In which I address the elephant in the room…

I also wrote a much less weighty post a few moments ago that shows up just below this one on the blog…but I have to get this off my chest and onto the Internet.  So I’m posting TWO posts today, for the price of one.  (If “free” is a price…)

Okay…

I have been a Batman fan for as long as I can remember.  Even before the 1989 movie, I loved the series with Adam West.  And I loved the comic books.  (In my view, nothing can top the Batman of the comic books, though the Nolan flicks come close at times.)  I was devastated to hear about the mass murder in Aurora, CO.

I refuse to give the gunman the dignity of stating his name or even learning it.  To me he’s just another pig with a gun.  (And I’m not saying that in the “down with all guns” way.  But if you use your gun to intentionally plan and calculate to take life, you’re a pig to me.  For further discourse on the subject, see Rollins Band song “Civilized.”)  As I’ve said before, sometimes a person’s life is summarized by the worst thing that they did…and the summary of the gunman’s life is that he is a mass murdering, nameless piece of shit.  I can’t be told otherwise.

I heard about the murders and grew immediately angry.  Angry as a human being.  Angry as a member of society.  Angry as a comic book fan.  The man ruined countless lives.  Of course there are the dead.  There are the wounded.  But there are the wound-less who were simply present.  Their lives are changed now.  So are the families of everyone involved.  So are the friends.  So are everybody’s.  He made it so people are now afraid to go into crowded theatres.  (Perhaps not so bad a problem to have in Fred Willard’s case, but I digress.)  One batshit crazy, would-be comic book super-villian ruined it for everybody.

Batman has been a source of joy in my life since I was a kid.  When the girl across the street and I would play boyish games (rather than the “house” she would often want to play), Batman would often be involved. When I wanted a cheap laugh at bad acting and cheesy dialogue…Batman TV series.  The Christmas the first Burton flick came out, every item on my list was Batman themed.  When I wanted cartoonish escapism, Batman movies or the animated series.  When I wanted intense, often troubling reads…Batman graphic novels and comic books…and sometimes even the short-story based books—I remember a particularly good one about the Penguin.  When I wanted to see the power of a human being triumphing over unfathomable evil…Batman.  And when my mom died suddenly in 1994—this is going to sound stupid to some of you—I knew Bruce Wayne knew how I felt.  And if he could still be good, couldn’t I?

And this guy had to go and fuck up Batman for people.

There’s a special place in Hell for the people who choose it.  This man—this coward hiding behind a gun—has chosen Hell.  And though I believe in the redemptive powers of Jesus, sometimes if someone CHOOSES it, as far as I’m concerned they’re welcome to it.  People can be redeemed for their mistakes…but in cases like this, I find difficulty feeling pity when they choose not to be.

I didn’t realize how angry I was about it until Sunday morning at church.  Oh, I knew I was mad.  But it didn’t sink in until I was up there singing praise songs and thinking about it.  It started sinking in while we were singing “Nothing But the Blood of Jesus.”  “All that blood…” I kept thinking…  There must have been SO much blood.  None of it redemptive.  All of it slaughter for the sake of madness.

Like I said, it’s the elephant in the room…and I briefly addressed it during a prayer at church—going very much AGAINST my better instincts. We’d just sung a song praising God for BEING God…and all I could think to say was, “Thank you that even when a guy guns down a bunch of people in a movie theatre, You are still God and You are still doing what You have always done.”  And my voice cracked, and I knew how angry I was, and I’m still working it out.

And I think what I’m going to do is this…  I’m going to be a Batman fan.  I’m going to know that good triumphs over evil.  That good doesn’t need to hide behind power granted only through terror and bullets.  That when evil raises its head, it will be brought to justice—and the lives will be avenged.  And I’m going to see the movie, possibly multiple times IN THE THEATRE (because damn it, that’s where it belongs) and I’m going to match the cost of my tickets in a donation to the Red Cross in Colorado.  And I encourage you to do the same, if you are so-lead.  (Credit to some guy on Twitter for the idea.)

Hang in there, Aurora.  Batman isn’t real, but the lesson is.  There is a dark night…but there will also be a dawn.  Good WILL triumph over evil. The lives can not be restored, but they can MEAN something.  Their losses can make us all better.  Their blood stains us, but we can make those stains a tribute to how GOOD humanity can be in the face of evil.  Steve Martin tweeted, “The photos of the victims seem like the faces of kindness.”  And maybe that’s about right.  Your loved ones should not, can not, and will not have died for no reason.  We will overcome, we will become BETTER, and we will speak THEIR names while we do it.

I’m just so, so sorry it had to happen that way.

A Summary of Maiden Day

It has been FOREVER since I last wrote.  (Or at least over a week or so…)  Sorry about that.  For some reason I’ve been viewing writing as a chore lately.  Didn’t used to be that way, and I’m not sure why it is now.  I don’t care for that.  I want to LIKE doing it, and the way to do that is probably to DO it.  So I’m giving it a shot by telling you about the awesome concert I went to this week.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’ve been excited about the Iron Maiden/Alice Cooper show for MONTHS.  Well, it came and went.  My brother Dave (who incidentally has a NEW blog, since Google locked him out of his old ones because they’re power-hungry and evil) and I went to Indianapolis to see the show.  It took place on the day after his 40th birthday.  Figured I’d come back with a couple of road stories…and boy did I.  Let’s do this point-by-point.

