' Cinema Romantico: A Digression: The Night Church Went Secular & My Faith Was Affirmed on a Bus

Monday, September 22, 2008

A Digression: The Night Church Went Secular & My Faith Was Affirmed on a Bus

The answer to your most obvious question is, yes, that horrendously blurry image really is Jenny Lewis, the beguiling, ultra-talented frontwoman for the rock band Rilo Kiley who my friend Dave and I saw solo on Friday night at the Epiphany Church in downtown Chicago. (Either, cellphone cameras weren't designed for taking pictures in dark spaces or I just don't know how to do it.) First off, let me say that if the new stuff she played on Friday (her second solo record hits stores tomorrow) is as good as it sounded at this show, well, my sympathies, Rilo Kiley devotees, but I don't how much longer they're going to last. Her abilites are progressing at a rapid rate. Second, yes, you read the words Epiphany Church correctly. She really did play at an architectually marvelous House of the Lord. Why is this noteworthy?

Oh, no reason. Perhaps because Ms. Lewis authored the tune "Born Secular". And the tune "The Absence of God". Or perhaps because she wrote these lines: "It's a surefire bet I'm gonna' die. So I'm taking up praying on Sunday nights. And it's not that I believe in your almigt. But I might as well as insurance or bail." Or perhaps because she wrote this line: "My mama is an athiest, if I stay out late she don't get pissed." Or perhaps because she wrote-

Voice Inside Nick's Head: "Nick, stop it! Now you're just listing lyrics! Remember, you told yourself you wouldn't do that?"
Nick: "I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I can't help it! Just one more line? Please?"
Voice Inside Nick's Head: "Okay. One more."

She also wrote this line: "It's just you and God. But what if God's not there?" Yes, she sang those in the church, and I sang right along with her. And let me tell you, after a week of the nation's economy falling to pieces, 124 more hurricanes destroying everything in their path and a continuing Presidential election I'm already sick off, it felt really, really good to sing them out loud.

Now lest everyone think I'm some morally inept heathen I'd like to stress for the record that I'm not. I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church and I do believe in God, absolutely, it's just that I tend to get a little pissed off at Him and often times - like, say, last week - I really start to wonder about His so-called intentions. (My apolgies here for bringing this topic into my cinematical blog and, I assure you, this is just a one-off.) Most importantly, though, I don't feel Him at church. I don't. I don't think I ever did. I went to church more as a social activity and, in some ways, as an obligation. But I never felt His presence in the sermons or the bible verses or the communion or the church announcements ("the building and grounds committee is meeting this wednesday and now! The Lord's Prayer!") or, worst of all, the sharing of the peace (wherein you actually had to shake hands with the people around you and say, "Peace be with you").

No, no, no, no, the places I've felt Him have always been different. Places like, you know, movie theaters and concert halls and, even better, the random places you never, ever expect. Those only pop up every once in a very great while and that's why I was stunned - still am - that after the Jenny Lewis show, where all these thoughts were barreling through my head, my feeling that my faith is most strongly affirmed in the most random of moments would be affirmed in the most random of moments.

Dave and I piled onto the bus after the show and a young woman whom Dave would desribe after the fact as a "platinum blonde" (but please don't hold that against her) wound up standing directly behind me and took a phone call from a guy friend and explained she was on a bus and had just come from the Jenny Lewis all by herself because - and now I'm quoting 100% verbatim - "that's how I do things in Chicago. Alone. But not lonely."

To paraphrase the title of another Jenny Lewis song, her saying that melted my heart.

"Alone. But not lonely." Oh my God. A kindred spirit. A person who gets it. A human cut from the same cloth. Someone who understands. Someone who goes to concerts by herself. By herself! And she doesn't care, probably because she's not uptight and totally comfortable with who she is and doesn't require human contact 24 hours a day and probably gets pissed when people tell her she's weird because she doesn't require human contact 24 hours a day!

"Alone. But not lonely."

Yes, elsewhere in the conversation she explained to the person on the other end of the line that she couldn't pronounce Joe Biden's last name (and she couldn't, because she tried) but that she trusted Obama's choice, anyway, and that she was a "feminist" who was "majoring in women's studies" (so she was probably too young for me). But then at the end of the call there was a long pause as she listened to the other person speak and then she said, "That's what I always think of when I hear The Beatles. You and me. In your room. Listening to them." And then she started to sort of tear up. On a public bus! I swear to God! You could hear her effin' voice cracking! And then I started to tear up a little because she was tearing up. It might have been my favorite moment in my 3+ years in Chicago. (No, I didn't ask her out or say anything to her because I couldn't. And if you have to ask why I couldn't, well, it's because you're not her and me and you probably can't go to concerts by yourself.)

It's such a great feeling when you come across a lyricist who seems to speak for you on certain topics and feelings - lyricists like Ms. Lewis, and Sir Bruce, and Neko. You know they feel like you, or at least at one time in their life they did. But you can fire 'em up on the Ipod any time you want. It doesn't offer the beautiful randomness of life, not like the Ashland Express bus on a Friday night. "Alone. But not lonely." She felt like me. It brought me oh so much comfort. I don't know her name, but I'll never, ever forget her. Maybe that makes me strange. But I'm positive it wouldn't make me strange to her. Which is all that matters.

Let me leave you with another Jenny Lewis penned lyric, if you please: "You never knew why you felt so good in the strangest of places".

Ah, Jenny, sometimes you do.

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