Sunday, June 22, 2008

Front Row Center

So I totally scored front row tickets to see my favorite band Rush a few weeks ago. My buddy Mike and I have been fellow fanatics since the late 1980s. We have seen Rush in concert many times, often taking our show on the road to see them in distant lands (if Milwaukee and Chicago are considered distant). When we heard they were coming to St. Paul again, we bought seats in a wheelchair accessible row at the top of the lower-level. We’ve sat there before, had a good time, damaged our hearing, the usual.

Then Mike got an e-mail from the band website stating he had won two tickets, front row center, and suddenly our lives were changed forever. Our seemingly insane devotion (in our wives’ minds) to the greatest rock band of all time (in our own minds) had finally been recognized and rewarded. The forces of the universe had aligned to give us the Holy Grail of concert seating. No one would have better seats.

But my wheelchair would not fit in the front row. The band’s insightful lyrics summed up my feelings:

Burning in the moment
Trapped by the desperation
Between how it is and how it ought to be
-- Rush, “How It Is”

When should I take action to get what I want versus accept things as they are? When does it become a waste of time and energy? Where do I draw that line? These are the questions that apply way beyond concert tickets and beer expenditures. They are especially pertinent when fighting ALS. I’ve been fighting what most would call a losing battle for nearly 4 years. Sometimes, as the Borg say on Star Trek, “resistance is futile.”

Except when it’s not. I called the arena ahead of time to try and work out a solution. When we arrived, the security folks offered me a spot in the aisle on the right side of the stage, about three rows back. I could have made a scene and demanded equal access, or I could accept their compromise and make everyone’s life easier. I chose the latter. Third row is still pretty kick ass.

A certain amount of resistance
To the forces of light and love
A certain measure of tolerance
A willingness to rise above
-- Rush, “One Little Victory”

Still, I spent the first part of the show stewing. I was angry this opportunity didn’t arise when I was healthy. And frankly, I was annoyed by the undeserving and clearly ignorant “fan” standing in front of me. I mean, dude, Rush doesn’t even play “Free Bird” okay? But finally I figured out how to let go of my anger (I guess Yoda was right after all). I had done what I could and now it was time to simply enjoy the moment, which pretty well rocked I must say. My friends took care of me, and when they could’ve gone up to the front row, they stayed back. I am most grateful for their friendship, so I insisted on them going up front as well.

We can only go the way the wind blows
We can only bow to the here and now
Or be broken down blow by blow
-- Rush, “The Way the Wind Blows”

While finding a path to acceptance for this concert dilemma was easy, I have found it nearly impossible to do so with the rest of my life. Learning to accept the emasculation of my disease hints at letting go of my former head-banging self, of resigning myself to fate. But acceptance is not the same as resignation. I choose to accept the limitations of my reality while still fighting to make it better. Ultimately, we always have front row seats to our own lives.

No one gets to their heaven without a fight
-- Rush, “Armor and Sword”


Anonymous said...

nice! i was a huge rush fan back in the day. i really liked all their stuff from the first album up to moving pictures. i lost track of them after that though. good post!

Anonymous said...

i see the e.e. cummings' lower-case type is coming back in vogue. great to see your posts again, scott; they always leave me feeling better than before.
i wasn't the biggest rush fan, but one of my first rock album purchases was rush: exit stage left and the heady (no pun intended) hemispheres. i think i chose the latter for its bizarre cover art. neil pert's personal tragedies are staggering, and it is a tribute to his courage that he still tours and is considered the greatest of rock drummers.

great moral to your story and an apt quote.


Anonymous said...


I couldn't help but think of another Rush song when you were describing the fan standing up in front of you, oblivious to you seated behind him. This especially in the larger context of the anger of not having had this opportunity when you were healthy. Besides, we had the best view at Ween!

"The Oaks are just too lofty,
And they grab up all the light."
-Rush, "The Trees"

Stay happy in your shade, amigo!

Rich B