Friday, July 29, 2016

Me and Pablo Go See Guns N' Roses

Obligatory concert selfie.
The miracle had occurred. The original members of Guns N' Roses were getting back together. Most of the members, that is. Mainly AXL, Duff and Slash. Steven Adler was still MIA (though - spoiler alert - would appear for a few shows). And so wasn't the notoriously reclusive Izzy Stradlin. Izzay was MIA in the U - S - of - A.

I was as excited as any GNR fan to hear the news when it broke. In fact, I was so excited that I felt inspired to write an entire (short) memoir about my love of Guns N' Roses that evolved and took on many forms over about a 30-year period. I won't repeat what I said in that memoir, but, if you like, you can read the (short) memoir in full HERE.

Anyway, it wasn't long after the band reunited that they announced they would play a couple shows together, one in Hollywood at their old Sunset Strip haunt The Troubadour and then another one at the Coachella music festival. A couple shows turned into a Las Vegas concert and then a tour was born, the "Not in this Lifetime" tour to be exact.

Not long after the announcement of the tour, a couple Boston dates were announced. Well, not Boston but Foxborough, Massachusetts if we're going to be specific and I'm going to be specific. GNR would be playing at the gargantuan "Gillette Stadium"  - where the New England Patriots play - on July 19th AND the 20th. Gillette Stadium was literally ten minutes away from me. That's right: Guns N' Roses were going to be ten minutes away from me. Holy shit!

Now, it may surprise you that I didn't get tickets right away. This was partly because they were a little bit out of my budget range and also because none of my friends really liked GNR all that much so there was nobody to go with. But then I saw on Facebook that everyone was talking about the concert and buying tickets and I was, like, "There's no way I'm missing this fucking thing!" 

I decided to just say fuck it and buy a ticket before they sold out completely. Would I end up going alone? Well, I would worry about that later. I could potentially find somebody to go with down the line. Or maybe I'd just get wasted beforehand and go in and not give a damn that I was alone. I could always say my friends were sitting in "a different section" and nobody would probably ever call me out on such a lie. Not that I've thought all these scenarios through or anything and I do have friends by the way, I swear. Also, being friendless isn't a huge deal, anyway, because sometimes alone time can give you some of the best times of your life. But, I mean, ahem...none of that stuff is relevant. The main goal here was to NOT miss GNR. That's all I'm trying to say.

So I went to the Ticketmaster website and - right off the bat - it was almost as though the universe was trying to stop me from what I was doing. I used two different computers and both were freezing up and getting all slow on me. The server for Ticketmaster didn't seem to work properly either. 

When I finally DID put a ticket in my "cart", I was brutally reminded how Ticketmaster likes to rape you in every which way that it can. There was a twenty-dollar service fee added onto the ticket price and some other ten-dollar fee. Maybe there was tax, too, but all I know is that a cheap nose-bleed ticket was about a hundred bucks at the end of it all.

I still wanted that ticket, though, so I proceeded to Ticketmaster's checkout and that was when I realized I couldn't use PayPal at the checkout. Shit! I didn't have...um...what the financial types would call a "valid credit card" at the time (I hereby plead the starving artist excuse) so I needed to use PayPal. But it was credit cards only. No PayPal! Shet!

And this was when I saw the writing on the wall. I'm no rocket astrologist or anything, but I know how to read the signs of the universe, and it seemed like the universe just didn't want me to buy a ticket. At least not now. Maybe I would buy one later. But not yet. Not yet. 

Little did I know that the universe had something else up its sleeve.

It was the Fourth of July and I received a message on Facebook from a former Spanish exchange student my family hosted back in the late 80s. Her name was and still is Virginia and she's all grown up now with four children of her own. Her eldest teenage son Pablo was coming to America for a month and would be staying with a host family a couple towns away from me. Virginia was wondering if I was going to the Guns N' Roses concert and, if so, could I possibly take him along?

See, I should explain that Virginia was very aware that I was a big Guns N' Roses fan. She knew this partly because she had read my (aforementioned) memoir but there's actually much more to it than that...

When Virginia came to live with my family in the late-80s, Guns N' Roses were just starting to blow up. She saw a poster on the wall of the bedroom that my brother and I shared at the time. That poster was a Guns N' Roses poster. She was in awe of how AXL and Slash looked and she asked us who this Guns and Roses was? We were, like, what, you're asking us who Guns and Roses are? Are you from some foreign land or something?! Oh, wait, sorry. You ARE...

Apparently GNR was not very big in Spain yet (though later on they would be). She had no idea who they were, but there must have been something about the GNR poster on our wall that was calling Virginia's name. The more time she spent in America, the more she was exposed to GNR what with "Sweet Child O' Mine" constantly being played on the radio and the "Welcome to the Jungle" video being played over and over on the MTV. When she left America, she took the music of GNR with her and she spread the good news of GNR to all her friends and family who would listen. Over time, she became more and more of a GNR fan, to the point where it's safe to say that she was a HUGE fan. And I don't say that lightly. I mean, she actually had the song "November Rain" as her wedding song. That's dedication, man!

Now, it was only about three years ago that I found Virginia on Facebook. My family hadn't been in contact with her in years and - for me - it was almost like getting in touch with a long-lost sister. I was only seven-years-old at the time Virginia stayed with us in the 80s, but she left quite an impression on me. She was really cool and funny with a very down-to-earth sense of humor. There were also a lot of good memories made, one of the most memorable being one night when we watched Alfred Hitchcock's THE BIRDS with her. It was the first time any of us had ever seen that movie and we were all completely freaked out afterwards. 

Not to go off on a tangent or anything, but what made our viewing of THE BIRDS even more memorable was that, the day after watching the movie, I actually had an incident with...well, a bird! I was playing on the steps outside our house and a bird started attacking me. I ran inside and the bird tried to follow me in. I quickly shut our screen door and the bird hung on the screen with its claws and it kept squawking at me, pissed as anything. Everybody came to see what all the commotion was about. The bird kept squawking and we had no idea what its problem was; it's not like I was messing with it at all. All we could think about was the movie we had just seen! REAL life was mimicking REEL life! It was just so weird, but it became something we all joked about for the rest of the time Virginia stayed with us.

So, yes, good times were had with Virginia and it was great reconnecting with her on Facebook. Over the past few years, Virginia and I have corresponded on Facebook quite a bit and it was during this correspondence that I found out how big of a GNR fan she had become. She also refreshed my memory that it was here in America, in the household of Burns, where she first learned who GNR even was. I was kind of proud of that.

Anyway, when she asked about the GNR concert, I told Virginia that "as loco as it sounds" I did not currently have tickets. It was possible that I was going to get some at the last minute but I had no idea. Well, Virginia quickly responded and said not to worry. She would buy two tickets, one for me and one for her son Pablo. That way, I could bring Pablo to the concert and she would know that her son would be safe. I quickly responded that, hell yes, that all sounded awesome to me if it was OK with her!

Within only about an hour or so I had two Guns N' Roses tickets in my email inbox, one for me and one for Pablo. Wow, this was actually happening! I was officially going to the Guns N' Roses "Not in this Lifetime" concert. I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming. Okay, I didn't have to do that.

