Van Chronicles – Chapter 1 (continued)

There was a time when flying was fun: before my shoes were bombs and my laptop housed the makings of a terrorist plot, when lunch was more than a handful of pretzels and breakfast even existed. After it’s determined I am not a fugitive hell-bent on blowing up the world, security pushes me through, and along with the half-dozen other insomniacs at the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport, I line up for my version of a McBreakfast – a large coffee, extra cream. We make good time to Philly, which on balance is good for those with connecting flights. But it makes me wonder: What law is it that says if your ticket shows you’ve got 55 minutes to connect with your next flight, you will arrive 20 minutes late at a gate at the other end of the terminal; but if you’ve got a three-hour layover, your plane catches a tailwind and you’re in 15 minutes early? Whatever law it is, it has found me today: Instead of having all the time in the world, I now have all the time in the world with an extra quarter hour tacked on.

So, I take a tour of the place, checking out the Philly cheese steak situation. They’re not crawling out of the woodwork, so I go to what passes for their cafeteria and get my fill. I don’t think I’ve ever had a bad Philly cheese steak sandwich. I’ve had some that are better than others and sadly this is not one of them, but I’m just glad to be getting any version. If you like something, you like it all. It works that way with music too.

Mission accomplished, I have nothing to do but wait. Find a little out-of-the-way seat at the gate and wait as the lounge fills up. Put some music on and start in on “No Surrender,” Johnny Rogan’s book that has been out for a while now. The reviews I’ve read have an abundance of !!!! and ^*#@* littered throughout, from authors who have stopped pulling out their hair just long enough to put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. That hasn’t done much to predispose me to liking the book, but then again, there hasn’t been any articulate argument against the book, so it’s just as likely to be a fine read. It’s daunting though – at 485 pages, not to mention the additional 94 pages in notes to wade through, this could prove to be a bit of a slog.

It doesn’t help that Morning Girl is more of a dozer than a reader. I’m afraid I didn’t make it out of the Introduction before nodding off. Even given the circumstances, this is a highly unusual event, suffering as I do from a recurring fear that one day I will fall asleep and the plane will leave without me. Train naps are even worse. Just because it hasn’t happened yet I live in constant fear that one time I’ll nod off and the train will hurtle past my station and I’ll wake up six towns down the line. But today, need has the winning hand. Morning Girl needs a little post-lunch nap. It’s well-earned.

Morning Girl definitely scored one on Night Girl. That little power nap at the airport meant that Night Girl never got a wink of sleep on the flight – either she was afraid the plane would go right by Amsterdam and she’d miss it, or maybe it was the three inebriated guys sitting four rows behind me, who served as the entertainment portion of the flight. As our section of the plane soon finds out, they’re going to see Van Morrison. “At the Heineken Music Hall!” “AND MAKE SURE YOU’RE ON TIME!! HE’S NEVER LATE.” This was definitely not the kind of enthusiasm that comes from those little airplane bottles. As sure as I’m sitting here, somebody snuck a bottle onto the plane, and all I could think of is how did they manage to get alcohol through security when my water bottle, which admittedly did look like a terrorist event waiting to happen, was forcibly removed.

I turn around and give them a look. One of those looks that is full of daggers, hoping one will hit its target.  But there’s nothing stopping these guys and the next thing you know, they’ve broken into the first verse of “Brown Eyed Girl.” I guess when you’re three guys going to Amsterdam, you might as well get the party started early. My only hope is these guys are on the other side of the room come concert night. If their harmonies on the “sha-la-las” are an indication of their talent, I don’t want to hear what they do to “Gloria.”

And so it goes. Fans jump on a plane to go see Van Morrison perform in concert. The same fans who set their vacations to coincide with his concerts. Or find other excuses to once again lay down the filthy lucre in favor of a show. Or two or three, if you’re lucky and Van decides to play a stand of shows – it could be San Francisco or New York, London or Dublin, Barcelona or Amsterdam. Ah, Amsterdam – where the stoics, stoners, and sots gather together once again to see and hear whatever Van is going to dish up this time.

What is it that makes a grown woman travel thousands of miles for the sole pleasure of standing in a crowd of people and listen to someone sing? It doesn’t seem rational. And yet, for a few hours, or in some cases a mere ninety minutes, there is nowhere else in the world I’d rather be.

If I were a fly fisherperson, I would be passionate about lures and telling tales of the one that got away. I’d read books and study the art. And I’d get out and fish. There’s something to be said for a passion that gets you out there doing – creating hundreds of flies, each one different from the last, getting out there in the great outdoors, breathing in that fresh air, standing in my waders, letting loops of line go into my cast.

It just sounds like a lot of work though, doesn’t it?

My passions tend to be a lot less achievement-oriented. Much less doing and a lot more receiving. Let someone else do all the work. Find me a comfortable chair or soft couch, slip a movie into the DVD player and I am lost in another world for hours; hand me a book and I will be lost for days; put some Van Morrison on and I am lost for a lifetime.

I am not so interested in the man – and believe me, I am grateful to the gods who hand out passions that mine does not require me to vest myself in the performer – it has always been the music. Live music. From the first time I stood in front of a stage and heard the waves of music come crashing into me, I knew there was something in there that was communicating directly to me. I hope for the band’s sake that it was communicating to everyone else too, but standing there, I was alone, feeling it fill me up, opening my eyes to something that seemed beyond real. I’ve asked myself thousands of times what is it, how is it, that something as simple as notes played on an instrument can move from the performer to the listener, come inside, move with urgency, and explode in colors and light, making the synapses work double and triple overtime? Leaving me always with more questions than answers. Occam’s razor is buried so deep under that pile of questions that even he would have a hard time explaining it.

I’d like to know what it is, but I am not holding my breath that the answer is going to show up in my inbox one day. I just pack them up in my suitcase, throw in a couple of CDs, and head off to the next show. May it be this way forever.

Chapter 2

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