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Posts Tagged ‘Thanks’

Wednesday night I got to share an experience with my oldest son which he will never forget. As my two regular readers will already know, both my sons are on the autism spectrum. The oldest one has Asperger’s Syndrome. Unlike his little brother, he is in regular classes, and if you were to encounter him in public or on the street, depending on the setting, it might take a few minutes for you to figure out that he doesn’t see the world the way you and I do. And like me, he is an Eric Church fan.

At The Key Arena

When we learned Chief was coming to Seattle this spring, my wife got on-line and we bought two tickets, so he and I could go and see one of our favorite singers in concert.

While I have been to many “big” concerts over the years, mostly at Michigan venues like Meadowbrook, the Pontiac Silverdome, The Palace at Auburn Hills, The Saginaw Civic Center, and Pine Knob, I have never been to any major Washington venue other than McCaw Hall.

We left in the early afternoon, so to avoid any traffic issues, and arrived in plenty of time to enjoy a spring afternoon at Seattle Center, and found a line forming already, with hard-core fans outside. I wish I could say that I was impressed with the venue’s handling of guests outside the building, I can’t. Conflicting information and instructions given by the venue’s workers made the wait frustrating and disappointing, especially for a young man who has a need to clearly understand what he is expected to do and participate in. However, once we finally got to the entry, the credit card/ticketless entry system seemed to work very well. The lines for souvenirs were long, but moved quickly, and soon my son had his first concert t-shirt with the image of his hero on the front and a list of concert venues on the back. We went to the concession stand to get a snack and some drinks and went to find our seats.

Let me say that for a concert, I don’t think there can be a bad seat in the Key Arena. We both spent a fair amount of time looking around and watching people file in, and looked at the stage at the south end of the arena.

The Brothers Osborne took the stage at 7:30 pm, and played a great show for about 45 minutes to a half-filled arena. I had heard them before, and knew they could play well, but judging from some of the reactions around us, several people were hearing them for the first time…and liking it. They played songs from their EP, including “Let’s Go There”, and “Rum”, and connected well with the audience when they spoke about knowing that you don’t have to be from the south to be country, before launching into a blistering rendition of “Down Home”. But my moment of great surprise and wonder came when they admitted to being great fans of The Band, then started playing an ambitious take on “The Shape I’m In.” While my son wasn’t familiar with the songs, he still enjoyed the performance, as did the concertgoers there to see it.

Eric Church

After the Brothers Osborne left the stage, the workers came to clear everything off, and soon a slide show started playing on the jumbotron above the stage as the arena filled over the next hour and fifteen minutes.

When the lights darkened and the opening strains of “The Outsiders” started, my son’s eyes got wide and he turned to give me a high-five as the crowd erupted. By now the woman next to me had figured out that my son isn’t “normal”, and that it was his first concert. At different points she tried to engage him, asking him what his favorite song was, high-fiving him when he appeared to be excited about a particular song, and urging him to wave his arms and cheer like everyone else in the arena, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

Eric and the band played an excellent show on a stage meant to allow them to play to the front, the sides, and the back. His energy was undeniable, and he reminded the crowd of his many visits to Seattle. The drum kit came down from the ceiling and turned during the show, and lights lowered and raised from the ceiling and from the back of the stage throughout the show. Eric drew on his vast catalog of songs, getting some of the strongest crowd reactions to favorites like “Sinners Like Me” and “Pledge Allegience to the Hag”. As the top-fueled 2+ hour performance drew to a close, he and the band played a poignant version of “Springsteen”, and before he wrapped it up, he talked to the audience about the line “Funny how a melody sounds like a memory”, and how he wanted us all to form a memory of that special Wednesday night, before he invited the audience to sing along with him to the “Whoa-oh-oh-oh, Whoa-oh-oh-oh,Whoa-oh-oh-oh”.

Chief
I was glad for that. For that evening, my son was part of an arena full of family, united in their love of a performer’s music, and of the performance itself, which was one of the best I’ve ever witnessed, and he got to just belong, and enjoy the irony of not being an outsider. I saw his shoulders droop just a little as the band left the stage at the completion of the song, and then I saw them raise back up a bit when Chief walked back out alone, and stood in the spotlight as he played “A Man Who Was Gonna Die Young”.  It was a good ending to a great concert.  And we got to enjoy a day of good conversations, before and after the concert, and one of the best performances he’ll ever see by a guy who sings songs that will be permanently embedded in the soundtrack of our lives, and those melodies will always be memories.

Thank you, Chief.

