I Felt a Shadow Cross My Heart.

This afternoon I was on Twitter and noticed a post of Neil Peart playing drums on Letterman. I remembered that episode well. Back in 2011 Letterman did a drummer’s week of sorts and had all these bad ass drummers (I believe Shiela E was on as well). I re-tweeted it and then posted it on my Facebook because let’s be honest here, Peart changed the face of drumming and lyric writing (in my humble opinion).  Just after I hit post, I thought, “Oh… wait…” and I refreshed my phone.

Miles and I both jumped up off the couch, screaming, “NO!”

The Professor, the ever-mysterious yet masterful legend had died from glioblastoma four days ago.

The passing of rock legends is different for everyone.

I can remember when Cobain committed suicide, as well as the deaths of Layne Stayley, Chris Cornell, Andrew Wood, David Bowie and most recently, Mac Miller. I can also recall my parents talking about where they were when Lennon was shot and when John Bonham died.  It’s a bizarre right of passage to share these memories and/or stories with friends or even the internet as a whole.

Yet, here I am, recounting my own stories of Rush.

My Uncle claims that he is the reason I am such a huge fan, as he liked to listen to their records in my grandparents’ basement with his buddies when I was little. I have an old boyfriend who solidified my obsession with Rush in the mid-nineties too. I can remember lazy Sunday afternoons listening to Counterparts while napping on his couch after church. He’d explain Peart’s drumming to me and we’d argue over which album was the greatest of all time (In case you’re wondering, for me it’s Roll The Bones).  My friends, who at the time were all musicians of some sort, were also mega fans and we’d just sit around listening to Rush albums- picking apart lyrics, drawing pictures and again, talking about how fucking phenomenal Neil was on each track. Hell, even my boss at the little hippie head shop I worked at was a super fan, so naturally, Rush was on repeat during my shifts.

Typically I wouldn’t write out an entire blog post about the death of a musician, but this is different.  Rush changed the way I listened to music. It changed the way I felt music. Even this afternoon, while listening to Presto, my brain began to single out Neil’s drumming- as it was what I first learned to hear in each of their songs.

I was lucky enough to see Rush not once, but twice. I only wish it could have been more- I’ve seen so many stories in my Rush Family feed about people who have seen them 10, 20, and even 60 times (SIXTY!).

The first time I saw them was with a buddy of mine who happened to have an extra ticket to the Test for Echo tour. He asked me to go last minute and of course, I dropped everything and drove out to the now extinct Starwood Amphitheatre. We sat five or six rows from the stage and I honestly don’t think I’ve had such a moving experience since. The second time was right after we moved to Atlanta. I remember sitting in my cubicle, forgetting all work to solely focus on scoring tickets to their show. This time, I was bringing Miles with me. This would be his first concert at 10 years old.  When the intro to Subdivisions started playing that night, my son looked over at me as I was crying tears of joy and said, “Mama! This is your JAM!” Yes, yes it is.

This afternoon he said, “I can’t believe I got to see this legend live.”

I can’t either.

Rush is my band.

They are there when my sadness is just too deep for me to find words. They are there when I need a pick me up, a good feeling for a Saturday afternoon or when I just need a recharge in my life and a way to reassure myself that everything I’m doing is right… I listen to Rush.

For Christmas a few years back, Bill and Miles surprised me with an original Wuhan promo poster featuring Neil. A local drum shop was closing down and I had been eyeballing that poster for weeks. They wouldn’t sell it to me, which I was super pissed about. Yet somehow, my husband was able to get it and have it framed. When I ripped the paper off that frame on Christmas morning, I started to cry. That same Wuhan poster hangs in my foyer and it’s the first thing you see when you walk into my house.  A few years later, a friend of mine had a print made for my birthday with the lyrics, “Catch the mystery, catch the drift” on it. Again, big ole tears. It also hangs by the back door, so it’s the first thing I see when I leave. And for the past five years, I’ve been sitting on an epic tattoo design of all my favorite Rush albums… I never quite knew when to pull the trigger on it, but I suppose today I got my answer.

My husband, God bless him, has endured countless hours of me air drumming and singing to every.single.song for twelve years. In case you’re wondering that’s 19 studio albums, 11 live albums and hours upon hours of videos, movies and Neil Peart’s drumming dvd’s. That’s a lot of Rush you guys. He’s a fan too of course but of their earlier “harder” stuff (so he says). When I went to Europe at 17, I brought two cd’s: Frank Sinatra’s love songs and Moving Pictures. So for seven days straight, I listened to those two artists until I gave in and bought Tori Amos Under The Pink album for the flight home.

Neil Peart’s death feels personal to his legions of fans, drummers and lyricists. To those of us who drum (myself briefly included) he made us want to drum better- to keep at it until we cracked the code. I have listened to my son play drums since he was four and I understand that passion and need to crack the same code.  I feel like the amount of Rush I listened to when I was pregnant with him set up his path to becoming a drummer in his own right.

To me, his death feels closer to home as Miles grandma passed away from glioblastoma, as well as my good friend Ashley’s sister. I hate to think of my musical hero suffering, let alone all the others who have died from this horrific disease.

