THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 9, 2009 --
Life on the road makes us business travelers old before our time. And we unfortunate few also bear the mark of 9/11, the horrific day that ripped a hole in our hearts and made us hate the simple act of going to an airport or checking into a hotel.
Tomorrow, eight years after that massacre of innocents and innocence, my frequent-flying wife and I will pile into a car and drive 150 miles to a place I haven't been in decades. Just like on 9/11, we will check into a strange hotel. The next day, we will see two young people married, then turn the car around, drive another 150 miles, attend another function and see two other young people married.
I would normally hate this. I despise being the old fat guy at a wedding who has to approach the bride and groom and say, "Hey, remember me? I'm a friend of your parents."
I know almost nothing of these young people whose weddings I will attend. There's a chance I could pass all four of them on the street and not even recognize them. What could I possibly add to their lives? They are innocents and I am old and tired. I am permanently scarred by a life on the road and brutalized by 9/11. I am cynical and beaten down and I don't know what to tell young people about the country they will soon run and have to make livable for their
But I will go because I want something from them. I want their youth. I want their passion. And maybe more than anything I want their sense of invulnerability. When you are young, you think that anything is possible and nothing can happen to cut your time short.
I want to be Forever Young. Again. I want back what 9/11 took away from me, from you, from all of us who have gotten old because we live our lives on the road.
We have all been changed by 9/11 and few of us have dared talk about it. We take our feelings and bury them at the bottom of our carry-on bag, under the dirty socks and our half-empty water bottles and leftover bags of low-fat pretzels. We make believe we feel nothing about 9/11.
But we feel it. We live with it. Every day. Every time we take our shoes off in the security line. Every time we go to New York and don't see the two towers anymore. Every time we remember that we have two unfinished wars. Every time we hear that a mother in our town got a visit from a pair of soldiers carrying a folded flag.
There is no going back to before there was ever a thing called 9/11. I am not stupid. Intellectually, at least, I know that. Yet since 9/11 I have been obsessively digging up movies and television shows and music from my childhood. How many damned Motown compilations can one person own? Why do I suddenly care about T.H.E. Cat
, a TV show from 1966 that no one else even remembers? To paraphrase Men in Black
, how many times can you buy The White Album
But today I am tired of feeling old and looking back. I want to be Forever Young.
So tomorrow, when I pile into the car and drive the 150 miles to a place I haven't been in decades, I will have a CD. It is full of new music, songs that I have found in recent weeks because I have paid attention to the soundtrack of a television show called Chuck
is about young people. Wonderful, silly, young people. There is joy in Chuck
. And love. It is filled with music by young people, bands with wonderful, silly, young names like The Teddy Bears, Blitzen Trapper, The New Pornographers and The Thermals.
Most importantly, the music is new and startlingly good. It says old truths and raises old questions in very intriguing ways. It is not the Beatles. It is not Motown. It is not Coltrane. But you cannot listen to Furr
and not be impressed. You can't listen to Bon Iver sing Creature Fear
or Blood Bank
and not be moved. Attention must be paid to Challengers
or Now We Can See
. If the joyous, absurd gibberish of Cobrastyle
doesn't make you want to move, then you are dead.
And I know innocents and innocence when I hear it. Looking at the Sun
promises--no, it knows
--that there is "nothing in our way" because "this is our time."
It's not, of course. It's their
time. They are Forever Young.
Eight years after the massacre of innocents and innocence, I will carry that message on a disc to my old friends. And from their children, who are not old from a life on the road and are not scarred by 9/11, I will take youth.
Because I want to be Forever Young. Again.
A 2020 UPDATE
After two brilliant seasons, Chuck
declined in quality in its three final seasons, mostly due to budget cuts and several radical conceptual shifts. I wrote about the business lessons you could learn from a failing show here