He was the angry and alienated younger brother of my best friend while I was growing up.
My mother sent me newspaper clippings about him when he was a member of a grunge rock band of local renown. She didn’t need to send me anything when he became nationally and then internationally known: Spin magazine put him on its cover and called him “God.” Rolling Stone magazine named him one of the best rock guitarists of all time. The band was even more popular in Europe and Asia.
The band split up just after they hit the big time during the 1980s, and the band members went their separate ways, complaining about each other in the press and through their music. The breakup increased their popularity – you couldn’t buy new music anymore and there is nothing like scarcity to increase value. Although he himself never did drugs or alcohol, other band members lost themselves for years to addiction issues.
Twenty-five years after the breakup, the band re-unites. It is a business decision at this point. No matter how successful the band members were as individual artists, the fans want to see them back together again. Gray-haired and paunchy, the band performs for young people who were not even born the year the band put out its first album. In front of this crowd, the new songs are also the familiar songs: “I feel the pain of everything,” he sings. “And then I feel nothing.”
Backstage before the show, band members navigate around each other like siblings who have learned how to tolerate each other after years of accommodation. You get to know each other pretty well in the cramped confines of a tour bus. Middle-aged men nearing fifty, the talk is about age-related health issues and kids. The only substance being consumed is water.
Lose the restlessness of youth and the world becomes a smaller, more hospitable place. Time slows down. Practicality trumps most everything else. And numbing the pain is acceptance, not accommodation.
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