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Friday, March 2, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mr. President ...

Today is a special day.  For me, anyway.  Today, Jon Bon Jovi turns 50 years old. 
I can hear the snorts; I can picture the eye rolls.  Go ahead, laugh.  After more than two decades of being Jon Bon Jovi’s Biggest Fan, I’m pretty used to it.  Try me – I’ve really heard them all.  Most common:  He can’t sing.  Sounds like singing to me, but what do I know?  Another oldie:  His songs are stupid.  I’m sorry you feel that way – tell me again why you know all the lyrics to “Livin’ On a Prayer”?  And my personal favorite:  Jon is gay.[1]  Um, ok, sure – would this be personal knowledge, then?  Say whatever you want; makes no matter to me.  Nothing you – or anyone – can say will change how I feel.  In fact, today, in celebration of Jon’s birthday, I won’t even raise my usual defenses, such as, If he sucks so badly, why has he sold more than ONE HUNDRED MILLION RECORDS?  And why are his concert tickets so impossibly difficult to get?  And why is he consistently the top grossing tour each and every year he tours?  At the end of the day, the statistics don’t matter.  You either get it, or you don’t. 
            Thankfully, I get it.  I get it.
            When people learn of my strong affection[2] for Jon, the expected questions usually follow:  How many times have you seen him in concert?  Honestly?  I have no idea.  Isn’t he married?  Yeah, since forever.  She had the luck of geography.[3]  Have you ever met him?  Oh, if I’d met him, you’d know.[4]  But one question leaves me speechless every time:  What is it about him that is so compelling to you?  Huh.  Huh.  Why is your favorite color blue?  Why do you like the taste of cookies?  Words simply can’t explain … it. 
Sure, I could list individual characteristics he possesses[5] and things I like about his music.  But that doesn’t capture the feeling.  I can quote lyrics, throw out song titles, but those aren’t my words; those are his.  I could even take you to a concert but, although I would bet the price of a ticket that you’d have an awesome time, I’d doubt that you’d feel what I feel.[6]  You wouldn’t feel it.
And, frankly, I feel kind of sorry for you.  I really do.  Because if I could bottle how I feel when I see or hear Jon Bon Jovi, it would be (a) popular; (b) illegal; and (c) really expensive.  Yeah, it’s that good.  I wish everyone could see what I see, hear what I hear, feel what I feel in those moments.  I am very grateful for those times; I truly believe I am lucky.
In fact, I feel …  blessed.  I’m not a religious person, and that word fell from my vocabulary long ago.  But a few years back, a good friend helped reintroduce it, and it seems fitting here.  My parents raised me Catholic; I attended Catholic school for twelve years and followed that up with four years of Jesuit college.  By the start of high school, I had stopped believing; a few years later, I stopped practicing.  When I eventually married, it was not in a church.  And after that, when I had children, I consciously opted not to baptize them.  Religion plays no role in their lives, or in mine.  In contrast, however, I have a close work friend who believes in a big way.  Religion takes center stage in her life.  She sings in her church’s choir and attends mass several times a week.  At work, she plays gospel CDs at her desk, and each day of her calendar is filled with hand-written Bible quotes she finds inspiring.  Recently, she hit a rough patch, and she came into my office to talk about it.  She mentioned asking Jesus for strength.  I told her, “You know I don’t pray, but I will send all of my positive energy your way.”  She smiled and said, “Neesie, I know that not everybody is blessed with the ability to believe.”  And from her face I could tell that in her heart, she felt not just a little bit sorry for me.
            That?  That right there?  That’s how I feel.[7]
Every so often I run into someone[8] who almost seems angry at my love of All Things Jon, who claims that he doesn’t get the “famous thing.”  No singer/author/actor/politician does for him what Jon does for me; he would never hero worship.  First, I doubt him.  Second, I pity him.  How awful to go through life without that feeling of awe.  What in the world does he dream about?
Maybe Jon doesn’t do it for you.  That’s ok.  But I truly hope that if he doesn’t, something else does.  I hope you collect unicorns, and each time you add a new one to your shelf, you feel a little shiver of it.  I hope you have seen every single episode of “Seinfeld” and can quote Costanza with your eyes closed.  I hope your heart leaps a little when pitchers and catchers report to spring training.  And I hope that there exists at least one song which forces you crank the volume all the way up, throw your head back and sing at the top of your lungs.
And I hope that song is a Bon Jovi song!
Happy, happy birthday, Jon.  And many more.

[1] Invariable uttered by a male.
[2] Not “obsession,” thank you very much.
[3] She also has a black belt, so I’ll stop right here.
[4] My opening line would be, “I’m-Denise-I-met-Jon-Bon-Jovi-nice-to-meet-you!”
[5] That smile.  Those eyes.  That face.  Those jeans.  He can shake maracas like no other.  Etc.
[6] You’d also be deaf in the ear closest to me.
[7] No, I am not making a commentary on religion and no, I’m not comparing Jon Bon Jovi to Jesus, ok?
[8] Again, invariably male.