Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Push/Pull of Friendship

Last weekend fell apart, in a sense. Ten friends were scheduled to descend upon our cabin to "lose our minds," as one husband describes it, for an entire weekend of girl time, dip noshing and silliness. But the pull of other, more important circumstances prevented it from happening. Federal Jury Duty. Commitments to family. Promotions at work resulting in Friday afternoon meetings (the nerve). Unruly, hormone-raging children requiring constant parental guidance. Difficulty in finding child care. You name it - the outside influences gathered like a storm cloud and rained on our annual parade.

So I pushed myself. To gather my things, and head to my second hometown, St. Louis. The town where my family moved during my junior year of High School and where I met a true friend for life. She needed me there with her, and I needed to be there. The Push/Pull of Friendship.

Sometimes we need to be pushed. To consider other perspectives, and to contemplate alternatives. To venture outside our comfort zones which either confirm what we believe to be true, or cause us to re-evaluate and readjust our positions and beliefs in life. Regardless, the result is good. Really good.

I pushed this past weekend. I listened carefully to my friend, then pushed her to think about a situation from multiple perspectives. To consider alternatives to her challenge. To look to the future and question: "What type of mother do I want to be to my children twenty years from now? What type of Grandmother do I want to be someday?"

And she pushed me. She listened to me whine about another friend who's been acting aloof. She made me consider the friend's situation; her outside influences. And that it likely isn't about me. She was right.

I also pulled her. I pulled her into my arms and hugged and kissed on her and told her she is a good mama. And that I have always, always admired her strength when we were teenagers, her perspective now as a woman and her dedication as a mother.

And she pulled me. She pulled me along with her on a five mile hike through the mountains of St. Louis on a workout that kicked my butt and left me crying about it the remainder of the weekend. She also pulled me to a delightful cafe where we sipped coffee and nibbled breakfast for three hours. And to a charming restaurant where we ditched the dip and dined on fabulous small plates for an entire evening. Our husbands would've bashed their heads against the walls in restaurants like that. We're convinced they were created for girlfriend gabbing.

I believe that having friends of varying depth is important. That friends of only a few years provide carefree fun and a surface-level easiness, while long lasting friends fuel the depth and seriousness necessary for reassurance and guidance as we make our way through life.

While pushing and pulling with my bestie, I also squeezed in some time to love on other friends.

Miss Mendy. This is only the third occasion I've spent time with her, but we quickly fell into a Frick and Frack kinda thing. I was thrilled she joined us for dinner on night one.

And Kim. We reunited last fall after a twenty year hiatus. Oh how I wish we lived closer!

Betsey! Where've you been hiding since college? Oh...that's right. You've been a verifiable baby-making machine. It is so reassuring to sit with someone you haven't seen in years to realize that you like them now for the same reasons you liked them then. Must. See. Her. Again.

Even guy friends can be a worthwhile investment when it comes to gaining perspective. I once dined quarterly with a group of five girlfriends and one guy. We called it the Girls +1 Club. The conversations at those dinners were unparalleled for the varying degree of topics - we discussed everything at some point. We loved hearing Ross weigh in and he reviled in five female perspectives. Interestingly, he came loaded with questions for us every time we met.

Since our High School reunion a few years ago, I've been chatting occasionally online with a friend and was so happy to see him in person and talk for real over the weekend. And I think he genuinely enjoyed the frank conversation between two girlfriends catching up without pausing to take a breath.
To all my single friends...Brian is available!
And that girls weekend of losing our minds? Rescheduled for October. Hopefully this time around the Push/Pull of Friendship will outweigh the other important elements in our lives.

And once again, my heart will sing.


Monday, September 17, 2012

Bruce Springsteen at Wrigley Field

It all started about two years ago.

On an October Sunday night after watching football all day with friends and family, I trudged my weary butt up to bed long after the kids were asleep. Nobody followed me, not even Miller. I heard the music still blaring in the basement - it was The Boss crooning about lost youth and what could have been. "Glory Days."

A few minutes passed, and the song started again. I brushed my teeth.

A few minutes later, the song restarted. I washed my face.

Thirty minutes later, after lying in bed and staring at the digital clock on the ceiling, the song started an upteenth time. I tiptoed my way to the basement to see if Mr. Musky passed out with some kind of repeat on the iPod. To my surprise, I found him sitting at the bar, twirling a glass of whiskey in hand, contemplating the amber liquid, the speaker within arm's reach. He purposefully played the song again.

"WHAT are you DOING?" I demanded.

He jerked around in surprise, glared at me, then returned his attention to the glass with slumped shoulders. "Leave me alone. You don't understand. You aren't turning 40 yet."

I rolled my eyes. "Oh for goodness' sake. This whole anxiety thing over turning 40 has got to stop. Snap out of it. Grow up. Count your blessings, and quit complaining. Life is good. Shut up and smell the roses. Go to the cabin. Fish or something."

