And The Power Goes Out

Rain is sheeting across the pasture right now, the lower flood plain of the ranch staying true to the FEMA designation. Brothers Osbourne is playing the halftime show for the Detroit/Chicago game, and just as I start singing along with the first song, the power goes out.

These two guys are on stage in front of a huge crowd at Detroit’s Ford Field, and a national TV audience of millions on Thanksgiving Day, and the power goes out.

They’re standing in front of a massive curtain, and the camera pans back to reveal a show ready to explode after their acoustic opening. Cheerleaders are ready to strut around with good-natured stripper moves. A full band is ready for the downbeat. Lights are ready to flash and strobe.

And the power goes out.

I’ve been there. Not at this level, not with cheerleaders, but I’ve been there. Where the opportunity is golden, where everybody is ready, where every step taken over mountains and valleys has led to right here, right now.

And the power goes out.

It’s Thanksgiving, right? This is the day to be grateful for every opportunity, and if we’re feeling particularly philosophical, we should be thankful for the power going out, too. That can be a tough ask, though. Brothers Osbourne does not look grateful at the moment.

But when our own power goes out, we can be thankful we have another day above ground, another day to start something new, another day to tie up loose ends, another day to stay strong until the power comes back on.

The two brothers are still standing in front of that massive curtain, looking at each other and their monitors, strumming and testing mics in a wash of sterile light likely funded by generators. I’m both surprised and stoked that the network has stayed with them and kept this opportunity alive, as engineers and electricians behind the scenes scramble to get the power to the stadium sound system back on.

The announcers have been filling space for a few minutes as I’ve been writing this. But the blare of an electric guitar just seared through the television chatter, and the brothers are launching into their performance.

They are dominating.

This is awesome.

Sometimes, the power goes out.

Wait long enough, though, and the power comes back on.

Figured It Out

I was trying to figure out what to write. You know, for Veterans Day.

I usually have something to say, especially about Veterans Day. For The Sender: Love Letters from Vietnam focused on veterans’ issues, and the project has donated considerable resources, with your help, to causes like Team RWB’s surf camp for veterans.

Maybe the words aren’t coming as easily today because I never served in our military.

I never lost a limb in service to our country, or a life.

I never saw combat casualties I can’t unsee.

I never came back from deployment, unable to find work or direction.

If you’re a veteran and any of this resonates with you, you can email me, and I’ll put you in touch with one of the best men I know: a combat Marine who’s been there and can help.

I was trying to figure out what to write. You know, for Veterans Day.

Figured it out.

Moments

Next week, artists will start letting folks know about this year’s For The Sender Holiday Show at the historic La Paloma Theater. We’re already a little over halfway to a sellout, so I anticipate tickets will be gone before Thanksgiving. Details are right here, including a partial list of the performers. More will be announced soon.

The show benefits Team RWB’s surf camps for veterans, where I’m honored to volunteer as a surf coach. Last year, an Air Force veteran on my team had suffered hearing damage from his tours spent launching fighter jets off aircraft carriers, but we didn’t talk about whatever else he might have been carrying.

He just wanted to surf.

I’ve told stories in these digital pages about how those moments in the water, edged with laughter and joy, seem to be what veterans at the surf camps need the most.

He was tougher to read, though, and I saw myself in him. Introverted, focused, more likely to wade into deeper water than splash around on the surface.

So I wasn’t sure if his moments in the water were going to be about laughter and joy. He triumphantly rose to his feet on one of his last waves with little ostensible reaction, and by the time we said goodbye, I could tell that the lighter side of life didn’t come as naturally to him.

I get it.

I was packing up my towel and wetsuit after this summer’s camp when a strong hand gripped my shoulder. I turned around to see the Air Force veteran from last year… somehow I’d missed him in the water this time. He said he was sorry it had taken a year, but he’d been waiting for the right moment to tell me something.

For the right moment to tell me that he wasn’t sure if he would survive last summer.

To tell me he didn’t have much to live for back then, that he was drowning in self-doubt and confusion and emptiness.

That the few hours of surfing last year changed him.

That he found a part of himself he’d lost, waiting in the water with people who cared about him.

That he’d enrolled in a local college, taken on a massive course load, and was set to graduate in two years.

That he had a girlfriend.

That they broke up.

That he found another girlfriend.

That none of this would’ve happened, if we hadn’t gone surfing last summer.

I’ve told stories in these digital pages about how those moments in the water, edged with laughter and joy, seem to be what veterans at the surf camps need the most.

Of course, this is because those moments are what I need the most.