Remembering the hunger 


Watching George W. Bush go all doe-eyed apologist in the Congo last week really did something to me. Well, it made me look away. But, inevitably, the birthing of the fantastic phrase, "George W. Bush's African Tour," pulled me back, way back, to thoughts of a tour T-shirt with a giant guitar shaped like Africa and tour dates written in Japanese (because they're always cooler). Why, the last time I thought about that was, well, July 13, 1985!

Hey, didn't we already fix Africa?

Eighteen years ago on that day, for 18 hours, when I was 18 (er, 13, plus poetic license), Bob Geldof (now irrelevant) and Bono (now too relevant) sweated and sneered across the world, while coining epithets like, "Well, tonight thank god it's them instead of you!" to ironic effect for Live Aid. Me, I sat on the floor of my bedroom in these little running shorts with stripes and a slit on the side, sweat-lodging the whole affair to the nervous bewilderment of the folks; my social conscience practically falling out of the left side of my shorts' crotch. It was to be the day my soul was born -- the day I ended hunger in Africa.

I haven't been hungry since.

Fortunately, geek that I was, I recorded the never-to-be-commercially-released affair on high-quality TDKs, stowed them away in a time-capsule cardboard box -- with my plastic bracelets, stuffed giraffes named Simon and John, and my innocence -- only to be opened, sniffle, on this day, 18 years later. Oh, Simon. Oh, John. Oh, this is obnoxious.

So, let's take a little journey through guilt trips and stuffed pants, tufty hair and manicured stares to see where it all went wrong. And as you go, fellow philanthropist, ask yourself, isn't GW starting to look a little like Ronald Reagan? The '80s are back, baby.

As is my tape hiss. Some scrambled lines later, and I'm faced with the dynamic duo of VJs Mark Goodman and Martha Quinn, unscripted. It's 7 a.m., 1985, and my hair is brown with a Sun-In front. Mark's wearing smaller shorts than me, and his social conscience is really, really big. "Let's join the UK feed," Mark leans in suggestively to Martha. Fuzzy-hatted men bleat "God Save the Queen" through horns as the nimble Princess Di and her be-honkered beau Charles enter their box seats above the sweaty, British masses.

I feel so important. Or at least a little confused. British acts like Status Quo, Style Council and Geldof's Boomtown Rats rattle on flairlessly, while I rot in Boca Raton disinterest, wondering where the meat and potatoes are. Like Simon. Or John.

And I thought the Status Quo was what we were rallying against. I smell a mixed message.

But the real pain comes in the sandbags of Norma Rae herself, Sally Field. Sitting in something that looks like a mainframe computer room, Sally puts on the tears to tell us about how mechanical and awful we are. "In the words of Frederico Garcia Lorca," she trots out her liberal-arts degree. "The day that hunger is eradicated from the earth, there will be the greatest spiritual explosion the world has ever known."

It's breakfast time, and Mom's making eggs.

"Humanity cannot imagine the joy that will burst into the world the day of that great revolution," she goes on, to the smell of bacon burning. "We're in a race against time. Soon the rains will come into Africa ..."

Like the Asia song.

"And bring even more misery," like the Asia song. "For when the rains come, more dirt roads will be washed away, supplies will be halted, cholera and dysentery will spread ..."

"Billy, your eggs are ready!" Mom ovulates.

"If you have not contributed ..."

As the day goes on and numerous showings of the fab soda commercial in which the metalhead makes the lid pop off his bottle by guitar solo alone, contradictions -- failures in our very moral fiber, even -- begin to become apparent.

Like what does Queen's show-stealing "Radio Ga-Ga" really mean? Or was it necessary for Phil Collins to fly from the UK show to the US show on an extremely expensive stunt, other than to prove he was doing something other than balding? And why wasn't Paul McCartney's microphone on during the UK closing song, "Let It Be"? Because that's exactly what we weren't supposed to do?

How about Madonna, confronting controversy over old nudey shots in Playboy with the soul-inspiring revelation that, "I ain't taking shit off today?" before singing, "Where's the Party?" with, um, The Thompson Twins? My belly is distending as we speak!

So, by the time personal heroes Duran Duran offer their one-night-stand ballad, "Save a Prayer" as a dedication to the hungry, and then imploring the world to "Dance into the fire!" I'm awash in personal insecurity. Hunger, even. Like the wolf.

But, mom's made steak and potatoes for dinner, so I'll be fine. That is, until I see Tina Turner spreading her oversized legs across Mick Jagger's oversized lips, in what is supposed to be an intense bonding in philanthropy. The message being that you can age and still make millions, natch. Therein, hope for us all.

As it all winds to an end (and I mean really winds, as my VCR has now broken on a big 1985 TDK chew), I'm whirling back to the present. Africa's worse off. Bob Geldof's ex-wife made Michael Hutchence kill himself before she killed herself. And Duran Duran have re-formed.

Carry on, George.


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