The timing couldn't have worked out better. Pablo was already going to be in Massachusetts. He was a big GNR fan. He wanted to go. I wanted to go. I needed a ticket. He needed somebody to take him there. I was able to take him there. It was a win-win for us both. No wonder why the universe had gotten in the way of me buying a ticket previously. Again, I'm no rocket astrologist or anything but there was apparently a greater plan in the works the whole time.

A week or two went by and I started Facebook messaging with my new amigo Pablo. We came up with a plan where I'd pick him up at his host family's house in Natick, then drive to Walpole to meet my family and then head over to the concert from there.

So the day of the concert arrived and - from the get-go - the plan went seamlessly. When I picked up Pablo, I expected his English to be minimal and I'd have to resort to a combination of Spanglish and charade-like body gestures to communicate. But his English was great. It didn't take long for me to realize I could basically say anything to him and he understood what I was talking about. I was even kind of disappointed that I wouldn't need to use any of the scant amount of Spanish I still remembered from my high school days. I thought it would be an interesting challenge and a stimulating brain exercise. Oh well.

Not only was Pablo's English great but so wasn't his personality and sense of humor. I instantly felt comfortable and relaxed talking to him like he was a long-lost buddy. I could crack jokes and he could crack jokes and it was interesting to see how we were both on the same wave-length despite the fact that we were from two different cultures. 

It was also interesting hearing what Pablo found fascinating about America. Riding around with him, it was like having a new set of eyes. He liked the trees we had and the forests. He was impressed that the houses were made of wood (not stucco)! And we had mailboxes and ice cream trucks similar to what he'd seen in the movies. Everything I had learned to take for granted or just not care about he found amazing.

When I brought him back to Walpole, my family was eager to meet him and they were instantly impressed by the young, fifteen-year-old lad. They were able to talk with Pablo for a good hour or so while - giddy as a schoolgirl - I went to pick the perfect outfit for the concert. My family loved Pablo. Everything about him reminded them of Virginia and it was kind of like a surreal trip down memory lane.


Pablo with my family (photo by me)

Me with my family, all ready for the concert (photo by Pablo)

Okay, I'll get to the concert. Sorry for all the foreplay.

Despite the fact that my house is only about ten minutes from the Gillette Stadium, it probably took us about a half hour for us to drive to the spot where we were going to park because traffic and police roadblocks, detours and such. Now, as far as parking goes, that actually leads me to the next serendipitous event here...

Shortly after Virginia bought the GNR tickets, I started thinking about where the best place to park would be. Parking at the stadium costs $40! So I didn't know whether it was worth doing that or maybe just getting a ride close-by and walking.

Well, as serendipity would have it, a dog-sitting gig came my way only a couple days after Virginia gifted me with a GNR ticket and the owners of said dogs happened to live right by Gillette Stadium. I went to meet with these people and the subject of the concert came up. They insisted that I park at their place and it was only about a fifteen minute walk to the stadium from there. I could save money and a lot of hassle! Once again, I'm not a rocket astrologist, but clearly the universe wanted me to go see Guns N' Roses. The stars were really aligning for this one.

So I took them up on their offer. I parked at their house with Pablo and it worked out great. It was a nice night so we had a pleasant walk down the road, cut through a dirt path with a frog pond, walked over some train tracks, saw an empty Dunkin' Donuts box, took a right and then a left, fiddled with our ear once and scratched our noses twice, and then...

Whoa.

There was the buzzing sound of people and then an energy that rushed up on me. It was an exciting energy but, to be honest, it kind of felt like a menacing energy as well. I felt kind of intimidated, almost in danger.

The energy came from all the people who were boozing and barbecuing in the gigantic parking lot of the stadium. Pablo and I had no choice but to cut through this crowd and we were both glad we did because it was a really surreal experience. There were people from all walks of life, many of which looked as though they had been hibernating somewhere since Guns N' Roses broke apart more than 20 years ago. A lot of them had skin that looked burnt-out, somewhat sooty and baked-potato-like. These people kind of reminded me of the guys who worked at the carnival that used to come to my town every April. Specifically, I was reminded of the gentleman who operated that ride "The Zipper". Or maybe it was the man who worked the "Gravitron"? Yes, it was maybe that one.

Of course, there were a lot more normal-looking people there as well. But the overall energy, like I said, was a mix of excitement and danger. And I realized this made sense because, shit, everybody was there to see the 'dangerous' band that was Guns N' Roses. Well, they at least used to be 'dangerous'. That's how they were marketed when they first rose to fame back in the late 80s and, heck, by all accounts, they WERE rather dangerous. I mean, people often rioted and some people even died at one of their concerts. But the band has, of course, mellowed out now that they're older.

So Pablo and I wove our way further through the crowd and, as we did, the energy only got more intense. People were drinking and they were drinking A LOT. I kind of wanted to pound a few Natty Ices myself, mainly because the energy of the crowd was overstimulating my senses and I needed something to numb them. But I needed to keep myself together and be a responsible adult. Pablo was counting on me.

We pretty much went right into the stadium as soon as we arrived. Security was pretty tight and we had to go through a metal detector before we entered. They didn't pat us down or anything, though, so I wished I had snuck in some granola bars with me or some other light snack. 

Feeling thirsty, I bought a four-dollar Aquafina water bottle from a lady at a small concession stand. I saw the lady take the cap off the bottle and then I went to reach for it but then she said, "No, I keep that." I'm not sure why she needed to keep the cap, but I asked her no further questions.

Lenny Kravitz was opening for Guns N' Roses and his band started playing right around seven o'clock. I must say I was more or less indifferent about seeing Lenny when I heard he was going to be opening. In fact, it wouldn't have mattered to me at all if I missed him altogether. And it wasn't that I didn't like his music; again, I was just indifferent.

Well, let me tell you something: I'm glad I got into the stadium on time to see Lenny. He opened with a song called "Bring it On" and his voice sounded incredible. The word that immediately came to mind to describe his voice was "golden". Both Pablo and I were immediately wowed. It sounded so friggin' golden.


Lenny onstage as the sun went down.
Lenny played most of his popular songs like "American Woman", "Fly Away" and of course "Are You Gonna Go My Way", which he closed with. His band consisted of a trumpet player and a saxophone player, back-up singers...the works. It was really a sight to see and I feel like only seeing Kravitz live really does his voice justice.

Honestly, I kind of felt bad for Lenny, though, because the stadium was nearly empty for most of his set. The people were still outside in the parking lot boozing up a storm. Most everybody was clearly only there to see GNR. Hell, I was only there to see GNR but I just happened to arrive on time and go into the stadium on time and I was glad I did.


It was a beautiful night for a concert.
Lenny's set was over by about eight o'clock and then the roadies started getting the stage ready for Guns N' Roses. At this point, the stadium was getting more and more crowded. Everybody was starting to spill in from the parking lot and there was definitely an exciting buzzing and murmuring in the air. That menacing energy I felt outside in the parking lot was now oozing its way into the stadium. I was excited but there was also that touch of fear making you a little uneasy.

