Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Meryn Cadell "Pope"

With the announcement that Francis would be the new leader of the Catholic church, this Meryn Cadell song appeared in my Facebook feed.

I'd never heard it before, but it a) reminded me that I too had a story about once seeing the Pope, and b) that my memories of the story, are actually more about telling the story of seeing the Pope.  (Meta!)

We were hot, sunburned, and very, very tired.  But also adrenalized.

We'd spent the day in the parking lot outside of RFK Stadium in Washington DC at the punk rock festival known as The Warped Tour.  We'd seen literally dozens of acts, including Bad Religion, The Reverend Horton Heat, a pre-Fergie Black Eyed Peas (they were great) and even Eminem.

There'd been a rumor floating around that Joey Ramone was going to make an appearance, so we stayed long into the day, hoping that it would be so.

Alas, he did not.

On the Metro headed back to where we were staying, we were crowded amongst a few festival goers.  But it was a weekday, so many of the riders were simply folks who were coming home from a workday.

"Too bad he didn't show up," said one of my friends.  "Seeing Joey Ramone would have been like seeing the Pope."

"I saw the Pope once."

"Oh yeah?"

And I launched into the story of how I saw the Pope once.

In 1979, I was 10 years old.  Grew up in a very Catholic family.  Regular church-goers, Sunday School attenders, etc.

At age 10, I was certainly aware of the concept of a Pope.  And with the death of Pope John Paul I a year earlier, the idea of who a Pope was and what he did was a topic of discussion.  But for the most part, the Pope was as abstract and intangible as The Holy Spirit or Heaven for me.

Then came news that Pope John Paul II would be making his first trip to America.  And that his first stop would be in Boston.  It became clear that this Pope was a real guy, and that I'd actually get to see him.

We traveled into the North End of Boston with my folks and my Uncle and Aunt and cousins and found a place on the sidewalk along what we knew to be John Paul's route from Logan Airport, to a Mass he was going to give on Boston Common.

And we waited.  And waited.  And waited.

And waited.

I was only 10, so I'm sure that even if it were just 2 hours it might have felt like 100.  But it was long.

And the sidewalks were jammed.

I remember that the scene was colorful and loud (I know, hard to believe such a thing from Italians).

My cousins and I kept walking back from the sidewalk to a storefront nearby that had a TV in the window, where we charted the Pope's progress in our direction.  Though honestly, being 10, I don't know that I actually knew where I was in relation to the airport, so I'm not sure what good that did.

At some point a roar went up from the crowd, and I pushed forward to get a glimpse of the Pope.

But no, it was just a very proud dog trotting down the middle of the street, cheerily perplexed at why all these humans had assembled for him and were clapping hysterically for him.

More waiting.

Here's what happened next.

We heard some cheering down the street.

I craned my neck to get a look.

A car with a guy with his head out of the sunroof zoomed by, waving.

And he was gone.

"That's it?" I asked my Mom.

"That was him."

"But that's all we get to see?"

It lasted no more than a few seconds.

We waited hours, and it lasted seconds.

"Did you guys see him?" I asked my cousins.

"We watched it on the TV."

And we went home.

"This was before he got shot, so there was no fancy Pope-mobile," I was telling my friends on the Metro.

"It was just an old balding guy hanging out of a limo."

I suddenly realized two things on the Metro.

I had been at a punk rock show all day, and due to my ringing ears, I was telling this story REALLY LOUDLY.

And because of this, I had the attention of all the other riders on the Metro.

Now, you may not think this would be a strange thing for a guy who talks to an audience (on the radio) every day.  But it was.

Because on the radio, no one is looking at you.

I smiled, kind of proud of myself that I was enough of a raconteur (or a big-mouth) to have drawn the attention of complete strangers.  And a bemused smile crossed my face.

I felt a little like a dog in a parade for the Pope.

See some pictures and read a recounting of the Pope's visit to boston, from The Globe and from

Hear the song on Youtube.

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