Monthly Archives: November 2011

Happy Thanksgiving in my words

I know this is late according to the calendar. Is it ever late to be thankful? I guess there are times when it would be. Hopefully this isn’t one of them. Happy Thanksgiving in my words.

The following are some definitions of the word ‘happy’:

  • feeling or showing pleasure, contentment, or joy
  • causing or characterized by pleasure, contentment, or joy
  • feeling satisfied that something is right or has been done right
  • willing to do something
  • resulting unexpectedly in something pleasant or welcome
  • used in formulae to express a hope that somebody will enjoy a special day or holiday

The following are some definitions of the words ‘thanks’ and ‘thanksgiving’:

  • an expression of gratitude for something
  • a prayer that offers thanks to God
  • an expression or an act of giving thanks
  • a public acknowledgment or celebration of divine goodness

So maybe I would say, in my words, a joyous contentment in expressing gratitude. Or maybe pleasant satisfaction in publicly celebrating divine goodness.

When I dig to the core of the meaning of Happy Thanksgiving to me, I truly get to a place of content, of joy, of genuine gratitude and an internal celebration of divine goodness. It’s not about the stuff, or the things; all of which I can’t take to heaven anyways. It’s about the times that could have been worse, but they weren’t. It is about the times that were so amazing in a moment when I felt the least deserving. It is about the wondrous warmth and goodness in people when so many seem hard and cold at times. It’s about my family and loved ones. We didn’t pick our families, I am so glad God did it for us. It’s the joy of being a dad, being needed, as shown by the look in my baby’s eye or in the calm they feel in my arms. It’s the beauty of the quiet, distant moments with my wife when all the world seems miles away. It’s as plain or as magnificent as the simplicity of walking outside from a crowded place, full of hustle and bustle, into a dark evening where the sound of the silent snow falling is deafening, and beckons my mind to visit dozens of warm memories that just seconds before, were miles from view. Content. Happy with how things are, in any moment, or in all moments.

We have so much to be thankful for. Every moment there is something. Sometimes it’s the moment itself to be thankful for. I mean think about how life would be if we stopped more often, throughout each day, even for a second, to be thankful for something in our lives. Maybe it is a physical thing, or maybe it’s a moment today, that we didn’t have the day before. I think life would be far more rewarding than it already it is. I think we would proceed differently, slightly at first. As time and our commitment to genuine thankfulness wore on, the course would be dramatically altered. I can’t imagine that overall respect for one another as human beings wouldn’t improve. I would like to think that gratification could return to being a word that stands alone and no longer had to tag along with the word instant. Hey I know changing the course dramatically seems far-fetched, I just don’t think that being more thankful is that far-fetched. Neither is the time it would take to be more thankful. A conscious thought to allow for a moment to recognize a feeling of joy or content for something already present in your life. We spend more time trying to remember the name of a song than we do being present and thankful for just one of the many things we have to be thankful for.

Say thank you more often. Mean it. Look inside yourself and check to see just how thankful you are. Once you have identified how much gratitude you feel, let it be seen in your eyes, heard in your voice, and felt in your hug or handshake. If you cannot find the level of gratitude that should be present, then think on it some more and figure out what mental block is keeping you from gratitude. Get over the block and express gratitude or celebrate divine goodness, but don’t dismiss it.

I know, it’s late, but Happy Thanksgiving in my own words.

Fortunate dad

Today capped a 36 hour blitz of a couple of Division I schools who are interested in having Ryan transfer to their school next fall. Ryan, my 18-year-old son, is a freshman catcher at Ohlone College in Fremont, California. His play there has generated some interest in some Eastern schools who are looking for a catcher with game experience for next fall.

We drove about 500 miles yesterday and did another 325 today just to visit a couple of schools. This, after Ryan got home at about 2am Monday morning after flying all day from San Jose, CA to Burbank, CA to Las Vegas, NV to Manchester, NH. So it almost goes without saying, he is beat! I did all the driving these last two days to help him out. I am exhausted, he is exhausted, but we had a great time. He flies back to California on Saturday so I have been really fortunate to get so much time with him the last two days.

