Performer: Peter Gabriel
Songwriter: Peter Gabriel
Original Release: Us
Definitive Version: Secret World Live, 1994
This song was the set opener when I saw Peter Gabriel twice in the summer of 1993, and the theatrical production was very memorable, with Gabriel starting the song in a red English phone booth and then struggling to pull the receiver with him as he walks down a bridge to another stage away from the phone booth. Finally he gives up and is pulled inexorably backwards to the phone booth where the song ends just as he hangs up.
If you’ve seen the video, it was taken on the European leg of the tour after Gabriel had brought Paula Cole on board to sing vocals. She was not part of either show I saw and the staging wasn’t as effective with her on the second stage singing to him as he came closer to her. It didn’t make sense.
Whatever, I still loved the live version, although my first encounter with it was not the best of times. I was unable to confirm this, but I am sure that the video to Secret World Live was aired on TV before it and the accompanying CD was released in record stores in 1994, and my recollection was that it was released my birthday weekend—or right about then. So I think of that time quite a bit.
I might have mentioned this, but I moved from Grand Blanc to Columbus on precisely my 30th birthday. I had left the Flint Journal the week before and had spent most of the past few days looking for an apartment. I found a good one, but I wouldn’t be able to move in until the 12th of the month. But I had to move out of my place in Grand Blanc right away.
So I went up one last time by myself with just Laura’s minivan and a cargo carrier on top and packed everything up in one day. I come from a line of great packers, and I made it all fit. I don’t know how, because there literally wasn’t an inch of space to spare anywhere. I have a picture of my arrival at Dad’s house with the rear lift gate up and the back resting very comfortably on top of the tires after the four-hour drive. You couldn’t fit a rolled-up poster anywhere in sight if your life depended on it. Jin, who was visiting from Los Angeles, has a great “yikes” expression on her face.
Because of that, we celebrated my birthday the next day. Scott came over from Muncie, where he was living after graduating the previous month from Ball State, and we celebrated with a yellow cake with chocolate frosting (yum!) and a present of a new papasan chair. (I had coveted Jin’s for years.)
Ted and Amy came over to visit, and we were laughing and having a great time watching a glorious hockey-fight video that Bill made me as a going-away present when the frivolity came to an abrupt end. The phone rang, and we learned that Meemaw had gone to the hospital, and this time she wasn’t expected to make it through the night. Thus endeth the birthday party.
She again defied the odds and made it to the next day, long enough to see all of her children once more. Grandkids were specifically disinvited to see her at the hospital, and that decision was fine with me, because I had already had a perfect parting with her, as I’ll relate at a later time. But on June 6th, two days after my birthday, the nearly decade-long death watch finally came to an end: Meemaw didn’t quite make it to her 80th birthday.
So I went from a welcome-home high to a funereal low—literally—in one week. Debbie later said she was so glad that Meemaw didn’t die on my actual birthday, but I didn’t see that it made much of a difference. I suppose, in retrospect, she probably was right.