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Let's Go Crazy

James O'Brien

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life. More to the point, we are here to "Celebrate Surviving Life," which, as it happens, is the subtitle to the Rock For Karl (Mueller) benefit that happens Thursday at the sold-out Quest club in Minneapolis. Karl's friends Paul Westerberg, Bob Mould, the Gear Daddies, Soul Asylum, and members of Golden Smog will be on hand to help Karl in his ongoing fight against throat cancer.

But this is no funeral. And you can be damn sure I'm not gonna stand up at this pulpit by myself. So I've asked a few of Karl's pals to riff on the nature of what "celebrate surviving life" means to them. So, without further ado, all the way from his home in Washington, D.C., we have Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü and Sugar fame on the mic. Sing him a round of "Happy Birthday," because he turned 44 Saturday.

"As I get older and the days get shorter, the memories start getting a little bit bigger than dreams. And you start to realize that, if you're lucky, you're at the midway point at 44. You think about missed opportunities, you think about time wasted. Stuff like that: the big parts of the story arc.

"Life is a strange thing. I don't think any of us really know what's on the other side. The only thing any of us can really know is what we have right now. It's fragile, and it's way too short. People get plucked off the earth for no good reason. Seeing Johnny Ramone pass on concerns me, and when I see my peers leaving very early due to unforeseen reasons, it makes me wonder how much of the lifestyle that all of us who toured heavily and partied heavily and turned it up really loud, how much of that takes a toll on your body? Is that an occupational hazard?

"When I was younger, I had a lot more energy to burn. My tolerance for imbibing was a lot higher; my tolerance for people was a lot lower. Healthwise, I just try to take a lot better care of myself. Getting rid of all the bad vices and being a lot more physically active, and fight that fight."

Well said. Thank you, Bob. And now, joining us from Austin, Minnesota, is none other than Martin Zellar. The former leader of the Gear Daddies is 41, and he's currently in the process of renovating his and his wife and two sons' new home in Austin. Brother Martin, the floor is yours.

"In the old days, you'd kind of go out and look to make things happen. And now the main thing that's happening is family and kids. I'm staying active, too. I was just elected the Mower County (Austin) chair of the DFL. It's a lot of work, but it's been very gratifying. Obviously we're active in campaigning for Kerry, but right now my focus has been more on our local candidates and trying to reinvigorate the party down here.

"I consider myself very lucky to have not been hit with any [illness]. Everything, all the little things, feels just a little bit sweeter. I celebrate surviving life by just being engaged--family and friends and things I care about. Some of the things I'm engaged in now are a lot better things than what I was engaged in in my 20s.

"When my dad died last year, at the funeral, it really hit me that he made such a difference in so many people's lives. It was definitely behind our moving back [to his boyhood home of Austin] and getting more involved. There's a lot you can do. I've always believed strongly in things, but a huge part of my new activism is a tribute to his memory and that he went out and made a difference."

Muchas gracias, Martin. Now please welcome to the podium Karl's oldest friend, Dan Murphy--the 42-year-old Soul Asylum guitarist, antique dealer, and dad. Danny?

"When you're in your 20s, you think you're fucking immortal and you can live through anything. Then you're in your 30s, and your hangovers last longer, and you gotta start taking a look at where you want to be and how you want to live. Kids and all that change your perspective a lot. And then you get to be middle-aged, I guess, and you realize how everything like that is in the balance. Everything you do to your body comes back to you, and your body takes it out on you, eventually. I suppose that's why older people are always viewed as being wiser, because it just creeps up on you one day.

"Healthwise, I like to Rollerblade and exercise and be outside. I pace myself. I try to get three good nights of sleep a week. I just realize it's more of a marathon than a sprint. We used to have a lot of lost evenings, and I wouldn't trade them, but when you're in your 20s, you don't know that you don't have to take it all in in one evening. There's going to be other big nights.

"Karl's thing gave me some much-needed perspective. His resolve has been something to watch. I think celebrating surviving life means having the fight in you to want to get through seemingly insurmountable situations. It's just something about the human spirit. It's intangible, and something that people have inside of 'em."

Finally, joining us all the way from New York City is Mr. Westerberg, the 44-year-old ex-Replacement and dad who is in the Big Apple at the moment recording some tunes for a film soundtrack. Paulie, the mic is all yours.

"I honestly don't know [how to celebrate surviving life]. I'm doing [the benefit] because I hope someone will do it for me someday. That's how I feel. I have real feelings for Karl, and since my dad died last year, I'm just more [aware of] my mortality. I just know we can all go at any time, and I just wanted to be there for him."

Thank you, Paul. You're not alone. And thank you, brothers and sisters. Take care of yourselves. Last but not least, Dave Pirner will lead us in a chorus of the Soul Asylum classic "Never Really Been." Please open your hymnals to page 666 and sing, "Hey, ain't it strange/How some things never change/Ain't it strange/How nothing stays the same."


Jim Walsh can be reached at 612.372.3775 or [email protected] .

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