(Warning: The following content includes mention and/or descriptions of abuse, suicide and depression. To get more details about the shows, go here: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-rbc7t-1160ce8)
December 22, 2021.
John Coltrane. Psalm.
These are the only words i can think of, if one were to ask about my experience of the weekend, celebrating the 40th solar return of Metallica. Those words are the simplest way i can describe it all.
As i am in the taxi on my way to get a prosthetic (after 10 months of not having a full leg), a wave of nervousness rushes over me, and i begin to think about the many tattoos i lost as a result of the accident; but specifically, one of Coltrane’s words of prayer to the Creator:
God breathes through us so completely
So gently we hardly feel it
Yet, it is our everything.
Thank you God.
As the taxi weaves around the highway i write this. And i cry. Not simply for the lost tattoo. Words internally implant themselves farther than any ink can. i cry because of gratefulness, of gratitude for the gifts i was able to experience. i know it may seem strange to connect these words of prayer to Metallica (given some of the imagery over the years), but my heart was filled with an abundance of love.
Perhaps it was to protect me from the real world… the world that overwhelmed me with grief an hour later.
In the same taxi, i rode back from my appointment to fit a new prosthetic leg. Anticipating tears of joy in the start of this new life, i cried not tears of gratitude, but fear. Holding the leg, its heaviness felt like a literal and figurative weight i struggled to carry. i held it together when i tried the leg on and walked in it for the first time; but the moment i got in the car, all of the pain, loss and trauma flowed outward. i was inconsolable.
i did exactly what i aimed not to do- i saw the leg as an enemy. Immediate disassociation and resentment kicked in. The leg is a reminder of everything that happened on THAT DAY. i’ve been pretty optimistic about everything so far, and it was the first time i’ve felt any anger around it all. My roommate happened to be in the apartment when i returned. He asked me how everything went, and i began crying again. He had already put the leg in my room. He asked if i wanted him to bring it back out. i looked up at him and said yes.
The moment he brought it out, i let out the biggest cry i’ve had in a long time. It was the first time the realization kicked in… a part of me died. In that moment i really felt like dying. i was afraid i was going to enter another crisis.
You rise, you fall, you’re down then you rise again
What don’t kill you make you more strong
That truck didn’t kill me. THAT TRUCK DIDN’T KILL ME.
But i feel everything except strong. i hate that the one thing that is supposed to help me, i am fearful of. i feel broken and beaten down by that fear. i cannot look at the leg without recoiling.
Let the scars tell the story
i (and my bicycle) were (literally) caught under the wheels’ roll, and the scars tell the story; but the prosthetic is a reminder of the pins that will always be in me. Pins. And rods, in one leg, where the other is amputated. Can you heal what the truck driver has done? They did the best they could, and because of that i will always have pins in me.
i now need to cut the bike chain that is driving my fear of the unknown, and run towards a better life. Everything that made sense about death disappeared in the one moment i saw the leg, and i don’t want to be trapped by a past i cannot (or want to) recreate.
For ten months i thought i was fine and pain-free, but the pins and rods they used to heal my broken leg can’t replace the fracture in my heart.
And i put a heart in my hands. Literally.
Well, in tattoo form.
Tattoos are not simply a means of expression, but a passage of time. Tattoos have always been a reflection of the narratives of my life. For me, they were initially a way for me to counteract the self-harm i was doing to myself. If i got a piece of art on my body i wouldn’t want to slice or burn that part of my body up.
As i thought about the lost John Coltrane piece, i thought about other pieces that have been lost, or faded with time. One of those pieces is actually connected to one of my favorite Metallica songs. In my journey of making sense of death (which is a continued journey that i’m obviously struggling with right now) i wanted to express that journey in one of the most painful places to get a tattoo- the palms (in my experience, the knees and hands (both sides) are the most painful spots. And i have been covered from neck to foot.). i’ve already experienced one of the most painful things someone could go through with the accident; i don’t think a palm tattoo could feel any worse.
Let go. Be still.
It was a daily reminder to untie myself from the binds of expectation that those i love will give the same in return. i heard repeatedly growing up that i was worthless, stupid and ugly. It took decades to cease the internalization of those words. The person who said those words to me, she may not actively say them now; however, her silence (particularly in this time of great vulnerability) is deafening.
