Purple Rain.

I was planning to write today, but now I have to mark today….

Today is the day that Prince died.

I was fortunate enough to see him during the 2013 Billboard Music Awards, and while my mention of him was brief, it’s something that you don’t forget.

As part of any of my awards shows, I and my colleagues are fortunate enough to have front row experiences to watching the artists rehearse. Sometimes, right in front of the stage, and sometimes, on stage with them. It’s an experience that’s hard to describe, but certainly not easily forgotten.

I watched Prince rehearse a selection of songs, and the set ended with his classic “Let’s Go Crazy”, complete with that guitar solo ending. Bear in mind I’ve been doing these shows for 7-8 years now, and I’ve been fortunate to see some legends up close and personal, from Stevie Wonder to Dolly Parton. But Prince…. That man had an energy about him. I don’t use phrases like “electrifying” in normal conversation unless I’m writing some descriptive show review… but he was.

We were probably about 10 feet away from him, and the hairs on my arms set on end when he went off on that guitar. And I knew that I was seeing something special. Being a rehearsal, we got to see it a few times, and each time was just as solid as the one preceding it. I viewed watching Prince perform as one of my “life goals” back then, and even before I heard the news this morning, it still was today. I took this news hard. It’s hard to sit writing content all day while trying to stifle back tears.

I don’t get starstruck often, nor do I really cry much when a celebrity passes. Michael Jackson, Steve Irwin, Harold Ramis, Robin Williams, Leonard Nimoy. Those, I did. Prince, I just struggled with silently all day because I wasn’t really able to absorb that moment. I’ve listened to my Purple Rain record tonight and just reminisced. In 2013, I also said he was a God. That too still holds firm on my opinion of him, and I’m so grateful to have had that moment.

Purple Rain

Purple Rain

What’s funny is that I was going to write about award shows tonight anyway. My mind’s been going back to the ACMAs, and the people I work with. It’s a special group of people to me, as it’s always the same core selection of actors, and we’ve built years of these experiences together. The first day at the ACMAs really stuck with me as someone commented that I seemed more mature these days, like I had grown into myself. I’ve thought about that, and overall, I suppose it’s true. My priorities have changed so much, especially in the last two years where I was at my worst and my best. Seeing both sides of the spectrum in so short a time really sorted out a few priorities that I needed to.

These days, I focus more of my time on kindness and generosity, and I’m more wearied of fools and those that take advantage. Or those that idolize the trivial. I’m less eager to please, because I’ve seen the effects of telling people what they want to hear, and making promises that never could be delivered on. Misguided priorities and neurosis. The fragility of life and the relationships around us. And how burning bridges can be so easy to do if someone hurts us, but it’s not always the right decision. You don’t have to forget, but you can change the interactions… or in some cases mend them.

I feel a lot more at peace with myself now. More certain of my talents, and where it is that I want to be. I’ve finally come to accept that I am that square peg that people sometimes try to force into that round hole, and try as hard as they can, neither of us are going to end up happy. The thing is, I am okay with that. I’ve accepted who I am, and at the end of the day, it’s not so bad. If people can’t understand the talents that I have or fit me into their box, that doesn’t make me “stupid”. I don’t need to “save the world” anymore, but I’ve figured out how I can help all the same. I am more interested in contributing and making an impact. After all, who are we if not a summation of our memories, our experiences, and the risks that we are willing to take?

I’ve done what I’ve needed to survive for so long, and I’m at a point to where I don’t have to be afraid anymore. Afraid of surviving, or making mistakes, or not meeting up to someone else’s expectations. I’ve thought about “what next”, and where that’s going to take me.

Funny thing is, I realize that some of those answers have been right in front of me the whole time….

Mr. Waggins.

Mr. Waggins.

But that’s a story for another time.

Life Again.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a month since I’ve last posted, but long lapses usually mean that things have been happening, and happening they have been.

My friend John came out from the old hometown for a business trip/visit. The last time he came out, Jen and I had been house hunting, so he finally got to experience the fruits of our labors with our home. (I also had to do a fair bit of cleaning in the guest room to turn it back from a store room).

The visit was good in that I got to play “tour guide” for a while, going back to the Pioneer Saloon for the first time in months (blessedly as just a bar fly this time), the Pinball Hall of Fame, and both of Vegas’ Tiki bars. Let me tell you: Packing back umbrella drinks from both Frankie’s and Golden Tiki in the same day is a new level of Liver Olympics that only the brave should experience. I weathered through, but it’s not a journey for the faint hearted.

It was, however, a very enjoyable visit, and John again proves why he is my rock. Our friendship is a very comfortable experience.

After being a host, the week turned out to be a rough one: Two friends lost their beloved pets, and my friend had lost his Father, all within a day of each other. I certainly can’t compare my own feelings to theirs, but it was a rough week for me, grieving for my friend’s pains as well as the sense of loss from each passing. While I don’t need any further examples from the subject, it remains a reminder that life is so incredibly short.

Jen and I decided to go to Wizard World for the following weekend to relax for a few hours. Honestly, it was very similar to Pensacon in a lot of ways, but some definitely more than others.

I ran into Joey Lauren Adams again.

Chasing Amy yet again.

Chasing Amy yet again.

Two times in less than one month. What are the odds? This time with a quieter show, it was more time to talk instead of a “Hi”/photo/”Bye” experience. Joey’s lovely. I could listen to her talk all day, as in read an entire phone book to me level. But mostly, we just talked about projects and Pensacola, which was pretty cool sharing stories from just a few weeks ago. But it was a very nice and laid back conversation. As we didn’t find any of our friends at the Con, we left early.

Speaking of Pensacola, I launched a new travel site: Pensacola Resident Tourist. I launched the site about two weeks ago, and while I still have some work to do, and photos to scan, I think it has a good start to it. Now I just have to cycle through my list of places to see, and justify another research trip out there so I can hopefully start seeing if I can get some tourism outlet to sponsor it with ads.

Part of the reason I haven’t written any further on the site is due to me being on the Academy of Country Music Awards. Having the production finally come back from Dallas during the 50th show, I was literally back in the saddle again as the rehearsal host.

Tonight's winner is....

Tonight’s winner is….

I do have an affinity for the show. I find it humorous that I grew up avoiding country music like the plague, and now it’s one of my favorite productions to work on, as the performers are just… as we’d say in the South, good people. There are moments where Blake Shelton comes in to mess with you during rehearsals, or talking to Dierks Bentley and just holding a good conversation, or Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum reaching over and shaking your hand, telling you that you’ve done a great job with the announcements, or watching Dolly Parton rehearse, which is about as amazing as it sounds. It’s somewhat weird relaying stories like this, because most people don’t have a similar frame of reference, and look at me like I came from another planet when I describe my average work day.

From the ACM website's rehearsals photos.

From the ACM website’s rehearsals photos.

But it was good for other reasons, most for the feeling of trust that the production puts with me, and the casual attitudes of everyone. I was so stiff and formal when I started doing these things years ago before I found my sense of confidence. Now it just feels like family with a strong sense of gratitude involved for being a part of this madness at all.

Even stranger this is the first year that I finally noticed that the awards are actually little cowboy hats. You see it from one different angle, and I was like “Where did this come from?”

There have been other moments, such as being invited to a Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage concert, and a stage production of Beauty and the Beast at the Smith Center a few days later.

Otherwise, it’s been a rare time in Vegas where the “Sky Water of Legend” (you may call it “rain”, but we call it “Sky Water of Legend” here due to its rarity) actually happened for the weekend, and I took naps, each being more glorious than the last. There was also an Irish pub involved, but that’s a tale for another time.

Also, taxes suck. On a vacuum level.