Tuesday, August 2, 2011

And I Love Him

         Last night’s Paul McCartney concert at Wrigley Field was more than entertaining and nostalgic. It was transforming.
         With a crowd exceeding 30,000, the stands and field at the ivy-covered ballpark were rimmed with Wrigleyville rooftop parties and the twinkling lights of summer stars and Chicago’s stunning skyline.
About 8:30, it got even better when Sir Paul took the stage. But here I hesitate, wondering how to describe “That Boy” in a way that hasn’t been done hundreds of times. So I’ll just relay what seeing Paul in concert for the second time in my life means to me.
         Before the music began, I turned to my husband and said, “Isn’t it amazing how many people love music. His music.”
         He nodded. “I remember thinking that when I saw the video of the Beatles playing on the rooftop in New York. For a few minutes they were just four guys standing on a roof. Then they started playing music and the whole place was transformed.”
        And so it happened again last night when Paul appeared on stage in a red suit jacket, Beatle-skinny black pants, and a white long-sleeved shirt with suspenders. It wasn’t long before he shed the jacket, rolled-up the cuffs of his white shirt, and sent all the females in the audience into 1960s reminiscent giddiness. Guys in white shirts have always done it for me but Paul McCartney in one was heart-stopping. Honestly, at age 69, he is still absolutely, breathtakingly handsome. Same adorable smile, puppy-dog eyes, and shaggy hair, although it’s obviously dyed and a bit thinner.
        We were seated in the grandstands, just beneath the overhang of the upper deck. To say it was hot last night is an understatement. Sweat ran down my back all night but it was utterly worth it.
During one lull in the music I turned to my husband and said, “My dad wouldn’t know what to say if he saw this. He absolutely hated the Beatles. He blamed them for all the turmoil of the 60s. Told me their music would never last.”
         Hard to imagine, looking at the sea of raised cell phone cameras glowing in the summer night that anyone would doubt the lasting quality of this music. But then I don’t think my father understood the transforming quality of The Beatles. For him, music was for dancing, not for stadium-busting performance. Songs, for my father, weren’t meant to be screamed in unison. They didn’t have silly, repetitive lyrics like, "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da." I am convinced if my father had been watching the concert last night, hearing more than 30,000 people singing their hearts out, he would have thought the world had gone mad.
          Which is another thing that seeing Paul McCartney did for me last night. It made me revel in the memories of my youth. It made me proud to have been part of a generation who watched the phenomenon of The Beatles first hand. Grateful, that we were the generation that made a break with the previous generation through music that was uniquely ours. But last night I was joyfully aware it wasn’t just ours anymore.
         “I wonder if today’s kids actually like this music,” my husband said at one point.
         I pointed to a young woman in front of us. Clearly in her late 30s or early 40s, she was dancing and singing at the top of her lungs. Next to her were three boys, doing the same. One boy was about 12, the other two around 8.
         “That answer your question?” I replied, smiling.
          As I predicted, Paul came back for his first encore to sing one of my favorite songs of all time, “Yesterday.” Hearing him sing it, at age 69, made me painfully aware of the passing of time. I couldn’t help but think of John, George, and Linda, the people who were no longer in his life. And of the people who were no longer in mine.
         Paul wasn't alone last night, though. We all sang “Yesterday” with him. It was a moving example of the transforming nature of the music he helped create. Hearing his clear, beautiful voice brought back a bittersweet rush of memories that reminded me how old I had become. 
         And how young I still am. 

