Bon Jovi concert in Nashville

Alyson and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Nashville last night to see Bon Jovi, Jewel, Big & Rich, Billy Currington, Keith Anderson and others. The concert was a benefit for Buck Jones, an up-and-coming country artist who was killed by a drunk driver.

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I’m not a country music fan, so Big & Rich and Billy Currington really didn’t appeal to my musical tastes. However, I was really excited about seeing Jewel and thought it would be nice to see Bon Jovi since Alyson has been a diehard fan of theirs for many years.

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The concert was scheduled to begin at 8pm and we arrived at the Cannery Ballroom around 4:30 to find almost 20 fans already lined up waiting for the doors to open at 6:30. Even though we had previously planned to park and walk to get something to eat, we decided to go ahead and get in queue as the event was standing room only and general admission. This would guarantee us a good spot.

We soon met a hilarious girl who was a huge Bon Jovi fan and acted as if she had never met a stranger. I affectionately nicknamed her “Crazy Drunk Girl”, although not to her face, of course.

Once the doors opened and we had picked up our tickets at will-call, we easily secured a location directly in front of the main microphone stand. We could literally touch the stage. People were pouring into the venue and we knew that leaving our position for drinks or bathroom visits would mean losing our great vantage point. So… we stayed put. Alyson had one bathroom visit right after the doors opened, but other than that, we had no breaks, drinks or any oppurtunity to sit down.

The concert started a little after 8pm and began with singer/songwriter Billy Falcon, who was joined by a great rock band. I didn’t know this guy, but learned that he has written several songs for Bon Jovi and also “Power Windows”, a song that I remembered from several years ago.

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Next up was Billy Currington, who played two or three songs that were pretty good, but not my cup of tea. John Rich of Big & Rich took the stage with Jewel, each helping to sing each other’s songs. Rich seemed like a real jerk, lambasting a guy next to me for asking Jewel to smile so that he could take her picture. Not a good way to win fans.

Jewel was stunning – visually and musically. She told an enchanting story about a trip to Mexico that went completely wrong before launching into “You Were Meant For Me”. The other half of Big & Rich, Kenny Alphin, joined Rich and Jewel on a couple of songs to end the set.

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Newcomer to the Nashville scene, Keith Anderson, performed one song before relinquishing the stage to the artists that 95% of the crowd had came to see – Bon Jovi.

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The appearance of Jon at stage-right sent the crowd of mostly females into a frenzy of pushing, shoving and screaming. Alyson was determined to keep her spot and made it clear to everyone around that she would not be moved. Her frustration soon turned to ecstasy as Jon and Richie began their four-song acoustic set that included “Livin’ On A Prayer”, “If You Wanna Make A Memory”, “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”, and “Wanted Dead or Alive”.

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The last song was interrupted by a male fan who jumped on stage and starting singing along with them on the chorus. Jon asked him to sing the next verse, which he did as Jon and Richie looked on with huge smiles. The fan was actually pretty good and got to personally greet his idols before being whisked off by security. We saw him being interviewed by a television news crew as we were leaving the venue a few moments later.

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The concert ended around 10:40, so we had been on our feet for over six hours. It had been hot, we were sweaty and thirsty, our feet and backs were hurting and we were dying to find a bathroom, but it was all worth it.

Those are the experiences that we never forget and that make our little insignificant lives worthwhile.

Time to listen

Last night was fun! A group from church had planned an outing to Lambert’s Cafe, a popular restaurant in our vicinity that is famous for throwing rolls at their customers and giving them far too much to eat. We invited our friend, Liz, and she accepted even though she didn’t know any of the other people that were going.

After meeting up at the church and carpooling an hour to get there, we were informed that the wait time was 2.5 hours. Although I had been there before and expected this, it didn’t bode well with some members of the group, who decided to scope out other local restaurants in the area that would afford a shorter wait time and a palatable menu.

We finally settled on an Italian place that had a wonderful atmosphere, with a large burning fireplace in the middle and fantastic food. This was the first time that we had attended one of these outings, and it was nice to interact with people in a different environment. I developed a crush on an elderly lady who guessed me about 10 years younger than I actually am.

The best part of the evening to me was actually the drive over and back. We rode with Bubba & Linda, two beautiful souls who shared their life experiences with us through intelligent, meaningful conversation. I love to hear other people’s stories about life and relationships, and find it especially rewarding when those stories validate my own viewpoints and feelings about issues.

We can learn so much from one another if we only take the time to listen.

Blast from the past

Several years ago, around the age of nineteen, I lived with my grandparents for a few months. I had pretty much already come to realization that I was gay, but I still clung to the hope that a true born-again experience would change all of that and I would be a ‘normal’ person.

