For My Sophomores, About Identity

Bathing in U2Is it cheating to re-post on my own site content I’ve written for another site? Maybe this little disclaimer absolves me of any authorial disintegrity, as Virginia Woolf puts it. Then again, maybe my awareness of audience is the very thing that creates such disintegrity. How easy it is to tie oneself into knots!

This is from the blog I used to write for Patch before it was overwhelmed by the ignorant trolls whose insipid commentary drove away readers with any sensibility.

For weeks before Wednesday’s U2 concert, I walked around town with a Scarlet L painted on my forehead. There I was, getting ready to see a concert for the first time since 1997, to see the band that awakened me to the possibility of rock ‘n roll music when radio had me stuck in a rut of listening to Yes and Genesis and Tull back in the nineteen seventyteens, and I was consumed with parking. Parking.

There was a time eons ago when one of my friends would say, “Where do you want to go tonight?” and someone would answer, “Let’s not go out around here.  Let’s go to Philly.” And we’d drive two hours to Philadelphia – and this before cell phones allowed you to figure out how to meet up with your friends from foreign cities.

But I was stressed about Parking.  For a U2 concert.  Where, oh where, did someone put my Youth?

So on Monday, when I looked in the mirror and saw that scarlet L practically branded into my head, I started searching frantically for my youth, for that part of me that knew exactly what Tom Cruise meant when he said, in the sanitized version of Risky Business, “Sometimes you just have to say, What the heck.”

And I couldn’t believe how beautifully things fell into place. I packed a cooler, picked up my White Plains dad pals, and we made it to the Meadowlands without so much as a hiccup in traffic.  Once there, I was a few text messages away from meeting my high school buddies Phil Mogavero, Tim O’Toole and Marty Sullivan.  And then it was like the eighties all over again (except for the fact that I felt a lot better on Thursday morning than I would have felt 25 years ago).

The show was, in almost rock n roll speak, effing awesome.  And there was a lot of pressure on the band. I mean, I’d missed their last three tours doing daddy duty.  On top of that, they are the only thing to ever keep me from watching an NCAA basketball championship game (though my seats at Madison Square Garden were so bad in 1985 that I could see that Villanova was beating Georgetown by sneaking a peek into a skybox where the game was on TV).

Surely, Bono, Edge, Adam and Larry knew this, and that’s probably why they began the show with four songs from Achtung, Baby!, taking me back to 1992 at Yankee Stadium when Muggs (that’s Phil), Marty and Phil’s brother-in-law Joe (also present on Wednesday) stood in the sixth row on the field with ten feet of open walkway between us and the fifth row.

But there was one more stressor I had to overcome before I could be 1992 Mike instead of 2011 Mr. McAteer. I had to get over the feeling of being watched.  Originally, my four tickets were for my wife and me, and then an undetermined other couple. And all I could think about was that she’d want to invite someone who would make me self-conscious, who would be more entertained by watching me watch a concert for the sake of mocking me later. Once my wife bailed, youth revealed himself.

On Wednesday, I was free, free to sing my throat hoarse; free to howl my barbaric yawp when Commander Mark Kelly introduced and then spoke the lyrics to “Beautiful Day” from the Space Station (yes, I know this was recorded) directly to the audience and, added a David Bowie-esque message to his wife, Gabrielle Giffords; free to dance to “I know I’ll Go Crazy…” as if no one was watching (picture that, past and future students — I dare you).

For a day, I was a kid again, unencumbered by responsibilities, bathing myself in the 300+ U2 songs on my iPod and the U2 mix CDs given me by such wonderful locals like the Hunsinger family and Matt LoRusso, all of whom, I’m sure, were also at the show. Since 1987, Bono has been telling us that he still hasn’t found what he was looking for, but for one day, I found it, my youth, and I intend to keep it in a place where I can easily find it when I need it.

If you were at the U2 concert Wednesday, or if you’ve seen them at another time, another place, write your favorite U2 moment in the Comments below.

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