Yesterday marked the 15-year anniversary of mine and Scroo-Loo's return from France. We realized this late last night when we were half in the tank, playing darts and listening to "1200 Curfews" by the Indigo Girls (the live version of "Strange Fire" is still one of the greatest songs ever).
The picture to the right might seem like just an image of one really cool dude full of win, but it is loaded with 1993. Check the Levis 501 button fly jeans, or the Tom Clancy novel (probably "Sum of All Fears"). The "Ed's Sporting Goods" shirt is from JV's dad's garage, a marketing tool for a sporting goods store that never materialized, but provided us with free lures for about five years. On the left wrist is a sailors bracelet of the kind historically commonly worn by workers on ore boats in and out of Duluth.
It is also one of the last pictures taken of me without a goatee.
I haven't done much writing about our time in France, but Scroo-Loo has. For me, time in France would turn out to have a very significant impact on what followed, but not in any of the ways I would have imagined at the time.
If someone had told me I would be writing news, not songs, a decade later, I would have scoffed. Here we are; Chris Whitley is dead, and I pick up a guitar about once a year.
The most long-lasting impact France would have on me would turn out to be political. It marked the beginning of the end of liberalism for me, as I saw its ugly side and I saw how it was exploited for credibility. Mind you, not from our friends in France (all happy socialists), but from the band itself. Our drummer's constant America bashing (he an illegal immigrant from Canada living in L.A.) took a major toll over a period of months.
The crass exploitation - we weren't just a band, we were a band with a "message" - also killed the dream insofar as the "message" was simply a tool to pique interest on a continent which readily absorbs anti-Americanism and hard core liberalism. Within five years of our return from France I would be a devoted conservative.
As far as my career in music went, France spawned my favorite saying: "The biggest problem with the music business is that it is full of musicians." The shine was off that rose, and any romanticism I had for touring was replaced with the reality of being away from my family. I never craved it again.
In that sense also, France was the end of a belief. In total, I guess you could say that boyish idealism (I was 23 years old), of many kinds, died on that trip. But our return also marked the ending of what had been the most tumultuous two years of our young married life together. Our daughter's broken leg, meeting my biological mother, multiple trips back and forth from L.A., [Ed. - I forgot to add the broken collarbone that almost got me replaced for the tour], Scroo-Loo and I hadn't relaxed since sometime in 1991.
Within six months of our return we bought the house we live in now, and while things haven't always been quiet, we have never experienced the peaks and valleys of that two years.
Aside from all of the bullshit, living in France was a pretty terrific time; great people, great food, even better wine. But unlike Scoo-Loo, who could have stayed forever, I was happy to be home in Minnesota and never regretted we didn't stay longer.
Anyway, we did come home to Minnesota, on May 25, 1993. It only feels like yesterday.