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Sittin on top of the world, Sittin on top of the world.

Remember the times we used to play,

We sing and we’d dance all damn day…

-Lenny Kravitz, Sittin On Top Of the World

 

This is an anniversary I never wanted to celebrate. One I wish I could forget or ignore. Fifteen years ago my little brother died.

It’s still impossible to believe. Impossible to adjust. Impossible to ignore.

I don’t want to reflect on that day. Memories will creep back. They always do. But today I won’t let them. Today I will celebrate.

But all I do is sing the blues,

But have I forsaken you, by telling you what you must do…

And all I do is sing the blues,

But I would never lie, let things go by. Leave you in the road to die.

I will never ever say goodbye.

‘Eff you death. Because today I’m celebrating life. The beautiful laughter filled life my brother lived for 18 years.

Never gonna say goodbye,

Never gonna say goodbye…

Today I’m going to remember all the times we shared. All the times we laughed. Because there was always laughter. Even when there was pain there was always laughter. He was amazing like that.

I was eight years old when he was born. I was indifferent at first. I could have cared less about babies. But then I held him. I’d never seen anything so beautiful. I’d never felt love like that. The protectiveness, the awe. The wonder of this little baby who came into our lives and made our family complete.

We had your typical brother/sister relationship. He loved to bug me. But as he got older we became more friends than siblings. We bonded over music. He loved to hear about the concerts I went to. He introduced me to Eminem long before Eminem was on MTV. He loved hip hop. He made me cd’s, mix tapes. Bob Marley, Tupac, Biggie. And Lenny. Lenny Kravitz was our music. We both loved Lenny.

He made me tell him, over and over, the story of my first Lenny Kravitz concert. We were supposed to get hooked up with backstage passes. I was dying to meet Lenny. It didn’t happen. The guy gave them to someone else. So of course me and my friends stalked Lenny after the show. We waited by the tour bus with a small group of die hard fans. Finally, he walked out. A giant crocheted hat on his head, dreadlocks trailing beneath. The crowd was hushed. We had waited for over an hour and no one said a thing. Right as he passed in front of me I yelled out, “Lenny!” He lifted his chin in greeting, “What’s up, ya’ll.” Then everyone went nuts as he climbed on to his tour bus. My brother loved that story. Every time he hung on every word as if he didn’t know how it was going to end. A year before he died we got to see Lenny in concert. It was the only concert we ever got to see together.

Remember the times… that we used to share,

You got to remember the times… that we used to share, that we used to share…

Today I’ll remember that concert. I’ll remember the Halloween party we went to at my friend’s house- that he later told me was the best night of his life. Today I’ll remember how he always had us all laughing. His impersonations. Pecking at his plate like a chicken at Thanksgiving dinner. How he would put his finger up in front of me and my sister and say in the most serious tone, “Hush. No talk-y talk-y.” How it always made us stop whatever big sister lectures we were giving and had us cracking up.

Today I’ll think back on how he invented the selfie way before cell phones were in every hand. He would finish up every role of film on my mom’s camera with extreme close-ups, always making crazy faces. I would always flip through the photos, anticipating the pictures at the end of the roll. The ones that I knew would make me laugh. The ones that were always different. You never knew what was waiting for you at the end of the stack, but you knew it would be funny.

Today I’ll laugh when I think about how he would take baby Jesus out of the Nativity scene my mom set out every Christmas. Every day baby Jesus would be missing. My mom would feign annoyance, but she would erupt in laughter when she would see little baby Jesus perched somewhere unexpected. Sometimes she wouldn’t find him until cooking dinner that evening. Or doing laundry. Or going to the bathroom. It was The Elf on the Shelf way before anyone had even thought of that creepy guy. Baby Jesus was always lurking, hiding. Always some place different. Sometimes completely inappropriate. Always hilarious. A tradition that my niece continues in her uncle’s honor every Christmas.

Today I’ll remember how we got through 18 months of chemo and radiation treatments. How he kept us all laughing through it all. His goal was to make his very serious Oncologist laugh. It didn’t take long. He quickly cracked through the veneer of a man who spent every day treating sick children.

