Today I learned of a birth and a death. The birth was my youngest brother’s first child, a little boy they’ve named Clayton. I haven’t yet seen a photo, but I’ll be surprised if he isn’t totally and utterly adorable. Of course I’m biased, but the boy’s mother is really pretty and his father isn’t bad looking either (he was such a cute kid). I have memories of being twelve and carrying him into stores and people saying to me, “Your baby is sooo cute!” I’d smile and say, “Yes, my BROTHER is really cute.” What I wanted to say was, ‘I’m freaking twelve! Do I look like a slut?’ I guess I did. To illustrate the past I found a family portrait from that time…I look like a mutant, but my brother is cute.
The death was an Irish musician, a member of ‘Nightnoise’ a group whose music helped me through one of the hardest years of my life. I couldn’t afford antidepressants, so I medicated myself with happy/soothing music. As I listened, I could literally feel my brain producing happy chemicals. I listened to a lot of other music, but Nightnoise was most often in my tape cassette player that year. This afternoon I thought I’d check to see if Nightnoise had put out a new album and found this: “Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill died in Dublin on Saturday, 8 July 2006. He was 54.” I actually gasped. He’s dead? Five years ago? No!
That awful-wonderful year I’d moved back to Portland, Oregon for a job and it just so happened that Nightnoise were at that time based in Portland, Oregon. This was before the internet. There were no websites to check when bands were playing. The band could be touring the world or playing down the road; there was no way of knowing, but I really wanted to see them play if I could. After a few months, I had the idea that I could look up Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill, the guitar player, in the phone book. Sure enough, there was a man in the phone book by that name and he lived several streets away. No, I did not go to his house and knock on the door (that would have been too psycho even for me), but I had his address and he would know (if he was the right man) if he’d be performing in Portland that year. So I wrote him a letter and included my phone number (which with hindsight was crazy) and said something along the lines of, “If you’re the Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill of Nightnoise, would you be able to let me know when you’re playing, if you could leave a message on my answering machine…etc.” I kept it short and I rewrote it several times to make sure I sounded as sane as possible and then mailed it before the rational part of my brain could dissuade me. Several weeks later I returned home from work to find my roomate smiling at me. She’d had a call from Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill. Nightnoise would be performing in Portland that year in the Jazz at the Zoo festival (which was FREE! to the public) and it was several months away so I’d have time to sort out my work schedule so I’d be able to go. I felt like Cinderella learning she’d be going to the ball! A few weeks after that I had a morning shift so I took the bus I usually avoided because someone I knew (and didn’t want to talk to) took that bus. I sat near the back, put on my headphones and turned on my music. About six stops later a man sat down opposite on the seat facing me. I looked blankly at him. He looked blankly at me, and I thought, wouldn’t be that be funny if he was Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill! When I went to the concert, I sat as close to the front as possible (we were all sitting on grass) and the man on the bus came out onto the stage. It was him! The concert was awesome and boosted my Serotonin levels for weeks. I wrote him one last letter and thanked him for the phone call and told him how much I’d enjoyed the concert (I didn’t mention the non-meeting on the bus). I’d like to dedicate one of my favorite Nightnoise songs to my newest nephew and to Mícheál Ó’Domhnaill…it’s called, “For You…”