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Veterans’ Day is one of those holidays that always makes me sad, not simply because of the reason for the day, but because of the significance that some people never dwell on.  In an age where a large portion of society wants to complain that any war, not just the ones we are currently involved in are manifestly unjust, it is easy to lose sight of two inevitable truths: 

1.  No matter how much you may believe war is unjust, and that violence is never an answer, the fact is that sometimes, wars come to you, no matter how you conduct yourself; and

2.  Whether we are discussing a war of aggression or of self-defense, the men and women who answer the call do so with the full knowledge that they may be expected to give everything, including their lives.

It is for the people who answer that call, and not the cause for which they sacrifice, that we honor on this day.

Every conflict in which our nation has fought in the last century or so has had its own flavor, and as a friend recently reminded me, this is captured in the memorials which commemorate them.  On this day, I refuse to pass judgment determining whether a particular conflict is good or bad.  Good or bad, Americans fought, and Americans died.  Some never came home, some came home in boxes, and some came home with their innocence forever surrendered to places with unpronounceable names, or generic designations.  Some came home haunted by the things  they have seen, and some came home able to reconcile horrors that they witnessed with a life filled with the mundane and the ordinary.  And good or bad, some conflicts just touch us, even if we didn’t fight in them.

For me, that conflict would be Vietnam, probably because so many of my friends’ fathers served there.  Some of you in the same age group as me know what I am talking about.  Those moments where someone’s Dad would lapse into a story about something they saw there…something that changed them.  And to a man, every one of them I knew growing up had an undeserved shame.  For some it was the shame of coming back to being spit on and called “Baby Killers” by people who had never been there, and never did what they had to do.  For some, it was guilt over being alive when people they had known, had lived with, and had trusted with their lives, fell long ago in steamy jungles on the far side of the world.  And for some, it was shame over betrayal.  The betrayal of their sacrifices, and the lives of friends and colleagues by a government that micro managed the war, and eventually did what was politically expedient rather than what was right.  The shame that only a betrayer can feel in leaving so many to the certain death at the hands of an evil and destructive political philosophy that treats men as interchangeable parts and not the unique individuals they are.  A political philosophy that we promised to save them from.

That is a heavy weight for anyone to bear, and it is bitter compensation for those who gave up their childhood and innocence for the service to their country.  It can be easy to forget that this conflict, like all conflicts, was ultimately dependent on the soldier.  I took some time reading some letters home from one of these soldiers to remind myself of that.  I think this one helps to bring this idea home.  I don’t know if Mike made it home.  I hope that he did.

Jan 12, 1969
Dear Family,
I got the package yesterday, and I was real grateful. We are low on C-rations, and there is hardly any water.

We are supposed to be out in the bush for 4 days, but it ended up we’re still out here. It’s been about 2 weeks now. We are guarding this road. Making sure no VC get anywhere near the 1st Battalion, 1st Marines area, (1/1). Every afternon I’ve got gate watch. We all take turns from dawn to dusk. We just have to check out the ID’s of the civilians going up and down the road. If they don’t have an ID they are suspected of being a VC. The gate is a big cement grave. Our whole perimeter is set up in a big graveyard. In fact, our bunker is on top of a cement grave with sandbags on all sides. On one end we built a little hootch, and our machine gun is set right on top where the body was laid. I think that’s pretty cool. Inside the hootch there is the tombstone with all kinds of Chinese writing on it. At night we have a candle burning inside to see by.

Last night I went on a fire team-sized patrol, a fire team consists of 4 people. The leader was some corporal who I don’t feel safe with at all. He got here in Vietnam the same time I did, but he was put in charge right away because he’s a corporal. He goes by the book on everything. If we get hit we aren’t supposed to fire back, only on his command. I’d rather be with somebody that has a little more time in country, and knows what to do.

In about 5 months I will be the machine gunner for this squad, and in about 7 months I will be team leader. All the other guys in this gun team will be going home around the same time. Now I’m just the last ammo humper, but I don’t mind just as long as I gradually learn my job.

Soon I will have T-I-C, (time in country), and the experience. That’s what counts here.

I’m learning this language ok now, but the Marines only know a few phrases like “come here,” “go away,” “let me see your ID,” etc; but I want to learn more than this.

Mom, you were wondering what kinds of birds they have here. They are beautiful, nothing like in the USA. There’s swans, and big white birds with long necks, and ordinary birds with crowns on their heads, and then other birds that look like sparrows, only half their size.

I’m glad to hear you had snow. I kind of wish it would snow here once in awhile.

Enclosed are some pictures. Could you save them for me? They’ll get ruined over here. You can have the ones of me if you want. Also enclosed is part of a diary I started when I first got here. I’d better go now.

Mike

I can’t make you ponder the meaning of this day, and I can’t make you thank a veteran for doing what they did, but I will suggest that the kind of humility that comes from doing so can enrich your understanding of the day.

Thank you to Jim’s Dad, Troy’s Dad, Dan’s Dad, MCPO Airdale, BrewFan, Dick, and all the other veterans I know.  Thank you.

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