Not In This Lifetime…


Tuesday, June 28, 2016 – 10:07 PM

Tomorrow night, my wife is taking me to a concert to see a band. We’ve been to lots of concerts. We’ve seen lots of bands. We’ve been backstage, we’ve met rappers and rock stars and actors and activists – and it’s always been so much fun. We’ve been to L.A. and to D.C. and countless places in between. We’ve watched from the front of the stage, from the back of the stage, from the cheap seats and from the best seats. All the concerts we’ve attended – all the bands we’ve seen – seem to blend across the canvas of my past, like a hazy two-dimensional cloud of mixed and muffled memories. But we just love going to concerts. It’s our thing.

She’s sleeping right now, peacefully and beautifully. I’ve heard of people being “ugly sleepers,” as though they turn to a decomposing corpse the instant they enter REM sleep, or that guy with the melting face at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark; but my wife isn’t one of them. She looks so peaceful when she sleeps, like photograph, touched-up and perfect; so peaceful that I don’t want to move a muscle. Because if anyone deserves rest in this world, it’s her – she has to deal with me, and I’m sure that’s exhausting. But she’s just such a strong person.

It doesn’t take strength to walk away from a cheating husband; it takes strength to stay when the world tells her to go. It doesn’t take strength to forgive an unfaithful husband, it takes strength to forgive and move forward, together. It takes strength to understand that everything was broken, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try it again.

Sometimes, when everything falls apart, and it seems like there is no hope in sight, the right set of circumstances and the right amount of motivation and drive can make anything possible.

It takes strength to forgive and move forward.

And tomorrow, we will see a perfect metaphor of that.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 – 2:17 PM

The drive from Wichita to Kansas City is as prosaic to me as my walk to school in junior high. I’ve made this trip so many times that it nearly feels routine. However, as I watch the Flint Hills pass me by like familiar strangers in an open and crowded hallway, the scenery holds the memories of seemingly countless hours of contemplation’s past and passed. There will forever be scenes of scenery that will remind me of making this trip, experiencing something in life, remembering something in life, struggling with something in life as I made that drive – each curve and straightaway sparks a new and old and unique feeling of reminiscence or remembrance or regret.

gunslogoIt’s hot outside, and I’m excited to stand outside in it – in only a matter of hours. Because in less than six hours, we will be at a Guns N’ Roses concert at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 – 5:27 PM

I love staying in hotels. I love to travel, but I really love hotels. To me, staying in a hotel means I’ve departed from my everyday reality, stepping into better (but temporary) existence with my wife, doing something we seldom or never do in places we seldom or never go with people we seldom or never see. The hotel is our temporary domicile while we embark on something unique and exciting in a part of the world not called Wichita, Kansas.

My wife is getting ready. She wants to look cute. She always looks cute, but she especially wants to look cute tonight. She has a Guns N’ Roses tank top that I bought her on their website, and she looks amazing in it – just the perfect combination is sexy and sassy and splendid. She says she wants to look cute for me because she knows tonight’s concert will be special for me.

Guns N’ Roses is my favorite band. Ever since I was a kid, they’ve been the metal band that I’ve rocked at inappropriate  volumes at inopportune times. During junior high, I think I just liked them because they were rebels, and I wanted to be one too. But as I progressed through adolescence, I began to truly appreciate the musicianship of their music. Then, in 1994, my connection to the music of Guns N’ Roses changed.

mammaOn November 2, 1994, my grandmother died. As a kid, my grandmother, affectionately known as “Mamma,” [‘mam-aw] was essentially my other best friend. I have wonderful memories of my Mamma. I used to hang out at her house and play “Uno” and watch her favorite show, “Dallas,” while eating her entire stash of chewy chocolate chip cookies from her owl-shaped porcelain cookie jar. Honestly, I have no idea if those episodes of “Dallas” were new or reruns, but in my memory, it seemed like it was on every night. But regardless, whenever I hear the theme song to the show, I think of her – every single time.

SAMSUNGOn November 2, 1994, she died. A few days later, we attended her funeral in the small town of Chanute, Kansas. It was chilly and overcast, and there was a light steady rain that gently blanketed the day. In my melancholy frame-of-mind, the only thing I could think to do was put on my headphones and turn on my CD player, hoping to find the perfect song that reflected my sadness at the loss of one of my best friends. I remember not particularly caring about lyrics, but rather seeking the perfect melodic tone.

And I found it.

useyourillusion1I opened the red and yellow case of the Guns N’ Roses album Use Your Illusion, Vol. 1 and clicked the CD onto the tiny rotating wheel that secured the disk in-place. I closed the lid, pressed play, and selected the perfect song. Track #10. “November Rain.”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 – 8:37 PM

The Rock & Roll Gods are smiling upon us right now. When we got here, to the stadium, we made the long walk up the spiral Arrowhead walkway, bound for our cheap seats in the nose bleed section. But as we neared the top, we were met by a stadium employee who stopped us.