I hate to think I won’t get a chance to sneak my grandchildren into a show to see his magic live.  I hate to think that a trio has suddenly become a duo.  Yet, there is some comfort in all of us as fans. Those of us who have come together to share our stories, our pictures, and our heartbreak.  We’re a special group of prog rockers.

Thank you, Neil, for being an inspiration and for taking me to mystic worlds with your lyrics and your melodies.

Rest in peace and victory Professor.

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216 months

Bee,

Every year since you were five, I have written a blog post to you, about you, for you (or maybe more for me). Due to websites shutting down or email addresses I’ve long since deleted, I can no longer access some of those posts.  I had a meltdown about it in the Publix parking lot tonight.  I had planned to print off (or maybe just repost them all) for you on this big birthday of yours.  I’ll keep working on finding those posts, it’s now my mission.

In the past, I’ve talked about how you arrived in the world. A story that even I cannot believe I lived.  I was twenty-one years old, living in Japan and pregnant. Whew. My doctor was constantly furious at me because for a solid eight weeks, I ate nothing but takoyaki from an old lady who had a grill next to the subway station. He also didn’t like that I ate chicken from another street vendor, sushi and shrimp chips from 7-11. But, when in Rome… or in this case, Japan.  You also survived Papa giving you rice formula at three months old because he said you would sleep better and Super Papa rubbing whiskey on your gums when your teeth were coming in.  There was also that time you barfed up tacos when you were two and didn’t eat another one until you were like twelve.  Basically, you fear no food except tuna fish. I still don’t understand this.

You were born at 12:03 am, or 9:03 am on 2/12 in the States. An entire month early. My doctor was on vacation in Hawaii. The doctor who helped bring you into this world had a cast on her right leg that went all the way up to her thigh. She leaned on a crutch while telling me what to do. A bunch of guys straight out of boot camp watched because it was a “learning environment.” Poor kids.

Your Dad’s leave wasn’t approved yet, so he was out to sea, building missiles in the belly of an aircraft carrier that week. You were supposed to be born on St. Patricks Day- yet, there you were, 24 hours before Valentines Day. So tiny, so cute, with this perfectly round head that smelled so sweet. I was instantly in love with you, as most parents are after bringing another human into the world. It wasn’t until the second week of your life when I had to walk down eight flights of stairs and walk in the snow to get to the grocery store, that the panic began to settle in. How was I going to do this? You know what I did? I got the landlady to help me carry your stroller downstairs and instead of putting you in it, I put our groceries in it. I know, genius. But, we made it. I’d like to thank the scuba shop guy who had a store below our apartment building for always having hot sake for me, the curry restaurant on the corner block for holding you while I scarfed down food, the older couple at Cafe K in the Honch who loved to kiss you while I played chess, and our next door neighbor for taking care of you on your third week of existence (I hadn’t showered in days and we both cried non stop, she heard us crying through the wall).

It takes a village to raise a child sometimes and you my darling, have had the best of the best: parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles, cousins, aunts, friends of mine that became your friends (Hi Cat in Canada!), teachers, professors, coffee roasters, knitters, the fellas at the Men’s Extension. They all love you. They have all had a chance to give a piece of themselves to you, in order to help you understand the way of the world.

I’ve watched, in total awe, when you started to play the drums at four years old. Then the guitar. The bass. You totally get that from your Dad by the way. I can’t play an instrument to save my life. You get the maths from Bill. You get the heart on your sleeve from me. You are a true renaissance man.

Every birthday, I think of all these amazing adventures we’ve had.

Now, I’m thinking of all the amazing adventures that await you in life.

In the morning, you’ll be 18.

You can buy lotto tickets, join the military, move out, get married (please wait), get a tattoo (few more days), travel the world, go to college, or as your Dad mentioned, go to prison (PLEASE DO NOT) etc, etc, you know, you know.  I’m just so happy to be your mother and watch these adventures unfold for you. Even the crappy ones- because those are the important adventures. They teach you things. Test your patience. Strengthen who you are as an individual. Embrace those crappy adventures, try to take a breath and be present when they happen- there are lessons to be learned from them (you can thank me later).

Being your Mother has been, to be quite honest, phenomenal.

And here I am, typing out this letter to you, just a few hours short of your 18th birthday.
How did that happen? How are you 18 already? You should be like seven. Or at least ten. Papa was right when he said it happens so fast. I’ve loved teaching you how to navigate through life. Watching your AH-HA moments. Giving you little secrets about what the hell girls are actually thinking. Seeing concerts with you (TMP! Helmet! Soundgarden! RUSH!) Comforting you in times of grief. In times of joy.

I will always have your back. I will always be here for you, as will Bill (even if you move to Minnesota or Murfreesboro). You are the greatest person to have ever graced my life and I am forever thankful to have been given the opportunity to share my days with you. Nothing, nothing, has brought me greater joy.

It’s been a solid 18 years.

As I’ve said to you since you were tiny,

I love you more than bread,

Mom

PS: Robin wings.