Then, a Guns N' Roses logo appeared on one of the giant Jumbotron screens to the sides of the stage. One of the guns in the logo went off and made this awesome subwoofery sound that literally gave me chills. It kept doing this maybe every thirty seconds or so. It was kind of like a countdown and build-up to GNR coming onto the stage. It was also probably a Siren-like call to all the people still boozing in the parking lot, that they should hurry and get their asses into the stadium. 

I don't know what it was about the sound of those gunshots but they sounded so awesome. They were so bigger than life. God-like. Just so awesome. Did I mention they sounded awesome?

I should probably also mention that - by this time in the night - I was sipping my one and only beer of the evening. I had gotten it after a quick bathroom break I took during Lenny's "Fly Away". It was a watery Bud Light and it cost me thirteen dollars.

So, with the faintest of buzzes now tingling my bloodstream, I sat in my seat listening to those ominous gunshots and it felt like I was being transported back to the late 80s or early 90s. I know this sounds weird to say, but I could feel exactly how it felt when GNR played stadiums during their heyday. I'm not sure why I say this but I kind of just felt exactly how it felt like back then. Do I sound nuts? I think I probably do. Or maybe it was just the thirteen-dollar Bud Light messing with my mind. Maybe a thirteen-dollar Bud Light has some sort of magic drug in it that takes you for a little trip. For thirteen friggin' dollars, I would hope it would have some sort of drug like that, for cry eye! I don't want to believe it's only shameless capitalism that explains the thirteen-dollar price-tag.

Anyway, as more time went by, the subwoofery gunshot sounds became more frequent and then there were even assault rifle sounds. Pretty soon, all the seats in the stadium more or less filled up and then some guys nonchalantly walked onstage with no announcement whatsoever. It was AXL, Slash, Duff and the rest! There was no big fanfare. No big, "Ladies and gentlemen - from Hollywood - Guns and fucking Roses!" Nope, there was nothing like that. Just a humble walk out onto the stage and then the crowd suddenly realized what was going on and started screaming in a delayed reaction. The scream started out low but then it started to grow and grow and grow...

I turned to Pablo and asked him what he thought they were going to open with. He said he wasn't sure but - whatever it was - he said it was going to be some loud and strong guitar with very high energy. I agreed with him about the strong guitar, but I specified that it wouldn't be normal guitar; it would be bass guitar. Oh yes. I'm sure fans of GNR know exactly what I'm getting at here...

I told Pablo my bet was on them opening with "It's So Easy".

Sure enough, Duff's familiar opening bass riffs kicked into high gear and GNR broke into "It's So Easy":

"...I see your sister in her Sunday dress
She's out to please
She pouts her best..."

I must say that - no matter how much live footage I've seen of GNR on YouTube and such - it was surreal seeing the band onstage and I mean seeing them in the real world with my own eyes and listening to their music live in its purest form (not on a pre-recorded video). There was a moment where I felt very present and in-the-moment. "This is happening," I whispered to myself. "It really is. Also...you rock, Matt. You smell nice, too."

After "It's So Easy", the drummer pretty much went right into the beginning drums for "Mr. Brownstone" and this was when the reality of what was happening sunk in even further. I was seeing GNR live! And they were playing all my favorite songs. "This is so fucking awesome!"

As AXL sang about the malicious Mr. Brownstone, my nostrils suddenly felt tickled by a skunky odor wafting its way up from the stands below. First, it started out faint and then a little stronger and then...it was wicked potent. Pablo turned to me at a certain point, gave me a look and wrinkled his nose. 

"Marijuana," Pablo said.

"Yes, Pablo. Marijuana."

And we left it that. For a moment, I thought that - being the responsible adult - I should quickly remind him to just say no to drugs. But then I got distracted. Because Slash was suddenly playing some familiar-sounding guitar riffs...

The riffs were the opening to "Welcome to the Jungle", which is perhaps my favorite GNR song and probably the only GNR song I know every single lyric to. I can tell you all about how I used to sing "Welcome to the Jungle" at least once or twice a week at various karaoke bars, but I already go over all that in my (aforementioned) GNR memoir

After "Welcome to the Jungle" came some "Use Your Illusion" tunes and even some songs from "Chinese Democracy" that I never really heard before, though they actually sounded really good.

Overall, I was surprised to see how pleasant AXL was, especially seeing that he has such a near-mythological reputation of being a difficult person. It seemed like he got to a point, like maybe five or six songs into the set, where he realized he was "feeling it" - the performance, that is. It was like he had fully warmed up and he got into a zone. And after that point you could just tell he was having a great time. 

The songs that stick out the most throughout the set (for me, anyway) were "My Michelle", "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and later "Nightrain". AXL's voice sounded incredible in all of these songs. What's always amazed me about AXL (and I'm sure I'm not alone) is his split-personality-like vocal range. When he's low he's really low and when you hear him sing like this you would never imagine him being able to get as high as he can. It's like Jekyll and Hyde or something. The low voice is some sort of Hyde-like demon inside of him and the high voice is Jekyll almost being held prisoner by Hyde. Yes, that IS the best way to describe it. Please don't raise your eyebrows at me.

As far as "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" goes, I've never really been that huge a fan of that song. I don't know if this is because it's a cover or what, but I've just never been a huge fan. However, hearing it performed was a whole different story. AXL did a whole call and response deal where he would belt out "Knock knock knockin' on heaven's door" and then the crowd would shout it back to him. He did this about three or four times during the course of the song and he held absolutely nothing back. What amazed me is knowing that AXL knew he had a second show to do the following night. But this didn't seem to deter him from giving the performance his all, not one single bit. If he blew out his voice? Oh well. He didn't seem to give a shit.

In fact, AXL's voice was what probably impressed me the most about the whole show. I mean, I was prepared to cut him A WHOLE LOTTA slack if his voice just wasn't what it used to be. And even though it probably wasn't as good as it was when he was, like, 27-years-old, it was still really fucking good. I was pretty shocked, actually. You would have expected a voice like his that's taken so much abuse over the years - from his screams and howls and shrieks - to have been weathered. But for a 54-year-old dude who's been singing for years he sounded absolutely incredible. I don't know what he does, but he must take good care of that voice of his. He must drink a lot of tea with honey.

AXL and the rest of GUNS played for more than two hours...maybe even two and A HALF hours. It was a killer set with basically every song you would want to hear with very few exceptions. "Don't Cry" was noticeably missing from the set, but that's honestly the one main song I noticed wasn't performed. And I don't really care about "Don't Cry". I'm more of an "Appetite" fan above anything else and - now that I think of it - most of the songs from that album were played. "Welcome to the Jungle", "It's So Easy," "Nightrain", "Out Ta Get Me", "Mr. Brownstone", "Paradise City" (their closing song), "My Michelle", "Sweet Child O Mine", and "Rocket Queen". All present and accounted for.

Later into the set, a trapdoor opened in the very front of the stage and a piano rose from the pit below. Everybody hollered at the sight of the piano because they knew what song was coming up. Yep, you guessed it: "November Rain".