  • The drive up.
    • Playlist:
      • Alice Cooper – “Welcome 2 My Nightmare”
      • Rush – “Clockwork Angels”
      • Queen – “Greatest Hits”
      • Deep Purple – “Best of the 80s” (or something similar)
    • In all it was a decent drive.  We were advised in advance that Indiana has some serious road construction going on so we allowed plenty of time.  We hit one or two major slow-downs.  At one point a complete jackass endangered MANY lives by driving down the side of the road on the shoulder trying to cut off several different vehicles—ours included.  A friend of mine looks at those situations with the attitude of “Well, I don’t know what’s going on with him.  Maybe he’s got someone dying in his backseat and he’s trying to get to a hospital.”  Whereas I take the more realistic view…the guy was an asshole and I was hoping to put HIM in a hospital, if humanly possible.  In fact, I’ll say it now, I have NEVER encountered the kind of intentionally reckless driving I saw throughout this trip, particularly as we got closer to Indianapolis.  And I’m from St. Louis!  But at least along the way I discovered that Barq’s apparently has been making a red cream soda for a couple of decades that just hasn’t ever been offered in St. Louis for some reason.  And it was delicious.
  • The hotel
    • We stayed in the 4-star Omni Severin.  It was a beautiful hotel with all of the bells and whistles…and each one of them cost money.  Seriously.  I checked for a price tag on the toilet before I peed in it, just in case.  To log onto their internet for one day would have been $10…whereas it’s free at every Best Western or Motel 6 I’ve ever been to.  And the bottle of (WARM) water sitting on the desk would have been $7.  A 10 oz can of Coke was $3.  Just complete nonsense…but otherwise, VERY nice facility and I really liked the bed and pillows.  Why can I never find pillows as nice in real life as I find in hotels???
    • I posted that I was staying in Indy and my friend Shara Lyn replied to it from Haiti, saying that if she were there we’d have to go get coffee somewhere…but as it was she’d have some tea and think of me.  That was very nice, and pretty awesome.  I’m not really going anywhere with this story…  It’s just the little things that make life awesome sometimes…and this was one of those, so I wanted to note it.
    • We had a valet service.  First for me.  Some debate about what to tip.  Think Dave landed on somewhere between $2-5 on average.
    • The people at the hotel were very nice as well.  For the duration of our stay we both wore Iron Maiden shirts.  That’s kind of conspicuous in a four-star hotel.  But I didn’t spot even one person looking at us suspiciously or judgementally.  So good for them!
  • At the venue.
    • After grabbing some food at the hotel-adjacent mall, it was time to leave for the show.  We piled in the car and got lost because Google doesn’t know the difference between a “slight right” and an ACTUAL right turn…and then got to the venue…
    • I don’t know how else to say this…  The venue sucked.  If you have the option, do NOT patronize the Klipsch Music Center.  Don’t give them your money.  Ever.  First of all the parking was awful…we were parking on GRASS, which promptly became MUD when it rained…and rain it DID.  It was a BIG storm and we were soaked through so badly that our clothes didn’t dry until the next day (while we were wearing them home, no less).  That part isn’t the venue’s fault…however it IS their fault that as we were walking up to the front gate, we were hearing people yelling that they weren’t letting anyone in.  (This was at almost 7:00 at a show scheduled to start at 7:30–with tickets that clearly read “RAIN OR SHINE.”)  They closed their gates and were on bullhorns shouting to people to go back to their cars, and to wait to be admitted after the rain passed.  They created a VERY dangerous situation both on the level of putting the crowd in danger and also created the potential for a riot.  Everyone was angry.  Everyone was soaking wet.  They screwed up BIG time, and the review I wrote to Live Nation made that clear.  After we were eventually let in (an hour late) we were treated to an excellent show (with Maiden seeming irritated by the experience—so well done there as well Kilpsch).  However leaving, they had grossly inadequate lighting that did not allow us to see where we were going very well, trusting that the throngs of people knew their way.  I’ve been to literally hundreds of shows.  The Klipsch Music Center in Noblesville, IN is by far the WORST venue and WORST concert-going experience I have ever had.  Avoid at all costs…  But there were some good things that had nothing to do with the venue…
    • One of the people we met while standing outside of the gates (after the storm had tapered off, by the way) was going to his first Maiden show that night and we got to welcome him to the fraternity.  Always fun.  And it turns out he had lived in St. Louis and drove in from somewhere in Illinois for this one.  Small world.
    • The merch booth made me happy in a way only a merch booth can.  Walked away with two Maiden shirts and one Alice.  So that’s good.
    • I was pleased to see how many people brought their kids with them to the show, passing on the legacy.  It’s nice to go to a Maiden/Alice show and be in the upper 10-20% of the age groupings.  Gives me hope for the next generation.
    • Okay…let’s talk about the actual SHOW.