The church that my grandparents and I attended held a revival with a female preacher, one who had a very powerful, magnetic presence in the pulpit and seemed to have a personal interest in me. I highly respected this woman and appreciated her attention and concern.

A year or so later, after going through much personal hell and coming out to my immediate family, I was spending a few nights at my sister’s house when this preacher lady decided to pay me a visit. During the course of our conversation, she proceeded to tell me that a Christian friend of hers had dreamt that she was given a tour of hell. She said that hell had different levels and that when she got to the very bottom level, she saw that all of the homosexuals where there. Nice story to tell a person who’s feeling incredibly fragile and wondering if their family is going to abandon them, huh?

Anyway, from that point, I had no respect for or intentions of going to see this woman preach again. Anytime she was in a revival there, she would send word through mutual acquaintances that she wanted me to come to church. I never did. I simply could not get beyond the fact that she, and others like her, think that something that I can’t change makes me worse than a rapist, murderer, child molester, terrorist, etc.

So, to bring this full circle, last night I went to the funeral visitation for a man that I’ve known my entire life. Several members of my family were there, including many who are very religious. I don’t see most of them very often, so it was a reunion of sorts. I was standing in the chapel talking to my grandfather, when I hear, “Hi! Do you remember who I am?” It was the preacher lady. Our conversation went something like this…

Me: How are you?
Her: Can you guess where I’m in revival?
Me: (names church in question form)
Her: Can we be expecting you to come?
Me: Honestly, probably not.
Her: Don’t you think you probably need to come?
Me: Maybe.
Her: I pray for you often.
Me: Thank you.
Her: Well, you think about coming to church.
Me: Okay.

This woman has no idea how my views of God, religion and homosexuality have changed over the years since I was a teenager. I could have told her, but what’s the point? I can’t change her opinion and she can’t change mine.

I had taken my elderly neighbor lady with me to the visitation, and recounted this story to her on the way home. She immediately informed me that there was nothing wrong with me and that she would “fight anyone who thought so.” I laughed, picturing this 88 year old gal taking on the world in my defense, but I understood her sentiment.

Label maker

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Remember chanting that as a child whenever the class bully derided you with harsh adjectives? Even though this adage has been around for decades, it holds little truth. Words can and do hurt deeply.

A recent discussion with a friend got me to thinking about labels. Labels we give ourselves and other people give us. There seems to be no limit to the amount of words we will use to describe ourselves, and how we sometimes embrace and allow these characterizations to define who and what we become.

It’s like we all have our own electronic label maker. Everyone in our society gets affixed with a descriptive tag. We use them for physical and mental illnesses, political leanings, religious beliefs, racial differences, personal wealth. Some of these can be very painful to the person on the receiving end.

I even label myself. Gay, democrat, liberal, pro-choice (not pro-abortion). I choose to call myself “gay” even though the literal meaning of that word doesn’t really apply to my personality. I’m much more contemplative than jolly, but “homosexual” sounds too clinical and “queer” makes me sound like an oddity.

Choosing a descriptive title for my romantic partner is a much harder task. Do I call him my friend, lover, spouse, partner, roommate, or boyfriend? I have many friends, so surely he deserves a more meaningful label than that. “Lover” sounds sexual, “spouse” rings hollow since we can’t legally marry, “partner” implies a business relationship, “roommate” carries no affection, and “boyfriend” only sounds appropriate for younger couples and has a temporary sentiment.

How to choose? Well, it depends on the situation really. I wouldn’t call him “lover” or “boyfriend” at the local mechanic shop; I don’t like confrontation and it’s also a matter of personal safety. I would call him “partner” when talking to a physician or “boyfriend” when conversing with friends, reassured that they wouldn’t care either way. I am looking forward to the day when I can refer to him as my spouse and have it come with all the rights that are normally associated with the word.

It’s easy to let labels define who we are, even to the point that we only want to associate with people who share the same ideals and beliefs that we do. Since labels are obviously here to stay, maybe we should more carefully consider how we categorize ourselves and others. It’s easy to forget, but “human” is the most important label of all.

Why I want the right to marry

It’s not about religion. It’s about having the same rights that are afforded to others. Most people just take those things for granted, but gay couples have several disadvantages that straight couples don’t have to worry about.

We aren’t covered under each other’s health insurances, we have no legal standing over each other’s property in the event of a death, we can be kept out of hospital rooms and funeral plans because we aren’t related by blood or marriage… the list goes on and on.

It’s more about love and PROTECTING your partner, than about an endorsement by religion or society.