Tuesday, February 26, 2008

We'll always have lll Sides...

I think everyone has that band or artist that your friends don't get and that you love with all of your guts anyway. As I type this, I'm playing my GPB (guilty pleasure band) on repeat, because after many dry years THEY ARE PUTTING OUT A NEW CD!!! To be supported by a TOUR!!!! I am SOOOOOOOOOO unapologetically there, screaming at the top of my lungs, as I did in Philly back in '95: "NUNO!!! Father my children!!!"

My musician friends have a lot of fun with my Extreme fixation, and even though it is a lot about Nuno- the best guitarist EVER...(You wanna go outside? I'll go down swingin')- it's mostly about the epic music of lll Sides to Every Story that takes me back and wrings my heart out every time. Gary Cherone is a rare vocalist/lyricist, and if anyone has seen them live- well, Nuno is only half the show. Gary is an amazing frontman.

So what happened? This music that took chances artistically, (do yourself a favor and pick up lll Sides- it's incredible) and made some poignant statements about life and even Christianity, that could still rock at the same time (Suzy Wants her All Day Sucker, anybody?), somehow evaporated. In a way it makes them more dear to me, a part of my past that's sacred; I don't turn on the radio and hear them crassly exposed to the undiscerning masses all the time, so I can keep them where they belong. In a red Mustang on a dirt road with a girl I'll never be again.....

When I met T.J. we were 16. He was the baddest ass I could find in my small town, and he was dark, in a Navajo kind of way, with long hair in a ponytail under a do-rag. He drove that '76 in the most irresponsible way possible, and he always had Metallica or Steve Earle throbbing out of the windows. When we met, he opened a whole new world of music to me- a world of Queensryche, Dream Theater, Blue Rodeo- and Extreme.

We didn't talk a lot in those days, he wasn't a talker, but we did a lot of driving around the dusty county roads, trying to find something to occupy our time out in the sticks where we grew up. I wanted to be anywhere but my house then, so his house was just as good. He had an ancient black electric guitar that he was always half learning to play, and we'd sit in his room and listen to our music while his brothers fought and his sisters tried to get me to loan them my clothes.

By the next year, I had broken it off; I needed 'space', and I was dating a completely dead-end guy 5 years my senior. We were on our way to a Valentines' Day party, and we stopped at the mall to pick up a toy for the gift exchange they were having (I know- how weird). While we were there, the radio station that was playing over the intercom suddenly caught my ear, the DJ was saying, "Here's the new song from Extreme's upcoming record", and Stop the World came on. I was frozen, yet excited- I grabbed S.'s arm and said, "Do you hear that?" He looked at me puzzled, and at that moment I knew I was going back to T.J.

I fought it for a few more months, but on a warm day in April I was folding laundry in my room, when I turned on my radio, and instantly More than Words came on. I put down my laundry and picked up the phone.

We got back together, which we probably shouldn't have done, but we agreed that when I left for college we'd break it off again. That didn't happen. We danced to More than Words at the prom, and before long he was driving the hour and a half to Allentown to see me every week, with Seven Sundays on the stereo.

My sophomore year was rough- I met Sean, my future husband, and was just blown away by how I connected with my new 'best friend'. T.J. was difficult- he was moody, and we hit all of each other's buttons. We brought out the worst in each other. But on Valentines' Day (again!) he showed up with a black heart-shaped music box (the way to my heart) and 2 tickets to see Extreme at the Troc in Philly.

We had a great time- it was always the one thing we agreed on, the only thing that we really had in common, music. Music is such a huge part of me; I just thought it was enough. That night was freezing, but when Nuno came out on stage with blond hair, T.J. grabbed my hand and said "Baby! THAT'S Nuno!!! He pointed, and my jaw dropped. We sang and screamed all night.

The closeness we felt that night sustained us for several months. Then my favorite uncle was diagnosed with AIDS. At about the same time, Sean stopped talking to me- his on-again/ off-again girlfriend was apparently ON, and jealous, and he couldn't hang out with me anymore. T.J. wasn't good with empathy. I suddenly felt incredibly alone.

T.J. had been pushing for marriage for years now. He said he'd officially propose when I said it was OK. But I kept putting him off; we fought so much, and I knew that relationships were work, but how much is too much? He wasn't talking, but in usual fashion he gave me a mix tape (yes, we still did that back then:) and at the end of it was little-known Extreme ballad "Don't Leave Me Alone". It's gut wrenching, and somehow, every time I thought about doing it, I'd listen to that song- and I couldn't.
Then that summer my mother was in a near fatal car accident. I needed some stability. I told him that Christmas would be OK.

Over the summer, I took comfort in Waiting for the Punchline, as usual, T.J. showed his love by giving me music, and he gave me Punchlilne after the Extreme concert. I took Unconditionally to be my mantra, and when Christmas came, I walked out the door on Christmas Eve with T.J. and walked back in that night with a diamond.

In a funny way, Extreme stopped making music about the same time we stopped trying to make something work that was never meant to. 6 months later I broke it off, this time for good, and we went our separate ways. Sean and I stopped trying to fight the inevitable, and I found out that relationships are work, but it's work worth doing, if it's in the right direction, and it's easy lifting when you're both pulling the same way. He's my soulmate. He embraced Extreme, and learned to appreciate them and respect my feelings for them.

T.J. was angry for a long time, but as the years passed, we sorted through, a piece at a time, a Christmas visit here, an Easter break there, all the things that went wrong. And, over the years, he became the man I always believed he could be, but that he would have never become, if I'd stayed with him. We became less and less entangled in each other's lives. Our common past was 3,000 miles between- and a decade behind- us. As it needed to be.

But it's funny the things that don't go away. 3 years ago, I went to NAMM with my guitarist at the time, and we walked into Nuno. I became a huge GIRL, and my guitarist actually was friends from years ago with Nuno's manager, so they stood there and chatted, while Nuno and I stood there looking at each other, so finally I said "Sorry- he knows everybody." To my surprise, Nuno said, "I know, him too!" We started chatting, and it was one of the highlights of my life. On my way home I called Sean. He said, "You are coming home- right?" (He's so cool, has such a great sense of humor about the whole thing!)
I called my friends. They were all like "Who? Oh, that's great."

I was disappointed- when you're that excited, you want someone to be excited with you- to be as excited as you are. I hesitated for a few minutes, but then I picked up my phone:

"T.J.?....Guess who I just met?"
He knew right away only one person would bring on a phone call out of the blue, with an opening question like that, and I screamed "YES!!!"
He screamed back "NO WAY!!!"
We laughed and flipped out on the phone together, until we were laughing so hard we were crying.

Stop the World.

Sometimes you can.

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