Saturday, May 10, 2014

No. 26 – Ordinary World

Performer: Duran Duran
Songwriters: Nick Rhodes, Simon Le Bon, John Taylor, Warren Cuccurullo
Original Release: Single
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: None.

Security! What is Duran Duran doing anywhere near my top 30, let alone in it? Hey, I’m as surprised as you are. OK, not really, because this is my list, and I’m the one who put this song where it is, but work with me here.

Actually, the surprise happened when I first heard Ordinary World sometime in 1993. Aside from it being almost antithetical to the sound of my newfound musical love, grunge rock, it was inconceivable that Duran Duran could come up with this soaring hymn. I was hooked almost right away, particularly by the transition from acoustic to electric guitar and the choral vocals at the end.

Ordinary World hit me at precisely the right time in my life. It’s likely that had I discovered it later on, it wouldn’t have had the same effect. I needed to hear this song in 1993.

That year wasn’t one of my more fun years. Everything seemed to be falling apart. The big thing was Jenna, which went down the drain the previous fall. The first few months afterward when I had to see her with her new guy—the guy I wanted to be—before she left the White Horse for parts unknown, were anguishing.

My particular difficulty was I knew—I KNEW—I never would date anyone better looking than Jenna. I had a legitimate 10 in my grasp, and I let her slip through my fingers. Aside from the obvious superficiality of that thought process, think how self-defeating it is: I was limiting what was possible.

I didn’t think, OK, I got Jenna, albeit temporarily, so I shouldn’t be intimidated by an attractive woman. No, instead I said, OK, that’s as good as it gets. You start holding yourself back, the next thing you know you’re just on a long, slow ride to the grave. But I boarded that train in 1993, and I let it wreck everything—work, softball, friendships. My outlook was poison, and it affected everything.

However, sometime that summer I had what at the time was a startling revelation: My sorrow at losing Jenna wasn’t really because of that. It was because I had lost Melanie.

Umm, dude … that was five years ago. It also was on the money. Other women had come along in the meantime—Jenna being the most magnificent—but I realized that I never really got over the idea that I’d lost the love of my life. I remember being in my apartment in Grand Blanc when I realized this and when I came to grips with it: Melanie’s gone, and she’s not coming back, no matter how much I might wish it to happen.

So, the way I saw it, I had two choices here—either kill myself or find a way to carry on. As soon as I thought that, I realized I was being ridiculous, in both my denial and in my desire to lock myself in “the vacuum of my heart.”

And this song rang through to me loud and clear. Ordinary World provided both the message I needed to hear when I needed to hear it and the solace that I could pull myself out of this tailspin I was in.

I started slowly, first with my baseball card collection. I decided it was time to get my cards out of the shoeboxes that had held them for decades and get them into notebooks. Then came softball, via The Journal men’s team.

At the start of the year, I began to work on work-related things—mostly to find a way out of Flint. I contemplated a return to school; I began to check jobs listings; I called in a marker.

I also began to write. At the start of 1994, I started a journal, collecting thoughts, some inconsequential, some insightful. Then it was time to repair strained friendships.

It took time, but things came together. Within a year of my revelation, I felt reinvigorated. I was out of Flint, which served its purpose as a place to hide and mourn but had outlived its usefulness. I was home, surrounded by friends I’d wanted to return to for 12 years, and I was dating Debbie. I was living again.

I had learned to survive.

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