Some Thoughts On Kanye.

So I guess as a disclaimer I should say right off the bat that I haven’t listened to a Kanye West album since 808s and Heartbreak.  But since his beginning, Kanye West has fascinated me.  I believe he is a genuine artist: extremely talented, astute, and gifted. But I also believe he’s a person who is trying to be as self-aware as they can be in an environment that is never stable.  He’s not a port in a storm; to me, he comes across as the piece of flora caught in the storm a piece of nature powerless against the incredibly strong wind that is determined to blow however the hell it wants.

Kanye West is probably the most apt representation right now of what it’s really like to be famous: constantly bewildered; knowing you have a platform and knowing you want to say something but not knowing how to present it in a way that will be relatable; trying to manage the deluge of coming from nothing, where very few people on Earth care who you are to being something that has become a commodity.

It would be an adjustment (to say the least) for anyone.

I think he’s still trying to be real.  I think he’s still trying to be himself, whatever that is. Others who are famous and successful and beloved (and not viewed – at least right now – as mentally unstable) have become that way because they either 1) focused attention on issues other than/larger than themselves; [e.g. Bono]  or 2) they’ve surrendered who they really are, either putting on a show or becoming the one who orchestrates it [e.g. Beyonce].

All of this makes me sound like a major Kanye West apologist, and I’m really not.  I think I’m most interested in the idea of fame as a construct. The larger issue, one we can really all relate to, is what our authentic lives look like.  Who are you? Underneath the labels of what you do for a living or how many kids you have, who are you? How would that change if you were famous? And if you are somebody with a platform of some kind – and you might be – what do you have to say? What is your reality?

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Elevation // Destruction

(This is a 100% true story.)

“You can go if you want,” my husband said.  “But I’m not going.”

He was scared, I think.  Scared of Bono.

We had just been invited to a U2 concert this summer by friends of ours coming into town, and although he had no trouble with our friends staying with us, he had a hard time believing he’d make it to the concert.  It wasn’t the songs; he likes a few of them.  It wasn’t the venue; the Pittsburgh Steelers make Heinz Stadium a permanent Mecca for folks living in our city.

It was the curse.  “I believe in it,” he said.  “I’m not going.”

__

The Bono curse originated, as most things do, in New York City, where my parents grew up.  In my late teens we were constantly over the GW Bridge from our Bergen County, NJ home  to mostly attend funerals, as my parents were reaching the age where the youngest of their groups of friends began to pass from illnesses or tragic accidents.  On one such weekend one of my brothers and I were hanging out outside the Piper’s Kilt bar in the Inwood section of Manhattan, waiting to go inside.

Scott, a roommate of our cousin’s who lived a few streets over, happened to walk by, wearing the expression of a man who has truly become the poorest of bastards.  We figured it was girl trouble, and we were right, but we were pretty shocked when we found out the exact source.

“Wait – Bono, Bono? Like U2 Bono?” my brother asked when Scott told us the news.

“Yeah.  Fucking Bono.”

__

The story went like this: Scott, knowing his longtime girlfriend Beth had been a fan of U2 since she was about three weeks old, bought her tickets to the Elevation Tour for her birthday.  The good seats, too, he emphasized, ones closest to the points of the heart-shaped stage that joined together.

“A lot of people don’t know this about Bono,” Scott continued, but like…” He searched the air above us for the right words, circling his index fingers up and down.   “Whenever he enters a room, or, in this case, a stadium, he just…like…sucks the testosterone out of every male in attendance.  It just…like…” he widened the air circles with his hands to illustrate the gathering of it – “attaches itself to him, and he automatically becomes the largest thing in that room.”

He paused, taking a sip of the Coke he carried with him.  “That’s exactly what it’s like.”

Beth, like everyone else in Madison Square Garden, flipped out – screaming, jumping up and down.  Scott laughed, loving it, feeling kind of proud for making her so happy…even if he suddenly did feel a little less full in the testicles.

“So the show’s going on all right, right?” Scott asked.  “But then.  Then.”

As I’ve heard is pretty common on the Elevation Tour, Bono calls up a girl to sing to during “With Or Without You;” and, sure enough, he chooses Beth.

“At first, I didn’t have a problem,” said Scott, his voice sagging.  “I thought it was great.  But he’s dancing with her, right, and she’s standing there, grinning like a moron, her hands on her cheeks – and he puts his arm around her.  She fucking goes nuts.  But that’s not enough for Bono, no.  Not enough for him.  He fucking lays her down on the stage, and just before he lets her go, kisses her on the fucking mouth!”

Scott threw his Coke can against the brick wall of the bar, then stared down at the sidewalk, the tops of his ears shining bright red.

“I’m only just one man.  You know? Just one man, with two balls, and he’s got a stadium full of them.”

After the concert, Beth couldn’t let go.  It was Bono this and Bono that, every two minutes, Scott said, day and night.  The final straw came when she stood over Scott’s shoulder when he was doing their dishes and told him that wasn’t how Bono would wash them.

He kicked her out an hour later.

“You think it’s funny,” he said, his face long and sullen, his voice mournful.  “But it’s not.  You watch.  Bono breaks people up.”  And in a voice that would make the ancient Tiresias proud, warned us to never go to a U2 concert with our significant other – not if we wanted to stay with them.

“Unless you want to break up,” he said, after he stooped to pick up the Coke can from the ground, side-stepping us to keep going on his way.  “Then you can do what the fuck you want.  You don’t even have to spring for the front-row seats.  The upper deck will do you just fine.”

__

Scott wasn’t wrong.  Some time later my brother and I were watching some awards show or another, and Justin and Britney – THE Justin and Britney, a hot item at the time – were being interviewed.  We watched, half-horrified, half-horribly amused, as Bono walked in between them, looked up and down at Britney, and then walked away.  A week later, every tabloid in NYC was blowing up with the news of Justin and Britney’s split.

And it even happened locally: at least three couples who were friends of ours attended U2 concerts and promptly broke up afterward.  Although they all claimed different reasons: too much arguing, one said; not enough time together, said another; we knew the real reason why.

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Amazingly, there has only been one couple to break the curse, and those are the visiting friends who are excited to catch them in our neck of the woods.  I want to study them, to sit them down and ask them questions, as though they were a highly evolved species of the U2 fan.  Have they been inoculated? Do they favor one band member more than Bono? Could that be it?

Or maybe it’s already happened, and my friend is hiding her burning, passionate, lusty burn for Bono underneath her kind face and loving smile.  “Of course I love my husband,” she might tell me as we’re standing in line, ready to have our tickets scanned at the gate.  “But there are days…”

Her eyes would glisten with a dreamy sheen, and I would know instantly what she meant.

“Just don’t tell anybody,” I would tell her.  “Don’t tell anybody at all.”

Some news.

My mom was diagnosed today with Acinic Cell Carcinoma, a cancer of the salivary glands. She’s without health insurance and the money for her biopsies were donated by their church and by friends, so it’s a worrisome time for more than a few reasons. We’re praying that her Federal Disability application goes through so she can get treated, and mostly we’re praying that she doesn’t give up hope and keeps trusting in God through this time.

After I got off of the phone with her all I could think about was a song by a Christian band called the O.C. Supertones, and their song called “Jury Duty”:

Though I haven’t had the best of days
Still I want to stop and thank You anyway
Every single moment, whether sleeping or awake
is Your creation, and what You’ve made is good

I don’t always thank You for the rough days
and the hard times in my life,
even though I should

Everything is God’s, the good days and the ones that aren’t worth saving. Thanks so much for your continued prayers for her and my family. 🙂