Living Colour are a band I wouldn’t have invested in if it weren’t for Steve. In ’88 and ’89, I’m sure I would have latched on to their funky metal anthems of their debut album, Vivid, like the rest of the general public when “Cult of Personality” and “Glamour Boys” were living on the airwaves and the band was opening for the Stones. But I never would have dug deeper into their album and heard songs like “Desperate People” or “Broken Hearts.” I’m surprised that Steve was at all interested in the band; he’s never been a metal head. But I believe the band’s mixture of hip hop, hard rock and socially conscious lyrics, combined with the heart they wore on their sleeves, made them appealing.
Then again, “Broken Hearts” is a hell of a song.
For my first spring break, in ‘89, I climbed in a compact car with two girls I’d known since childhood and drove straight through the night, leaving behind cold Cleveland weather until we reached the southern warmth of Chapel Hill. Our purpose was to visit Steve at the University of North Carolina; and then to travel further south to one of the local beaches. One of my traveling companions was a model-esque braniac I’d known since grade school. Although quite pretty, I’d never had an attraction to her, perhaps because I knew she and Steve had an attraction to each other. The other rider was a girl whom I knew from my church. Throughout high school I had an unrequited crush on this blond, something I confessed to her several times. We were only destined to be friends, no matter how hard I tried.
Upon our arrival, we spent a couple days taking in the Chapel Hill scene while crashing in Steve’s dorm room. It was pleasant, as I recall. But by Monday morning, the two girls were ready to drive on to the coast for some quality time in the sun. I had the option to go with them, or stay behind with Steve and the two of us would meet them later in the week (Steve’s classes were in session). I chose the latter.
You’re probably thinking: “Dude! You could have spent a week on the beach with two gorgeous females, lying on the beach, sharing a hotel room! Maybe they would have gotten bored and decided to deflower you in some sort of gauzy, Almost Famous kind of way. You never know!”
Trust me, I know. It never would have happened.
Anyway, the two girls were not the reason I was on this trip. I was there to see my friend and to experience what his life was like at college. By staying behind I was able to see another side of my friend. I imagine it was tough for him, trying to manage the two different parts of his life, home and college. He introduced me to his circle of friends, all of whom were a great lot, fun to hang out with. At night we’d sit around and drink beers, listening to music like Buffet, the Replacements or Living Colour. “Broken Hearts” got played several times while the conversations drifted from politics to sports to affairs of the heart.
During the week I sat in on one of Steve’s classes, and we played some pickup games of basketball (which still amazes me because I am terrible at basketball- Steve, when you read this, I continue to apologize for my lack of game at UNC that afternoon). Also, I met a girl who so intoxicated me with her charm that I professed my love for her. So strong were my feelings that the two of us attempted to carry on a long distance relationship that lasted two months. It didn’t end well. But that’s story for a different basement song column.
regret that I didn’t take the time to explore the campus and walk through Chapel Hill on my own while Steve was in class. I could have gotten to know the city better. However, having the courage to set off on a random adventure by myself was something I would be able to do for a couple of years when living in Los Angeles during my internship. So, I stuck around Steve’s dorm room while he went to class. Boring. Sadly, the time left alone with my own thoughts led to feelings of loneliness and sadness. By week’s end, whenever Steve wanted to include his roommates or other friends, I started to feel a slight, as if I wasn’t as important to him. Having failed to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around me, I became a petulant jerk and was ready to get out of North Carolina.
Steve and I joined a group of people and we headed down to the beach. Because of my foul mood, I was selfish and just wanted to get away from the University friends; I just spend a little time with my pal. I was such an ass that I even rooted again UNC as they lost to Michigan in the Sweet 16. Months later, after confessing my “sin” to Steve he exclaimed, “I knew it!”. We watched the game in some bar and afterward, Steve and I met our two female friends at the hotel room where they’d been staying all week.
The four of us innocently crashed in for a night. The cloud over my head hung there for the last part of the trip and I began to nit pick things the girls did and said. I was not a fun person to be around. At one point, after a heated discussion, I locked myself in the bathroom and had what can only be described as a meltdown. For all my talk and posturing about being an adult, because, you know, I was in college now, there were parts of my life I didn’t want to change. One of those things I didn’t want to change was my friendship with Steve.
The truth is I wanted my friend to myself. I had built up this damn week as a chance for the two of us to relive some of the old times that I didn’t stop to consider that maybe Steve was ready to move on from the past and wanted to look ahead to the future. Watching him interact with his new friends I feared that as he was moving on without me. Sounds kind of lame, but I had nearly lost my friendship once in my life and I was afraid I would lose it for good this time.
But I was wrong, and the two of us were able to talk about how I acted and what we were feeling like adults. “Broken Hearts” still resonates with me because it reminds me of a time when Steve and I were becoming men and forming a friendship with a bond so strong, we became brothers. This song also reminds me of the painful process of growing up, of watching your friends go to different places without you, and learning to accept it and cheer them on.
Plus, it really is a hell of a song.