The two school visits we did were both excellent. Both coaches are quite interested in Ryan and Ryan is interested in these two programs. It’s nice to see the effort he continues to put in every day is paying off for him. He wants to be the best, and he works harder than most to get what he wants.

We already have 3 more visits lined up for when he gets home on his Christmas break, and that number may grow. As long as I can help, I am in. Miles and miles equal minutes and hours of time I will never have again. I will take it every time. Driving 160+ miles home tonight I struggled with my suddenly heavy eyelids, but I beat them. Ryan caught some naps along the ride home. In between, we talked, we laughed, we talked pros and cons, we made more plans for more schools, we spent time together. Over the next couple of days when I yawn or sigh, just being over tired, I know that inside I will grin a little grin because I know I am a proud and fortunate dad.

Never too tired for a return home

This will be short and quick as I get ready to head out the door. I was up from 2am until 4am this morning, welcoming my son Ryan home. His flight didn’t land until almost 1am and fortunately a couple of his buddies picked him up for me. Even so, I had to get up and welcome him home, regardless of the hour. Ryan, and his buddy Reece, sat up with me for two hours and we just caught up, laughed, and enjoyed sitting in our family room. Our family room has been a favorite spot for gathering, watching sports, talking, laughing, and perfecting our brand of humor over the years. So, even though, I am a bear this morning, and we were all exhausted in the middle of the night, but I would do it again because I am never too tired for the kids to return home.

This morning we are up earlier than we would like to be as Ryan and I head to Orono for a visit to the University of Maine. The twins were up early too, and it only took a couple of moments for them to warm up to their big brother Ryan. He couldn’t wait to see them and based on their reactions, they couldn’t wait to see him. I took a quick picture with my phone to capture the moment. And even though the quality isn’t the best it’s still worth at least 500 hundred words. We are off for school visit number one of this week. It’s going to be a great day.

Ryan visits with Jacqueline and Theodore for the first time since August.

Sunday Series – Inside the first time

A few days ago I wrote a post called “The first time” and it was a short story about my first time seeing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in concert. I have included that post here and I am also going to add to it. This bit will be part of my Sunday Series as well.

See, in December of 2000 when I first saw TSO in concert I was in the early stages of an internal battle that I hope I never see the likes of again. Maybe some where, some day, I will get into that further. Anyways, I drove to Albany, NY to see TSO. I couldn’t wait! I knew every word, nearly every note, of every song on the CD’s. So much so, that I was a bit skeptical of how each note, and how each word would sound live. Obviously, at that time, I didn’t know anything about their sound in live shows. Over the years, hearing many bands play live, sometimes the recording versions of songs were the best versions. I remember thinking that if they were even close to the recorded versions of their songs, this was going to be awesome.

I made my way into the venue. I looked around, taking everything in. I noticed a little bit of merchandise for sale, I noticed people dressed anywhere from a formal night out, to jeans and t-shirts, I noticed there were young couples, older couples, complete families, and rock star wannabe’s. I noticed a diversity in the audience that I don’t remember seeing anywhere else before. I noticed their was a tremendous sense of anticipation among the variety of people in attendance. I found my seat, right in the middle of the balcony. Not too far up, but high enough to see over any railings. My seat was dead center too, which I found, in later shows, is a fantastic place to see the symmetry of the TSO light show. I sat down, eager for the show to start. I remember the band presented a check to a charity before the show. They always do.

Finally the lights went dark. After the brief applause a dark auditorium always receives, a silence came over the crowd. Eerily silent. Anticipation was at an all time high throughout the crowd. Or at least it was with me. This moment in the dark was also a glaring look inward. For as calm and quiet as the balcony was at that moment, the internal war between my character and my reality raged on.