Mama, let my heart go. i survived being ragdolled by a truck; i don’t want to die of a broken heart. i can’t expect you to fix the hole, because you’re not around. i did not really know the man who produced me, and my narcissist stepfather has long perished, at the age of 50. i was about 27 at the time, and am now only five years younger than he was when he left this earth. Mama, let my heart go. i must say it like a mantra, so i don’t open the door of disappointment, and end up totally closing my heart to you. i love you. If anything were to happen to you i would be inconsolable. But i must find my way out of the (brain) fog.
The more I search, the more my need for you
But you are not there. So i must find my way.
Much of the palm pieces have faded away, due to them being done ‘traditionally’, as opposed to stippling (or dot work). While i may actually get them redone (by stippling) at some point, i honestly appreciate (and am grateful for) the body’s ability to regenerate itself. It’s also a reminder to work harder at the message: to let go, and be still.
i need to set all anger and expectations free.
i was 19 years old when John Coltrane (and Herbie Hancock) changed my life. i was 45 years old when Metallica changed it again.
December 16-20, 2021.
Letting go of all expectations and leaving everything to the universe was one of the best decisions i made when it came to going to San Francisco, California, to participate in the 40th anniversary events. It began with missing the initial flight. The woman who helped me stated that there were two choices: get a later evening flight (that would set me back 1700 dollars), or get a flight at 8:30 the next morning. i mentioned that i wasn’t able to do either one. She offered a third choice: i could wait on standby for a flight that was a couple of hours away.
i ended up on that flight. The flight attendants sat with me until they brought the wheelchair to take me off the plane.
i shared the weekend’s experiences with Jesse, one of my closest friends of over ten years. He was not familiar with the band until recently, and the 40th anniversary shows would be his first time seeing them live. With the two shows it would be my second (and third)- the first time i saw them was on December 3, 1991. i was excited for him to take all of the energy in. i had no idea how things would be for him; but i know it would be extremely overwhelming for me, given it would be my first time on any major outing since the accident.
Similar to putting on the prosthetic, i knew i would cry. i certainly did, but it was for different reasons.
One of the things i was most happy about was the fact that not everything having to do with the weekend was directly tied to music, or about the band. When it was announced that there would be an opportunity to participate in an outdoor food pantry (via SF Marin and AWMH), i signed up the moment it opened up. Prior to the accident i was able to do a lot more outdoor organizing and community work, so this made me extremely happy. There was also a beach cleanup (a collaboration with TogetherSF) the following day; if i was physically able to do that i would have done that as well. Through the food bank that day, around 450 families were fed.
In terms of music; while most there for the 40th participated in the rock n’ roll hijinks about town, Jesse and i balanced things out and saw some jazz. i first saw Kamasi Washington live on his tour for The Epic (my favorite album of 2015), and similar to the food pantry i went and got tickets the moment they were available. His cover of ‘My Friend Of Misery’ on the Blacklist covers collection was one of my absolute favorites, along with Tomi Owó’s rendition of ‘Through The Never’ (my favorite song on Metallica (aka TBA)), and Sam Fender’s version of ‘Sad But True’.
Right before this we actually spent a full day at the cinema, for the Metallica Film Fest: Cliff ‘Em All, Cunning Stunts and Orgullo, Pasión y Gloria: Tres Noches en la Ciudad de México- i have already seen all of these, but i wanted to see them on the big screen. Jesse hadn’t seen any of them, and i am appreciative of him sticking it out with me and my film nerdiness in the cold theatre for those seven hours!
On the day of the second concert we ended up meeting up with Met Club member (and multi-instrumentalist) Bryce, and his friend Adrian. He has an excellent series where he does an in-depth overview of the band’s catalog. He is also part of the St. Anger defenders/fan club (like myself and Jesse)! Bryce and i had been communicating through e mail, and made plans to hang out at some point during the 40th. One massive positive that came out of the experience was the connection Jesse and Bryce made (as they don’t live too far from one another). We met so many wonderful people whose names we didn’t catch (and a couple we did).
Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, thoughts,
fears and emotions – time – all related …
all made from one … all made in one.
Thought waves – heat waves-all vibrations –
all paths lead to God. Thank you God.
