When Bono Comes to Town


Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, May 8, 2006.

When I was 19 and on summer break from college, I was itching (as ever) to figure out a way to be a cartoonist. So I sent in a few editorial comics to the local alternative paper, the Michigan Voice, and I followed that up with a visit. I hoped to, you know, strike up a conversation with the editor, have him take me under his wing, pay me money, publish my work, sing my praises, that sort of thing. In other words, I didn’t have any idea what I was doing.

The newspaper office was actually a house out in Burton on Belsey Road (for you Flint readers). I walked in and introduced myself to the distracted young lady behind the counter. Behind her were the editor and another lady in an agitated conversation over I don’t know what. The counter lady was doing her best in a nice way to make me go away, but I asked to talk with the editor. He was standing right there, so with no choice and very little enthusiasm she turned and waited for a pause in conversation. It was uncomfortable. I stood there watching without anything to do. It was one of those periods of times where you become aware of your hands and feet, and you shift around in a sad little dance trying to find places to put them.

Finally a pause came; the counter lady pointed my way and whispered my intentions. The editor glanced at me, made a dismissive sweeping motion with his hand, and said to the counter lady that they only had room for the Feiffer cartoon. (This was a syndicated editorial by the Village Voice cartoonist, Jules Feiffer, which — while brilliant — typically had very little to do with Flint, Michigan and everything to do with New York City.) The counter lady relayed this to me even though I already heard it, and because I was only 19 and had no other plan, I said thanks and left.

The editor, of course, was Michael Moore. And so before Roger and Me, before Bowling for Columbine, before Bush-bashing Oscar speeches, books, and Fahrenheit 911, I hated Michael Moore. And I had a good and personal reason for doing so. I’m not saying it’s a better reason than your reason, I’m just saying that I’m a better person. Wait. Did that come out right?

Last week Bono, lead singer of the group U2, came to Grand Rapids to give a speech, mostly centering on the AIDS crisis in Africa. There were those who wouldn’t bother to listen just because he is a rock star. The unfortunate thing is that he is deeply sincere, quite articulate, and even self-depreciating when it comes to his rock star status. There are also those who won’t give Dick DeVos, the Republican candidate for governor, the time of day just because he comes from a well-to-do family. And as this week’s comic points out, we tend not to be at all consistent in how we apply this dislike for the rich and famous. It’s silly.

That said, I have to admit that my ongoing hatred of Celine Dion has never been stronger….

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