Then the show began. The narration. The deep voice telling the story. Just the way I had read it. The single light shining down from above. A word had not yet been sung and I already knew this was going to be the best show I had ever seen. The narrator, Bryan Hicks, spoke the words … “our story does begin” and with a snap of his fingers the show’s lights first came on. It was a dark curtain of white lights that lit up to look like the night-time sky. It was much simpler then but it served its purpose.

As TSO played song after song, I couldn’t believe how the sound was so much better than I ever imagined. I couldn’t get over the fact that they did play every single note, just as I knew them, but they took the sound to another level. The vocals were stunning! They sounded even better in that theater on a snowy night in Albany, NY, than I could have hoped for.

The emotion coursed through me like a raging river of truth. I recall sitting there in the balcony and literally shaking. I was enjoying the purest sounds of Christmas that I had ever heard. This performance somehow brought the countless, wonderful, Christmas memories of my childhood and the magnificence of this concert together. It was like a bond that had always been there, but I now was able to see it and feel it. I shook with fear. I shook with joy. I shook from the battle in my soul. I shook in disbelief of the perfection I was witnessing on the stage in front of me. Few times in my life had I ever felt such power.

How I ever held myself together through this time was a feat in itself. And I know it was God that pushed me, it was God that helped me keep it together, for it was God’s truths I was at war with. My character, my upbringing, the things I knew in my gut were right, the countless places I could have corrected my direction, these were the things I fought during this time. As if I were lost in the deepest, darkest forest while knowing a couple of difficult, pride relinquishing steps were all it would take to get back on track, and instead I talk myself into believing this isn’t so bad. I mean how lost can one get anyways? You have to get pretty lost to lose God. Thankfully the little voice in my conscience that represented God never went completely away. I tried to silence the voice over years of time, but fortunately God’s plan was more powerful than anything I could muster.

Back to the balcony and the most amazing show I had ever heard or seen. The music, the narration, the lights, the atmosphere in a small (compared to today’s arenas) theater, it all seemed to be happening in slow motion, but at the same time I couldn’t slow it down enough. I wanted to stop each moment and hold on to it for always. Just like when I was a kid sitting in the living room, the only light coming from the candles in the windows and the Christmas tree, with carols playing on the record player; I never wanted those moments to end. They were perfect moments and so was this show.

Even though I sat in the midst of this crowd, I felt as though I was the only one in attendance. I felt that this show was written for me and was to be delivered solely for my benefit. As the narration continued between the songs …”For there he saw a man alone; Though he was walking in a crowd; And though this man had rarely prayed; Tonight his head was bowed…” Come on! Really? Are those lines really in the show, or was that made up because you knew I was here? That’s how I felt. Another amazing thing was how long I resisted God even when I felt like I did that night in December 2000. It goes to show you that the human mind is a powerful thing. Thanks to God’s grace and that little voice that never was silenced, my powerful mind finally did get out-of-the-way … eventually.

So, don’t fight it. God has a plan for all of us. I talked about this a couple of days ago too, but it bears repeating. Most folks, even the ones who know better, roll their eyes when people mention God’s plan for this or that, or for them. Fortunately it’s not up to your or me, really. It’s God’s plan. What are you and I going to do about it? I mean who am I to plan in contradiction to God? I am not going to go all holier than thou here because I am not holier than though. I can tell you that it is a lot easier to plan in accordance with God than it is to battle Him. If you are not sure what His plan is for you, then ask Him. He may not give you a tangible answer then and there but it’s a start. Be present and participating in God’s plan. I try to remind myself of this all the time. I am human too, we all make mistakes. Pray. Listen. Pray some more. Submit yourself to His will. Pray for God’s will in your life. I bet there’s more things in life you and God both want for you than you might think. Ya, He’s got a plan for us all. It might be worth checking out.

