We had the radio up loud a couple Fridays ago on the way out to the Onan Observatory in Norwood-Young America, easily the best star-gazing date of the spring and summer (www.mnastro.org/events/showparties.php). It was all-request day on the Current (89.3), so I asked the fourth-grade BFFs in the back seat what they wanted to hear.
After a short conference, they decided on their song. I got on the cell as the sun was going down over the prairie and much of the traffic on E. Hwy 212 was streaming against us into town. I couldn’t get through to the studio line, so I called a friend and asked her to make the request via e-mail. She called back, double-checked the names of the BFFs, and said she’d do her best.
In a “Science Of Facebook” chart in Time magazine last year, happiness was deconstructed like this: An ideal happy individual has ties to: a next-door neighbor (happiness quotient: + 34%); friend living within a mile (+ 25%); sibling living within a mile (+ 14%); friend of a friend (+ 10%); co-resident spouse (+ 8%); friend of a friend (+ 5.6 %). The data, of course, does not account for your various sundry happy misanthropes and lovable loners, but you get the idea.
The chart ran through my head as the deejays — two old friends whose unbridled passion for sharing music has led them to doing it, and therefore bringing people together, for a living — played “Monster Mash,” a tune from my youth that recalled a time before iPods and personal playlists, when hearing your song on KDWB or WDGY was the most instantaneous and thrilling way to connect with the universe.
We pulled into the parking lot of Baylor National Park and the girls ran off to the playground. I sat in the car, drinking in the impossibly green and already dazzling pastoral scene, scribbling in a notebook and making notes on my tape recorder. The sun was going down, the moon was coming up, and the girls were on the swings, kicking their legs in the air to take them higher, higher, higher, when the first few notes padded out of the car door speakers.
I couldn’t believe it. I jumped out and yelled across the field. They waved and took off like a shot, two athletic girls with smiles the size of the horizon, running at me and filling the windshield with all their unbridled vibrancy and U2’s “Beautiful Day” blasting out across the universe.
They got to the car before the first chorus kicked in. They didn’t say much. They listened closely. Their eyes crawled around the scene. They wanted to know if the deejay had said anything yet, which he hadn’t. They climbed on the roof of the car, and watched some boys play catch with a football as Bono instructed them to acknowledge the moment, to not let the beautiful day get away. I told them that because of them, “you two girls, right here, right now,” all over the world — Minnesota, New York, China, Seattle — people were listening to this redemption song of freedom. Together.
More crawling eyes.
As the tune faded out, deejay Mark chimed in, “It’s a beautiful day for star-gazing. That’s what Helen and Julianne are doing with papa Jim, on their way to check out the stars.”
That’s an exact quote. I know, because I left the tape recorder running. I won’t bore you with every daddy detail, or how many times I’ve played it since, but let’s put it this way: “Beautiful Day” has never sounded more beautiful, mixed as it was with those pre-teen giggles and all that pervasive joy, hope, grace, and a screamalong to “what you don’t have you don’t need it now, don’t need it now, don’t need it now.”
Jim Walsh lives and grew up in East Harriet.