My wife has loved Duran Duran since they broke through the American music scene in the early 1980s. If I’m being honest, I’ve been a fan since then, too — although I’ve been loathe to admit it ever since being teased about it in high school. Like Barenaked Ladies sang in Grade 9, “I went out for the football team to prove that I’m a man. / I guess I shouldn’t tell them that I like Duran Duran.” (Well, except for the football part. I never did that.) Admitting that I’m a fan gave me a reputation that was a little too — dare I say it? — Notorious.
But I’m over that, and ready to out myself. It’s not like I’m going to Come Undone. In fact, it will probably take the Pressure Off. Really, such an admission should be no Big Thing. And if Anyone Out There disagrees, well, they’re no Friends of Mine. Unless I’m missing a fact or two; Is There Something I Should Know?
Okay, sorry. Pun tangent (pungent?) over. Time to get Serious again. But only in My Own Way…
Anyway, Kim is a longtime devotee of the band, and I’m at least able to defend that I like them. Regardless, Kim’s love has led me to several failed attempts at gifts. The first one was a month after we were married, in February 1993. That was the year Duran Duran came out with their second self-titled album, since labeled “The Wedding Album” by fans, to avoid confusion with the first “Duran Duran” from the previous decade.
That album, by the way, was fantastic. It deserved every atom of the precious metals it earned — gold in the UK and platinum in the U.S. I always looked at it as sort of a comeback, even though the band hadn’t really gone away. But their previous album, “Liberty,” hadn’t done nearly as well, and during the three years since its release, Kim and I had started dating and gone into that sort of domestic bliss where two people forget about their other interests for a while. She didn’t even know her favorite band was releasing a new album. (I can’t laugh; ask me how I didn’t even recognize R.E.M. a couple years later, when I was listening to “Monster” in a CD store without seeing the name on the case.)
So when I saw “The Wedding Album” in a Sam Goody a few weeks before her birthday that year, I knew it would be a great gift for her. The only problem was, moments after I bought it, she came into the same store to meet me, having finished shopping at the store where I had left her in that mall. And of course, she zeroed in on the display of new CDs. “Oh, cool! Duran Duran has a new CD! Mind if I get it?”
What could I do? Tell her not to buy it and have her be mad at me until her birthday? I had to admit I had already bought it — Too Much Information, indeed — and then hand it over. In retrospect, I guess that wasn’t a failed gift so much as an early one.
Years later, I heard they were coming to Walnut Creek Amphitheater in Raleigh, and I decided to surprise her with a couple of tickets. On the day of the concert, I came down with a bad stomach bug — couldn’t Hold Back the Rain, so to speak. I had to bail. Kim called a childhood friend who’d also been a longtime fan, and went with her, instead. This time, I was the spoiler. But at least she still got to go.
Not so with Monday night’s show at Durham Performing Arts Center. And that was a plan long in the making. I’d heard about their tour in January, and started making plans for her February birthday again. I ordered the tickets online and saved the confirmation email, careful to keep it hidden from her. The tour included a free copy of their new CD, “Paper Gods,” for every ticket, so I watched the mail to make sure she didn’t intercept those before her birthday.
When she told me she might be traveling for work in March, I told her she had to be in town on the 28th and 29th, making up my own fictitious work trip to “a conference” that meant she would have to stay home with the boys. Never mind that it meant I was apparently traveling on Easter Weekend; she didn’t look too closely at the March calendar before her birthday. In other words, she bought the lie, and I was assured she would be here for the night of the concert.
On her birthday, I printed out the tickets and wrapped them in a shirt box. The printouts were jumbled with ads on full letter-sized pages, so even when she opened them, it wasn’t immediately obvious what they were. Then she beamed. At last, we were going to have the opportunity to see the band together. Our 14-year-old could babysit our 10-year-old; we’d just have to entrust that he would enforce bedtime on a school night.
The CDs arrived, and each of us took one in his/her respective car. I listened to mine for two weeks leading up to the concert, playing it on repeat during every commute. Got to know the songs pretty well, and picked out my favorites. Kim looked up the band’s set lists from previous legs of this tour, and we approved of the choices. We were ready.
And on Monday morning, our ten-year-old woke up looking paler than Nick Rhodes’ lightest foundation. Refused to eat. Could barely stand or walk. And said he had a terrible headache. What are the Chances? But here we were again. There is no way we were going to leave him in the care of his older brother. Not that his older brother couldn’t have handled it, but the guilt would have killed us. What if something had happened, and we were 40 minutes away, in Durham?
So the deliberations began. She reached out to that same friend again. It broke her friend’s heart to turn down the ticket, but she had plans with her young son Monday evening. As if we needed a reminder that parental obligations dictate the necessity to miss a concert.
Couldn’t Kim go alone, and let me take care of Matthew? The tickets were her gift, after all. But no, she didn’t want to go to an unfamiliar destination in Durham on her own. I offered both tickets to a friend of mine, so he and his wife could go. Nothing doing. And by that time, it was too late to offer them up for grabs on Facebook; no one could have gotten them on time. So we spent the rest of the evening trying not to look at the tickets, or really even at each other, lest The Reflex kick in and get one or both of us crying.
And now, three days later, those same tickets are still affixed to the fridge, a lonely reminder that I essentially spent $150 on two CDs. But there came a point Monday evening, as Matthew shivered on the couch trying to watch “The Incredibles” on The Disney Channel, that I remembered why nothing could have dragged us to that concert. And as I sat down next to him, pulled him close for a nice snuggle, heard him whisper Thank You, and watched the rest of the movie with him, I thought to myself, “This was worth every penny.”
And I spent the rest of the evening in Heaven with my ragged tiger.