams stay intense, I might have to reconsider blaming Mucinex or Alka Seltzer +. For now, though, I am blaming the cold meds.

 

***** 

 

On the down side of yesterday, one of my students got pulled out of school so she could take care of her 9-month-old baby sister. She had missed a lot of school so far this year and always seemed to be pretty healthy. Now I know why. Her mom, who is keeping her home to be “home-schooled” has to work during the day, so I’m not sure when homeschooling is going to take place.

 

I get it. I really do. They are surviving and this is what needs to happen, I’m sure, to keep food on the table, but I feel so badly for my (now former) student. She’s going to end up trying to start fifth grade next year way behind.

 

Cocaine Baby decided to go off the rails yesterday afternoon. He had a good couple of days and then who knows. Stupidly, I told him not to be playing in the hallways when he asked to go to the bathroom for the second time in about 40 minutes yesterday afternoon. He did exactly that, of course, lied about it, and I lost my patience with him. Today is a new day, though.

 

***** 

 

On the good side, I had a really nice chat with an old friend about writing and telling stories that need to be told. It was good to be part of that kind of chat. I need the same type of kick in the pants, er, direction I think he was looking for, so hopefully he got out of it as much as I did. As dumb as a lot of people can be, it’s good to get some time with someone who actually wants to use his brain.

 

Why are people so scared to use their brains? Heck, I get scared of using my own noggin from time to time, too. Sometimes those thought things are scary, but it’s even scary to forget out to think’em.

 

*****

 

I forget sometimes that Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois produced Unforgettable Fire for U2. I remember now, thinking back, how big a deal that was when I read about the record. I was 14 years old and U2 were becoming very popular among high school students. I was a sophomore that year. Just about to turn 15 when it came out. It was a heady time in my life and Unforgettable Fire quickly became a part of my daily soundtrack.

 

Eno, of course, is one of the coolest musicians and producers ever. The guy just seems to touch music and cool things happen. Even his experimental stuff is always interesting to listen to compared to, well, you probably know what I’m going to say here. Definitely more interesting than Guns ‘n’ Roses.

 

Back then, though, I had no idea about Brian Eno other than knowing he was some music guy. I could have cared less about a producer. I was barely interested in who was in a band at that point. When U2 got on my radar with their earlier output (Under A Blood Red Sky, Boy, and War), I just knew I liked it and it was somewhere between punk rock and radio rock.

 

Here came Unforgettable Fire, though, and it sounded a bit exotic, bigger (in a way), and kind of sad. What more could a teenage boy who was discovering himself want?

 

I got the album on cassette, at first, probably for my 15th birthday. At that time, I was on the cusp of having my first (actual) girlfriend and getting my first kiss. I was a bit of a late bloomer, I know, and had been deathly afraid of making any sort of move on a girl that I liked until then.

 

It was something about growing about 7- or 8-inches during freshman year and shedding the baby fat I had all my life prior to that. I was starting to feel a little bit of confidence in my own skin and listening to U2 helped me feel like I was part of something a bit bigger than myself.

 

The popularity of the song “Pride (In the Name of Love) didn’t hurt this confidence, either. I loved the song instantly. It seemed like everyone I knew did, as well. It’s a damn good song, too. When U2 played at Compton Terrace in April 1985 on the Unforgettable Fire tour, the band played the song twice because a fight broke out in the crowd early in the set.

 

Bono stopped what was going on and did one of his little Bono speeches and said something along the lines of, “We need this song now.” It was a moment for me. This was one of my first concert experiences where I was allowed to just go with my friends without any adult chaperones. I felt like a king.

 

I also got in huge trouble. In those days, Compton Terrace had one way in and one way out of the parking lot. The show was super packed, so I didn’t get home until way after my curfew and my dad was pissed. Then he heard on the radio what had happened, and he forgave my transgression.

 

When I think back to November of 1984, though, Unforgettable Fire is the record I think about. Listening to it now reminds me of walking around our neighborhood near 47th Avenue and Grovers in North Phoenix listening to my Walkman. Sometimes I would be riding my ten speed, as well, the one that took my sense of smell and gave it to the universe a couple about a year and a half later.

 

If I close my eyes while listening to “Wire,” a rambling song made so much better by Larry Mullen, Jr’s percussion work that was undoubtedly enriched by Eno and Lanois, I can see Grovers Avenue on a cloudy November day. I was about to head to Colorado Springs to see my grandparents and was having a rather difficult conversation with the girl I liked.

 

I wanted to kiss her so badly but was afraid. I didn’t want to say goodbye for the five or six days I would be gone. She probably made the move, to be honest, but I got my first real kiss and U2 was there with me for the joyous walk home. I didn’t even want to tell anyone what had happened. I just wanted to enjoy the clouds and the feeling of finally being one who had been kissed and had done some kissing.

 

I will probably always be taken back to that place when I listen to songs like “Wire” and “The Unforgettable Fire.” Those two songs, kind of in the middle of the record, just take me back to being freshly 15 and for a moment, in love with the world. Everything was possible.

 

Over the years, my opinion of U2 has changed a lot. I haven’t listened to this record hardly at all since the 80s. They grew to being the biggest band in the world over the next couple of years after The Unforgettable Fire came out. I forgot how good this record is, to be honest. I realize now, though, that it’s such a strong snapshot of a time in my life.

 

I can see my grandparents’ house in Colorado Springs. I can feel how much I missed my new girlfriend at the time and remember getting up the courage to ask if I could give her a call long distance. I thought I was in love. I guess I was, but of course I know how much one’s perspective on love can change with time and experience.

 

“Promenade” is a lovely, beautiful song. So is “4th of July,” too. Both of them evoke a flood of memories and emotions. When I realized a few months later that I was ready to see who else was out there for me, I listened to this record to help me feel the pain of that first break up. It was my doing and my fault, but it hurt. Looking back, she was way more mature about it than I was, and I probably could have had a pretty good friend out of that whole experience if I was a tad (or a lot) more mature.

 

I should have listened more closely to the words of “Bad.” I did listen to it a lot back in high school. As I listen now, I can smile, though, because I have walked through the things Bono sang about almost forty years ago. He was so full of hope then.

 

“To let it go, and so, fade away…”

 

*****

 

See you tomorrow.



This is the Height of Land. It's a spot in Maine that looks like this on most summer days. It overlooks Mooselookmeguntic Lake. It's about 30 minutes from the Maine house. Even though I have been there a bunch of times, I stop often to take a picture or look out for a minute on the way in or out of Rangeley.

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