If God Will Send His Angels To The Union Square Barnes and Noble
Since I am Ape Culture's expert consultant on all things U2, it was imperative for me to go on assignment to this, one of three book signings of U2 by U2. During my 20 years of fanhood, I've only shared the space of stadiums and arenas with the band. This was a rare opportunity to meet each of the band members, obtaining their autographs, at one event with only a table between us. It was a once-in-a-lifetime event that I feel privileged to have been a part of and one I will never do again. What follows is my experience with the fitting lyrics of "If God Will Send His Angels" interspersed.
"nobody else here baby no one else here to blame
I've been living in New York City for 8 years waiting for a (Kelly Clarkson) moment like this. Finding out about the U2 book signing at the Union Square Barnes and Noble sent my anxiety skyrocketing. I left work with tears in my eyes, hope in my heart, and a knot in my stomach. I planned to go home to change clothes and pack an overnight bag. Fearing that the fans would be queuing up on their way home from work, I called my friend Molly to ask if she would go stand in line for me. She agreed, which allowed me the time to gather what I needed for the overnight: warm clothes, food, and - to pass the time- a writing project. I hurried back to relieve her, anticipating what kind of people I would meet. Would I appear to be obsessed with U2, or as a worthy enough fan to have an autographed copy of their book? I thought I might make some new friends. When I finally arrived, Molly had secured a place in line. I was "Number 65." I was still anxious but felt confident in my chances to get a coveted wristband that would allow access to the book signing. Molly decided to stay, which was a godsend. I would have been miserable without her company. She introduced me to the two fans in front of us, who as the night wore on, exposed more and more of their obsession with U2. Their worlds seemed to revolve around the band. One talked about queuing up night after night with general admission tickets bought off ebay for hundreds of dollars and taking her 6-year-old child out of school to fly to NYC for the book signing. The other had diarrhea of the mouth and talked nonstop all night about how badly he wanted a guitar pick from The Edge. Then there was the nearby riff raff hired to wait in line to get the book to sell on ebay. The night was pure hell, not at all the type of experience I expected.
"God has got his phone off the hook babe would he even pick up if he could?
Two of the riff raff, "Detoxing Jerry Springer Guest" look-a-like, and his friend, "Eminem wannabe", had two visits from the police during the night. Eminem Wannabe was posturing and threatening to "pop off" at someone else in his group, and then at a random stranger who was taunting him, taking off his shirt, dancing in the street to show off his fighting footwork as if he were Mohammad Ali, but was really like the worst dancer you can imagine trying to bust a move. All the while fatso Jerry Springer Guest tried to defuse the situations, parading around in his stained and sweaty gray sweats, rubbing his buzzed hair, swinging his arms back and forth like all he really needed was a fix to get through the next hour. He could not stand for long and often plopped into the wooden chair he brought with him. The chair creaked under his weight with every twitching movement he made. When I was trying to sleep, I could think of nothing else except the chair splitting apart under his weight and all 300+ pounds of him crashing on me. Lucky for Molly and me, the chair stood up to his weight. The long chilly night wore into a stressful morning of standing in what felt like a crowded cattle pen until things were sorted out by the B and N staff, security, and people who seemed to be affiliated with U2.
Once we knew we were officially in and had passed through the doors of the store and had the official wristbands, I felt a great sense of relief. I was told, "Take a book from the table and go over to the line by the registers to pay." As I neared the display, my eyes filled with tears. This was something I dreamed about for years. I never really knew about pop music until I was in the 7th grade at a slumber party watching the Duran Duran Sing Blue Silver 1984 Tour Documentary video, so I never knew of U2 until I heard songs from The Joshua Tree in my high school lunchroom. It was one of the first cassette tapes I bought. Later, I foolishly missed the Zoo TV tour, my first chance to see them in concert, because all my friends were away at college. I regretted not going when I heard about the tour from others. I knew I had to find a way to see it, and the only way to do that was to see them in Europe. I traveled with an obsessed fan who was a friend, and we saw them twice on the Zooropa tour at Wembley Stadium. It was an awesome experience, one that changed my life forever. I next saw them on the Pop Mart Tour in Chicago and St. Louis, then on the Elevation Tour in NYC, pre and post 9/11 and in New Jersey. My commitment grew, and, during the Vertigo tour, I saw them 9 times: 3 in LA, 4 in NYC, once in New Jersey and St. Louis . Over the years my connection to the music has grown and become stronger. Lyrics gain new meaning, affirming what I am experiencing and who I want to be, and the music stirs up passion within me. The songs reinvent themselves and have impact whether I hear them for the first time or the thousandth time.
