Saint Jagger: The Gospel According To Mick.
December 7, 1941 may be my country’s Day of Infamy, but my personal DOI took place 31 years later, on July 9, 1972. This was the day I was supposed to be at St. Louis’ Kiel Auditorium with my friend Alice for a performance of The Rolling Stones.
The operative phrase, here, is supposed to be.
A strafing from total strangers is bad enough, but the bombardiers in my case knew me well. (Et tu, Brute?) Instead of understanding, rather than generously blessing this unprecedented, unexpected, dizzyingly bedazzling opportunity for their firstborn to scale the peaks of rock Valhalla, my parents insisted that I hop into the back seat of our station wagon and trek off to Colorado on some dumb family vacation.
I begged and I bartered and I reasoned and I stormed… but no, not for the one measly day the concert and family holiday overlapped would my folks delay our departure. And it wasn’t as if the airlines were unreasonable back then because they were still nice; plus, as I have intimated, we weren’t flying. We were driving.
I know that I am nearly 60, and that Gandhi says forgiveness is the attribute of the strong, but I still hold a grudge about this.
The worst, however, was yet to come. When I shared the bad news, Alice sadly confided that her tickets were for front row center. Front Row Center!
Alice never mentioned how she scored these amazing seats. Years later, however, I learned through the grapevine that Alice’s grandfather was former Teamsters Union president Jimmy Hoffa. Whoa!
And whoa is right. It’s time for Google Search to rein in the rumor mill… Jimmy was actually the father of Alice’s Aunt Barbara.
Which only goes to prove that while some truths aren’t truths, they are true enough to explain how a 16-year-old girl from suburban St. Louis saw Mick Jagger as up close and personal as possible, short of sleeping with him.
For exactly this reason, I often liken life to an onion. What is life, after all, but a series of layers, of truths? Of little truths and huge stretchings of the truth, of gentle refashionings of the truth, and crummy, craven distortions of the truth. Of happy truths and sad truths, eternal truths and temporary truths.
Caramelized or raw, en route to the sweet core of things, we taste them all.
Little truth: Alice was related to Jimmy Hoffa.
Huge stretching: Alice called Jimmy Grandpa.
Peel further, however… and there between the red and purple layers of the onion is a nice yellow layer we can wrap our heads around. Jimmy was Alice’s aunt’s daddy.
Of course, inevitably, at some point, we find ourselves with mouthfuls of onion that are sour, nasty, hell-to-swallow but impossible to spit out — the losses, the disappointments, the diagnoses, the betrayals, the bombings, the bypassed opportunities. The pain. The pain. The pain.
The blinding pain that obscures our view like lashings of rain against a windshield. We slow down, we peer hard… but still we see nothing. Nothing except more peltings and certainly no rainbow, no symbol of hope. We Paint It Black.
“Maybe then I’ll fade away and not have to face the facts
It’s not easy facing up when your whole world is black.” ~ Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
Yet, as hard as the rain falls, this is what I have discovered: rainbows are nice, but rainbows tell only half the story. They stop at each end.
Instead, like electrons chugging about a nucleus, our lives actually have this silly, astonishing way of coming full circle. It took 43 years, and I didn’t have front row center seats… but history rectified itself. Last weekend, I heard The Stones live.
Granted, both the band and many in the audience had reaped wildernesses of wrinkles over the years. But to focus on this one picayune blip is like visiting Florence and fixating on how the David’s head and hands are too large for his body. So the head and hands of The Stones have weathered a bit — so what?
Age is nothing but a number. This is a Truth as true as truth gets.
Now, before you argue and bring up your hip replacement, you go watch Mick strut, jump, dance and run on a stage the size of a Death Star.
Of course, some might come to a more cynical conclusion. “I bet they have life support set up back stage,” chuckled a man behind me to his date.
What I bet is that all of us can learn a thing or two from Mick and the gang. And I don’t mean how to be rock stars; that’s a gig as accessible to most of us as being Michelangelo or Einstein… but what’s to stop us from rocking on as stars of our own shows?
This goal is more achievable than we may at first think. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will the second, third, or thirteen-thousandth acts in this performance called Your Life. The key is to tackle each tour one dance-step at a time.
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree,” said Abraham Lincoln, “and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
According to the London Daily Mail, Mick’s pre-tour regime includes darn near everything except tree chopping — running, swimming, kickboxing, bicycling, ballet, Yoga, pilates, and strength training.
Meanwhile, thanks to Prescriptives Super Flight Cream, Clarins and Lancome moisturizing lotions, Crème de la Mer, and La Prairie’s Caviar facial masque, Mick’s skin trains almost as hard as his thighs do. As for his diet, not even the teensiest non-organic veggie or fruit has a prayer of getting past Sir Mick’s gullet’s gatekeeper.
Plus, lo and behold, the band does have life support. Along on tour are not only bushels of avocados, which Mick favors for their regenerative qualities, but fitness trainers, dietitians, a physiotherapist, chefs, and a masseuse.
Now, as we all know, London tabloids are no bastions of probity. But no 71-year-old just hops out of bed and puts on the show I saw either.
Nevertheless, I suspect that Mick’s magic elixir has very little to do with pricy potions, organic veggies, or grueling workouts. Let’s peel back things a bit, shall we?
I sat there, watching as tens of thousands of people sang, danced, and cheered… and although I am truly on a quest to embrace solitude and silence, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What must it feel like to stand on that stage, see all those people, and know they are there for you?”
“The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away.” ~ Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
I am not buddies with The Stones. (Although I saw them cross a hotel lobby once.) And I am certainly not their shrink. But I can speak for myself. When I feel as though I am fading, what brings bright color back to my spirit’s cheeks?
Music scoops me out of myself. Music shelters me from myself, reminding me that there is a great big world out there and that, so far, God hasn’t gotten around to ordaining that it revolve around me.
Just as we the audience and The Stones the band were as interconnected as bees and flowers at AT&T Stadium in Dallas, so you, I, and that fellow sipping a latte at the next table are interconnected, too… and by a kind of music that has nothing to do with the coffee bar’s Muzak.
Most importantly, music helps me experience the primordial Truth underscoring Julian of Norwich’s beautiful prayer and promise: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Because, suddenly, whether I am listening to Jumpin’ Jack Flash, the Amen from Dvorak’s Stabat Mater, or the song of the rain, all is well… even when it isn’t.
“Music is the language of the spirit,” Kahlil Gibran informed us, “it opens the secret of life…”
The Stones won’t live forever — I don’t care how many avocados they quaff. Their music, however, has a good shot at it. There were people in the audience (and on stage) whose parents weren’t born when Satisfaction topped the charts.
Nor do I believe that it is a coincidence that their encore — their last words, so to speak — included this admonition, this assurance…
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need.” ~ Mick Jagger/Keith Richards
I heard The Stones when I needed to, not when I wanted to — I understand, and am grateful for this, now. Had I seen Mick at 16, all I’d have brought home would have been the memory of the sparkle dust in his hair and the scent of pot in the air.
At 60, I carry within me the spark that is Mick, a spark that opened like a blossom to lighten the dark path before me called Old Age and reveal that the shadows I so fear are flimsy, surmountable figments conjured by no one but me.
Yes, a lot of yesterdays have passed and fewer tomorrows remain. But it is up to me how I live today. Whether I am young at heart, or an old, pissy fart.
Thank you, Mick, for teaching this Little Sister to Dance. May my hips long wriggle, my legs long leap, my throat long sing — and I don’t necessarily mean this literally.
Let the grudge go, girlfriend. Let the grudge go, and grow wise.