Whenever we have the furious deep chill of winter, as we did this past year, I have a tendency to think of U2’s masterpiece album, All That You Can’t Leave Behind. That record was released at a transitioning period of my life and would come to play a very important role in my late 20s. The disc would become a sole point of inspiration and joy for me and be my companion on many long journeys made deep in the heart of winter. If not for All That You Can’t Leave Behind, I’m not sure if I would have survived those trips.
Most readers of this esteemed litany of musical information may not know this, but I was married once before. It’s shocking, I know. Yes, Ryo Vie found himself married at the ripe old age of 21 years old. Not the smartest move in the book, but young love can be idiotic love, and sometimes poor choices are made. Needless to say by the time I was 27, I was well on my way to a divorce, and was separated in all aspects of a relationship from my first wife. I found myself single and living alone in my own apartment for the first time in my entire life. Score!
And in so finding myself single for the first time in years, I did what every single man would do; I went in for a rebound relationship…with a coworker no less. I could spend endless posts on why you should never date a coworker, especially when you are in the same office, but those would be for a different type of blog, and not The Rock and Roll Guru. Thus, as U2 released one of the finest albums of their career, I started a journey into one of the most absurd relationships I have ever been in. And I did it all willingly, because it was new love! Or so I thought.
When I was 27 I started dating Janice. She was 38. I’ve said this before, Ryo Vie loves him some older ladies. Always have, always will. At first, our relationship was nice. It was filled with laughter, romance, and great sexual escapades (and when you are recently divorced, there really is no other kind). In short, it was a fun filled relationship. Then as time wore on, our relationship grew into more of a battle for control. Extremely unhealthy, I know. Janice was a control freak, and I am a type A personality (which really is a nice way of stating that I am a control freak as well). When two headstrong personalities get together, there are bound to be plenty of dangerous sparks.
One of Janice’s big points in her battle for control was whose house we stayed at. She was renting a nice house that happened to be 45 minutes away from my apartment. She would always want us to stay at her place. So, if I wanted to see her, I had to make the journey to her place. At first, I didn’t mind at all. I was young and single and all was well with a road trip. Not to mention what was waiting for me at the end of the trip.
However, as late summer turned to autumn, and fall became winter, those rides became longer and longer and longer. Darkness arrived earlier, and the dreary cold of winter gripped us tighter. And the colder it got, the harder those rides became. And of course, when I would request that we stay at my place just once in a while, the request was always denied. Sometimes control freaks are very selfish people as well.
On most of my journeys to Janice’s house, I played All That You Can’t Leave Behind. For some reason, the length of the disc was perfect. I could start the album as I began my journey, and the last song would play as I pulled into her driveway. The timing of it all was surreal, almost as if it was meant to be. And since I loved the record so much, I played it almost every night on my way to her house. Each song became its own character in my journey, marking off time and space traveled and signifying how much road was still ahead. I began to realize that the end of “Kite” marked the halfway point in my travel. I fell deeply in love with a lot of those songs that winter. It was bone chilling cold, snow on the ground, and a long journey every evening with only U2 as my companion. “Walk On,” “In A Little While,” and “When I Look At The World,” quickly became my favorites from the release. Yet, as time went on and I broke down the album more and more, night after night, I started to see deep beauty in songs like “Kite,” “Grace,” and “Peace On Earth.” Each song would speak to me in a fresh new way. Eventually every note and word from every song was emblazoned into my neurons. I knew the record inside and out. And I loved it.
I don’t think that I have listened to an album that intensely or regularly since and I wonder if that’s a bad thing. Perhaps I should choose a new release and spend my commute listening to it day after day, ride after ride, journey after journey. I am sure that it would create a much richer appreciation for whichever album I choose. But part of it was being 27 as well. You are only 27 once, and no matter what you try, you can never go back there. Older wiser you will always rule the roost.
Surprisingly, Janice and I lasted a lot longer than we should have. Much of it was an on again-off again relationship, but that went on and off for years, right up until I met my current wife. When I look back on it now, I am truly surprised that we lasted that long. I’ve written about Janice before in some of my concert reviews for Tesla/Joan Jett and for All That You Can’t Leave Behind. It has long since been one of my favorite discs in my vast collection and a large part of that is due to Janice and those cold winter night journeys.