Saturday, April 5, 2014

No. 61 – Vicarious

Performer: Tool
Songwriters: Maynard James Keenan, Adam Jones, Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor
Original Release: 10,000 Days
Year: 2006
Definitive Version: None.

I remember where I was when I heard this song the first time: On the on-ramp at Euclid Avenue in Cleveland entering I-90 west while heading home to Chicago. It was April 2006. I had just started work at my new job, and I figured I had to get to Cleveland once more for library work, while I still had a bit of free time to do it.

I was listening to WXTM, or whatever that station called itself then, and an announcer said the brand-new Tool song, part of the upcoming new album, was coming up. I was as excited as I’ve been to hear a new song on the radio since the first time I heard Judith by A Perfect Circle on the radio in 2000. Vicarious was fantastic—I loved it on first listen—as if I needed more reason to look forward to the release of Tool’s new album. Two weeks. Can’t wait now.

That wasn’t the last time I visited Cleveland; it was the second-to-last. But that visit really marked the transition. Over the previous five years, I’d been to Cleveland numerous times, and, of course, I lived there for a year in 2003-2004. The 2006 visit was the first time I’d been back since I moved to Chicago, and, until further notice, it’s the last time I drove there from Chicago.

That’s an abominable drive, ranking with the Indianapolis-St. Louis trek as the longest, dullest drive I’ve undertaken. Chicago to Cleveland is almost all toll road, which means few exits and fewer cities along the way. You have one interchange at Toledo, although it’s so far out in the suburbs, you don’t see the city at all. You’re too far from Lake Michigan or Lake Erie. If it wasn’t for South Bend, you’d have nothing to break up the drive except toll plazas. Yuck!

It also, until further notice, was the last time I’ve seen Jim, Debbie’s former friend, with whom I became close friends after I moved to Cleveland in 2003. I stayed with Jim and his wife, Denise, a few times in their home in Shaker Heights—including when I both went and came from Cooperstown in February 2005. When I said I wanted to come back to Cleveland one more time in 2006, they more than graciously welcomed me back into the guest room of their home.

That was an interesting visit, because that was the weekend that Jim and Denise’s first child came to be with them. It’s a long story, and it’s their story, not mine. All you need to know is that after many failed attempts, both in vitro and adoption, both came through almost at the same time.

I knew Denise was pregnant before I arrived. What I didn’t know—and they didn’t either till I the night before I was to arrive—was that the adoption process they began a year before not only ended up in their favor, but that the baby would arrive that weekend. I told Jim that I understood if their invitation was rescinded. He said it wasn’t as long as I had no problem with understanding that I wouldn’t be the focus of the weekend—and didn’t mind a crying baby. No problem.

I was at the library all day Saturday and got back to their place almost at about the time their new girl arrived. Annabel was a few weeks old and cried a lot due to health issues from her birth mother. A social worker stayed for a brief period to make sure everyone acclimated to their new surroundings (and I’m sure having a creepy guest from Chicago was no help), but Jim and Denise were in for the long haul. It wasn’t like they were going to change their minds and give her back.

Instead, they spent the rest of the day walking Annabel around, holding her, soothing her, trading her off so the other could eat delivery pizza. I took care of the dogs, which were kept outside for the most part. It was a bit disconcerting to see Denise as a new mother, while still pregnant with another child.

That night, Annabel stayed in their room, and I didn’t hear a peep. I stayed for breakfast and then made one more pilgrimage to the library before heading back on the road. I decided when I left the library to drive past the Milton Manor on Euclid, just to see where I almost lived years ago. As I got on the on-ramp, the new Tool song came on.

Jim told me later that eventually Annabel’s health problems went away, and so did the crying. She’s a big girl now, and I love getting their Christmas card every year. It’s a picture of her and her four-months younger brother and THEIR younger brother. It’s hard to believe, but I was there at the beginning of all that.

So, yeah, that Cleveland trip was big on transitions and not just my own. But that’s life, isn’t it—moving from one change to the next. What’s important is what you learn along the way and how you apply it.

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