A Tale of Two Cities (yes, I know it's been done)

A problem that’s been on my mind this week is how newcomers to the blog experience it for the first time. For example, in last week’s post, I wrote about a tough stretch I went through- one could argue that I came across in a bitter, negative tone. If that’s the first post that someone reads, that’s going to be their first impression of me- that I’m a bitter, crotchety old cancer patient. This is at odds with the fact that I try to always express a positive perspective, because that’s who I am. In that way, as people get introduced to the blog, they have an understanding of the way I’m approaching the rest of my life. 

The downside to that approach is that those of you who have followed for me a while would quickly get bored with all of the happiness. Also, it wouldn’t be a true representation of life- everyone has up downs, whether they have cancer or not. It’s a conundrum. I haven’t figured out the answer yet, so you’ve wasted two paragraphs of your time on something that doesn’t have a conclusion. Sorry about that. 

You may recall from a post a couple of weeks ago, that I was the proud recipient of a personally addressed and autographed album from my favorite musician, the one and only Noel Gallagher. There is more to this story. In the telling of this story, I only use first names. It’s tough to tell who likes or doesn’t like having their business put all over the place. There is, however, one of a certain celebrity whose positive ID is crucial to the telling of the sorry, so I must apologize to him.

When I was a freshman at UNM, my fraternity brother Smiley was a senior. As an aside he was an architecture major and one of the influences that pushed me into the field. To his eternal credit he left the architecture world and now practices law in Boston. In addition to his design and professional prowess, Smiley is also a talented musician. It is because of his musical acquaintances that the Noel connection was made.

Through his music, Smiley made Steve’s acquaintance. Steve is a multi-talented, Grammy Award winning house music vocalist, and by accounts an all around top guy. He is also buddies with a gent named Neil (and Noel, I believe). Neil happens to be Noel’s Tour Manager. One day as Smiley and Steve were chatting, he shared my story, my hero-worship of Noel, and passed along one of my Noel-centric blog posts. Being an awesome guy, Steve set things in motion with Neil and Noel, and the result is my priceless personalized, autographed album from The Man. What can you say- all of these guys all have tremendous demands on their time. That they would pause to read some random stranger’s blog and make time to do something meaningful speaks volumes about the quality of their character.

Generally speaking, Noel makes it to our part of the globe once every couple of years. Whenever he’s close, I go. I never miss anything in the Southeast. I also go further afield when the spirit moves (see Oasis at Madison Square Garden in 2005.) What a coincidence that two weeks after I got the signed album, he started his North American tour with back to back shows at The Tabernacle in Atlanta, and the Ryman in Nashville. True to form, I went to both. Friday night I went with my wife, a few of members of the circle, and my youngest brother. Saturday night it was just me and my oldest- his first ever concert.  

Friday afternoon before I left Chattanooga, Smiley surprised me with a text that had Neil’s phone number in it. When we got to Atlanta I gave him a call and we arranged to meet before the show so I could shake his hand and thank him for the album. He’s a super nice guy that somehow found the time to chat with a stranger an hour before the opening of the tour he’s managing. We chatted about our friends, results of the afternoon football (soccer), the start of the tour, and the fact that his father-in-law is actually a Birmingham City legend (KRO!!). I thanked him for looking out for me, and asked him to pass along my thanks to Noel. The show was really good, especially considering it was the first night. The set list was solid (although I missed “Do the Damage”). Somewhat surprisingly, he played as many Oasis tunes as he did those of NGHFB (not that I’m complaining). The outstanding song of the night was The Mexican, it came along at the perfect time, was well executed, and loud.   

He doesn't know that it'll never get better than his first concert.
Saturday morning I cruised back up to Chattanooga, grabbed the boy and headed for Music City. Just before the show, Neil texted me and we met out in the lobby. After making introductions, he presented the boy with a set list that Noel had personally signed in honor of his first concert (I got one too). It was another fantastic gesture from these fantastic people. Unbeknownst to us, however, it was a tough night for Noel as one of his close friends died from cancer that afternoon. It wasn’t until he dedicated an exceptional version of “Half the World Away” to Ms. Aherne that I understood he was playing with a heavy heart. 

...and there you have it...
Unfortunately for the boy, he’s now pretty much ruined on concerts for the rest of his life. To wit: few venues measure up to the Ryman as a place to see a show; he’ll probably never again get a signed set list from the artist just before the show; and given the dwindling number of real rock stars, the quality of the performer will be tough to match.

To borrow his words, the last of a dying breed.
So that’s pretty much it, kids. The moral of the story: sometimes people are awesome. In this case the awesome people are named Smiley, Steve, Neil and Noel. (and good lord, if I’ve missed anyone, somebody let me know.) I’ve got my hands full for the next two weeks, so I may have to take some time off from the blog. In the meantime, ya’ll be good, and know I love you.

Music of the week: Half the World Away, Days Go By, The Mexican

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