Just outside of Chicago, with its impenetrable brigade of traffic and skyscrapers, through the tollbooths along 90, past Gary, Indiana, where the cornfields are foot-tall wishes for August feasts, there's a field of windmills. On Sunday, as I drove faster and faster, headed for Indianapolis, and onward to home, they rose up in front of me, spinning in time with the cellos on the Amsterdam bootleg of "Pretending To Care" I had on the car stereo. I listened and I watched and I got chills. If they're possible: violent chills. I was so moved that I pulled off the highway, into the rough gravel driveway of a farm, got out of the car and stood for a moment watching them off in the distance. This is what it feels like to be alive.
I didn't know who I could tell this to. Maybe Chuck, who had driven by them just the other day. Or Pip. Or Veg. The people who greeted me at the hotel with wide arms and "are you ready for this?" smiles. The ones who stood in front of mirrors with me applying lipstick and taking turns sipping from a flask. The ones who waited for me inside when I drank too much bourbon and ended up outside on a bench just for a pause from the intensity. The ones I sat next to as we watched him perform with a symphony orchestra, receiving roses at his feet.
It's possible to drive the entire distance from Madison, Wisconsin, to Cincinnati, Ohio, listening to nothing but Todd Rundgren. It's possible to spend the next 48 hours thinking of nothing but. I know it because I've done it.
* * *
"I'm sorry; you can totally tell me to shut up." Danielle and I are sitting cross-legged on her couch. It's good to see her after so long. And yet the first words out of my mouth are about Todd. I blush when I talk. I don't have a lot to say that doesn't involve what's immediately on my mind.
"No, it's okay! I can't remember the last time I felt like that about music."
I can't remember what it felt like before.
We move on to other topics eventually; Seth and Danielle have the insane ability to make me laugh, forget. But then in the dressing room of a thrift store, a text from Rockford: "Wish you were here!!!" Another plink later from Pip, a video: Todd on stage, bright white, singing "Pretending To Care." I can't let go yet. And then the next day I'm on my own again, driving to that music. And I see those windmills. And I get those chills.
* * *
Every time I come back from one of these things, it's the same. It's all I want to talk about. My poor husband listens to me gush, then listens to me imposing rules on myself: "I promise not to say another word about it tonight." He's the patient one; I'm impatient with myself. I want to dig out; to move on. To think about the next amazing thing.
But sometimes it's all I can see for miles.
Obsession is a strange sickness. Feed a fever; starve a cold: what to do with obsession, that old albatross — harbinger of both good and bad things to come? Nothing to do but wait until it passes. Until you're on the other side of the cornfield, looking at the backs of windmills, waiting for the chills to fade away.
© Zan McQuade. All rights reserved.