Or just go on whatever way you think is best. Achieve all you can. Attain the things you think are most valuable. Pile up the stuff while you can. And while I may have less than a lot of people, but more than some, I feel like I experience more fulfilling moments every day than most people do in a week or month. No matter the inventory of things, no one can count the fulfillment in moments, nor can they be taken away. Do the right thing. But don’t do the thing that is right based on what you think is right, or what someone else would think is right, but because it’s the right thing to do in God’s eyes.

As the first hour, or so, of the show came to an end, I wanted to start it over and do it again to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I mean there were times when I had closed my eyes while taking in the sweetest sounding Christmas guitar riffs I had ever heard. Other times while the narrator spoke of the angel flying over the earth, my mind had raced back to my childhood, for comparison sake, when the lights were right, the sounds were right, and my family was near, to see how that measured up to the moment I was experiencing with TSO. I fought back the tears as my body was a quaking battlefield of emotions and character against my ‘powerful’ mind and it’s lame brained attempts at self-indulgence.

Every year, as you know now, I see TSO play their show. I still swell with emotion every time. It’s so different now though. The shaking is gone and the battlefield is quiet. Thank God. But I still let my mind race back to my childhood living room and hide in those memories for a time while TSO plays those notes just as perfect as always. The words are the same and the meaning no less important, if anything, more important with each passing year. We are just five weeks from Christmas (sorry if you hadn’t put that together yet) and it’s my favorite time of the year. The Christmas message is just as important now as it was when it happened. Listen to the words, listen to the music, the Christmas hymns, listen to the songs of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and slow down enough to enjoy the meaning. It might be worth pointing out that the meaning actually does apply all year. I have tried it. Start with one day, one week, one month, and so on. Lose yourself in the meaning, let your own mind race back to the sweetest memories you have of the season, even if the best memory is that of the new approach you took today. Some history is worth repeating, and if it is, keep doing it. Right is right.

As for me, I hope I am never far from the emotions, the feelings, and the lessons I learned inside the first time.

The first time

Upon seeing the Winter 2011 Tour visit Manchester this year, I have spent a lot of time, maybe too much time, reflecting on my experiences with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I can’t help but return to the first time I saw them. It was only their 2nd tour at the time and I couldn’t wait to go see them live. I have copied a list of the 2000 Tour stops from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s website. You will notice the number of dates, and the size of the venues, has grown exponentially since 2000.

2000 Tour

  • Dec. 1st – WILKES BARRE, PA (Kilby Theater)
  • Dec. 2nd – WILKES BARRE, PA (Kilby Theater)
  • Dec. 2nd – KANSAS CITY, MO (Memorial Hall)
  • Dec. 3rd – MINNEAPOLIS, MN (North Rop)
  • Dec. 3rd – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theater Playhouse)
  • Dec. 4th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theater Playhouse)
  • Dec. 4th – GREEN BAY, WI (Vets Memorial)
  • Dec. 5th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theatre)
  • Dec. 5th – MILWAUKEE, WI (Riverside)
  • Dec. 6th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theatre)
  • Dec. 7th – COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (Pike Peak)
  • Dec. 8th – DENVER, CO (Magness)
  • Dec. 8th – ALBANY, NY (Palace Theater)
  • Dec. 9th – HARRISBURG, PA (Zembo Mosque)
  • Dec. 10th – DAYTON, OH (Memorial Hall)
  • Dec. 11th – GRAND RAPIDS, MI (Devos Hall)
  • Dec. 12th – PORTLAND, OR (Schwitzer Concert Hall)
  • Dec. 12th – DETROIT, MI (The Opera House)
  • Dec. 13th – SEATTLE, WA (Paramount)
  • Dec. 13th – ST LOUIS, MO (Pagent Theater)
  • Dec. 15th – AKRON, OH (Civic Theater)
  • Dec. 16th – PHILADELPHIA, PA (Tower Theater)
  • Dec. 17th – PROVIDENCE, RI (Perf Arts Center)
  • Dec. 17th – PHOENIX, AZ (Webb Theatre)
  • Dec. 18th – NORFOLK, VA (Chrysler Hall)
  • Dec. 18th – EL PASO, TX (Convention Center Hall)
  • Dec. 19th – AKRON, OH (EJ Thomas Hall)
  • Dec. 19th – Ft WORTH, TX (Bronco Bowl)
  • Dec. 20th – HOUSTON, TX (Aerial Theater)
  • Dec. 21st – BOSTON, MA (Orpheum Theater)
  • Dec. 22nd – TAMPA, FL (Mahaffrey Theater)
  • Dec. 22nd – WASHINGTON, DC (Constitution Hall)
  • Dec. 23rd – NEW YORK, NY (Beacon Theatre)
  • Dec. 23rd – ATLANTA, GA (The Tabernacle)