-John Coltrane, Psalm
Pursuit of truth no matter where it lies
Gazing up to the breeze of the heavens
On a quest, meaning, reason
Came to be, how it begun
-Metallica, Through The Never
“Not coming from me, man. It’s… powers elsewhere. I’m just the messenger, man. Bringing the metal message.”
Why exactly are we here? Why exactly would there be a spiritual connection to a bunch of dudes in a world-famous metal band? What exactly is the connection to John William Coltrane?
December 19, 2021 was the evening i said a prayer. Thank you God, for Metallica being in my life.
The first night of the 40th added to the overwhelming feeling of the material realities of the moment. It was the first time in a long time i didn’t feel… alone. It was the first time i was somewhere that wasn’t a store or a doctor’s office. It was the first time i smiled- i mean, like, REALLY smiled- in a long time. Throughout the weekend i emotionally and mentally struggled with this new life- i felt horrible that i was not able to walk around San Francisco with my friend Jesse; that he had to push me around town, sometimes up steep hills…. that we haven’t been able to do as many of the things we may have wanted to do, due to my physical limitations. There were times i just felt in the way.
But the first night of the 40th, even though i couldn’t stand (which is what i would normally do at a concert such as this), i didn’t feel isolated. i didn’t feel the stares or the pity. When the first notes of AC/DC’s ‘It’s A Long Way To The Top’ came on, i, and thousands of others knew what was about to happen. We all paused what we were previously doing, and the energy began to rise.
We were all about to celebrate the 40th solar return of a group of men who have shared a part of their lives with us.
Ennio Morricone is the sign that it’s about to be on. On the screens was a montage of the band over the years, to the soundtrack of ‘The Ecstasy Of Gold’. We were all setting sail to the sea of covid, of tragedy, of disillusionment; we were pulled off course by the treasure of lights that were hit, amidst a montage of the original logo, and memories of an Electra Flying V.
No bells or whistles. No playing around. They were there to tell their life’s story.
This was life or death by their hands. And they chose both. Every celebration of a milestone or solar return is a reminder of not just the death of a former day, but the birth of a new one.
The opening chords to ‘Trapped Under Ice’ and ‘Shortest Straw’ left me without a voice for a time, as i screamed so loud as a response to a part of my set list wish list being fulfilled. While we are always told to ‘manage our expectations’ (or leave them (and our egos) at the door); wish lists are still fun to compile.
One of the aspects to the journey of Metallica is shifting what was once associated with anger or pain to something positive, the most significant example being ‘All Within My Hands’. Originally detailing the need to control everything and everyone you love; it’s now become the name of a foundation, focusing on collaborating with community organizations that tackle food, educational and economic disparities.
For the 40th, ‘The Day That Never Comes’ has worked in similar ways. As a person who is a survivor of emotional, physical and sexual trauma, as well as someone who has attempted to end my life on various occasions; it’s a song that has deeply resonated with me.
Hide in yourself
Crawl in yourself
You’ll have your time
God I’ll make them pay
Take it back one day
I’ll end this day
I’ll splatter color on this gray
Hearing the song itself on this night gave me chills. What made the moment more special was the montage of films, showing the global impact of this band, which surpassed the music. The 40th solar return of Metallica was the day that came. The bars have been sawed off, and we can now speak of love.
There was the unexpected, monumental surprise of the evening that left many of us in absolute shock, or tears:
i feel incredibly grateful to have been present with Jesse (and so many others) for this world premiere. Those both at the Chase Center and watching the live stream collectively heard the opening tape and asked, ‘Are they doing what i think it is they’re doing??!!’ And they did it.
They cut the rope that was tied to the vault. Here lies the stone: Three X’s for the death of the spell of zero.
Here lies the prediction Papa Het made nine years ago, in relation to songs untouched: “The only one missing from that pairing is ‘FIXXXER’! Well maybe at the 40th ann. party.” i feel so humbled to have seen that vulnerable moment on stage. i am grateful to see the wisdom and rumination in the delivery. As a person who hates the sound of my own voice, i empathize with James Hetfield’s occasional half joking/half self-deprecating comments. As a person who considers him to be one of the greatest vocalists in metal, i don’t think he should be as hard on himself as he is.
ESPECIALLY when it comes to ‘Fixxxer’.