I actually kind of almost shed tears during "November Rain" but not because it's such a beautiful song, which it is. No, I was getting misty-eyed because it was during this song that I especially noticed how content and at-peace AXL appeared to be. You could clearly tell he was enjoying himself and he knew the show was going well. Between singing the lyrics in the song he would look down at his piano keys and he had this boyish grin on his face. It wasn't a menacing grin, nor was it smug. It was just peaceful. It seemed like he was in his happy-place, perhaps because most of the original band was once-again back together. And really, if you think about it, this was kind of a miracle. It was called the "Not in this Lifetime" tour because AXL had once said publicly that he never thought the band would get back together. "Not in this lifetime," he said. But there he was onstage again with most of the original band members. I'm sure the whole tour has been surreal for him.

That all being said, I would be full of shit if I were to say that the band members looked like they were best buds again. For the most part, they seemed to stay in their own spaces on the very big, non-intimate stage and only interact with each other on a very minimal basis. I mean, in old live videos, AXL would run around the stage, put his arm around Duff and Slash, sing into the mic with them...that kind of thing. But there wasn't much of that going on. There are clearly wounds in the band that will never completely heal. I don't know if they'll ever have that buddy-like dynamic onstage ever again...

Probably not in this lifetime, anyway.

Nevertheless, just the fact that AXL, Slash and Duff are actually back on tour with each other is miraculous enough. Even Steven Adler (as I mentioned before) played a few songs with them at a couple different shows throughout the tour (he wasn't in Foxborough, unfortunately). The only last remaining member out there is Izzy Stradlin and, as far as I know, he's not on any major bad terms with any of the members. I just think he prefers not go back to his days playing with GNR. Maybe he was traumatized by all the band drama, or maybe it was just the craziness of fame that traumatized him. Who knows.

I'm not sure if it was planned or just coincidence that - at one point during the night - Slash and the rhythm guitar player Richard Fortus did an instrumental guitar version of the Pink Floyd song "Wish You Were Here". It was a beautiful rendition and I couldn't help but wonder if it was a call for Izzy to join them onstage. I almost got a little misty-eyed during that one, too.

Before you knew it, 11 o'clock had rolled around and this was around the time when GNR played the crowd-pleasing sing-along song "Sweet Child O' Mine". At the end, AXL shouted "thank you!" and the band cleared the stage. Thinking the show was over, some people actually started to leave (ha, what idiots!) but I smelled an encore on the horizon. I leaned over to Pablo and said "They're going to play 'Paradise City'. There's no way they won't play Paradise City." Well, after a couple minutes, the band did come back onstage and actually played a four-song encore, the last song of which was, indeed, "Paradise City". And what a finale it was. There were all sorts of pyrotechnics and fireworks. Plus, it featured a guitar solo that Slash played with his guitar behind his back.

"Boston!" AXL shouted to the crowd as the song's ending came to a crescendo. "Good...fucking...night!"

And that was it. The concert was over and the band left the stage, though they did come out one more time to take a bow. They all had their arms around each other at this point, which was nice to see. It didn't even really look forced either. The drummer threw his drumsticks into the crowd and the guitarists threw their picks. I think AXL even threw his microphone.


A photo of the merch truck (on left) I took before the concert.
Then, it was a friggin' mass exodus out of the stadium. Pablo wanted to buy some souvenirs to bring back home to Spain with him so we spent maybe 15 minutes or so waiting in line at the "merch truck". He ended up buying a hat and a poster. As for me, I was thiiiiis close to buying a cool, 1980s-style mesh hat with the GNR logo on it, but I decided against doing so because it was $25. A day or two later I looked online for the exact same hat and saw that I could get it probably for about ten dollars. I had a feeling that would be the case, though I suppose it wouldn't be the same as purchasing the hat at an official GNR merch truck.

After Pablo acquired his souvenirs, we both tried to find our way back to my car, though we had difficulty retracing the same steps we took to get to the stadium. Both the train station and the dirt path were difficult to find. Nothing was lit up and I had to use the trusty flashlight feature that was on my smartphone. There were times when we were a tad concerned we would get mugged and we did pass one particular shady character at the dark, currently-out-of-operation train station that was seemingly waiting for a "night train". Fortunately, we made it back to my car in one piece and I proceeded to drive Pablo back to his host family's home in northern Natick.

I got Pablo back to his host's house by a little after one o'clock. I was back at my own house by about ten minutes before two. Not too shabby.

Overall, the night was a smooth success. Pablo was safe and sound and we had both witnessed one hell of a concert that night. It wasn't an expensive night, either. That one thirteen-dollar Bud Light made my wallet a little lighter, but what can you do? It could have been way worse.

More notably, I guess I sort of scratched something off my bucket list. I saw Guns N' Roses live, and, although it wasn't the entire band intact, it was still pretty damn close. And probably as close as I was ever going to get.

As fun a night as it was, though, there's still one thing that's kind of vexing me. I'm still wondering why I couldn't keep the cap to my four-dollar water bottle. I should have asked more questions. I had a right to know.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

RIP PowerBook G3

Well, I knew the day would come eventually. It had probably been a year and maybe a half since I fired up my Mac PowerBook G3 and, alas, when I tried to boot it up just the other night, there was no more life in it. I pressed the power button several times, desperately trying to resuscitate my beloved machine, but it was to no avail. If only I could have performed CPR or mouth-to-mouth! I couldn't do this, though...mainly because it was a computer and not a human being. Instead, I unplugged and re-plugged, blew softly on the keyboard, gave the tracking pad gentle kisses, recited seven Hail Mary's with an Our Father for good measure, but it was no use. My PowerBook laptop was officially dead at the age of 16.

Indeed, it was 16 years ago when my parents gave the laptop to me for a high school graduation gift. It was the best Mac laptop on the market at the time and it had eight whole gigs for a hard drive! Holy shit! I needed a computer for college and I convinced my parents that the PowerBook was the best one to fit my needs. See, the dawn of digital video and digital video editing was just on the horizon. The PowerBook was being marketed as the first user-friendly laptop out there that had "Firewire" ports where you could import and export video from a digital video camera. Then you could edit the video with new user-friendly software called Final Cut Pro. My plan was to major in film at Boston University, so I figured this was the laptop I NEEDED to have. There was no better one out there that would suit my needs.

Of course, it's almost laughable these days to think that a computer with a eight gig hard drive would be a practical computer to use for video editing. Today, only about five minutes of rendered high-definition video would take up eight gigs of space. But the early 2000's were the days of non-high-definition video so you could actually fit about 40 minutes of raw video footage on the hard drive at a time. This is still not much at all, especially if you were looking to make a feature film or documentary where you usually have hours and hours of raw footage to edit. Nevertheless, I was still able to make some really cool short projects with my little PowerBook; I just had to be a little conservative about what shots I wanted to import. But I'll get to all that in just a bit.

The Canon Optura PI
About a month or two after I got my PowerBook, I went out and bought my first digital video camera for about $1200. I worked two jobs that summer - one as a cashier at Stop N' Shop and the other as an "associate" at CVS pharmacy - to save up for the purchase; plus, I had a lot of high school graduation money saved in the bank. The camera was a Canon Optura PI model and even today I would still consider it a good camera, though it was non-HD and it shot in a standard 4:3 aspect ratio (i.e. non-widescreen).