I have selected the two dates I went to see them in my first of twelve years attending their shows. December 8th, 2000 will always be my first. My competitive side wishes I had known more about them in 1999 because I would be able to say I have seen them on every single Winter Tour. One has to start somewhere though, and I am glad I did. December 8th is also my mother’s birthday so this was a special day already.

I first heard Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 on WAAF, a Boston radio station. I immediately fell in love. In my life long pursuit of the best, well performed, Christmas songs, TSO’s signature song catapulted onto my list. I remember calling the station and requesting the song once I had heard it. Then it was a rush to the store to buy the CD’s. I listened. I shared. I listened some more. I read the stories. I read the lyrics. I fell in love with this crazy band I’d never seen, called the what? The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Once in a while this happens. I will be writing a paragraph and a rhythm to the writing just kicks in. That just happened here in this post so I have replaced the next paragraph with a poem that emerged instead. I hope this will do justice to where I was as a person and the way I felt as I started my relationship with TSO.

 
Where did these guys come from and how did they know?
That I wasn’t in the right place, though I knew where to go
 
My path was missing something and I knew it was all wrong
When all of a sudden direction showed up in the form of a song
 
Nobody that I knew had played Christmas songs in this manner before
Wow! It was so beautiful. I had only an idea of what was in store
 
I couldn’t dismiss the shrill of those guitars, so sharp like a knife
Shredding all the familiar notes of the songs I’d loved my whole life
 
My emotions balanced on every note, each one brought me closer to peace
The artist held me in limbo; his fingers played with a master’s ease
 
Holding me there, waiting, for the note I knew was coming next
Without fail the note is played perfect, always better than I expect
 
The sounds are so timely, so crisp, so pure and unrefined
Etching new meaning to the words that always play in my mind
 
I feel these emotions; they’ve been building since I was a boy
It’s undeniable, overwhelming, it’s pure Christmas joy
 
As the tunes grew on me I started to focus on each word
Somehow I still managed to avoid all the truths I had heard
 
I took daily struggles and somehow turned them to years
I caused myself and others so many unnecessary tears
 
The music accompanied me everywhere I would go
And though I wandered all over, I never missed a show
 
God’s grace followed me though I made it a most difficult task
I always knew, but ignored, to get help I need only just ask
 
A few years were damaged and I hope not all was waste
Eventually I made my way from that dark and lonely place
 
I keep these memories close to me as tough as they are
It wouldn’t be healing if I didn’t make time to recognize the scar
 
And it wouldn’t be learning if I was to somehow forget
The lessons I have learned and I am not done yet
 
Though the words are familiar they still offer a welcome surprise
Every time I am lucky enough to see TSO live
 

I am not sure where that all came from but I am glad it came out the way it did. Maybe it’s more information than anyone needs to know, although it is a very real perspective to me. I know that no matter where I was, or what I was doing, I would still enjoy TSO and their music. It all has a much deeper meaning to me, knowing the path I have traveled since I saw them the first time.

I am the beholder

They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

My beautiful wife and our adorable daughter Jacqueline

Beautiful.