He responded to my insensitive remarks with, "You just wait til you get old. Just you wait."

Since then, anyone who's ever wandered into our basement to fondue with us on the bar top, cheer the Blackhawks on to a playoff win or stop in for a nightcap after dinner fulfills the required viewing obligation. They all watch some live Bruce on the big screen - either Bruce and the band playing to a massive crowd in Hyde Park, London in 2009, live in New York City in 2000 or Mr. Musky's personal favorite - The Promise: The Making of the Darkness on the Edge of Town documentary. As a result both sets of our parents are fans, as are scads of friends and neighbors. Or they just lie when we ask leading questions like, "Isn't he a genius and the greatest gift ever to music?"

To say we became Bruce Springsteen fanatics after that fateful, chilly October night is an understatement. We are now Super Fans, and so are our children. I'll find song lyrics tucked into the crevices of my son's bookshelf when I venture into his animal's nest to clean. And a poster of Bruce and Clarence Clemons, his tenor sax player who sadly passed away in 2011, graces the wall above our daughter's bed. She chose the wall adornment - not us.

We were delighted to learn that Bruce was coming out with a new album this year, and were very hopeful that he'd tour with the legendary E Street Band again. To our surprise in April, he announced that he'd play in Wrigley Field in September. Amazingly, we scored tickets in the General Admission section the morning they went on sale. We purchased four, and told the kids we'd be opting out of a family vacation this year in lieu of a Springsteen concert.

When we arrived to Wrigleyville, we quickly made our way to the Ernie Banks statue to claim our wristbands. My resourceful husband scoured the internet weeks before the concert to determine how to get closest to the stage. He determined that there is a wristband distribution several hours before the show begins, then a random wristband number is called. The lucky duck with the winning number is first to enter the stadium, then everyone after that number follows in sequential order. It sounds like a disaster trying to corral 600+ people in an organized manner, but the herding went flawlessly.

To our delight, number 210 was called, which meant that Mr. Musky was the 136th person in line and the rest of us followed him. Once we entered the hallowed landmark, we proceeded in an orderly fashion through the bowels of Wrigley to the entrance of the "pit" where we ran like teenagers to claim the closest spot possible to the stage. Over the past few months it did occur to us that we'd be leading our children into a mosh pit. But we decided that the crowd following The Boss surely had to be less rambunctious than say, a Metallica pit. We also wondered about necessities like bathroom breaks. I've been in Wrigley Field during playoff games (yes, it really does happen once in awhile) and the facilities lack significantly for the female bladder there. It's as if architects in 1914 never anticipated women would go to a ballgame - ever. So we discussed options. At one point, Mr. Musky declared he wanted a catheter for the night, and did I think Dr. Giordano would just oblige him? Ugh. Then his solution morphed into an adult diaper. We agreed that was a good idea. We even told the kids that they were mandatory for all - that we'd all be donning Depends for the night to avoid going to the bathroom.

Horrified, they refused.

And we relented.

It was with great relief that we discovered there were port-a-potties a plenty set up near the mosh pit, so problem solved.

We made friends early with those around us. Two special women behind us asked us which show this was for us. "Our first," we replied. Incredulous, they commented on how unbelievably lucky we were to score such great spots for the concert. And reminded the kids that they have the coolest parents on the face of the earth and as a result, they should clean their rooms daily without being reminded, never argue or fight and give us pedicures when we are 80 even if we did suggest they wear diapers to the concert and swore nobody would ever know they were defecating on themselves.

In all seriousness, Debbie and Dana are lifelong Springsteen fans of the greatest sort. It was Debbie's 38th show; Dana's 52nd. They talked about their most favorite performances and tunes they most wanted to hear that night. They shared funny stories about their travels to watch the band and showed us pictures of their kids on stage with Bruce and close-ups of themselves at concerts. Dana even met him on her birthday once! And he remembered, calling out to her during the concert later that night and graciously played her song request. In some sort of pre-concert ritual, they pulled out individually wrapped vodka shots that were smuggled in from Canada and toasted one another. They coached us newbies on sitting as much as possible to save up energy during the three hour wait for the concert to begin, advised when to make the final bathroom run before the band started, and helped protect our kids from the drunks who tried to worm their way to the front once the band took the stage. They even shared their gum and mints when our throats went dry from screaming and dancing and singing our lungs out.

In short, they are friends now, and I can't wait to hear of their future Bruce experiences. And I thank Dana for sharing the pictures - 90% of the photos on this post are courtesy of her sweet Canadian self.

Once the crew climbed up the dangling ladders to run on-stage lighting for the show, Dana and Debbie announced that it was time to stand. 

And check out the crowd behind us. Yikes!

