Tuesday, June 10, 2008

That's Me in the Corner

I walked around and behind the United Center, exploring new territory before the sun faded and the concert began.

It was somewhere near the Blackhawks statue that I became remotely aware that someone else's eyes were exploring the image upon my shirt (or so I told myself), a sketch from Daniel Johnston with the ephemeral words, "Hi, how are you?" scrawled across the bottom.

I looked up to see this man's half-stoned eyes staring into mine, thus affirming that my suspicions were not entirely unwarranted.

Minutes (seconds really) seemed to pass as the eye contact continued and he said, filled with ironic conviction:

"I love you."

"Thank you," I responded, smiling weakly and walking past him, unconsciously aware that he had half-turned to watch as I continued on, peasant skirt swaying in the breeze.

And so began my first ever experience seeing R.E.M. (a favorite of mine since the early 90s) live. Or Modest Mouse (a favorite of mine since 2004), for that matter. Or, shoot, let us not forget The National, who I only just discovered in March of this year but labeled a "new favorite" immediately thereafter.

So when you see three favorites on a single ticket, you don't exactly let the opportunity pass you by.

And so I went, tucked into the far back row (and in the worst section) where altitude-related nosebleeds are more than a sardonic concern.

But, whatever, I was there (and with binoculars) and enjoyed the show all the same. Even though the acoustics weren't so great for either opening act (there was even occasional feedback when Modest Mouse took the stage, a horrible ear-screeching sound that had some people in my section taking unscheduled breaks). And even though the National had fewer than 1/3 of the seats full (and I assure you, they deserve better than that). And even though I could only understand about 1/2 of whatever Michael Stipe said when he was speaking on stage.

I was otherwise entirely entertained on countless fronts, and by all three bands.

But what I found most peculiar — particularly when you consider my adoration for the opening acts and the main event — was how the energy so undeniably changed when Stipe ran out onto the stage when it was his band's turn in the spotlight.

I saw him even without the binoculars, recognized him from miles away from his trademark hairline; his two-piece-suit and tie.

Forget singing for a moment.

That man can perform.
But allow me to backtrack to where fantasy meets reality and I struggle to discern the two.

Because, I swear, when I raised my binoculars to get a better look at Isaac Brock (lead singer for Modest Mouse), my first response was a single, muffled chuckle.

If the man who declared his love for me before the show wasn't Brock himself, he was a darn good facsimile.*

*I realize it was most likely the latter but, please, allow a lonely girl her fantasy.

And then there was the ride home; lost fans being told by police to take cabs and buses but to absolutely not walk to the nearest train station.

I had had no problems walking from the train during the daylight, and didn't see why the reverse trip should be any different.

And it wasn't, really, not until I was well beyond the "danger zone" of the area surrounding the United Center.

I was heading towards one of the city's more affluent neighborhoods, in fact, when the man (most likely batting for the "other" team, and most likely strung out on heroin — by his demeanor and the way he clutched his arm) next to me swayed in his seat, his eyes opening and closing, consciousness fading and reappearing just in time for him to pull himself from his seat and go to the door.

"Wrong stop," he'd say, sliding back to his seat.

They had rerouted our train; the red line was making brown line stops, which further compounded this man's misery.

"Where are we?" he said to anyone.

I explained what was happening. Told him that though we were making brown line stops, that'd probably change once we got to a transfer station.

I asked him where he was going; he told me. I told him when he could expect his stop.

He smiled — as best the muscles in his face could manage, anyway — and touched my hand.

"You're my friend," he said, rubbing my arm.

"You're my friend."


Pamela said...

It was him. Us old folk--we just know things. ha ha ha

ds said...

and you're nice to junkies? yet you don't have a new man? something's wrong in the universe. I wish someone was nice to me when I'm on the nods.

XOXO said...

You're my friend too. I wish i could describe my experiences half as well as you do.

M@ said...

I love declarations of best friendship from drunks. :)

MelO said...

Awww... not only declarations of best friendship but also of LURVE! :) (that was TOTALLY your man)

Sounds like a fun show! That's so cool that you got to see three favorites perform together, even if the seats were less than ideal.