In the mid '90s, when I was a wide-eyed, 20 year old living in Atlanta, I met Tom Morello, the guitarist from Rage Against the Machine. Vividly, I remember what I was wearing when I met him. When clothes from the '80s were absolutely no longer cool (oh, how I wish that was still the case), I was wearing an awesomely '80s shirt that had once belonged to my mom. It was a seasick-green shirt with a sort of bib that fell from the high, round neckline (think, sailor shirt) that had been purchased via mail order from the Royal Silks catalog. Even though I had modified the shirt by replacing the bib with a less remarkable collar, I still didn't particularly like the shirt and only wore it out of necessity. My job as a hostess at The Old Spaghetti Factory demanded that I trade in my usual Doc Marten's and baggy jeans for skirts, heels, panty hose and other cast offs from my mother's closet.
The night that I met Tom Morello, I was the last hostess on duty. Tom walked into the restaurant a mere five minutes before closing time. I didn't know who he was, and I was not particularly nice to him because I knew that wherever I seated him in the restaurant, the server assigned to that table would not be particularly nice to me. Tom was very friendly. He asked me how I was doing, and I answered in the low, bored, monotone voice of an annoyed and inconvenienced teenager. Even as I answered him, I realized that he had a pleasant demeanor and that I shouldn't be such an asshole to the kind man who thought it was normal to eat dinner at 11pm. So I asked him how he was doing. In a cool and cordial manner, he explained to me that he had been in the studio recording all day and that he was desperately hungry for a big plate of pasta.
Let me stop here to explain that this meeting occurred at a point in my life where I thought that musicians were gods. Absolute fucking gods. When Tom Morello walked into my life, I was deep in the throes of worshipping the musician gods. So, when Tom told me that he was a musician and that he was a good enough musician to have someone record his music, I was enraptured. My ears perked up, my low, bored, monotone voice quickly morphed into the bright, bubbly tune of a preteen girl, and I was all his. Dreamily, I was going to be his from the moment I left the hostess stand until the moment I sat him at his very special Old Spaghetti Factory table.
As I was walking Tom to his table, he casually asked me to join him for dinner. Since I was getting off work, I (a little less casually) agreed. We sat in the old-fashioned trolley car in the middle of the massively empty, old-world-themed dining area, and talked. As he ate his Pasta Trio, my 20-year old self chattered incessantly about my 20-year old's dreams. I shared with him my grand career aspirations, and I told him of the far-away lands that I wished to explore.
"I want to go to Tangiers," I said.
"Where?" he asked.
"Tangiers!" I responded with a, suddenly, proud awareness that I wanted to travel somewhere so exotic that this well-traveled musician had never even heard of it.
"Oh, you mean Tangier? In Morocco?" He corrected me. I was embarrassed.
The shame of my ignorance poured into my heart and rose like red-hot lava through my neck and into my face.
Tom finished his pasta and we left the restaurant together. He walked me to my car and then asked me if I wanted to go to a house party with him where a local band, Bullhead Clap, was playing. For a fleeting second, I was excited. And, then, I remembered what I was wearing. I couldn't go to a house party wearing my mother's modified, but still awesomely 80s shirt. I felt a deep embarrassment over my outfit and, sadly, declined his invitation. He gave me a hug, kissed me on the cheek, turned towards his car, and walked away. I got in my car, closed the door, cursed my silly clothes and headed towards my home.
When I got to my house, I excitedly told my roommate, Lucy, about my religious encounter. Since we practiced the same religion at the time, she matched my excitement and we concocted a plan to stalk Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine. Being the crafty little stalkers that we were, we discovered that the band was recording their album at Southern Tracks studio on Clairemont Road. The next day, Lucy convinced me to call the studio and nonchalantly ask to speak to Tom. With nervous, sweaty fingers that slipped from the buttons as I dialed, I called Southern Tracks phone number and asked the woman who answered the phone if Rage Against the Machine was recording there. She sternly informed me that they didn't give out that sort of information. Embarrassed, I quickly hung up the phone.
Undeterred and seeing the flaw in our scheme (asking if Rage Against the Machine was recording there instead of informing the call handler that we knew Rage Against the Machine was recording there and then demanding to speak to Tom Morello), we waited a few minutes and Lucy called back.
"Hi, yes, I need to speak to Tom Morello", Lucy asserted to the woman who answered the phone.
"Yes, I know he is there, and I need to speak to him," she demanded.
Lucy waited. Then, rolled her eyes, and slammed down the phone.
Slightly shocked by her boldness, I stared at her for just a second. Then, we both collapsed onto the floor in laugher.
With our backs on the floor, our feet on her bed, and the phone in between us, we laughed and re-enacted the phone calls for awhile. Then, we quit giggling and began brainstorming again. All of a sudden, Lucy shot up from the floor. She grabbed her car keys from her dresser and excitedly said, "Come on!" As she was reaching the front door, I caught up with her and asked her where we were going. I thought I heard her say, "To Southern Tracks studios" as she climbed into her car, closed the door and waved through the car window for me to hurry up.