I videotaped a lot of silly stuff when I first got the camera. For some reason, I shot some footage of my friends using a Pogo Stick and jumping into a snowbank. How silly! Then, I documented a trip my friends and I took to a thrift store called "Savers". Riveting stuff, right? I also set the camera up on a tripod and filmed myself playing the drums. Oh, and I think I got a lot of footage of my Basset Hound Oliver playing with his bone. 

It wasn't long before I got sick of shooting nonsense. About a month after my camera purchase, I cut the crap and decided I was going to shoot and edit my first short film.

That short film was a horror movie called GUTTER.

A "publicity" still from GUTTER.
This movie - for the most part - made no sense whatsoever. I played the role of a psycho who is out to murder two teenage dudes who happen to be watching "Full House" in a finished basement. One of these dudes mysteriously disappears at one point in the movie and is never mentioned again. It's basically a continuity error that would make Ed Wood's continuity errors look like mere blemishes. But, yes, I wore a creepy horror movie mask and I went and murdered a teenage Full House fan played by my friend Tim who puts up a little fight and then the movie basically ends with me posing in Christ-like formation. There was no reason for this apparent religious symbolism. Fans of GUTTER would later try to "read into all of it" and I unfortunately had to tell them not to waste their time. "It's all bullshit."

Despite the fact that GUTTER was pretty terrible, it will always have its place in the Matt Burns history books as the first edited movie I ever made. The only 'editing' I had ever done before that was in a high school video production class but that was during the pre-digital-era and we edited with the archaic "on-line" (or was it off-line?) tape-to-tape machines.

Although I did manage to get my hands on a pirated version of Final Cut Pro (don't tell anybody) I never actually used Final Cut until several years after having my PowerBook. Instead, I paid about fifty bucks to download a program called Imovie onto my computer. Yes, these were the days when Imovie wasn't pre-installed on Mac computers. If you wanted the program, you had to buy it.

So I bought Imovie for fifty bucks and boy did I make good use of it. I edited GUTTER during my winter break from college and, at the time, I was pretty amazed with the final product. It was an edited film that told a story through the Eisensteinian (not to be mistaken with Einstein) art of montage. Of course, it was a pretty bad story with many plot-holes, but it was a story nevertheless. What impressed me the most was the realization that I didn't need to buy any expensive 16mm film or try to rent out a Steinbeck film editing machine from God-knows-where. I had the power to make movies with my video camera and my laptop. That's all I needed in this new digital age. It was pretty awesome.

My next major film endeavor came that next summer when I made another ten-minute short narrative movie called "British Dingo from Ireland". The title of that movie was basically born out of my inability to speak in an Irish accent without it sounding either British or Australian, so I figured, well, why not create an ambiguous character who may be all three?!

And I did just that. The character was named Mr. Dingo and he was a shady dude who wore a scally cap and a black trench coat (I was kind of ripping off the movie Boondock Saints, which was popular at the time). All Mr. Dingo cared about was money and he recently got himself involved in a big drug deal with some shadowy characters named Kado and Pristine. But Kado and Pristine try to double-cross Dingo and screw him over. The drug deal goes sour and Mr. Dingo finds himself in a fire-fight.

The "fire-fight", of course, involved toy guns and lots of gun sound effects that I believe I downloaded off Napster. The film also involved some pyrotechnics and when I say 'pyrotechnics' all we did was light a firecracker in a Miller Lite beer can to simulate the can being hit by a whizzing bullet.


The trailer for British Dingo from Ireland.


video

The full BRITISH DINGO FROM IRELAND movie.

When it came down to editing "British Dingo from Ireland", I really pushed Imovie's parameters. I remember that the first version of Imovie only provided two soundtracks for you to work with. This meant that you could usually put music on one track and then sound effects or dialogue on the other track. The problem was when you wanted to use background music, dialogue AND multiple sound FX at the same time. In editing programs today, you basically have unlimited tracks to work with so, say, if you have a car accident sequence and you want multiple sound effects (the crash, the horn sounding, glass shattering, hubcaps rolling, not to mention musical score and maybe even some dialogue, e.g. "holy shit we're crashing!") you have plenty of tracks to layer all the sound on top of each other. But when you only have two sound tracks? Well...your options are limited.

A rare photo of me editing "Dingo" on my PowerBook.
What I ended up doing is putting sound effects on the same track as music, which Imovie allowed me to do and the sounds would end up playing simultaneously. But you weren't supposed to do this, so it significantly slowed down the computer. In fact, in many cases, it slowed down the computer to such an extent that my poor PowerBook froze on me several times. I was beginning to realize that Imovie was really only useful for extremely simple editing. My movies were already becoming too complex what with their multiple sound fx, music and dialogue tracks etc.

Surprisingly, I didn't quite see all this as writing on the wall telling me I should really make the switch to Final Cut Pro. Well, maybe I did see the writing on the wall but I ignored it, mainly because I liked and knew how to use Imovie. 

So, short story long, I kept using Imovie. But it was with my next movie that I pushed it too far...

The movie was called "GAS" (later renamed "Only Entertainment") and the first version of this movie was made between my sophomore and junior year in college. It was a super-ambitious cat-and-mouse film about two teens who are playing Mario Kart, one gets pissed that the other dude beat him, they say "wanna take this outside?" and then a real-life car chase ensues. Reality mirrors fantasy and all that deep stuff. Despite the fact that I had no stuntmen and no permits to orchestrate any stunts, I surprisingly made the car chase look rather realistic through the use of montage and sound fx. 

Now, as I mentioned above, there are two different versions of this movie. Imovie was able to survive the first version of this edit, the version entitled "GAS", but then came the summer between my junior and senior year in college. I had just read filmmaker Robert Rodriguez's book Rebel Without a Crew, which is a very inspiring memoir of him making his first independent movie El Mariachi on a shoe-string budget. I was feeling all energized after reading the book and I realized, damn, I could do a whole lot better with GAS. I mean, it was a pretty solid movie but it could be waaaay better. All it needed was some better editing.

So I reedited GAS with A LOT MORE cuts and A LOT more sound FX and, well, this was when Imovie said, "No more!" Not only did the program die on me but it crashed my entire computer. My senior year started at the beginning of September and my poor little PowerBook didn't work until about the beginning of October. I had taken it to a repair place on the BU campus and they kept giving me the runaround whenever I asked what its status was. After several phone calls and numerous complaints, the computer finally came back fixed and it never crashed until the day it died in 2016. Of course, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the main reason it didn't crash was because I upgraded to the very first version of MAC OS X (i.e. Panther) later into my senior year. MAC OS X was being marketed as a system software that was virtually un-crashable. From my experience, this turned out to be true. My lovely PowerBook never crashed again.

As for GAS - now titled ONLY ENTERTAINMENT - I was worried that, with the computer crash, the newly edited version would be lost forever. And although Imovie didn't work at all after the computer was fixed, I was still able to export the finished movie to a DV tape and it was successfully saved. I was thrilled.


The full ONLY ENTERTAINMENT movie.

But, yes, Imovie was officially dead and - to no surprise - a new, more up-to-date (and legal) version of Final Cut Pro was on my Christmas wish-list that year. Santa Claus apparently decided I had been a good boy and I found "Final Cut Express" under my fake Christmas tree on Christmas morning. Final Cut Express was a more condensed (and affordable) form of Final Cut Pro. It had a few less features than its non-express counterpart, but it was still about a thousand times better than Imovie.