“We’re closing the upper decks,” she said. “What section are your tickets?”

“326,” I replied.

“Okay,” she said, “just go to that section and they will give you your new tickets.”

“New tickets?” I asked, hoping she would indeed say what she was about to say.

“You’re being moved down,” she said.

My wife and I both smiled and quickened our step. And sure enough, when we got to the entrance for Section 326, we were greeted by a nice lady who took our Section 326 tickets and handed us different tickets in return. I looked to see where we would be sitting: Section 121. In one little exchange, our seats went from being third level to field level, almost floor seats!


So, here we sit, in Section 121 ($200 tickets, according to StubHub), listening to the opening band – legendary grunge band Alice in Chains.


So… Alice in Chains is about to finish their set and we are awaiting the performance of my favorite band – Guns N’ Roses – as we sit in $200 seats; a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because, of course, this is the “Not In This Lifetime* Tour.”

*The tour got its name from an interview Axl Rose gave in 2012.
When asked if the original band would ever tour together again, he responded,
“Not in this lifetime!”

Wednesday, June 29, 2016 – 9:47 PM

I’m taking a moment to sit down during the concert and write this (thanks to the WordPress app on my iPhone). Guns N’ Roses just finished performing “November Rain.” Slash and Richard Fortus are playing the opening riff to “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” right now. The show isn’t even over yet, and it’s already the most amazing musical performance I’ve ever seen – ever. It’s nearly overwhelming to watch these guys. During Slash’s iconic guitar solo during “November Rain,” I leaned over to my wife and said, “I hope you realize that right now, you’re watching arguably the greatest living guitar player.” And she smiled at me. But I think she smiled at me, not because of what I said, but because she could see how happy I am, how much fun I’m having, and how much I really enjoy sharing this experience with her.

Thursday, June 30, 2016 – 2:57 AM

We’ve finally made it back to our hotel. We met some awesome Kansas City people after the show who were at the concert, and all reflected on how great it was; all of us recounting our favorite moments and collectively speaking in awe of the spectacle we’d just witnessed. I was not the only one to declare this show to be the best I’d ever experienced. This was actually a popular sentiment among those who attended. It was simply unbelievable…

And now, I’m completely exhausted. My wife is already asleep.

Tomorrow (or, I suppose, later this morning), we are getting up, checking out of the hotel, and driving back to reality.

Thursday, June 30, 2016 – 12:27 PM

On the road. Going home. The hum of Interstate 35 is vibrating beneath the floorboards and we once again are making that familiar drive, today in the other direction. My wife is driving, giving me the brief opportunity to write. We’re both worn-out from all the walking and standing and cheering and singing – belting “Sweet Child O’ Mine” at the top of our lungs can be tiring.

But for me, getting to see my favorite song, “November Rain,” performed live by Axl and Slash wasn’t just an event or a concert. For me, it was a life experience. That song has such far-reaching meaning for me that I nearly wept from the mere sentimentality of the experience. I remember using the music video of that song to teach symbolism and imagery to my high school students. But most of all, I remember listening to that song, over and over again, on the cold rainy day of my Mamma’s funeral.

She was born on June 30, 1916. Today would have been her 100th birthday.

She died on November 2, 1994 – a cold rainy day outside. Eighteen years later – to the day – on November 2, 2012, I was sent to prison – a cold rainy day inside.

Guns N’ Roses made a come-back. They fell apart in the mid-90s and there seemed to be no hope that they would ever tour again. “Not in this lifetime” would they ever play together again, Axl said. But that wasn’t the case. They have been able to put things back together and be as solid as ever. And that inspires me.

There was a time, after Guns N’ Roses broke-up, that Axl Rose and Slash hated each other. Any hope of hearing them play together again was shattered. But nothing lasts forever.

Sometimes, when everything falls apart, and it seems like there is no hope in sight, the right set of circumstances and the right amount of motivation and drive can make anything possible.

Tragedy, sadness, depression, poor choices, bad circumstances – none of that has to be permanent. All-too-often, things that seemed impossible at one time are now entirely plausible; or in the case of Guns N’ Roses, what was certain to never happen has now become a huge success.

I know my Mamma would have been rightfully disappointed in the choices I’ve made in life, but what I can hope is this: Beyond that, she can now be proud of the way I’ve put things back together. I hope she sees who I am now. Because even though my past will always be a permanent scar in some aspects, the weight of it doesn’t have to last forever.

In the darkest times of life, moving forward is the most difficult and most rewarding thing a person can do, because with enough determination, success awaits.

So never mind the darkness, you still can find a way.
Nothing lasts forever, even cold November Rain.

Onward we drive.