No Regrets


From the getgo, I was filled with doubt.  First of all, the cost: $74.  The last time I saw New Order in concert, it was seven years ago and twenty bucks cheaper, and it wasn’t that cheap then.  Secondly, the venue: Roseland Ballroom, which I’d never been to but read online that it was not the optimal place to see a show.  But I wasn’t getting any younger, and certainly the same could be said of the band.  Not only were some members on the back nine of their fifties, but one of them, the bassist Peter Hook, had left altogether after an acrimonious split.

But I bought the ticket and said to myself that this was it.  This wouldn’t just be my final New Order concert, it would be my final rock concert, period.  This wasn’t some grand gesture or sacrifice on my part, as I’ve only really seen three rock concerts in my life, and two of them were New Order.  And truth be told, I hadn’t really loved either of them.  There’s  entirely too much waiting around, first from the DJ spinning some music, then the opening band that nobody ever cares about.  And by the time the headlining band takes stage, your ears are already ringing.

Most people know of New Order through three songs: “Blue Monday,” the best-selling 12” (vinyl single) of all time; “Bizarre Love Triangle,” which people have danced to if they went to college between the late ‘80s and the early-to-mid 90’s; and “True Faith,” a fairly popular single that was featured in the movie adaptation of Jay McInerny’s Bright Lights, Big City.  Bernard Sumner is their lead singer, and he’s got what I’d call a studio voice – perfect for the confines of the glass cube to extract his vocals, but live and on stage with everything blaring, his words get a bit lost in the music.  Still, the point is not to have the man sound like his CD – the point is to see them live and revel in their liveness.

The first time I saw New Order, it was in Giants Stadium, and our seats were way in the back.  The second concert was held at Hammerstein Ballroom, and I sat upstairs and watched the show from the mezzanine.  This time, since it would be my last one, I decided to get as close as I could, which meant I’d have to stand with everybody else.  I went with a friend, so when the opening band came on stage, we made our way to the middle of the pack.  Win Win was the name of the band, and although everyone wanted these poor guys off the stage as quickly as possible (you could just feel the impatience running through the crowd), they held their own and weren’t half bad.  Behind them hung a huge projector screen, and they played rave-like screen saver videos, which seemed odd to me.  If I can be the cranky old guy for a moment: in my day, it was enough for the performers to perform without all of these moving images.

When New Order finally came on, around 9:30pm, everyone who was holding a smartphone turned it on to either take a photo or record a video.  As much as I’d like to bemoan this lemming-like response, I can’t, as I was one of them.  It was almost comical to see all these little screens held up above the owners’ heads, tiny beacons to capture the stage.  New Order started the gig off with an instrumental, which seemed like an odd choice, but it was a tribute to Michael Shamberg, a filmmaker who was close to the band.

With each song, the crowd inched forward.  Personal space, which was lacking to begin with, shrunk even further.  As people pumped their arms and pogo-danced in their limited area, the temperature in the room rose.  I started to sweat.  Everyone started to sweat.  Bodies were banging into me, and I suppose I was banging them back.  I don’t know, because I was dancing, too, and singing and screaming!  There was a girl to my left and a guy to my right, and I have no idea who they were, but outside of my wife, I have never been so physically close to other human beings for such a length of time.  By the time “Temptation” played, a huge fan favorite and a great dance tune, the ballroom felt primal.  The body heat, the human musk, standing shoulder to shoulder with total strangers – it felt a little out of control, a bit like that scene in the second Matrix movie where  people are dancing crazy and beads of sweat fly off everywhere – and and you know what?  I kind of loved it.  Never have I felt such closeness to this band I’ve loved for more than twenty years, nor have I ever been so aware of people who enjoyed them as much as I did.  These were my people!  Though maybe not all of them – at some point, a guy came barreling through, telling everyone to dance harder, dance harder!  And he took turns putting his arms around people, including me.  This was a bit much, but thankfully, he kept pushing through to offer his gift to as many concertgoers as possible.

My final rock concert was a sweaty, messy, loud affair, and somehow that was a good thing.  It felt not quite like my final — but rather my first.  An ending that might very well become a beginning.


1. Elegia
2. Crystal
3. Ceremony
4. Love Vigilantes
5. Age Of Consent
6. Here To Stay
7. Your Silent Face
8. 1963
9. Close Range
10. Bizarre Love Triangle
11. 586
12. True Faith
13. The Perfect Kiss
14. Blue Monday
15. Temptation


16. Atmosphere
17. Love Will Tear Us Apart

For New Order fans, some specific stuff:

  1. Nothing from Technique or Republic, which was disappointing.  Sometimes I wonder why they bother to play songs like “Here to Stay” or “Close Range” — few people know or care about those songs.  At the same time, I do remember being very happy that they played “As It Is When It Was” back in 1993, so maybe I should shut up.
  2. Both “Temptation” and “True Faith” seemed like unique arrangements; they both sounded fantastic.
  3. I really missed Hooky’s bass.  Tom Chapman did a nice job, but only Hooky has that warmth.
  4. I was thinking the crowd would be between 35 and 50, but I’d say half of the people looked under 30.  Nice to see New Order has a fanbase that still speaks to the youngins.