The first movie I made with the new Final Cut software (and last short narrative movie I made with my PowerBook) was a movie called WENDEL'S REVENGE. This was another silly movie that kind of fit in the horror genre. It's about a crusty dude named Rat Bonze who drives by his arch-nemesis Wendel and throws a dirty pair of underpants at him. Wendel takes offense and then hunts down Rat Bonze with the intention of killing him, hence the title "Wendel's Revenge". Sounds pretty avant-garde, right?


Here's the full WENDEL'S REVENGE movie.

I shot WENDEL'S REVENGE during winter break of my senior year in college but I didn't get around to editing it (with my new Final Cut Express software) until the summer after I graduated. It took me a little while to get used to the Final Cut software but it was so much more fit to handle a complex masterwork like WENDEL'S REVENGE. More importantly, it never made my computer crash! I was in love with Final Cut from that point forward and I must have created hundreds of projects (short films, wedding videos, documentaries and other videos) since. The only other editing programs I've used aside from Final Cut are Avid for my actual student films I made at BU and later on I tried Adobe Premiere but to this day it hasn't become a program I use very often, or really at all.

WENDEL'S REVENGE was the last short narrative movie I made on my PowerBook, though I did use it to edit numerous wedding videos, music videos and even a documentary called A PARALLEL WORLD (watch it HERE) where I investigate a haunted house on Cape Cod and attempt to communicate with the entities. All these projects were done between graduating college in 2004 and 2009 when I bought a new desktop Imac. I bought the Imac because I knew it was time to make the transition to working with hi-definition video. 

After 2009, I did still use my adorable PowerBook, mainly for word-processing, because by that time it had really lost its ability to do much else. It had long lost its Internet capabilities around the 2007 area and even then I remember it being very slow and sluggish. Web browsers were just getting too fast and complex for my poor eight-gig PowerBook.

The word-processing, however, still worked great. I had both Microsoft Office on it and my screenwriting software Final Draft. I can't even tell you how many things I wrote on my cute little PowerBook G3 between the years 2000 and, oh, 2014. In college, I of course wrote many a thesis paper, many of which got me A's...well, a couple A's. BU was pretty tough so I mostly got B's. One or two C's. 

Looking back, the most notable (college) paper I wrote on my PowerBook was a 50-page paper on the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. Yes, 50 whole pages! The assignment required me to analyse the Stanley Kubrick masterpiece shot-by-shot and write about the "elements of suspense", which included sound, music, mise-en-scene, camera angle, camera movement, lighting and the editing from one shot to the next. It was an extremely tedious process, but I think it was very valuable. Today I know 2001 like the back of my eyelids and it taught me everything there was to know about the language of film (of which Kubrick was a master) and how to use that language effectively. 

What was great about my PowerBook was that it had a DVD drive built right into it, so I could have the 2001 DVD playing in one window and then write about each shot in another window. What a machine! I loved you so much PowerBook. We had such great times together!

Oh, and I should mention I got a B-minus on that paper because I had "too many grammatical errors". A teacher's assistant graded it. Total crock of bull! I spent forever on that paper.

After college, I no longer had any thesis papers to write but my PowerBook certainly didn't suffer from lack of use. What I didn't expect is that - after graduation - I would get bitten by the writing bug. First, it was screenplays and then, later, it became prose. So, as a writer, my PowerBook became my most valued possession. Every screenplay I ever wrote was at least initially written on that laptop. And I've written dozens of screenplays over the years. I also wrote about five of my six novels on that laptop. Then there were all the poems I wrote, and essays, short stories, erotic tales of sweat and nudity...you name it!

Even when I purchased my Imac desktop in 2009, I still did the majority of my writing on the laptop because, well, it was portable and it allowed me to write in different environments with different types of energy. A lot of times, these environments would be libraries, like the Boston University Mugar library and the Boston Public Library, which were two favorites of mine. But I also liked bringing my PowerBook to places like Starbucks, Panera Bread and other coffee shops where the caffeine became the fuel I needed to turn me into an insane writing machine.

By the time 2014 rolled around, I noticed that the screen on my laptop was getting dimmer and dimmer by the day. My eyes were getting strained when I used it and, pretty soon, I just couldn't use the laptop anymore.

On Christmas 2014, Santa Claus once again decided I was a good boy and he left a new laptop under the Christmas tree. It wasn't a Mac, though. It was Dell and it was a rather simple Dell at that, only worth a couple hundred bucks. But it was a nice little computer and would be great for word processing and Internet use. 

I must say, however, that it felt like treason making the switch to a Dell. I swear on some nights I could hear my little Mac PowerBook weeping in the far corner of my bedroom where it collected dust until its eventual death. It felt hurt knowing I had found another laptop to assist me in my writing endeavors. Its heart was broken.

The Dell laptop has served me well over the past year and a half (I'm using it to write this blog right now), though it has also been a pain in the ass at times. It will never live up to my Mac PowerBook G3, even though it will try and fail.

Anyway, rest in peace, Mac PowerBook G3! What I shall do with your dead corpse I do not know. I'm still not ready to part ways with it. Maybe I'll keep you for the rest of my life. Who knows: if I ever become a well-known writer, maybe some sort of Smithsonion-like museum will want you in its possession. I mean, it would be like owning the typewriter Hemingway wrote his books on. Or Fitzgerald. Or Hunter Thompson. You get my drift. And that's not to sound arrogant or anything. The fact of the matter is that I'm on the same level as all of those writers. Well, let's not get nuts here. I'm well above them.

Boy, we had some great times together, PowerBook G3. I will never forget you. In fact, I think I probably wrote most of my significant work on you. I won't quite be sure of that until I'm on my death bed, though I feel it's probably true. You were good to me. I hope I was good to you. You lived sixteen years so I think I could've done worse to you. Know what I mean? I'm sure you do. You always understood me.

Love. Always.

Matt

Monday, June 27, 2016

The Woman and the Dragon (novel excerpt)

BREAKING NEWS! I recently finished a rough draft of my newest (i.e. my sixth) novel entitled THE WOMAN AND THE DRAGON, which is a Milton-esque religious work of fiction loosely based on chapter 12 in the Holy Bible's Book of Revelation. I thought I would post an excerpt here on my blog in case anybody is interested in checking some of it out.


Here is a teaser trailer I made for the novel:



The excerpt below takes place in heaven after God has announced the birth of a man - Jesus - who will miraculously be born to a virgin Mary, save the world from darkness and then eventually help rule heaven and earth at God's right hand. Lucifer - God's fairest of angel's - has been humiliated by this news, for he was under the impression that HE would be the one to save the world from darkness, earn the honor of sitting at God's right hand and thenceforth rule the heaven and the earth.

Lucifer convinces himself and many of his brother angels that God's plans with Jesus are ill-conceived. He forms a rebel army and they start a revolution in heaven...




THE WOMAN AND THE DRAGON (excerpt)


...

And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back.

- Revelation 12:7
...