I’ll never forget how he still loved to mess with my mom. He loved little pranks. He would sit at the kitchen table while she would flush out his IV line and right as she was pushing saline into the tube he would scream “It’s burning!” She would laugh every time, right after she had jumped in alarm. He loved to trick us, to pull one off, but he was truly happiest when he was making us laugh.

He had a way of making you fall for the same joke over and over. He would call me at work as he and mom were leaving treatments and doctor’s appointments. He would pretend to be one of my customers. I sold pagers to corporate clients. He would use different voices and accents and call me with crazy complaints, irate fake tirades and real creative scenarios of where he lost his pager. He would always erupt in laughter once he was sure I had fallen for it again, then quickly say “Where do you want to meet us for lunch?” It was impossible to get mad at him.

But the only way for you to survive

Is to open your heart, it will guide.

You wanna stay in this world of music and life,

You gotta turn around, Spread a little love and get high..

So, today I’m going to laugh. I’m going to remember every funny Todd story I can think of and I will laugh. I’m going to hold all my happy memories close to my heart and be thankful there are so many to choose from. I’m going to go to lunch with my mom and eat a giant cheeseburger in his honor. I’m going to remember his smile. His voice. His easy going nature that drew people to him. Today I’m going to remember the times that we used to share. And I’m going to listen to Lenny all day.

 

 

 

“Dear Mr. Fantasy play us a tune,

Something to make us all happy.

Do anything, take us out of this gloom,

Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy”

-Traffic, Mr. Fantasy

I hope I never get too old to go see live music. It’s one of my favorite things to do. The things I’ve endured to see good music… There’s the usual, like insane traffic jams and long bathroom lines. There was sleeping in a puddle of muddy water at Woodstock (’94) because our tent collapsed during the rain. There was a very scary (and not smart.. I shudder to think…) drive to a motel from a Grateful Dead show after the cops kicked everyone out of the parking lot. There was almost getting into a fight with drunk assholes at a Rolling Stones concert because my friend wanted to stand up and dance (if you’re sitting down at a Stones concert, just go home). There are some that I don’t want to put into print because my friends may kill me.

As I’ve gotten older my concert experiences aren’t filled with crazy stories. That’s what maturity buys you I guess. It’s no longer about the party, it’s mostly about the music.  But sometimes even the most mature and responsible (snort) concert goer can get caught up in the moment and reverts to the drunken 20 year old of their youth.

Last fall my husband (Joe) and I had tickets to Music Midtown Festival in Atlanta. Both of us lived in Atlanta for a few years and that’s where we met and fell in love. The city holds a special place in our hearts and we love any excuse to go back and visit. And I couldn’t wait for this concert. I tend to get just a tiny bit obnoxious with excitement when I’m really amped up about seeing a good band. For this festival, there were multiple bands I was really excited about. The Neighbourhood was playing early in the day. Reignwolf, was a new musician we were looking forward to. Weezer was playing later in the day. Queens of the Stone Age were playing that night. But really, The Arctic Monkeys is who I was geeking out over. Their new album “AM” had just come out weeks earlier and I was addicted to it. Since there were two main stages I studied the schedule and planned out where we needed to be to see all the critical bands. And I am not a planner. Joe and I tend to wing it when we travel. Also, I’m kind of a slacker with organizing and planning. But because I was so excited and didn’t want to miss any of the bands I had it all planned out and even made notes on my IPhone (since I’m also a tiny bit forgetful).

Upon arriving at the hotel, we make our way over to the bar to have a little something to warm us up before heading out in to the chilly damp weather. After sufficiently warming up, we set out for the park where the festival was being held. As we approach we see long lines at all the entrances. But, because it was our anniversary weekend we had splurged on VIP tickets. This meant we had a separate entrance with a significantly shorter line.  VIP also gets you access to free crappy food and cheap beer and wine but most importantly nice port a potties with significantly shorter lines. We arrive just in time to see The Neighbourhood. Perfect. My planning was paying off. After their set was done, we trek across the park to the other stage to see Reignwolf. By this time it was pouring, but that just made his performance even more bad-ass.  By the end of Reignwolf we are completely soaked. My jeans are drenched, my cheap combat boots are water-logged. We decide to go back to the hotel to change into dry clothes. We had plenty of time to make it back without missing any crucial music. We head out of the park on the opposite side from where we had entered.