Many commented on the roughness in which ‘Fixxxer’ was delivered. It was perfect. It was a gift from the Creator. All mistakes (or “happy accidents”) from Rob, Kirk, Lars and James are blessings. It shows they are human. Nothing we as humans do will never be perfect, because we are a wall of contradictions.
There was absolutely nothing wrong with ‘Fixxxer’.
‘Fixxxer’ was the first moment of the evening, where i truly understood the healing power of Metallica. Everything is nice when using a band as a soundtrack to life; but that is all theory. Though the statement is used in more revolutionary circles, i think the statement “Theory without practice is empty, and practice without theory is blind” holds truth here as well.
Watching hundreds of live performances on a screen is great (and i have done it); and even seeing them live as a youth (like i have) is also great. But there is something about physically seeing this band, after having lived life. Though i’ve experienced death, abuse, assault, isolation, disappointment, heartbreak and ideation in my youth, i never understood the magnitude of
I believe I’m not alone
Shell of shotgun
Pint of gin
Numb us up to shield the pins
Renew our faith
Which way we can
To fall in love with life again
To fall in love with life again
To fall in love with life again
To fall in love
To fall in love
To fall in love with life again
until i reached adulthood.
Back to ‘real life’ for a second.
This may seem a small gesture (or totally unnoticed) to some, but the acknowledgement of folks in the community like Austin (who is African and trans) in any film clips and features is extremely important. As a matter of fact, there was a post on the forums during the 40th, initiated by someone who felt alone as a Metallica fan in the LGBTQ+ community. They mentioned how good it felt to see a gay couple in front of them at the concert.
To those who are not, or do not feel marginalized, none of that matters. ‘Because we are all one family.’ But believe me, it does. Sometimes families are the ones who enact the most toxicity.
Queer kids, disabled kids, kids who are survivors of trauma and abuse… Kids on the political, social and gender margins… Kids who feel isolated from the outside world. As i mentioned before, while punk and metal claim to be welcoming to ‘outsiders’, that isn’t always reflective of real life. These very kids who are in theory welcomed in, are the recipients of violence- physical, emotional and otherwise… sometimes in those very punk and metal communities. So it means a lot to a punk kid like me (who happens to be in a few of the communities described above) to see one of my favorite bands be decisive in where they stand.
And of course, comedian and podcaster Dean Delray (one of the openers, along with DJ Lord) was adamant in stating ‘there is no place for racism or homophobia at a Metallica show, or in metal.’
As the first night documented an ascending order of albums (from Kill ‘Em All to Hardwired… To Self Destruct), the second brought a descending collection of the 40-year span. The night started off powerful, and included some strong classics and standards; as well as some massively deep cuts and wishes granted, with ‘End Of The Line’, ‘Dirty Window’ and ‘Wasting My Hate’.
While night one was me processing things materially, and while ‘Fixxxer’ was the seed that was planted, it was night two (and three songs) where i truly began to connect spiritually.
It was during ‘Bleeding Me’ in which my eyes began to water, and i lifted my hands and prayed the same prayer several times, grateful for the presence of this band in my life. At the song’s conclusion, Hetfield mentions the song as being “selfishly therapeutic.”
The Creator works in ways we least expect it. James Alan Hetfield is just the messenger. Even if he did that song for his own means for connection, it was clear he was not the only one who needed it.
One thing on my wish list was to see the ‘Unforgiven’ trilogy… and i got 1/3 of that wish. Hearing ‘The Unforgiven’ is always emotional for me; and as it was playing at the 40th i teared up, processing the relationship with my mother even more. Perhaps it’s where my head was at, but it sounded world-weary and somber, as opposed to the anger and resentment of the beloved San Diego ’92 performance. The wisdom of growing older brings a different energy.
It was perfect. Kirk Hammett’s solo (my favorite of all time) added to the pathos i was already feeling. Those Ernie Ball strings were crying, along with me. It was perhaps the greatest performance of that song i had seen. Ever.
It is approaching near the end of the descending cycle, and out of all the songs from Ride The Lightening they didn’t choose a deep cut (like they did with the first night). They will probably never do ‘Escape’ again (after doing it in 2012), despite it being loved by hardcore folks. They chose ‘Fade To Black’.