THE BATTLEFIELD

From a distance, it looked as though a swarm of locusts had scattered about the clouds but there was a distinct demarcation in the middle of this darkish mass that remained pure with white. On one side of the demarcation stood Fairest Lucifer's army of Rebel Angels whilst on the other side stood God's Angels lead by the brave Archangel Michael. The fairest Lucifer hovered ten feet over the frontline and raised his fist into the air. Then, upon the opening of his fist, the army of Rebel Angels let out a hiss. This was their war cry.

As for the brave Archangel Michael he, too, floated to the height of fairest Lucifer and met his foe eye-to-eye. But his intentions were not to taunt. For he wanted to talk sense.

"I give yee one last warning, Lucifer. Call this army off! For your cause is not just and your army is no match against ours."

"Unwise Michael, your words scare me not. Save yourself the breath, for I will never call off my army. But, alas, it is not too late to redeem your soul and join my ranks. With you on my side, others in your army will follow. And together we can overthrow the confused and ill God."

"Never will I do such a thing!"

"Come now, Michael. How is it that you can be complicit in God's plan? A man, Michael. A man is to be your king! What think you of that?"

"If that is God's plan, then that is God's plan. I shall be content in helping him carry it out."

"Words born out of an imprisoned mind. You say you're content but what you mean is you're complacent. An enslaved agent of God is all that you are. Free will is dead in your heart."

And, with those words, the Archangel Michael's face turned the color of beets and the fairest Lucifer couldn't help but allow a slow smirk to slither up his cheek. He knew his words had infiltrated the misguided Michael's mind, challenging his thoughts...and rattling his obstinacy.

"I stand with God," Michael said, though fairest Lucifer wondered if he truly believed it. "We all stand with God."

"Ah, then you are not the wise Michael I thought you to be. You're putting you and your troops in needless danger here. Angels ARE going to die, for that seems unavoidable if this battle ensues. And for what? All to maintain the power of a misguided God? Shame on you, dear Michael. You're smarter than this. This blood that is about to be shed...it will be on your hands and your hands only."

And, with that, the fairest Lucifer raised his other fist into the air and, with the sight of this fist, the army of Rebel Angels roared out a...

"Yaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh!!!!"

The locusts swarmed each other and the battle was on. Rebel angels battled against God's angels, sword upon sword. Never before was there so much beauty to such ugly actions.

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

Fairest Lucifer chopped off the wing of an angel named Metatron. Regret and compassion were overwhelming his conscience, but the fairest angel knew that said feelings were the enemy now and he would have to swallow these feelings in this very important time of revolution.

CLANG! CLA-CLANG!

With his compassion suppressed, the fairest angel felt a new burst of energy in replace of it. He felt like a war machine now, and he thought about nothing else except destruction and winning the battle. He relished this feeling. It made him feel powerful, yes, but, more importantly, it made him feel free...freer than he'd ever felt before.

CLANG!

He chopped off the leg of angel named Uriel!

CLANG CA-CLANG!

And then chopped off the head of an angel named Raziel!

The sight of all the angelic blood thrilled the fairest of angels whilst the sounds of the screaming energized him ever the more. He wasn't the same fairest angel anymore, there was no doubt about that. He was somebody different. And he liked this angel much, much better.


...

Time seemed to have suspended itself during the battle betwixt God's Angels and the Rebel Angels. But, alas, time had to have passed, for, soon, there were dozens of soldiers from both armies, lying in pieces, blood everywhere, such horror unfathomable. There weren't many living angels left but Lucifer had never felt so alive! He was stabbing angels through the hearts now whilst his own heart loved the destruction it was now capable of.

When, suddenly, fairest Lucifer met his match:

It was Archangel Michael, staring him down with a determination to end the battle for good.

"Look around you, Lucifer! Look what you have done! Look at the destruction, all the blood that is on YOUR hands...!"

Fairest Lucifer refused to look anywhere but deep into his now-sworn arch-enemy's eyes.

"...All because you longed to sit at God's right hand," Michael continued. "Ha! A set of greener eyes I have never seen! Your envy has turned thee into a monster!"

Fairest Lucifer felt his rage bubbling up to a boil. How dare that misguided Michael try to spin everything 'round and make HIM looketh the villain. He would not stand there and be guilted and shamed when 'twas the exact opposite that was true. Fairest Lucifer was the victim who wanted nothing but good. And it was God who so conditioned the angels into thinking HE was the villainous "rebel". O furious!

"Prepareth to die, Michael!"

Michael raised his sword and assumed his battle stance.

"For I but wait your move!" the Archangel declared.

And, now, if it wasn't for a slight feeling of reverence, fairest Lucifer would not have skipped a beat before he charged at God's army general. For Michael was no ordinary soldier, hence Lucifer's reverence for his former brother. Michael was the mightiest angel in all the heavens and his swordsman skills were unmatched by none other.

But, alas, all that was good in the universe was on fairest Lucifer's side. Justice and truth always prevailed and it was justice and truth that he was fighting for. Aye, justice was his God now and he knew that justice would empower him with an energy and skill that would far exceedeth Michael's.

"Yaaaaaaaaaaah!"

And, with that, Lucifer attacked Michael and Michael fought back. At first, Lucifer feared he had overestimated his own abilities because Michael was, indeed, tremendously skilled and appeared to have the upper hand. But then he realized that the fear was something he needed to conquer and it was only dulling the sharpness of his sword.

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

Lucifer knew that he'd need to sedate that devil in him that was doubt and replace it with rage and much of it. Indeed, pure rage would be the fuel that made the fairest angel indomitable. And 'twas not difficult to find the catalyst to trigger such rage. For it came in the form of thoughts and these thoughts were regarding the psychological warfare God had waged upon poor Lucifer. O how God turned his brothers against him, all because the Almighty Father was too obstinate to admit wrong and admit Jesus was a worthless human being unfit to save mankind. So, in turn, he maketh Lucifer out to be the villainous, treacherous betrayer! How dare he maketh him the villain! How dareth he!!!

CLANG! CA-CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!

Fairest Lucifer knew not when it happened but, at some point, 'twas almost as though he left his body. Consciousness turned black, but his body still functioned on its own. All he knew was that he suddenly found himself with his sword held high above his head and his feet pinning the (now disarmed) Michael unto the battle floor. How this had actually happened he had no recollection. 'Twas strange.

Michael was nursing a wound in his side about eleven and two inches in length and he was shivering from the loss of his blood.

"Pl-please, Lucifer. You don't have to do this. For your sake."

"Ha! For my sake! A most intelligent way to mask your cowardice, General Angel. For MY sake, oh how thoughtful of you, Michael. Splendidly put!"

Hearing the nastiness in Lucifer's voice and...the...the pure hatred, the Archangel Michael could do nothing but just shake his head in utter dumbfoundedness. How that hatred had poisoned his former brother's mind was something he could just not understand.

"What hath happened to you, Lucifer?"

The question rattled fairest Lucifer at first, though he tried his best to remain stoic as he stood before his enemy. 'What hath happened?' Why, enlightenment, that was what happened. Free will and free thought, those happened as well. Transcendence of God's spell - that, too. All THAT was what happened to fairest Lucifer. And there Michael was looking up to him like HE - the fairest angel - was the monster. Stupid, ignorant, narrow-headed angel!

