Friday, April 13, 2012

No. 783 – My Favorite Headache

Performer: Geddy Lee
Songwriters: Geddy Lee, Ben Mink
Original Release: My Favorite Headache
Year: 2000
Definitive Version: None

How do you like My Favorite Headache as the “lost” Rush album? That’s the way I look at it. Granted, Alex also released something of a solo album during the band’s hiatus, but Geddy is the voice of Rush, so his carries more weight.

At the time, I think I was only vaguely aware of what was going on with the band. Away from the lighted stage, they keep pretty much to themselves, and that’s cool. It was only in retrospect that I learned the details—kind of like this album. I only began to appreciate it after the fact.

The reason I didn’t attach anything to the album upon its release was that I was going through my own personal trauma. In the fall of 2000, Debbie gave me an ultimatum. It wasn’t framed as an ultimatum at the time, but that’s what it was.

We went to a dinner at one of our favorite Italian restaurants, which was having a wine-tasting dinner. Debbie was in a weird mood that night, but I didn’t get a hint of what was coming until after she had pounded a few glasses of wine (totally out of character). This is how it all started: She said something like, “I don’t see why you’re still with me, when you’ve been eyeballing that waitress all night.”

Wait, what? I was slammed by the shockwave from that little nuclear blast. And, as a result, my response predictably wasn’t the most level-headed thing to say at such a delicate moment. First I said I hadn’t been eyeballing that waitress, which I hadn’t, but added if I were eyeballing anyone, it would probably be THAT waitress instead.

Clearly my attempt at humor was a mistake. Debbie already had been thinking about saying what she wanted to say, so she was looking for an opening, and I gave it to her. I don’t remember everything that was said, but I remember that at one time I thought we were done and that we should get up and leave right then.

Debbie’s main complaint: My job. She was tired of being a work widow. She would come home at night every day of the week to an empty house, and by the time I came home, she would be in bed asleep—by herself. Really, the only time we saw much of each other—not counting the brief time in the morning when I was still in bed before she left—was on the weekends or vacation.

It’s not as if this were a new development. The night shift was the nature of the newspaper beast at The Dispatch unless you worked in Features or were a Big Cheese. But Debbie had reached a point in her life when she didn’t want that any more. In retrospect, I can’t say she was wrong. I’ve gone through long stretches of time when Laurie is in a show, where I don’t see her much, and it’s not a lot of fun.

At the time though, I felt I had three options: Move to a day shift at the Dispatch, find another job or quit, which would mean selling the house. The third option was out of the question, of course, and there were only so many day-shift jobs available at The Dispatch. And EVERYONE applied for those. So that left finding a new job.

It wasn’t much of an option. I didn’t want to go into corporate p.r., so in a one-newspaper city that had only a few magazines, the opportunities were minimal. I had gone through a few placement services in town after failing to get the restaurant-reviewing gig, but they wanted a significant payment—like $1,500—upfront with no guarantee that I would get anything out of it. Pass.

I suppose I could have tried harder and bent a little further in my professional pursuits, but I also resented the thought that this was all on me. I bent on buying a house and staying in Columbus. Being at The Dispatch was why we were able to buy the house in the first place. Being the primary breadwinner of the household also made me feel the obligation to stay there, even though I should have left years before this time: I felt like I had to dig in, for Debbie’s sake.

And now I have to bend on my career choice, too? Debbie did clerical work. Those are generally day jobs, which doesn’t solve the problem, but it seemed she had a lot more professional flexibility than I did. However, because she had been unemployed the year before, she was afraid that at her age full-time jobs were increasingly few and far between. She was dug in, too.

If no one was willing to bend, something eventually was bound to break. Though never publicly acknowledged, the relationship deathwatch had begun.

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