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Like, seriously raining

We happily slosh along reliving the show we just saw and laughing and enjoying our buzz (I might have indulged in some cheap wine in the VIP section) and our kid free day in Atlanta. We are enjoying ourselves so much that we aren’t really paying attention to where we are going. But as we’re walking I become increasingly aware of a nice little blister forming on my heel. Turns out, cheap combat boots aren’t the best choice for a rainy festival. I suck it up and don’t say anything. But the pain does make me acutely aware of how long we have been walking and our aimless meandering that was at first fun and relaxing is now becoming annoying. I casually mention my concern about our general sense of direction to Joe. I don’t want to ruin his good time and be a kill-joy, but I have a few concerns. One, my heel is throbbing. Two, we had been walking for a long time, like maybe 45 minutes. Three, if we get lost we might miss Arctic Monkeys and if that happens it ain’t gonna be pretty. And four, we seem pretty well lost. It was about then that my husband sees the top of our hotel. Through the distance. In the opposite direction of which we had been heading for at least an hour now. I try to contain my panic. What if we don’t make it back in time for the concert? Oh shit, my foot hurts. Where the hell is everybody? Like, no people or cars. Nothing. And there’s a huge concert going on nearby. We have wandered into a black hole of no man’s land and we can’t even catch a cab to make it back to civilization. I forgo all pretense of being cool and calm and accuse my husband of getting us lost. He lived in Atlanta much longer than I did, didn’t he know his way around? How could he get us so lost? It doesn’t make sense… What is wrong with him?

Damn you, cheap boots!
Damn you, cheap boots!

As I’m questioning the man I love and his god-awful sense of direction, we somehow end up in a dead end parking lot. I’m not even sure if that’s a thing, but we were on a street that ended in parking lots and buildings on all sides. I stop and start to break down. I don’t actually cry, but I do let the voices in my head speak….  I don’t know what happened next, but I think Joe decided it was time to get his woman back to the concert. I’m not sure if it was the pain that was now shooting up my leg from this abscess that had formed on my heel or if it was delirium from walking in the pouring rain for so long, but all I remember is coming to and seeing the crowd. We are back in civilization. There are lots of people. Angry, disgruntled people. In huge lines. Shit. It was then that we realized that we were going to have to wait in line to get back into the festival.

I check my phone and realize that we are dangerously close to the start of The Arctic Monkeys show. My gimp leg is forgotten as I grab my husband’s hand and we speed walk/jog over to the VIP entrance. The line is long but it isn’t ridiculously long. We basically listen to most of Weezer’s set from the line. It’s not all bad. There are some spontaneous sing alongs happening so that is cool. “If you want to destroy my sweater, hold the string as I walk away…” We make it back to our cheap wine and stake our spot right as The Arctic Monkeys take the stage. I check my phone. We had been walking for three hours. I am now shivering uncontrollably and essentially balancing on one foot to take the pressure off the blister. I don’t care. I am so relieved that we made it back in time to see them. The show is amazing. After the Monkey’s set we decide to head back to the hotel and take hot showers and change before the other bands we want to see were scheduled to play.

The Arctic Monkeys made it all better
The Arctic Monkeys made it all better

After standing in a hot shower for about 30 minutes I confess to my husband that I don’t want to go back to the concert. My foot was hurting so bad that I don’t think I can walk that far again. He is relieved and agrees to dinner and a drink at the hotel. I am totally bummed about missing Queens of the Stone Age, but I am old enough to know my limits. We declare the day a success and toast to our “adventure”. It really was a fun day, I even enjoyed getting lost with my husband. If there hadn’t been the bastard blister (which took no less than 4 weeks and a Hydrocolloid patch to heal), I would have enjoyed the adventure a little more. But all in all it was a great day.

I learned a few things from this experience. We may be getting older… maybe the younger me would have toughed it out to see all the bands. We may be too old to crowd surf (never did that) or too old to rip off my bra and fling it at the stage (Ha! Do you know how much bras cost?) But too old to go to a concert? Nah. Even if they have to wheel me in and prop me up, I’ll always go see a good show. Too old to go to a festival? Not as long as we can afford to pony up for VIP tickets. Too old to mix bourbon and cheap wine and take a three hour hike in the rain? Maybe….

Oh- and also, planning is highly overrated.