My fondness-bordering-on-fanatical-obsession for Sufjan is well documented here and elsewhere. But I happened on this ringtone by happy accident--searching with my wife for ringtones based on Beatles songs. Sufjan contributed a quirky recording of Ringo Starr's "What Goes On" to a collection of underground artists giving tribute to the fortieth anniversary of the Beatles' Rubber Soul album. Lined up against the original, a straight-up Colonel Parker Memphis-rock standard, Sufjan's cover is virtually unrecognizable--which is pretty impressive, to be honest.
So yesterday I took the afternoon off to accommodate a whole host of errands, the first of which was donating blood, for which I was richly rewarded with cookies, Diet Coke, a pint of ice cream, two travel mugs, a thermos, a travel case and, presumably, a partridge in a pear tree. My cell phone (which was supposed to be turned off, incidentally) started ringing, and my phlebotomist and all her phlebotomizing friends and clients started laughing.
Apparently Sufjan is an acquired taste. I felt just a little like Peter the disciple of Jesus in the courtyard of the temple as Jesus stood accused inside, or Peter the apostle among the circumcision group as Paul the apostle advocated for the uncircumcised: suddenly I had to decide if I would defend my conviction that Sufjan is among the greatest musicians of our generation, or if I would join the mocking chorus and salvage my reputation at Sufjan's expense.
I leaped to Sufjan's defense, I'm simultaneously proud and embarrassed to say. I did so as much to reinforce my carefully cultivated reputation as a musical savant as I did to introduce this new audience to the joy of Sufjan. But at least I stood up for something; that's never a given.
I wonder occasionally how I would have done in the courtyard of the temple had a little girl accused me of fraternizing with Jesus. I wonder less often how I would have done if my friend the advocate of the Gentiles were being derided by the circumcision group in my presence. But they're both legitimate exercises, I think: who I'm willing to suffer for is a good indicator of who I can legitimately call my friend. I'm reminded of a song by Mark Heard:
What kind of a friend could pull a knife
When it's him or you and his kids need shoes?
What kind of a friend would do you in
When the bomb goes off and the shelter's his?
What kind of friends do friends become
When the musical chairs get down to one?
What kind of friend could I become?
What kind of friend am I?