  • Alice Cooper
    • Alice came out and did a GREAT set.  Opened with “The Black Widow” very effectively commanding that we love him from moment one…and we did.  Made some unusual and cool choices in the set.  Played both “Brutal Planet” and “Wicked Young Man” from the “Brutal Planet” record.  (Incidentally, any time someone asks me what my favorite Christian record is, I say “Alice Cooper’s ‘Brutal Planet'” and I’m not joking.)  And of course there were the standards–the “Nightmare” and “Eighteen” and whatnot.  Really fun, high energy set.  We even got to see the “Franken-Cooper” brought to life at the end of “Feed My Frankenstein.”  Difficult to explain…but fun and stupid and perfect.  If I’m honest, Alice probably had a better set than Maiden did—even though he ended up having to cut a song due to the venue’s choice to keep the audience away and start late.
  • Iron Maiden was, of course the main event.  In all honesty, I’ve seen them do better.  They seemed as though being pushed back an hour threw them a little.  There were some pacing problems throughout and Bruce Dickenson just seemed angry for most of the set—at one point apologizing for the rain delay and in the next breath saying “…but I don’t know why I’m apologizing; it’s nothing to do with me!”  And he also ended the set with a terse, “Thank you! Fuck the rain!” and just seemed a little put out for the whole show.  Still, it was an excellent job from the Boys from the Beast (no one has ever called them that, and with good reason).  It was really cool to hear some of the old, rarer songs.  They played my favorite, “The Prisoner,” which I had never seen them do.  There were some pacing issues during it, but that didn’t bother me…I was just so glad to hear it!  They played a bunch of stuff off the “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” record (my favorite Maiden record) and it was great to hear the title track, though the prog-rock breakdown in the middle kind of—err—broke down.  If nothing else, it was amazing to hear Bruce hold the note going into the bridge for what must have been close to a solid minute, blowing away the crowd and bringing up a spontaneous, well deserved round of applause.  He’s still got it.  And he’s also got balls of steel, and to prove it, he stood over one of the fire-pots on the stage during “Aces High” and demanded that it be set off, engulfing himself in flames.  Cool trick…but it also terrified an audience that remembers James Hetfield almost dying from a similar (though in his case unintentional) moment.  I still wonder if he fully knew what was going to happen—but he walked out apparently barely even singed.
  • As a special side note, I just want to pay a compliment to Maiden guitarist Dave Murray.  On the way to the show, my brother and I were talking about how Murray had put on some weight the last time we saw him, even opting to wear a coat in the middle of triple-digit heat in Chicago back in 2010.  But at this show, he came out in a sleeveless t-shirt and had obviously dropped a LOT of weight.  Some of the first words out of my mouth to my brother during Maiden’s set were, “Wow!  Dave looks GREAT!”  So congratulations to him.
  • We went back to the hotel at the end of the show, fighting terrible traffic getting out of the place.  (In their defense, we DID have to turn around, having gone the wrong way at first…but even still, I’d liken the traffic situation to pouring too much water into a glass and not being able to find a towel.)  Upon getting back, we apologized to the valet for the seats being soaked from our still-wet clothes, then went inside.  Off to the side, they had some chilled water sitting out for free.  One was lemon flavored and the other was cucumber flavored.  And that’s how I discovered that I love cucumber water…which I’ll have to make sometime.  After getting semi-settled, we walked down the block looking for food and eventually landed in the slowest, most incompetent Steak n’ Shake I’ve ever seen.  To be fair, they were dealing with a pathetic drunk, apparently well-to-do yuppie who was trying to order a “chicken cheese steak” which isn’t a thing…but even once it was suggested (by my brother) that they serve us since he didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, they still got our order wrong.  But we ate and we slept in really nice beds with really great pillows and it was a very nice hotel.  According to Dave, their breakfast buffet was excellent too, but I did not partake.
  • The drive back was kind of quiet.  We stopped at a KFC, then at a Best Buy…but all in all, it was a standard drive home after an awesome rock show.
  • Playlist for the trip home:
    • Tenacious D – “Rise of the Fenix”
    • Johnny Cash – At Folsom Prison
    • Wilson Pickett – Greatest Hits
    • Drive-By Truckers – “Southern Rock Opera”

If I had my way, I’d change some of the particulars…but all in all it was a good time and I’ll remember the fun stuff way longer than I’ll remember the irritants.  And the rain story is kind of a cool concert story, now that it’s over.  When it’s all said and done, my brother and I got to see a couple of our favorite bands and hang out together.  So that’s no bad thing.

————

Song-list from church this weekend:

  • Praise Adonai
  • Nothing But the Blood
  • Sing to the King
  • God of Wonders
  • God of Wonders, reprised to end the service.
    T-shirt worn – Alice Cooper from the show.
    Guitar played – Fender Stratacoustic