The first time

Upon seeing the Winter 2011 Tour visit Manchester this year, I have spent a lot of time, maybe too much time, reflecting on my experiences with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I can’t help but return to the first time I saw them. It was only their 2nd tour at the time and I couldn’t wait to go see them live. I have copied a list of the 2000 Tour stops from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s website. You will notice the number of dates, and the size of the venues, has grown exponentially since 2000.

2000 Tour

  • Dec. 1st – WILKES BARRE, PA (Kilby Theater)
  • Dec. 2nd – WILKES BARRE, PA (Kilby Theater)
  • Dec. 2nd – KANSAS CITY, MO (Memorial Hall)
  • Dec. 3rd – MINNEAPOLIS, MN (North Rop)
  • Dec. 3rd – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theater Playhouse)
  • Dec. 4th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theater Playhouse)
  • Dec. 4th – GREEN BAY, WI (Vets Memorial)
  • Dec. 5th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theatre)
  • Dec. 5th – MILWAUKEE, WI (Riverside)
  • Dec. 6th – CLEVELAND, OH (Palace Theatre)
  • Dec. 7th – COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (Pike Peak)
  • Dec. 8th – DENVER, CO (Magness)
  • Dec. 8th – ALBANY, NY (Palace Theater)
  • Dec. 9th – HARRISBURG, PA (Zembo Mosque)
  • Dec. 10th – DAYTON, OH (Memorial Hall)
  • Dec. 11th – GRAND RAPIDS, MI (Devos Hall)
  • Dec. 12th – PORTLAND, OR (Schwitzer Concert Hall)
  • Dec. 12th – DETROIT, MI (The Opera House)
  • Dec. 13th – SEATTLE, WA (Paramount)
  • Dec. 13th – ST LOUIS, MO (Pagent Theater)
  • Dec. 15th – AKRON, OH (Civic Theater)
  • Dec. 16th – PHILADELPHIA, PA (Tower Theater)
  • Dec. 17th – PROVIDENCE, RI (Perf Arts Center)
  • Dec. 17th – PHOENIX, AZ (Webb Theatre)
  • Dec. 18th – NORFOLK, VA (Chrysler Hall)
  • Dec. 18th – EL PASO, TX (Convention Center Hall)
  • Dec. 19th – AKRON, OH (EJ Thomas Hall)
  • Dec. 19th – Ft WORTH, TX (Bronco Bowl)
  • Dec. 20th – HOUSTON, TX (Aerial Theater)
  • Dec. 21st – BOSTON, MA (Orpheum Theater)
  • Dec. 22nd – TAMPA, FL (Mahaffrey Theater)
  • Dec. 22nd – WASHINGTON, DC (Constitution Hall)
  • Dec. 23rd – NEW YORK, NY (Beacon Theatre)
  • Dec. 23rd – ATLANTA, GA (The Tabernacle)

I have selected the two dates I went to see them in my first of twelve years attending their shows. December 8th, 2000 will always be my first. My competitive side wishes I had known more about them in 1999 because I would be able to say I have seen them on every single Winter Tour. One has to start somewhere though, and I am glad I did. December 8th is also my mother’s birthday so this was a special day already.

I first heard Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 on WAAF, a Boston radio station. I immediately fell in love. In my life long pursuit of the best, well performed, Christmas songs, TSO’s signature song catapulted onto my list. I remember calling the station and requesting the song once I had heard it. Then it was a rush to the store to buy the CD’s. I listened. I shared. I listened some more. I read the stories. I read the lyrics. I fell in love with this crazy band I’d never seen, called the what? The Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Once in a while this happens. I will be writing a paragraph and a rhythm to the writing just kicks in. That just happened here in this post so I have replaced the next paragraph with a poem that emerged instead. I hope this will do justice to where I was as a person and the way I felt as I started my relationship with TSO.

