From an early age I have felt the warm and fuzzy feeling you get from helping others out. Often thankless, this is the truest form of doing the right thing. I am not looking for a pat on the back or a ribbon. I generally did the right thing in the moment. Often, I did not have a choice. For example, my father left my family when I was a freshman in high school. A formative year, don’t you think? He moved to New York State and did not seem to look back. You see, my father was a man who traveled for work. Many a country song or movie can tell you how that ends up. Away from the kids and the spouse, settling down after a long day of work, tired, looking for comfort, the mind wanders and the people you love aren’t around. Shrugging off the people that used to mean the world to him; my father acted on the loneliness. He met a girl. He fell in love with a girl, while still married to a girl that was raising his children. My father returned home after three months “on the road”. He hugged my mom with a blank countenance and a cold resolve. He was not that excited to see us. At first it just kind of raised an eyebrow for me. I thought he was tired after working so hard for his family out east. I was wrong. I found out that I was wrong on September 24, 2000. I don’t remember that date so well just because that is the day that my father announced that he and my mom were going to be “separated”. I know the date of that fateful message so well because of a combination of ecstasy and distress.
Do you remember The Barenaked Ladies? I have seen them at least 13 separate times including on a New Year’s Eve and on a cruise of the Eastern Caribbean. I met the original five members twice. Once on the cruise and once when they were performing their children’s album in a Borders. From the first time I heard “It’s been…” on their contagious hit, “One Week”, I was obsessed. I would sing it poorly and often incorrectly to myself and to others. It was sort of an issue. This was the first band I would fall in love with. My sister recognized that I enjoyed the song and did her part to fuel the flames of fandom. She surprised me with tickets to see them in concert. It was a birthday gift I did not see coming since she gave me the tickets in September (my birthday is in October). I couldn’t believe it. I tried to learn all the lyrics before I went to the show. I can remember laying on my back in my room, holding the lyrics straight up, listening to various tracks and reading along. I skipped “One Week” because I already knew that one, sort of. I was trying to get down every lyric and melody. I did my homework and I aced the test. Well I aced the “Stunt” album portion of the test. Everybody else around me knew all the answers and sang every song. I wanted to be like them so bad. I remember there was a slower song that was performed at the show. It built up slowly to a pinnacle where the singer was just shouting into the microphone. He was not the only one shouting, thousands of others were shouting at the same time. I was both jealous and impassioned at the same time. I wanted to know every word of that song as soon as I could. I wanted to be a part of the commotion. I wanted to be the guy who went into The Barenaked Ladies concerts shrugging off “One Week” self-righteously because I knew that was not even close to the best song in their repertoire. However good it was, it was not their best. Throughout my years of a maybe unhealthy devotion, I have developed this correct opinion. Trust me. It is not their best. I fell in love with a handful of older men that night. September 24, 2000. I felt like this event had been an indication of what my life would be. I was 14 years-old, my sister took me to the Chicago to see a band I enjoyed. I got a glimpse of what my future would be. It would be fun. I would be able to pursue my interests and develop them into passions. I couldn’t wait to grow up and be autonomous. That line that everyone shouted felt like my first step into adulthood. I was filled with purpose. It was truly life changing. Good concerts are supposed to do that I suppose. That’s why we show up. That’s why we save our dollars and go. We want to be a part of something special. That night, my sister gifted me the wisdom of what could happen in the future. The refreshing feeling that came from that concert lasted as long as it took to get home from the UIC Pavilion. I was about to be forced to grow up even more. The adulthood I had imagined just a couple hours before, amongst strangers, was altered so quickly and so unexpectedly. The new me, the new adult, was smacked with a forceful dose of humility. Life wasn’t going to be how I imagined it. At least not yet. After all, it was a school night. How appropriate.