a thank you for everything

(Sent as a public thank you to some U2 lists on 12/14/01; at some point I’ll revise it into a longer story, and also write part one of the tour story, and then have something complete up here. But this will do for now.)

A letter from 3am…

With planning time and other logistics, the tour was a year of my life:

50,000 miles traveled
7,000 photos taken
111 days away from home
50 U2 concerts
50 nights I will never forget
an uncountable number of great new friends

Did I get ambitious out of boredom, or depression, or simply to see if I could do it? Was it just because it was there?

Why do people climb mountains?

I didn’t think about any of that before I left. I thought about the magic that breathes between the notes of their music; I thought about the drug of twenty thousand people in one place in tune to one dream. It seemed easy: they bring the magic and the crowd; I simply bring myself and a camera. Perhaps I could capture fleeting instances of it to keep, to share. I’m not all that good at anything else; perhaps I can be good at this.

in dreams begin responsibilities

If the show I saw in December in Miami was the same show I’d seen in March up the road in Fort Lauderdale, perhaps I’d not feel compelled to say anything else other than: here are the pictures, enjoy. But in four balls of fire and three clouds of dust, the perception of the world by the world’s people changed. The rock show changed for me, became a ritual. The pattern brought comfort; the pattern made sense when little else did.

The singer’s father died, and some of the singer’s songs found new life. This felt familiar: my father died suddenly three years ago, and I still pretend it was yesterday, and if I don’t let go, maybe I can change things back.

i want to turn a song
into a prayer
i want to turn a song
into you had to be there

Fifty nights I heard songs become prayer. The ritual changed for me, became a church; not somewhere I’m used to going. With repetition I eventually let go and let that church carry me. As the songs found new life, I found new life. I found I don’t have to let go of yesterday, and yet I can understand — maybe even accept — that I can’t change it back. It took me a year to get it through my thick skull, but I think I finally understand the image of a heart in a suitcase.

show your soul
show your heart and your soul

There were others on the physical trip as well; sometimes with me, mostly just on a parallel journey. Perhaps I was the only one so screwed up and to everyone else it was about music and fun, and not some desperate need for catharsis. I don’t know. Whatever we were thinking, after the final show, a large group of us — fans? travelers? pilgrims? — were by four in the morning sitting down by the water at South Beach, trying to process where we’d been, what we’d done, and that it was over.

Warm breezes said it’s not December; winter is not coming. Pure bright moonlight whispered, you are not on earth; this is the light of another sun. Warmth in the sand spoke through my skin: this is what should always be but never is. The rock show became a ritual; the ritual became a church; the church became a shared dream. The dream is of the mind, of the spirit; a laser off a CD, a signal caught by a radio, simply a remembered lyric — it can all take me back to that moonlit beach, back to the dream. It can take us all back, I hope. Maybe if enough of us live there, it will become real.

I’ve never had much use for organized religions but I read once that under the word religion is the Latin religio, meaning to rebind. I’m sure to some I sound like a nutcase, trying to justify running off to an excessive number of shows when perhaps there’s really no excuse. But lives are changed all the time by far smaller moments than the whirlwind of energy at a show like this. The split second it took the car to shatter my leg. The ring of the telephone telling me my father’s heart decided it had enough of all that beating. The first moment you lock eyes with someone you will love forever.

i’m wide awake
i’m not sleeping

So I thought I’d just ramble a bit in the middle of the night and say thank you. Yes, to the band, to the crew, to everyone on the road. But mostly, to all of you. To all of us. We took that dream to the rock show; it was ours to begin with. While we can never go back, it will never go away. I needed to be shown that. I step back into the dream now, and remember that my father took me and my broken leg to the Detroit Popmart, and saw a moment of the dream with me. Perhaps he’s got his own beach somewhere now. I have no memory of it but I imagine the breeze, the moonlight, the warm sand feels like the first kiss from your parents after you’re born. Rebind, re-connect. Be alive. This is what should always be…


This was published on 23 Dec 2001.
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