What a great birthday. But for those who REALLY want to understand why, you'll have to commit to read a long narrative...ready?
For me, family is everything; much as I expect it is for most people. But when you dig down to the center of a person there has got to be something else. Something that makes them alive, so they can be that family man, so they can be that husband, or parent, or friend.
If you know me at all, you know that I am an obsessed Guns N' Roses fan...and that may be putting it lightly. My life was changed forever at age eight when my best friend Michael J. Longo pressed play on his cassette player and 'Appetite for Destruction' flipped my world on its head. Up until then I had listened to mostly 50s and 60s Doo-Wop with my parents. While kids on the school bus debated Metallica and Motley Crue, I was singing along with the Four Tops, and the Temptations. There was an occasional pop song from the current time period that slipped through, but I was completely oblivious to what the other kids my age were listening to.
A year later the legendary Longini bought me the followup tape for my birthday and I doubled down. I learned to sing and growl like Axl, I danced like Axl, I took the mic for a walk like Axl would, and then I decided I wanted to be a rock star. My parents were concerned.
It wasn't until the middle of my high school career that I realized there was more GN'R music available, and less than a year after that the band would call it quits and split up claiming "not in this lifetime", would they ever play together again.
I was a desperate boy trying to understand life and I decided difinatively, based upon their amazing success and incredible, unique talent, that these guys must somehow understand it all...I had to be like them. I studied every word of every song looking for answers and found more questions than I could ever imagine. They challenged my view of wrong and right, they showed me that shadows are what define light, and that there are many shades of gray between the lines we walk everyday. They even contradicted themselves forcing acceptance that perceived perfection can be flawed...and that's ok. In all that studying, I found my own voice, my own perspective, and I began writing my own words.
Worship turned to obsession when the internet connected me to millions of other obsessed fans who divulged books and interviews on the band that seemed to go on forever. By this time, the various band members had all ventured out to solo projects and I chased them all into obscurity.
During every important event in my life, there was a Guns N' Roses song playing in the background, I saw to that. In college, my name became synonymous with the band and friends often felt the need to tell me when they heard a GN'R song on the radio. Those friends still say they are reminded of me when they hear one of those familiar guitar licks. It makes me smile to be associated with the entity that defined my youth.
During college, in architecture studio, my scale figures always had black leather jackets, long curly hair and a top hat. I developed projects around the band all the time. I remember one professor introducing the impending designs to some judges for a critique stating "the inspiration for these projects range from Jesus Christ to Axl Rose"...it was then that I realized I would never go to heaven.
I used to dress like members of the band, and it would only occasionally be Halloween. One year, when it WAS Halloween, I was dressed as Axl and doing a lip sync performance as part of a corporate, office party for Office Furniture Partnership, a bar tender at the venue came up to me and handed me a bootleg copy of the unreleased Chinese Democracy album. He had burned it for a friend who never showed up and thought I would like to have it. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.
Invariably, when people found out about my fascination they would ask how many times I had seen the band live...it was always disheartening when I revealed I had never seen them. I made excuses about being too young at the time, but that never held much water to anyone, including me.
When Axl emerged again with a new band, playing New Years Eve in Las Vegas, I seized the opportunity. My new girlfriend Leslie Kappauf and I saw Guns in 2001, we flew out to Vegas for the sole purpose of seeing Axl (with the new band). We sat behind the band manager, saw Ron Jeremy at the show, and I spent the entire time standing on a chair next to another obsessed fan who was dressed in full catcher gear (an obscure outfit Axl used to wear during the Illusion tour in 1992/93). He may have been more obsessed than I.
Maybe a year or two later we saw Slash and Duff in Velvet Revolver at Starland Ballroom. In my mind I fused the two events but it wasn't quite the real thing.
I subsequently convinced my wife to agree to name our children after four of the founding members of the band. Middle names, but still... she's so cool. A lot of people think that's funny when they hear it, but someone invariably asks "why?" My answer is always: "they saved my life." You may see a bunch of strung out, arrogant, derelicts, but I see the people who inspired my existence, who made me want to live. You may think they are terrible role models, but I think they are perfectly flawed. Life is about inspiration, simple as that. Whatever makes you want to get up in the morning and do what you do, to make you feel alive, that's the meaning of life. For me, since I was eight years old, it's been Guns N' Roses. convertible wears for bridesmaid With twist wrap
This year, for my birthday, my wife and parents went in jointly on a pair of VIP tickets, right up front, with BACKSTAGE PASSES to the Guns N' Roses: Not In This Lifetime Tour!
I finally get to see Axl, Slash, and Duff share a stage together and my wife will be there next to me to correct the story when I romanticize it, blowing the whole thing out of perportion!
So I'm clinging to my youth. I'm 39 today and I am finally going to be face to face with the people who made me the man I am today. I just want to shake their hands and say "Thank you", but if that's not in the cards, I'll just have to keep paying it forward on my own.
Thanks for reading, I hope it sheds some light on how amazing this day has been for me. Thank you all for the well wishes and I hope you continue to inspire, just as I aspire to.