Friend #56: Jon (and Bono)

I met up with college friend Jon for lunch at McAlister’s Deli on Sunday, July 17th. It’s a place I’d never been before, which is a rarity when I’m visiting my own hometown. Jon is a bit of an anomaly among my St. Louis friends, in that he didn’t grow up there (google map Pickford, Michigan to see where he did grow up). I kept thinking he knew the other people I was visiting in town–friends from high school and elementary school, but Jon moved to St. Louis 8 years ago after graduating from the University of Michigan to work at Boeing. Remember playing flight simulator video games as a kid? Or is that a special kind of fun reserved for children of aeronautical engineers? Jon works on the F-15 flight simulator which trains fighter pilots to operate the jets in the field. Along with many of my other UofM friends, a degree in engineering is a key to playing around on cool and expensive projects.

To say that Jon is a fan of Michigan football would be a gross understatement. His email address contains “goblue.” As you can see in the picture below, when we met, Jon was wearing a Michigan hat and a yellow and blue shirt. He actually has a set of season tickets to the games in Ann Arbor and will be flying from St. Louis to Ann Arbor to the games he can attend when he isn’t coaching high school football himself. When I heard this, I was more than a little bit jealous.  But I let the jealousy subside so we could continue having lunch.

Jon and I had a lot of mutual friends in undergrad, and I was the same year as his older brother, but we didn’t cross paths much ourselves. But we had so much fun laughing over lunch. Literally, I think we laughed the entire time. I know I can be funny, but I tend to be a more serious person until I feel comfortable. I’m perfectly at home processing deep wounds as opposed to trading jokes. But my visit with Jon showed me something about what this trip was doing for me. I was feeling more alive. More myself. In recent years, it has taken a lot of thought and energy to have a quippy comeback or a quirky insight, but the process of doing what I love, connecting with people I love, over and over and over on the trip brought me to a new level of comfort and confidence.  And catching up on several years of life doesn’t naturally lend itself to continuous humor, which speaks to the kind of person Jon is, too. So my bantering muscles got a much-needed workout.

After a couple hours, Jon and I had covered a lot of conversational territory, when he had to leave. “I need to go stand in line downtown at Busch Stadium with some friends because we have general admission tickets to see U2 tonight.” Then he got completely excited and animated and said, “You should come! You should try to get a ticket and come!” Stupidly, I hemmed and hawed. “The concert’s TONIGHT and it’s been sold out for ages. There won’t be tickets. I still have 3 friends I’m trying to see the rest of today. I’m wearing flip flops which won’t be good for standing for hours.  I don’t think it’s gonna happen.”

But Jon insisted, so we got on our smartphones and looked for tickets on Craigslist. I called and texted a couple people advertising tickets while we walked out to the parking lot. I didn’t get any immediate responses, so we parted ways. I went off to my next visit and Jon went downtown with the promise that he’d keep an eye out for any tickets at the stadium.

When I walked in the door at my next visit, I said, “I might end up ditching you for Bono.” My friends were totally on board with that decision. But honestly, I didn’t think it would happen. So I went with my friend Jen to pick up a bridesmaid’s dress for an upcoming wedding she was in. On the way there, Jon calls and says he found a ticket.  So we pick up the bridesmaid’s dress and I head downtown and meet up with Jon and his friends.

It felt a little sacrilege that my first step in the new Busch Stadium was for a concert and not a baseball game, but I got over that pretty quickly.  The set was incredible, but it was also incredibly hot.  They had covered the grass field with metal sheeting, which only reflected the already oppressive heat back into the air.  So imagine the misery of humid Missouri summer heat multiplied by about 50,000, and you’d have an idea of what it was like on the field.  But we were on the field about to see U2, so it kinda didn’t matter.

The set and the stadium.

Consider the previous shot of us as "before" standing in the uber-hot stadium, and this shot as "after." Did I mention it was hot?

Frankly, I got the easy part of the deal because I only had to stand around for an hour or so, thanks to the graciousness of Jon and his friends letting me crowd in on the space they’d been saving for several hours. From the moment U2 took the stage, I was transported to another world.  The band started this tour back in 2009, and I literally knew about 100 people at the show at the Rose Bowl, which was telecast live on YouTube.  While many of my friends cheered in person, I watched from my living room and cried a lot.  Some because it was beautiful and amazing.  But mostly because I was devastated that I couldn’t be there.  I was in a season in my life where I was living on couches or in spare rooms of friends who were willing to put me up.  I didn’t have steady work, so I wouldn’t have been able to afford a ticket.  I was contemplating the road trip at that time, but a friend wisely said, “Ann, you need something stable to leave and come back to,” and I wasn’t in a place in my life relationally or financially where that was possible.  And I hated it.  I hated that there were things I wanted to do that I couldn’t do.

So to get to see U2, to be able to experience them from literally 20 feet away, and to be doing so while on the road trip I’d been dreaming of was such a beautiful piece of redemption.  This was the view from where we were standing:

The great set and wardrobe, complete with glowing jacket.

Below was probably one of my favorite moments of the concert.  Bono had just finished talking about a woman freed from slavery through the efforts of Amnesty International.  He asked everyone to raise their hands, and he just started singing a simple chorus of “Rejoice!” over and over, and soon the entire stadium joined in.  It was a powerful, spiritual experience:

And to think, I would have passed this up because I was wearing the wrong pair of shoes! I’m so glad that Jon talked me into it!

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