Charlie is Antiviral

Washing the dishes with the best seats in the house.

“This is how we’re going to get through it. Looking after our neighbors. I guess we’re all neighbors now.”

– Charlie Parr (March 25, 2020)

 

I was on my computer when the governor started his press conference today. He said there are 243 ICU beds in the whole state. The population of Minnesota is 5.6 million people. 243 beds. I thought about the hospital scenes in Italy. A priest died after he sacrificed his respirator so a younger person could have it. Thousands are dying around the world. More will die.

I freaked out a little and went for a run. I ran up past Holy Rosary through the snow. Up to Bagley to the little platform overlooking the city at the high point. A ghost town. People crossing the street so they don’t have to pass each other on the sidewalk.

We’ve had some troubles this year. Some health stuff. A death in the family. But, it can always be worse. I know people with Parkinson’s. Multiple sclerosis. People who had a child die of cancer. Our issues have been routine in comparison. I’m 52, but I just learned something this last year. I knew it in my head, but I finally knew it down in my plums: Every single person you meet has troubles. Burdens you can’t imagine carrying. You’d think I’d have learned that by now, but hey, better late than never.

Then this virus hit.

I got back home from my run in the deserted streets. It was eerie. At one point, I ran down the middle of the road past UMD. No people. No cars. Outside with fresh air, sure, but I felt unhinged.

As my little family unit sat around the table for supper, I remembered that Charlie Parr was doing a livestream concert, safely alone, broadcast from Duluth Cider. Anybody who knows me, knows I’m Charlie’s biggest fan. (You’re a bigger fan? I will fight you.) We hooked up my wife’s phone to a Bluetooth speaker. We started to eat right as he started “Heavy” which is my favorite song from his latest album. Maybe because I just learned how to feel empathy about burdens.

I know it’s heavy, she said
But you gotta go
And take it with you
Down the road

and then

The future ain’t tomorrow
It’s happening now
Listen to the changes
Feel it in your power
And I know it’s heavy
But I gotta go
And take it with me
On my way home
 

Heavy
But you gotta go
It’s heavy
Just bring it home

Something in me broke. I’m not sure why. I’m untouched by trouble. Maybe it was the drumbeat of bad news. 243 beds. Empty streets. My kids doing classes online. Standing six feet away from people. People losing their jobs. People struggling to breathe. People dying. This shit is fucked up.

I know it’s heavy, she said. But you gotta take it with you. We all do.

We kept eating and kept listening. Charlie didn’t get any real time feedback in an empty venue. But trust me, Charlie: You done good. Someone on Twitter said it was the concert of the year. Yes, maybe of a lifetime. From that silent, livestreamed, empty cider hall. For people that needed to feel togetherness. At one point, the screen said 2300 people were watching the performance.

All four of us washed the dishes while Leo the dog hoped we’d drop something and Charlie sang “Temperance River Blues.” It’s a little love letter to Duluth and the North Shore. I’ve even learned to play a crappy version on my own guitar. The chorus tonight made me realize something. I don’t want us to feel togetherness out of fear. I want us to feel togetherness out of love.

Duluth is lost in a mist

that escapes from underneath the streets

and hides faces and doorways

and makes the lake seem loud

the waves roll and crash and retreat

 

My home is where my love abides

My home is where my love abides

My home is where my love abides

My home

He closed the concert with a song called “Jaybird.” Then he packed up and said goodnight. He joked that maybe he should do everything on YouTube. “I could be a YouTuber,” he said. “I could make ‘content.’ I could go viral. No, wait that’d be bad. I want to be antiviral content.” The socially-distanced person at the back of the room made a one-man call for an encore. Charlie balked under the circumstances. I knew why he was nervous.

I’ve seen Charlie Parr in concert dozens of times. He often ends with an a capella version of “Ain’t No Grave Gonna Hold My Body Down.” I’ll never forget the first time I saw him stomping his foot and hollering that song. It was the ballsiest thing I’d ever seen. Well, he belted it out tonight, unsure if it would work. I wasn’t sure either. By himself in an empty hall. Topic maybe too close to the bone.

There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down
There ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down
When I hear that trumpet sound
I’m going to rise right out of the ground
Ain’t no grave
Can hold my body down.

Charlie Parr first destroyed me, then made me proud to live here, and, at the end, built me a spine. I’d say the last song worked.

 

 

About Eric Chandler

Husband. Father. Pilot. Cross Country Skier. Writer. Author of Outside Duluth and Down In It.
This entry was posted in Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Charlie is Antiviral

  1. Pingback: Charlie is Antiviral - Perfect Duluth Day

  2. mariezhuikov says:

    OMG, his last song SO worked! I hadn’t heard him do it before. Knocked me off my chair.

    • Takes guts, doesn’t it? First time I heard him do it, I was almost scared. But now, it’s one of my favorite things. I envy your first time hearing it. It’s glorious.

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