Van Chronicles – Introduction

Let’s cut to the chase. I am obsessed. Or maybe it’s an addiction. Or then again, it might just be a bad habit. Or as simple as simply being in a rut. I’m not sure. What I am sure of is that I am passionately in love.

I hope it’s not an addiction – that suggests there’s a twelve-step program involved. And anyhow, whatever I’ve got is too much fun to be looking for a cure just yet. Bad habit – not really; good habit maybe; so we give habit half marks. In a rut – definitely: I’d do it all the time, if it were possible. I’ve definitely got a deep rut going. But is it an obsession too?

 My Merriam-Webster dictionary says that obsession is

1: a persistent disturbing preoccupation with an often unreasonable idea or feeling; broadly: compelling motivation <an obsession with profits>

2: something that causes an obsession

That first part doesn’t sound that good, does it? I definitely don’t have that. Not at all. But the broadly: compelling motivation part hits the nail on the head. I am compelled. In a rut, with a habit that may or may not be a good habit – we’ve only got my word for it at this point that it’s a good one – am I am passionate about it.

The good thing about having an obsession is 95 percent of the time it feels very normal. Pour a little wine, turn the lights down low, slip No, Guru, No Method, No Teacher on the stereo, get lost in the music, and life couldn’t seem to make more sense. It’s the other 5 percent of the time that has me worried.

Fortunately, as the numbers speak for themselves, it doesn’t come up often. But when it does, it will stop me in my tracks and say, “Maybe this isn’t normal.” Fortunately that passes quickly enough, and I forget about it, like I forget about the dust behind the couch – it’s off my radar. These panic attacks usually happen when I question myself, and the only time I ever question myself is when someone else questions me. You’ve been to how many Van Morrison shows? You’ve got how many of his CDs? You flew where to see him play?

I think I’ve learned how to minimize that 5 percent number. Simply by getting through an entire conversation without ever bringing up the name Van Morrison. Because if I don’t say anything, the chances of Van’s name ever coming up are, at best, remote. Instead I can talk about the weather, books, how our gardens are growing, food, the way of the world, all things I enjoy talking about, but better than that, no one is going to say: “You have how many lilies in your garden? You got that ginger from where? If I don’t talk about Van no one would all of a sudden jump up and feel my forehead to see if I’m feeling all right.

I find this less talk to be much better. I haven’t had a panic attack for months. So, if I don’t stop to ask myself if this is the behavior of a normal person, it just never comes up – like the dust balls behind the couch.

Friends, though, don’t mind if you go on about your obsession. They have their own obsessions too, and theirs could be collecting frogs’ toenails; and you better believe it,  they know exactly what it feels like when others question an obsession. You take the toenails out HOW? It’s just better not to go there. We always forgive our friends their idiosyncrasies. They might think mine is weirder than theirs, but they’re not sure, so it’s just better to keep quiet on any opinions one way or the other.

Then there are the fans. Whenever two or more are gathered together, by definition, worrying about obsessions is the furthest thing from their minds. They might worry when they go home and are alone with their demons, but when they’re sitting at the pub and having a preshow beer or two, let the floodgates open. If more than two sentences without the word Van are strung together in a row, an almost pall falls over the group and people start putting their hands on the afflicted’s forehead, wondering if they’re coming down with something. It’s like a support group meeting – it’s lovely that you have an opinion about the state of the economy and who won the football game, but we’re not here to discuss the minutiae of life, we need to stay on topic if we’re ever going to get through everything before we put down our last beer in adjournment of the meeting and head over to the show. These are the people who have the music in their soul, who if they don’t live, eat, and breathe the music, you could never tell by looking at them. It’s hard to distinguish between us when we’re together but when we’re out in the real world, we are easily identified – we’re the ones who sprinkle bon mots like dump the jute or it’s too good to stop now in our conversations as though this is how people talk.

It’s to these fans that this book is dedicated. To those people who at one time heard the music of Van Morrison and it touched them deeply and permanently. That’s the secret handshake. Lean back and close your eyes and his voice will take you places you haven’t been to before – he’s the only one who can do it. And all we want is to listen one more time again. Perfection doesn’t even scratch the surface.

In a scene early in the movie Ma Vie en Rose, a very young looking grandmother, lamenting to her grandson that there are some things she’s grown too old to do anymore, tells him that when that happens, she simply closes her eyes to the world and creates a movie in her mind that she not only produces and directs, but takes the starring role – of a world where everything is possible. It’s her movie, she can make it be whatever she wants it to be.

I grew up closing my eyes and dreaming of a life where anything was possible. And then one day, when I opened my eyes, I decided to make those dreams real.

You could say this is the movie of my life, with the music of Van Morrison playing in the background. Of course my shrink, if I had one, would say it’s simply a midlife crisis. But midlife crisis or dream come true, it’s turned into one heck of a road movie.

Chapter 1 – On the road again

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