Here in Northern California, we’ve had an abysmally wet April—a month of record-setting rainstorms. As I speak, however, spring-time, with all its Wagnerian emphasis, is finally coming back to my small part of the world. This year, spring-time means wading through yellow flowers and hiking up the road to show my nephew our neighbors’ cows. He likes them so much that he now says “Moo!” whenever anything awesome happens.
Precisely five years ago today, however, spring-time meant that Gunther was coming to campus, and UCSB would be utterly transformed (for a few days).
Gunther: the Germanic singer of a lovely song that went, “Ooooh, you touch my tra-la-la. My ding-ding-dong.” Gunther: the internet meme sensation from the country that spawned bratwurst and futurism.
The tra-la-la song is, unfortunately, now a forgotten piece of history—evanesced into the bowels of YouTube, where all the great videos curl up and die. Still, I’ll always have the memory of being surrounded by maniacs on bicycles yelling “Gunther!!!” Two years later, after the election of November 2008, cries of “Obama!!” would sweep the campus with exactly the same amount of gusto that UCSB gave to this pompous European pop star.
Students yelled “Gunther!” to each other as they passed on the street, as if it were the code-word of a secret society.
I guess he gave us something to care about. Something pure.
When I was growing up, I got to go to dance conventions in San Jose—hotels full of preteens with legwarmers and ponytails and high ambitions. Maybe I’ll tell you about those someday. At the end of every convention, though, there was a mass dance. The super-hyper instructors would try to drag us attendees (still in our tights and leos) onto the convention room floor: convinced (I suppose) that we were all dying for just one more chance to pirouette to ABBA.
I remember how one particular instructor, passing my cluster of reluctant ballerinas, yelled, “If you don’t come up and dance right now, you’re going to regret it for the rest of your life!”
At the time, my mental reply was the equivalent of a rude gesture. But I thought about those words when Gunther came.
He was performing in the giant gulch underneath Storke Tower, next to the pond wherein dwells Mr. Squiggles, the mutated koi fish. Gunther arrived, I’m sure, in a glitzy limousine, surrounded by equally glitzy European backup dancers. It was a dark and windy night; branches of the eucalyptus trees were intermittently torn by the gale and hurled onto the street—but I could still hear the tra-la-la song from the edge of campus.
I was in Greg’s dorm room, watching Shaun of the Dead.
Greg was saying, “So…should I change my Facebook status?” And it only took me about ten seconds (most of those spent with my head buried in a pillow, laughing) to figure out that he was asking if we should date.
One of my favorite lines in the Twilight movies (which I never have, and never will, pay money to see), is when Bella tells her dad, “You just don’t know about love!”
It’s this hilariously ironic line, because her dad (the single voice of reason in that whole franchise, in my opinion) had just told her, “Maybe you should go with the person who makes you happy, Bella.” In my book, that’s good advice. Love is a confusing, aggravating venture, and if the person you’re in it with doesn’t make you happy, what’s the point? Love takes a ridiculous amount of patience and adaptability, and laughter definitely oils the gears.
So this post is for Greg. This is me, saying, “Thanks. Thanks for asking me out by referencing Facebook, and giving me the opportunity to snicker at you for the rest of my life. Thanks for inexplicably calling me ‘Chauncy’ when you get sleepy. Thanks for retelling your jokes twenty times each, and always planning travel itineraries around where you’re going to eat. Thanks for watching Frasier with me, and insisting that I express my opinions on matters both dire and trivial, just for the sake of talking. Thanks for teaching me about parasites, computers, statistics, and pop phraseology. Thanks for speculating with me on fantastic situations and alternate realities. Thanks for being my comrade in adventure and my stalwart best friend.”
Happy 5 years. I don’t regret missing Gunther’s show at all.