Monday, August 1, 2011


                       Loving and Losing Paul McCartney

For our 14th wedding anniversary this week my husband surprised me with tickets to tonight’s Paul McCartney concert at Wrigley Field. It’s more that just the best anniversary gift ever, it’s a sign that our marriage has never been stronger.
You see, my husband and I have always had this standing agreement that he would step aside when Paul McCartney was available again so I could finally fulfill my destiny of being with him. I agreed to a similar situation that involves Penelope Cruz.
Can’t blame him for dreaming.
But I have a history with Paul. Since I was 12 years old, I’ve always known he and I were meant to be together. Curled up on my lavender chenille bedspread, windows opened wide, I drove my family crazy by setting my 45 of “And I Love Her,” on repeat for about a year. Other songs soon were added to the playlist, creating a personalized Beatles soundtrack for the real and imagined memories of my youth.
            Poor Paul. Without me at his side, he spent his idle hours courting models, actresses, and singers. I forgave him his dalliances, knowing how empty and shallow those relationships must have been. I completely understood his need to fill the days until he found me.
            Still, we found ways to be together. He was there the day I got my first kiss, under a crabapple tree in my backyard. Friends tell me it was a neighbor boy named John who sat with me that hot summer day. They insist to this day it was John who kissed me and sang, "If I Fell" to me. I remember it much differently and am still convinced it was Paul who did the singing. And kissing. 
            For years Paul and I carried on like this. When I reached high school, we communicated through art. I painted posters of Paul in his Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band uniform, in his Yellow Submarine, and riding on the Magical Mystery Tour bus. He sent back messages to me through album covers. I knew the waves and smiles on those LP sleeves were meant for me.
Meanwhile, I prepared myself for the day when Paul and I would be together. I ironed my naturally curly hair in an effort to look like Jane Asher, Marianne Faithful, and Hayley Mills. I slathered my lips with white lipstick, rolled up the waistbands of my skirts, and bought a pair of white go-go boots.
            When Paul and the Beatles journeyed to India to meet with their guru, I bought the perfect Nehru-collared Indian print dress. I memorized every Beatles lyric. With a perfectly rehearsed Liverpool accent, I stared into my bedroom mirror and repeatedly whispered, “Hi, luv.” Sufficiently prepared, I was ready to take our relationship to the next level when she came along and ruined everything. . . Linda Eastman. 
            I never blamed Paul, of course. It was obvious that Paul had been nothing more than a pathetic pawn in Linda’s evil, calculating plan.
            Some people blame Yoko Ono for the breakup of the Beatles. Not me. I knew Linda had masterminded their demise. When she picked up a tambourine and started performing with Paul and his new band, Wings, I let him go. There were no hard feelings. I still wished him well. But to watch Paul and Linda on stage together was simply too painful. Paul was a Beatle, not a Wing, and I could never accept the transition.
            And then I waited, convinced the marriage would never stand the test of time. But as the years passed, even I had to accept the fact that Paul and Linda might actually love each other. Practically inseparable, they performed together, traveled together, raised a family and built a life together. They were good parents. As individuals, they continued to grow.
            When Linda’s vegetarian cookbook came out, I received a copy as a gift. Before scanning the recipes, I spent time staring at the smiling face on the cover. For the first time I really saw Linda McCartney. Not the tambourine-playing performer, rock and roll photographer or animal-rights advocate, but Linda the loving wife and caring mother. Standing in her warm, cozy kitchen, she appeared radiant, kind.
            A new emotion filled me; admiration. Linda’s only crime had been falling in love with a man millions of other women adored. It had taken work and perseverance to succeed at such a high-profile marriage. I wondered how she managed to raise such extraordinary children in that environment. Most of all, I found myself admiring her ability to never lose sight of herself.
            The day Linda died, in Paul’s arms, I grieved for them both. An article I read about them said that in all their years of marriage, they’d only been apart a week or two. Everyone should be loved that way, I thought.
            When Paul started dating Heather Mills, I cringed. How could anyone fill the enormous void Linda’s death had left in Paul’s life? Heather looked so much like her, I was worried Paul was trying to resurrect the woman he so desperately missed. And so I tried to be understanding towards Heather, remembering how cruelly Linda had been treated by the public.
            But Heather was nothing like Linda. In the months leading up to their divorce, I listened to her interviews and rants in the media. I really did want to see her side. But the way she conducted herself, the things she said about Paul, gnawed at me. In the end, I had to place my loyalties where they’ve always been, with Paul.
            Walking down the courthouse steps after the final judgment, Paul looked tired, but not beaten. Older, but not old. Dressed in suit and tie, he presented himself to the crowd with warmth and grace. That, I thought, is the Paul I love.
            Now it appears Paul has found love again with his fiancĂ©, Nancy Shevell. I approve. She seems warm, kind, and stable. Okay, she’s also beautiful. And I find myself loving Paul McCartney even more because he hasn’t given up on love even though no one would admonish him if he wanted to do so.
            I'm convinced Linda would approve, too. Years ago, I remember reading a story about Paul and Heather shortly before they were engaged. The author’s concerns were much the same as mine at the time. In fact, near the end of the article, the writer asked, “Paul,what do you think Linda would say?”
            Without hesitating, Paul replied, “Be happy, boy. I know that’s what Linda would say.”
            Me too.