Dana very kindly offered to take a picture of us. I'm so glad she did - it was nearly impossible to get a good shot of the four of us once the show began due to the dimmed lighting, not to mention the impossibility of standing still once the music started. I'm grateful that she read my mind and took a good pic of us on such a memorable night.

Nearly an hour after the show was scheduled to start, the band ran onto the stage and took their positions, and Bruce followed yelling "GOOD EVENING CHICAGO!" into his mic. They launched into the "78 Intro" to "Prove it all Night." We looked at each other, and both kids looked at us. Our eyes welled up. Embarrassed, we looked away, but snuck a furtive glance at each other again under hooded lids. We looked forward to this moment for so long, and could not believe it was finally here. The kids grinned, and we all looked around us. Unsure of what to do as we have never been that close to the stage during a concert, we threw our arms up in the air and learned the refined art of the very righteous fist pump.

All summer long we speculated on what The Boss would play. Each of us had our wish lists, and I'm pleased to report that Mr. Springsteen heard my telepathic vibes over the past several months and played one of my faves - a rarity - "Trapped." I had a little bit of an out of body experience when the song began to play - it was very surreal, and I couldn't believe my little dream was coming true. I screamed at the top of my lungs and everyone around us turned to stare. My kids were mortified. I simply announced to the several questioning onlookers: "It's my song. The one I wanted him to play tonight." Then everybody, and I mean everybody, nodded a congratulations, high fived me, and returned to their fist pumping. I sang my brains out and bawled the whole time.

We both said how amazing it would be if Eddie Vedder appeared on stage and performed with Bruce and the band.

Wish granted, for a passionate rendition of "Atlantic City" that the kids even crooned along to. I was unaware they knew that song until they belted out "Put your makeup on, fix your hair up pretty, and meet me tonight in Atlantic City." Oh...and my teenaged daughter checked out some google images of Mr. Vedder the next day, declaring, "He was hot." Was???

We didn't say how awesome it would be to see Tom Morello (another Chicagoan, from Rage against the Machine) play, especially "The Ghost of Tom Joad," which we first heard on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show on HBO in 2009.

Unknown wish granted, which added an unbelievably amazing element to the evening for several songs. And a very happy son, who calls The Ghost one of his faves and was on his short list for the night. He demonstrated a higher level of maturity than his mother, and did not scream like a lunatic when they played his song.

Here's why Mr. Musky and I love Bruce Springsteen so much: He makes us laugh. He makes us cry. He plays music that is appealing to our 60+ year old parents and to our teenaged children. He makes my kids link arms and sway back and forth. He inspires group hugs for my family of four. He makes us tap our feet, dance, and sing. Out loud. Which is a big deal for Mr. Musky. He never sang in front of me for twenty-two years, embarrassed of his lack of tone and pitch. But now? He sings. He even sang at church the night following the concert. But boyfriend didn't touch me once that night, something that I'm still giving him crap about. He went all "into the zone" and barely looked at me - his eyes were glued to the stage all night.

Bruce Springsteen makes me want to own a tambourine. I told my mother so when she asked me what I wanted for Christmas last year. I want to shake my booty and play the tambourine in the basement and pretend that I'm an E Street backup singer.

I'm still waiting for a tambourine. Eddie Vedder got one, when he came together with Morello and Steven Van Zandt giggling that he didn't know the "10th Avenue Freeze Out" riff on the guitar. So he asked the backup singers to throw him a tambourine to occupy his hands on stage during the song. We belly laughed, and thanked the stars yet again that we were close enough to see it all play out.

Springsteen makes us stand back in awe of the capabilities of a fit, energetic sixty-two year old.

His passion is infectious. The connection between the E Street Band and their leader is undeniable. The sound they create, that awesome sound with the horns and the violin and the drums and the guitars and the piano and the organ and the tambourines and the accordians and the harmonica and the backup singers is something that I wish everyone could witness once, for at least one song, in the second row of the pit.

We are still reeling from overstimulated senses. It was monumentous. It was emotional - far more than any of us expected. It satisfied us beyond expectations. It was a heartwarming, spine tingling, goose bumping, fist pumping, foot stomping, exhilarating affair. It was a party, a memorial service, a welcoming committee and a pep rally all rolled into one.

Our arms remained in the air for 3.5 hours. Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band defy logic, playing 42 songs over the course of two nights, making each evening unique and it's own special experience. They are, simply put, a musical machine. The energy they pack into every note of every song and the passion they pour into their craft is inspiring. Uplifting. 

It leaves you wanting for more.

So off to Minneapolis we go in November, to take in two more shows. This time we will go sans kids. And maybe, just maybe, Mr. Musky will put his arm around me this time.

If he knows what's best.

Call me a groupie...


P.S. - Check out Mr. Musky's video montage of our experience here. It's a 25 minute overview of several songs he recorded at the concert.