The guy with diarrhea of the mouth said to me that he would have given up his place in line if one of our awkward little group were not to make it in to the signing, especially when he saw how much it meant to me. Was he after all the kind of U2 fan I was hoping to meet through this experience?
Meanwhile, I got a text message from Ape Culture editor Julie that the event was scheduled to start at 1:00 PM according to the internet. Odd, I thought. It was about 10:30 AM and the B and N lady said the event would be starting shortly. I had no reason to doubt her after watching every employee in the building, who was not on security detail, try to hang a "Barnes and Noble" banner over the permanent wall at the rear of the stage that said, "Barnes and Noble." The banner was a few inches too long and they could not figure out how to hang it, and they tried for over an hour before giving up. If they gave up they must not have time to monkey around with it because the signing will be starting soon, I thought. What I didn't know is that I could have left the line, given them direction on how to hang it and returned to the line with hours to spare.
As the time passed, my body began to ache. I was in pain, not being able to stand because my back and feet hurt, nor sit because my ass was sore from a night with the concrete. I could not make myself comfortable. The staff continued to ask us to move closer to each other. Clifford, the "Loss Prevention" security guard, returned and asked us to move closer still, so we could do nothing but stand. He looked at drunk guy, shook his head and began to move on. I told Clifford:"If he can't stand up perhaps 911 needs to be called because he may have alcohol poisoning. It's not fair to the rest of us. If he can't stand he needs to leave the line." Clifford admitted to being tired of asking him to keep doing the same thing and stepped away. I said to Molly, "I'll go downstairs and let the manager know that Clifford does not feel like doing his job." Ciff quickly returned and told the guy to stand up or leave the line. Good job! From that point on he spent more time upright, but still took breaks and resumed his love affair with the floor. Meanwhile, another of his friends questioned the band members' commitments to their significant others, asking, "Do you think they are actually with their soul mates or faithful to them?" As if they can't be both. Clearly he was jealous and wished he could have his chance with a member of the band. I wanted so much to verbalize this thought to shut him up. His girlfriend, sprawled in his lap as if they were at home laying on the couch, said, "One in four marriages ends in divorce. It's statistically impossible for all of them to stay married." Was she laying there in her lover's lap questioning her own future?
The physical pain was becoming unbearable. I was hungry and thirsty. I felt like I would not be able to endure this much longer, and I started to feel a little woozy. As the clock ticked past 1:00 PM, then 1:30 PM, people around us started to stand on their tip toes. "I see Adam." "I see The Edge. I see his hat, I think." "I think I see Paul." "There's Dallas . Isn't that Dallas ?" Molly asked me, "Who's Dallas ?" I shrugged, "I don't know. I'm not obsessed like they are." Molly turned to the girl in front of us who saw the mirage of him and asked who he was. "He's The Edge's guitar tech. He's the guy who walks around the ellipse before the show playing The Edge's guitars." I wanted Molly to tell her she has never been to a U2 concert to see her reaction. Finally, the myth of me being an obsessed U2 fan was debunked, and I appeared to be a normal, highly dedicated fan. Thank God!
Finally the band arrived, and the press took loads of photos, what felt like 5 minutes worth. We could not see the band but knew they were there because of the hundreds of flashes that were going off for photos, none of which appeared in any of the local newspapers the next day. They finally passed through the food tent, containing, by the time they arrived, cold coffee, a bag of terra chips, 2 bananas, a red and green apple, and a few other items I could not see, and took the stage. Immediately people were guided up to and on the stage and the band stared to sign books with the press continuing their photo frenzy so that we could not see a thing.