‘Fade To Black’. When i heard those opening chords i almost lost it. i was so overwhelmed at this point, still doing my best to take it all in. Whatever was happening did not truly register until the next day.
i almost didn’t make it to the 40th. i was moments away from ending my life. It would not have been the first time. The me that was was gone, and i was tired of fighting. People can tell you you are loved and wanted all day, but sometimes you just feel like you’re in everybody’s way. With a traumatic accident causing permanent physical changes, with people who claim to love and/or care about you not being there in your greatest time of need (and just opting to never contact you again); with never properly processing the passing of one of your closest friends; with the isolation of your physical limitations… everything i’ve worked hard to heal from returned with a vengeance.
Everyone keeps telling me how strong i’ve been. And i feel anything but.
Emptiness is filling me
To the point of agony
No one but me can save myself, but it’s too late
Now I can’t think, think why I should even try
“This is dedicated to all those who are mentally struggling, and are afraid to tell anyone… You are not alone.” i don’t personally know any of these men, but at the moment, that hit my spirit harder than anything said or played either night.
It wasn’t until the next day where everything registered, and i cried and cried and cried. i was silent for much of the morning, and when i began to discuss the shows with Jesse, uncontrollable rivers emanated from my eyes. As many times as i’ve heard all of these songs- either live or on album, everything that happened throughout the 40th spoke to me in ways they hadn’t before.
i am still crying as i write this.
“Thank you, to you three guys.”
While James Hetfield thanked all former members of Metallica, crew members, various bands as well as anyone in the ‘Metallica Family’ who has supported them over the years, it was the love he showed to Kirk, Rob and Lars that was the most moving. To watch a young kid struggle with even talking or looking at people grow into a young man angry at the world, having not processed his grief in healthy ways; to a father and husband who’s struggled with addiction and compromise… to the older man who has come to the acceptance that vulnerability, self-reflection and humility are healthy; i have great respect and an open heart for the man James Hetfield has become. i saw a lot of him in myself in far too many ways ways, and i was afraid of that.
He is a survivor, and as a fellow survivor i can only have compassion.
“I’m pointing at you, Kirk.”
My guess is that Kirk was feigning surprise at James’ announcement, but it was well played. i am a huge fan of Kirk’s style of dry humor, and the brilliance of his off timing. It is heavily underappreciated. i am also a fan of Kirk’s wide-eyed, childlike excitement for the things he loves, as well as his open vulnerability/sensitivity. “Thank you for being my buddies, my brothers…” He made a joke afterwards about his wallet missing (and they went right back to business), but the little Papa Het said left a large impact.
Again, maybe it was just where i was mentally at, but it seemed to me that both he and Kirk needed that hug the most. Lars actually looked like the ‘papa bear’ in this case, in the way he assuredly patted James on the back. The tear-inducing embrace between Lars and James at the Hall Of Fame in 2009 symbolized the experiences of all the joys and struggles of a lifelong friendship, and the hug at the 40th read more like a warm blanket. The smallest, most subtle gestures are sometimes the most powerful.
i also have respect for the way they acknowledged any mistakes they made in how they’ve treated others, and worked to rectify that as quickly as possible in their acceptance of Rob as a fellow brother.
i maintain what i said in the last writing- i am grateful to this band for helping me make sense of death. What i least expected was for this world-famous metal band- a band who usually speaks to the suffering and wickedness of the world- to be an embodiment of Coltrane’s aural appreciation for the gifts of the Creator, through the vehicle of the celebration of their life. i have little knowledge of the band’s collective spiritual beliefs or affiliations; i just know what i experienced.
Words, sounds, speech, men, memory, thoughts,
fears and emotions – time – all related …
all made from one … all made in one.
Truth can be pursued, wherever it is made available. The only thing the universe asks is for you to be open to it.
Time and space never ending
My body is the temple in which art depicts the journey of time; it will continue to tilt until it learns to walk again.
Step into the house in the process of being rebuilt after crumbling.
i am. i am. I AM.
Yes, i am.
Thank you Lars, Rob, Kirk and James for being the teachers you are.
Thank you God for bringing them to me.
Thank you God.
this made me emotional while reading. i’m truly glad to have been with you to experience the 40th. this is also excellent writing describing your journey and collective emotions regarding the wide arrange of experiences in this life! thank you for sharing so openly and deeply helping us navigate these passages onward. your strength is a constant inspiration.🖤🖤🖤
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