On our way to Southern Tracks, Lucy told me that we were going to drive by the studio and, hopefully, catch Tom Morello outside. He would be outside smoking a cigarette, talking on the phone or just shooting the shit with the rest of his band. You know, the stuff that musicians do while they are recording an album. The idea that he might be inside the studio, actually recording an album, never even crossed our minds.
We drove up and down Clairemont Road several times, certain that we had been misinformed about Southern Tracks' address. At the address that we had scribbled on a crumpled, now sweaty piece of paper, we discovered a small unassuming, little ranch house -- a house that would not be out of place in a 1970s, sweet, suburban neighborhood. Still uncertain that we had the right address, Lucy turned into the driveway of the house. With the car engine running, we sat at the top of the driveway in silence. Staring at the house to the right of the driveway where we idled, we saw no signs of advertisement. Indeed, we saw no signs of life.
Lucy turned to face the driveway and took her foot off of the brake. Her Honda Civic slowly coasted down the driveway and into the large parking area where a suburban, back yard should have been. There were a few cars in the parking area, but no famous musicians standing around outside shooting the shit. Crestfallen, we again sat in silence. I was deep in thought, trying to concoct a new scheme, when I heard Lucy exclaim, "Oh well!" Then, she promptly did a three-point turn and maneuvered her Civic to go back up the driveway that had once, just seconds before, led to a back yard planted with gardens full of hope and excitement. As we crept up the driveway, I stared over my shoulder at the back of the house, earnestly willing a rock god to miraculously emerge from the single, basement door. I watched and willed until, at last, Lucy turned out onto Clairemont Road. Then, sullen, I turned back to face the road. "Wanna go to Target?!?" Lucy cheerfully asked, sensing my disappointment. "Sure" I shrugged as we drove down Clairemont Road and away from my dreams of reuniting with Tom Morello.
For several years after meeting Tom Morello, I maintained my fascination with him. Maybe, I even grew my fascination. Lucy, eventually, started working in the music industry, earning us nice perks, such as free tickets to concerts and backstage passes. When Rage Against the Machine played a show at Phillips Arena in Atlanta, Lucy got us backstage passes. Nervous and full of self-doubt, I saw Tom backstage before the band went on stage. He saw me, too. I looked at him, silently begging him to recognize me. However, not even the slightest bit of recognition crossed his face, and then he was gone.
About a year after seeing Rage Against the Machine play in Atlanta, Lucy and I decided to go see the band in Rome, Italy. Lucy was able to get passes from the band's agent, and we set out, halfway around the world, to see a band to which I considered myself only very minimally acquainted. But, acquainted nonetheless. The trip to Italy was full of mishaps and confusion. We did not get to go backstage. In fact, we didn't even know how to read our tickets. So we ended up sitting in one of the last rows of the arena where we, disappointed and tired, only half-watched the show. Although the experience was an adventure, and the adventure was an experience, it was during our trip to Italy when my fascination with Tom Morello began to wane. It continued to wane. And, then, my fascination melted into mild interest. And, then, my mild interest evaporated into complete disinterest.
And, then, I was old.
Yesterday, I awoke from a dream that plunged deep into my subconscious and pulled Rage Against the Machine to the surface. Consciously, I do not remember the dream's story. I just know that I awoke and thought to myself, "Why the fuck am I dreaming about Rage Against the Machine?"
I've been to several Jungian-based dream analysts/therapists over the years so I'm familiar with the Jungian approach to dreams. One theory of dream analysis, according to Jung, proposes that every person/place/object in a dream represents an aspect of the dreamer and/or reveals something about the psyche of the dreamer. So, as I brewed my morning coffee, I thought about my dream using the framework of Jung's theories. Staring out the window and drinking my coffee in silence, I thought about what Rage Against the Machine represents to me. As I slowly drained my coffee cup and then the whole pot of coffee, I realized that Rage Against the Machine represents a period of my life. To me, the band represents a period when life was infinite and full of possibilities. A period when there was plenty of time, in the future, to worry about life partners, careers and passions; in fact, existential questions weren't even a part of us yet. Back then, each moment was about that very moment. We didn't worry about tomorrow, or the next day, or the next month or year. We were in the moment. And we were ageless.
Dreams are important and beautiful gifts from our psyche. I believe that, by manifesting Rage Against the Machine, my subconscious was throwing up a road block into the worry-filled path upon which my conscious currently treads. Instead of constantly worrying about the inevitable passage of time, I need to regain my long-lost sense of agelessness. I need to, once again, feel the sense that anything is possible, the sense of wonder and the lightness of being. I need to regain that voice inside of me that says, "Fuck it, I'm going to try this and see what happens."
For sure, finding and nurturing these parts of me won't be as easy as chasing a rockstar halfway across the world, but once I do, I know that my luggage will be lighter. My journey, more joyful. And the souvenirs, much, much sweeter.