Where did these guys come from and how did they know?
That I wasn’t in the right place, though I knew where to go
 
My path was missing something and I knew it was all wrong
When all of a sudden direction showed up in the form of a song
 
Nobody that I knew had played Christmas songs in this manner before
Wow! It was so beautiful. I had only an idea of what was in store
 
I couldn’t dismiss the shrill of those guitars, so sharp like a knife
Shredding all the familiar notes of the songs I’d loved my whole life
 
My emotions balanced on every note, each one brought me closer to peace
The artist held me in limbo; his fingers played with a master’s ease
 
Holding me there, waiting, for the note I knew was coming next
Without fail the note is played perfect, always better than I expect
 
The sounds are so timely, so crisp, so pure and unrefined                                
Etching new meaning to the words that always play in my mind
 
I feel these emotions; they’ve been building since I was a boy
It’s undeniable, overwhelming, it’s pure Christmas joy
 
As the tunes grew on me I started to focus on each word
Somehow I still managed to avoid all the truths I had heard
 
I took daily struggles and somehow turned them to years
I caused myself and others so many unnecessary tears
 
The music accompanied me everywhere I would go
And though I wandered all over, I never missed a show
 
God’s grace followed me though I made it a most difficult task
I always knew, but ignored, to get help I need only just ask
 
A few years were damaged and I hope not all was waste
Eventually I made my way from that dark and lonely place
 
I keep these memories close to me as tough as they are
It wouldn’t be healing if I didn’t make time to recognize the scar
 
And it wouldn’t be learning if I was to somehow forget
The lessons I have learned and I am not done yet
 
Though the words are familiar they still offer a welcome surprise
Every time I am lucky enough to see TSO live
 

I am not sure where that all came from but I am glad it came out the way it did. Maybe it’s more information than anyone needs to know, although it is a very real perspective to me. I know that no matter where I was, or what I was doing, I would still enjoy TSO and their music. It all has a much deeper meaning to me, knowing the path I have traveled since I saw them the first time.

My Escape With TSO

Life flies by. Time passes before my mind can catch up. My conscious mind reveals the reality that already was. And I am left wondering where did those hours go. It never seems to slow down, instead time just moves faster. The kids are growing into adulthood and I am feeling older. The cold mornings tug at me like I am supposed to be somewhere else. Where did the time go? I had my whole life in front of me and now I say those words to my kids. This pace is crazy. Am I really supposed to keep up? I don’t want to. I like my own pace. I need an escape.

One such escape comes my way each November or December, depending on the year. It may sound strange to many of you, but I escape for 3 hours each year at a Christmas concert. A concert, and a band I have shared with almost everyone I know. I have personally taken dozens of people to these shows myself. I have given dozens more of their Christmas CD’s as gifts. I have been escaping with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra every winter since 2000. Sunday afternoon, November 13th was this year’s escape.

By the time, narrator, Bryan Hicks is a couple of sentences into the show, my throat has a lump in it, shivers travel up and down my spine like it’s an information super highway, and tears stand by at the corners of my eyes. Pretty much anything and everything that plagued me, or otherwise consumed a conscious thought in my mind, before I sat in my seat, melts away like snow on a warm spring day, and escape, I do.

You see these three hours are mine, and I love every second of that time. So much so, that I can’t help but share them with those close to me. I could probably go on for hours when it comes to the subject of my escape with, or to TSO.

I saw TSO for the first time in 2000. I had to drive to Albany, NY to see them, and I did. Last night I had to drive only to Manchester, NH to see them, and I did. Every year I am there. Twelve straight years and in several years I saw them more than once. That’s a lot of hours I have escaped with TSO and that’s not even the half of it. There’s the hundreds of hours I have listened online or to each of their albums I own.

Admittedly I love the music. I love the renditions they do; of everything. I love the vocals. I love the instruments coming together as one heart pounding, amazingly, beautiful sound. A sound that I never want to end. The message in the narration, in the music, is really where I lose myself for hours on end. The words, the message, delivered beautifully to a variety of fans from all walks of life. I wish I too had a vehicle so spectacular in which to deliver the same message.

