|Photo by Matt MacHaffie|
Here's to bright lights that never fade.
They didn't really exist. But they could have.
They hadn't seen each other in years. Decades. They hadn't spoken. There were no letters exchanged, no words of encouragement or condemnation, no greetings or cards, no congratulations or condolences. No e-mail. No tweets. No "likes." There was just the yawning silence of years passing, dust collecting, memories fading along the edges of tears long since dried. Goodbye had meant goodbye, and meant it emphatically.
Until that night. That night, all of the ensuing decades disappeared, and allowed a specific smile, a smile unseen since 1982. And it cast them back to where it all began:
They had met in the Spring of 1978, at a Syracuse University nightclub called The Jabberwocky. It was loud. They were young. It should have been a one-night stand. But, for that fleeting moment of giddy, transcendent belief, both felt it could last forever. For a while, they tried their best to make it so.
Their friends had been telling them about...no, raving about this band on stage, a local group called The Flashcubes. The effect this brash rock 'n' roll group had on all of them was visceral, immediate--this was now, an irresistible sound and force that neither disco nor dinosaur could deny. It was rooted in the past--The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, Eddie Cochran, Herman's freaking Hermits--and filtered through an underground determinedly clawing its way to the surface: Television, The Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Ramones. It was distinctive. It was exciting. And it belonged to them: the fans.
They met. They danced. They kissed. They danced some more, and continued dancing into the night, into each other's arms, into the morning after. The one-night stand stretched over the course of subsequent evenings, which became weeks, which became months, which somehow became years. And there were local bands on stage through it all: The Flashcubes; The Drastics; The Ohms; The Tearjerkers; The Poptarts; The Dead Ducks; Dress Code; The Penetrators; The Most; Distortion; Screen Test; 1.4.5.; The Antics. And more! Nights at The Brookside, The Firebarn, The Slide, Uncle Sam's, The Insomniac, The Orange, Squire's East, Stage East, suburban dives like Poor House North and Grape 'n Grog, even a graduation party in Dave Glavin's garage up in Pulaski. Hands held. Fists raised. Music turned up as loud as it could go. They toasted each other, and all of their friends: Here's to bright lights that never fade!
But, just as the one-night stand seemed poised to become the forever promised in pop songs...forever proved elusive. Friends slipped away. Friends died. Words were spoken. Voices were raised. Mistakes--unfortunate, irrevocable mistakes--refused to unmake themselves, no matter how hard wiser (or more foolish) hearts and souls yearned for another chance. The long night--a single night that had lasted years, a love that should have lasted years--was lost as bright lights faded to black. The harsh light of day would provide no shelter for love discarded.
Maturity has its up side. As we grow older, we try to learn how to balance our lives, how to compromise without surrendering, how to do the right things. But we try not to relinquish--at least, not entirely--the dreams we once held so dear: To be an astronaut! To be a superhero! To be a movie star! To be a writer! To be a rock star! To be in love forever and ever! The glowing embers of those eternal flames still flicker within us. They may be the last things we hold on to, even when our final breaths leave our lips.
They hadn't spoken in nearly 35 years. But each knew the other would be there. They started dancing to that fine, fine music. And it was all right.
They didn't really exist. But they could have. Many others like them were as real as love and rock 'n' roll. And they got together on Sunday, July 3rd, for a reunion in Syracuse. We'll talk about it tomorrow. But, for now:
Here's to bright lights that never fade!