January 13, 2000
Takin’ It Easy on New Year’s
The first time I went over to Jon's apartment, I thought it was so sweet that he had a framed black and white picture of his dad on the nightstand, smiling somewhat ruggedly in a flannel shirt.
Only it wasn't Jon's dad. It was Don Henley.
And that's when I realized that Jon, exceedingly normal in every other way, has one major quirk. He's obsessed with the Eagles, a band formed in 1970 before either of us was even born. From "Desperado" to "Take it Easy," their country rock lyrics sing to him like his own private cowboy.
"I'm dating a guy who's totally fixated on the Eagles," I told my friend Steve. "He has a picture of Don Henley on his nightstand. Is that weird?"
"No," he answered. "It's a B-plot of a 'Friends' episode."
At their best, relationships are like a tour of someone else's world. You pick up postcards and souvenirs, some you leave behind, others you keep with you. Sometimes, you find yourself in places you never thought you'd be. In my case, that happened this New Year's Eve, when I found myself at the Eagles concert at the Staples Center with perhaps the world's most devoted fan of the legendary band.
This was something totally new for me. I've never been obsessed with any musician, save a brief fling I had with the music of Madonna. My CD collection is an anemic assortment tainted with some odd selections sent to me in one of those "buy 12 CD's for 11 cents" scams.
As for big concerts, I've always been against them. I hate crowds and long lines. I'm still smarting from my ill-fated voyage to a "Tears for Fears" concert in high school, which found me drunk on peppermint schnapps, wearing neon socks and wondering why I was watching two British black-suited yahoos standing woodenly behind synthesizers.
Still, I couldn't help being a little excited as I waited for the Eagles to take the stage. After all, I had been well prepared.
In that early part of a relationship, when you swap pieces of yourselves, Jon made two tapes packed with Eagles songs, the inside cover lovingly detailing who wrote and sang "Life in the Fast Lane," "New Kid in Town," "The Long Run" and "Heart of the Matter."
While Jon sat through readings of my favorite poems, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and Sylvia Plath's "Daddy," I got to know his favorite odes, like "Desperado," about a man's struggle between the lonely life of an individualist and the painful vulnerability of letting himself be loved. We debated the meaning behind "Hotel California," which a rabbi once told me is about heaven and hell, but Jon thinks is about Hollywood temptations and personal demons.
In any case, I listened to those tapes until they got under my skin, searching for clues about Jon's psyche in the lyrics and cracking up every time women were referred to as "pretty mama."
A week before the concert, I heard a report on CNN that the Eagles' Greatest Hits is the best-selling rock album of the century. When people scoffed at my colossally unhip New Year's plans, I reminded them of that fact and comforted myself with the idea that people were probably just jealous that I had plans beyond stocking up on water and waiting for the apocalypse.
"You're about to see the greatest rock band in history," Jon said, gripping my hand as the lights came up on the stage.
As the Eagles launched into "Peaceful Easy Feeling," I looked over at Jon, the most serious person I know, and saw him giggling uncontrollably, his hand covering his mouth like a school girl. I was reminded of my mother's schnauzer, who sits quietly in the back seat of the car until he sees he's a block away from the park and can no longer control his ecstatic barking.
It wasn't long before Jon couldn't contain his need to air-drum in sync with Don Henley.
The music was so vibrant live it sounded like it was happening inside my head. An almost tribal energy filled our row as I was swept up in the exhilaration of roadies running out new guitars and rushes of applause at the first few notes of a familiar song. Some sort of country rock space-time continuum was being stretched and I didn't even feel three hours pass.
At one point, I noticed my own face smiling so hard my cheeks were sore. Could I be having fun? At midnight, we drank champagne from plastic cups and Jon pulled the Eagles t-shirt he bought me out from under his chair.
The next day, Jon peeled me an orange as we made a list of every song we heard and tried to sing each and every one.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those women who gets a boyfriend and gloms onto all of his likes and hobbies. I'll tell you right now, Jon's still "Unforgiven" for making me sit through his favorite Clint Eastwood movie. I think you can hold onto yourself while ordering a la carte from the menu of someone else's world. The great part is, you might taste something new you really like.
Don Henley's likeness may never be hanging on my wall, but I will wear my Eagles t-shirt with pride. Okay, at the gym at least. No matter what happens with Jon, the sound of an Eagles tune will always give me a peaceful, easy feeling.