Thursday, May 22, 2014

No. 14 – Love Reign o’er Me

Performer: The Who
Songwriter: Pete Townshend
Original Release: Quadrophenia
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: Live Aid, 1985. This version not only is shorter than the original, it’s far less orchestral, so it might stand out as something of a paradox for me given how much I like my music tarted up. But because Love Reign O’er Me also was the ONLY Who song that Beth didn’t mind, I could get away with playing my Live Aid tape that had this song on it … as long as I skipped the Zeppelin stuff, of course. Along the way, something about this version’s starkness stuck with me.

One thing that starts to happen after college, aside from the inevitable loan bills that start to roll in, is that your friends start to get married. Lance was my first friend to get married, less than a month after graduation from Wabash, as I mentioned (good ol’ No. 33).

But 1987 was the big year for friend weddings. That year my best friend from high school, Mike, and from college, Matt, got married. Both came within six months after I’d broken up with Beth. Needless to say—but I’ll say it anyway—I wasn’t in much of a mood to celebrate the joining of two people into the bonds of holy matrimony, even if it involved my closest friends. I wasn’t not going to go, but neither was much fun.

Matt’s wedding to his girlfriend, Mindy, was in August, back in his home in Delaware, Ohio. I had to be there. I took time off from my internship at the YMCA national headquarters to attend. Matt invited me to join in on the bachelor festivities, which consisted mostly of hitting a comedy club in Columbus. It was fun, and I was glad to be included.

I wasn’t included in the ceremony, however, except being in attendance, although I hung out with Matt and the groomsmen beforehand. Matt and his groomsmen walked up together from the apartment where they dressed to the church at the appointed time, and Matt wore the Mao cap that had been a regular accessory at Wabash. He realized just before the ceremony that he still had it on, so he gave it to me to hold for him.

I don’t remember much about the ceremony itself and the reception, aside from the fact that both were short. The after party I remember very well. I went with the groomsmen back to the earlier apartment, along with another friend of Matt’s from Wabash, whom I knew a bit when we were there. (Vince was a couple years ahead of us.)

But three women were there, who, as I recall, were exchange students from Austria. They could speak barely any English; I spoke no German. I can’t remember why they were there, but it was difficult trying to communicate with them—particularly when we played the telephone game.

The evening ended with me back in my room, with Vince. Vince was the son of well-connected, very wealthy parents, and he was one of those guys who was something of a genius but also something of a drifter. I don’t know what his plan was when he arrived in Delaware, but I had a double room, which meant an extra bed, so I told him he could crash with me. He was thankful, but after we parted the next day, I never saw him again.

In all of the chaos of the wedding, Matt forgot to ask for his cap back, so I took it with me back to Chicago. (Matt was surprised to learn I had his cap. He forgot he’d given it to me and thought he’d lost it in all of his travels the next year until he and his wife landed in Richmond, Ind. I don’t know whether he still has the cap, but I know he no longer has the same wife.)

One month after Matt got married, I was back on the road, heading home again, for Mike’s wedding. Mike and Susie were the only couple who survived the breakup pandemic that infected Polo’s Place on St. Patrick’s Day earlier that year.

It was crazy. I mentioned that a group of six couples met up that night, the night before Beth and I broke up (good ol’ No. 103). Well, by Mike’s wedding six months later, every other couple—all of whom had been dating for more than a year—had split. Only Mike and Susie survived … at least for a while. (They split a few years ago.)

That was a much more difficult wedding to attend. Like Matt’s wedding, I wasn’t either Best Man or a groomsman. Unlike Matt’s wedding, I wasn’t even included in any of the bachelor festivities. I can’t express the level of disappointment I felt to be excluded. It was like, when I went to Northwestern and spent the summer in Chicago, I no longer was part of the crew. I wasn’t included, because it was assumed that I wouldn’t be able to participate. I at least would have liked to be asked first.

I WAS asked to be at the wedding. After I said I’d definitely be there, Mike at least had me participate by presenting the gifts with two other people, but I felt withdrawn the whole day. Consequently, no real memories attached themselves to me of Mike’s wedding, except a sensation of feeling as though I no longer belonged … and loneliness. I was embarking on an uncertain future by myself.

I felt better as soon as I got back to Chicago, which felt more like my home with each passing day. I put on Matt’s as-yet-unreturned Mao cap and dove headlong into my magazine publishing class. I began to look forward to a party Jessica, whom I met at the YMCA national headquarters, was throwing the next month at her place. I had a lot to look forward to, even if it was in a direction that seemed separate from that of my friends.

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