This year the show was a lot closer to Veteran’s Day or Thanksgiving then it was to Christmas, but that’s no excuse not to enjoy the Christmas spirit on any day of the year. As lyrics I heard last night would suggest:

If our kindness
This day is just pretending
If we pretend long enough
Never giving up
It just might be who we are”                                                                                                

What is wrong with that approach to any day of the year? We can’t have enough kindness. That’s from the song Promises To Keep. The show is filled with meaningful lyrics and a tremendous story told over the first half of the show. Every single show includes a thank you to our military from Chris Caffery and the band. They really don’t miss very much. For me it’s a run-on celebration of Christmas, goodwill, and essentially how most of us would like to see everyone approach their every day.

If you read my Sunday Series – Amazing Grace you know that my route to this very moment has taken me through some dark, difficult times. God’s Amazing Grace did get me here, and the musical message as delivered by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra has kept me company through many times and places. I think it’s not a coincidence that TSO and I came together when we did. I know for some this may seem over dramatized or somehow unreal. I can tell you that God’s grace is real and I have been the undeserving recipient so many more times than I could ever count, and this band with their story, their music, their message, have been a huge part of my travels through adulthood. Thank God. Summertime, Christmas time, any time, I can be found listening to TSO and losing myself in the message.

Sunday night was no different. Sitting beside my eleven year old and nineteen year old sons, lost in the crowd on the floor, I sat with tears in my eyes off and on throughout the show. As you will learn about me throughout the Christmas season, this time of year, the songs, the message, the emotions, the time to enjoy loved ones, the music, it all means so much to me. It’s an emotional tie that is ingrained within me. I guess I find it hard to put it all into words. That’s why I value, so much, those who can. Go to TSO’s website and look at the lyrics and stories on their Christmas albums. It’s all right there.

I have escaped with TSO in my CD player while I drove 4 hours in tears all the way back from Orono, Maine. I have sat in the snow near the Canadian border in Pittsburg, NH and played TSO with my windows rolled down while moose looked at me like I was truly nuts. I have parked at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean while a late summer storm batters the shore and lost myself in the TSO Christmas albums. I have sat for hours on the shore of any one of the Connecticut Lakes in NH and written out the words, or even my own versions of poems from the lyrics of TSO songs. I have enjoyed the Christmas albums, one after another, while sitting next to my beautifully, lit, Christmas tree on more than one occasion. I have survived the darkest hours of the darkest nights in my life and let TSO take me to the place I couldn’t yet get to myself.

So each year this escape seems to mean even more to me. Maybe because escapes are harder to come by. Maybe because the principles, the values, the overall message of the Christmas story gets lost a little more each year in the world we live in, so it means more to have it near to me. My nineteen year old son, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, who has a lot of better things to do (I am sure), than hang out with dad, came home for 24 hours, primarily to take in the TSO show. Thank you, I am a fortunate dad, a very fortunate man.

For three hours on Sunday, life slowed down, and it’s meaning again revealed itself in the form of a Christmas concert performed by TSO. I was there. I enjoyed the seconds, beside my two sons, smiling as the message was heard by the thousands in attendance. I shed tears as Music Box Blues was performed, and it took me back to my childhood, constantly sitting by the window, lit by a candle, watching for snow and listening to Christmas music on the phonograph. I had to wipe my eyes again as Old City Bar was performed; the story of one who would be home on Christmas Eve if one could be. There were too many Christmas Eve’s when I wasn’t home and I would listen to this song over and over, as to punish myself I guess.

Every year, in a sold out arena, I escape for a few moments when I just look around and take in the sound, while singing the words of all the songs to myself, and just let it carry me away. It’s special every time. It’s one of my ways to escape. I already can’t wait for next year and another chance to escape with TSO.