For better pictures than the ones I took below, and for a more thorough review of the concert, check out these two links:

My Blue Monday, 2/7/11

Johnny Angel of Suyung


It feels as if Johnny has died about thirty times in the last week.  Lying on his side with his eyes half open, I lift up the covers to see that he’s still breathing.  And he is, so he’s still here.  Johnny’s our cat, and he’s dying from renal failure.  Tomorrow morning, he’ll be gone for sure, because our vet will drive over here to our home to put him down.  It’s a decision that makes me sick and grateful at the same time.

But for now, Johnny’s alive.  His process of dying has been a gradual lowering of location, from the high perch of the table to the middle of the armchair and now on the floor, with towels and heating pads to keep him warm.

Today is a good day, because last night, we watched Super Bowl 2011.  Instead of seeing it downstairs in the living room like my wife and I normally would, we cheered on the Cheese Heads upstairs so we could be nearer our cat.  This involved a bunch of high-tech trickery, converting the unencrypted cable signal through Ethernet and streaming the feed wirelessly to my netbook and out to my widescreen computer monitor.  Johnny wouldn’t have been completely alone had we decided to stay downstairs, as we have another cat, one who is not exactly healthy, either, but at least one who isn’t dying.  Her name is Kyra, and they’re both Siamese, if you please.

I don’t think the football game, as exciting as it was, is the reason why Johnny’s looking better today.  It’s because for the first time in a long time, he slept in our bed, and for a good hour last night, we slept together.  He hasn’t been able to walk for about a week, and all of his movements are limited, and yet last night, he found a way to crawl up next to me and stretch his uncertain limbs over my chest.


Johnny is my first cat, my first pet, one I didn’t live with until well into my twenties.  (This is actually a fairly serious secret I just revealed, because now you could probably break into my online bank with the answer to one of my security questions.)  When I met Johnny, he was two years old, and he’d been a stud cat for a cattery, meaning he was smooth and sweet with the ladies.  He has one of the most relaxed personalities of any cat I know, of any creatures I know, animal or human.  This is probably why he and I get along so well, because no matter how crappy things are going, Johnny is always just hanging out.  If he were human, he’d be the guy buying the extra rounds at the bar, the one who may have plenty of problems of his own but is blissfully oblivious to every one of them.

For a while, our household had numerical gender equality: my wife Dawn, her daughter Jessica, and Kyra versus myself, Johnny, and Larry, our German shepherd dog.  Jessica left for England in 2004, Larry passed away in 2005, and we got a new girl dog, Ginny, in 2006.  So tomorrow, I’ll literally be the last man standing in a household of three females.  Outnumbered!  I wish Johnny weren’t going, but it is time.  He’s done more than enough at this point, having survived two weeks of our absence in January, when we traveled to the Middle East and Europe, and when I left two weekends ago to see my college friend before he becomes a father (his wife is due in a week or so).  An impending birth, an impending death.  Never have I been more aware of the cyclical nature of life.

Seeing Johnny’s decline, I can’t help but to think of my own.  What’s going to happen to me?  Will I also lose the use of my legs, will my bladder empty without fair warning, will I become a living skeleton who watches his life slowly but surely ebb away?  We all hope that our end will be painless and swift, but we can’t all be so lucky.


I’ve been checking on Johnny on the hour throughout the day, replacing the piece of tissue underneath his lips because he’s been drooling more heavily.  At 3pm, he seemed tired but fine.  At 4pm, his breathing became more shallow, but he still recognized me and seemed like he might pull through to see tomorrow.  At 5pm, he was gone.  He took himself out.  We told ourselves, convinced ourselves, that putting him down would be our final act of kindness toward our boy cat, but it turns out that he’s the one who gifted us by giving up his life all on his own.

I wish I had been there with him as he exhaled his last breath, but I wasn’t there, because I had to be at work, in front of the computer, as my cat lie dying.  Not that it would’ve made any difference, because he was going whether or not I was present.  Still, it hurts that I missed his passing, and I know I’ll always regret it.


Dawn came back from work at seven, and we flooded the house with our collective tears.  My eyes actually hurt from all the crying.  Johnny’s where we left him, and I can almost make myself believe that he’s sleeping, that he’ll wake and tip his head up and look at me with those blue eyes of his.  But he’s gone.  As someone who has a tough time believing in the afterlife, I can’t say that he’s up there or slipped into another dimension or what have you, but I do know what this cat has meant to me for the fifteen years I knew him.  He was a good boy.  He was my friend.  He was my first bromance.  And I’ll miss him for the rest of my life.

There’s someone on the Internet that I must thank, and that’s Tanya (  We relied on her extensive website of feline chronic renal failure information, and because of her hard work, Johnny was able to get the best possible care.  On her site, Tanya has the following quote that I think aptly closes out this post.

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.

– Edna St. Vincent Millay

  • an essay I wrote about Johnny in KoreAm Magazine a few years back.