The press finally left, and we were left to go through the line. As it moved along, I became tearful again. I didn't want to cry while meeting them, how weird would that be? It is not like it would have earned me more time with them or helped me to condense 20 years of my life with their music and what it has meant to me. I pushed the tears away and detached myself emotionally. At 2:30 PM, Molly and I handed over our backpacks to a B and N employee along with my camera so she could take pictures. We had only our books and had to show our receipts yet again, as if the Barnes and Noble chain would close if one, yes, one book came from the outside.
When it was our turn, Molly went first, and I followed. The Edge was the first one to meet. He seemed happy to be there and was friendly and engaging. He said, "Hello. How can I personalize your book?" "Christine," I responded. He asked, "With a C or a K," and so I spelled it for him "C-h-r-i-s-t-i-n-e" He wrote, "To Christine, Best Wishes" and signed his name. While he did this I said to him, "You guys are magical together." He thanked me and shook my hand, then slid the book on to Bono, the one I wanted to say the most to, but couldn't figure out what to say in a few seconds. He immediately began to draw a long zig zag-esque line, then another, which became a Christmas tree. He signed his name and said, "I drew a Christmas tree. I'm not sure why I did that." I was drawn into watching what he was doing and before I knew it my time was over, so I interjected to him as I was just about to be moved along to the next one:"You are an inspiration to me." Definitely not clever or unique, but true. He shook my hand, and I moved on to Larry, then Adam. Both were quiet yet friendly. I shook hands with each one saying what a pleasure it was to meet them.
I was then whisked off the stage, told not to close the book because the ink was not dry, given back my backpack and camera, and then moved along to the guy who had to cut off the coveted wristband, in all of 15 seconds. I was trying to hold everything as well as the experience. Riding down the escalator, I was overwhelmed and had to stop when I got off to get my things together. At that moment, everything was worth it - the just shy of 20 hours wait, the physical pain - for the few seconds I had with each of them. To simply stand across from the members of the greatest band in the world - there was nothing to say in those few seconds that could capture what they and their music mean to me, to share with them how it has given me direction in life, how it strengthens my faith, bringing me closer to God, how the lyrics express feelings I have inside that I don't yet know how to articulate, how it keeps me rooted in my belief that the world can change, that I can and must do what I can to be a part of that - to contribute to making lives better. And that does not even touch on my love for their sound, that core U2 sound, and how it continues to evolve in ways that keep me listening and hearing songs in new ways. And how amazed I am in their ability to work as a group, to balance each other, to push each other, to set limits, to respect both the individual and the group, to constantly be in flux, growing. Simply shaking hands, having them each sign my copy of the book, to know I've stood across from them, to see that ultimately they are real people - people who care about something more than themselves - that they believe in and are a part of something greater than themselves. Just for a moment I was able to look at them eye to eye, instead of always looking up to them and dreaming of a moment like this.
"Jesus never let me down you know Jesus used to show me the score
HEY IF GOD WILL SEND HIS ANGELS
(In addition to "If God Will Send His Angels", "Angel of Harlem" is the only other U2 song that I can think of that mentions the words "Christmas tree." It has me thinking, why did Bono draw a Christmas tree in my book? Was it my name, "Christine" that he associated with "Christmas" or was it because in his unconscious he saw me as an "angel", an angel who can "light up a Christmas tree" and as an angel who lives in "New York like a Christmas tree, tonight this city belongs to me, angel." I'm thinking after he drew it, and thought it odd, he probably never drew another one while signing the rest of the books. I'll probably never really know why he drew the Christmas tree, but I can dream and believe in my psychoanalytically trained mind that it is the latter, the deeper meaning, that holds the truth.)
I wish to give special thanks to Molly for sticking through a truly hellish 20 and ½ hours for the one ½ hour that was the reason why we were there. Although the memory of this experience will surely stick with us for years to come and that we will recall all of the negatives, and hopefully be able to laugh about them soon, I am happy to have shared the experience with her (and to have distracted her for a picture to give Bono the chance to write her name in the book so she would keep her copy). As a gesture of my gratitude for her enduring this experience with me, I will be the first to make a donation to the cause as her Habitat for Humanity trip nears.
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