Fairest Lucifer gripped his sword and was about to finish off the ignorant Archangel. But he was having difficulty doing it. Had compassion returned to him?

"Finish him, Lucifer!" screamed a fellow Rebel Angel. Why it was Beelzebub. "Finish him!" the Rebel screamed again.

Some of the other rebel angels had now gathered and they, too, were hissing for fairest Lucifer to finish off Archangel Michael. Lucifer knew that it was imperative that he display leadership and strength. For that was the only way to keep his soldiers energized and their morale high. Compassion was weakness and no soldier follows the lead of a weakling.

So, with those thoughts in mind, the fairest angel brought the sword down to finish off his foe. But...

KA-BOOM!

There was a tremendous explosion that made Lucifer and the other angels nearly jump out of their wings. Then, there was a howling sound of wind. Followed by a shrieking whistle. And then another...

KABOOM!

The rebel angels looked unto the not-very-distant skies and could see a great fireball floating high into the air. And, with this fireball, there came a blood-curdling scream.

"O MISERY!!!"

Then, Lucifer and the other rebel angels could see a soldier running their way. The angel was engulfed in flames and, as this angel got nearer, Lucifer identified the doomed victim. It was a rebel. Why, it was...

"Moloch..."

Indeed, Dearest Moloch was screaming in agony.

"Help me, Lucifer! Help me! O horrible! What hath happened?!"

All Lucifer and the other Rebel Angels could do was stare in shock.

"Help me!" Moloch kept screaming. "Help me!!!"

And those words were the angel's last words in the heavens. His wings had burnt to such a state that they were no longer fit to hold Moloch in the high vibrational energy of heaven. He fell right betwixt the clouds and screamed his way unto the earth.

Astonished, the Rebel Angels raised their swords high into the air and prepared to defend themselves from whoever or whatever had made a victim of their rebel brother.

And this was when they heard more whistling...

More howling...

...and then another KA-BOOM!

This time, Belial was the victim of this monstrous magik. The rebel angel was propelled about three-hundred-and-thirty-three feet into the air before falling back down and dropping right through the clouds. Lucifer could hear Belial screaming for him in unimaginable desperation but the screaming faded as the Rebel Angel fell his way further through the heavens.

Then, there was more whistling. There was an energy, some sort of ghost-like force weaving itself in and out betwixt the Rebel Angels. The angels kept their swords high and pivoted their bodies towards the sounds. When the howling moved to their left, they moved to the left. When the howling moved to the right, they turned to the right. But it was a confusing, disorientating energy playing tricks with their ears.

"What is it?! Mammon shouted.

"Dark magik!" Beelzebub hissed.

"Coward!" Lucifer screamed at the energy. "Show yourself!"

And, with that request, the whistling ceased and a mass formed right before his angelic eyes. Why, there was God manifesting Himself into the shape of one furious wizard-like formation. His arms started growing, and growing...and growing about ten feet out and his hands started rotating faster and faster and faster. They gradually transformed from a physical mass to a gas and then...

FLAMES!

Beelzebub and Mammon had seen enough. They dropped their swords and made a run for it.

But they didn't get too far.

KA-BOOM!

Oh, such horrible shrieks fairest Lucifer never could have imagined in his wildest of nightmares. The screaming curdled his bile and he almost thought he would vomit. The angels burned and screamed and then they, too, fell betwixt the clouds unto the earth.

Astonished and in horror, Lucifer turned unto God and saw that the Father was peering deep into fairest's eyes and torturing his soul with His gaze. With his fellow rebel angels gone - cast out of heaven - Lucifer no longer had to appeareth the leader, for there was nobody left to lead. Thus, he dropped his sword, got down to one knee, and he spake:

"Forgive me, Father! For I have sinned!"

God stood there doing nothing. Just peering and torturing Lucifer's soul.

"I have not been myself, Oh God! The devil hath taken hold of me, I know it!"

God still said nothing.

"Oh Father, I need your help! I must exorcise that terrible demon from my soul. For what you have seen was not me! But I'm still in there somewhere and I need your help!"

And it was after those latter words that God simply shook his head and extinguished his wrathful flames. Then he turned 'round - almost in disgust - and started walking away.

"Please don't forsake me, God!"

But God kept walking.

"God!!!!!!"

And it was then that Lucifer felt the rage again, rising up from within and burning his throat like acid. How things had come to this point was beyond him. And it wasn't his fault, not in the least. Yet, there he was kneeling and feeling abashed and...and begging for forgiveness. HA! Things were all twisted, for it was God who was to blame for all this happening. But, no, there was God walking away all high and righteous, shaking his head at fairest Lucifer in disapproval and disgust. That fiend!

And, almost without thinking, Lucifer gripped his sword, jumped unto his feet, spun 'round seven hundred and twenty degrees and then hurled the sword at God.

God knew the sword was coming before Lucifer had even thrown it. He grew about thirty-and-three feet in height and swatted the sword away like a fly. Then, he was furious, and he manifested His flames with his ten-foot arms. Lucifer immediately knew that he had made a bad move, though he hadn't been thinking logically. Something else had taken him over.

But it mattered not. For he was now doomed. He knew this.

KA-BOOM!

...

The great dragon was hurled down - that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

- Revelation 12:9
...

THE SKY

It was a clear, black and beautiful sky. And then in that sky appeared a star. The star seemed to grow in size. Bigger. And bigger. And even BIGGER.

Then, the star started to make a sound. And it wasn't a good sound. Why, the star seemed to be screaming!

This was no star.

The star was the angel formerly known as "fairest", though he had lost that title forever. Now he was just Lucifer.

Lucifer was on fire and he was falling from the heavens. And spinning. And screaming.


IN THE DESERT

The desert sky was crystal-clear and so blue on the horizon it could have easily been mistaken for water. But then there was an anomaly. Something was falling from the sky. Something bright. 

A meter? A comet?

Neither.

It was Lucifer. He was still ablaze. And he was still screaming.

Lucifer plummeted into the desert sand with such force that a cloud of dust rose almost a mile in height. Now that he finally had a means to extinguish himself, he rolled 'round in the sand until the last of the flames were smothered. His skin was so raw and the sand stuck to the stickiness of the burns.

Soon, the fire was out but he was charred and steaming. The intense desert sun beat down on his burns. So much pain! O the pain!

But he wasn't alone with his misery, nor was he the only scream to be heard in the desert. The dust from his fall dissipated and he saw that his other fellow fallen brothers were but yards away from him. Some of the rebels were still screaming whilst others were moaning and those too weak to moan were whimpering.

Lucifer sat upright and tried to transcend his pain. All he could smell was a horrible, putrid odor. Burnt flesh or hair. Sometimes it even smelled like sulphur. After much effort, he rose unto his feet, stumbled around hither and thither and fell a few times, but eventually got to a point where he was sturdy enough to remain standing.

Then he tried to fly on out of the forsaken desert, though he could only get ten feet in the air before he fell right back down to the sand, flat on his face. He made a second attempt. But he had the same outcome. His poor wings were broken.

And, then, there was a voice:

"Luc-thi-fer, what hath happened?"

Lucifer turned unto the shivery voice and saw a charred angel standing before him. The angel was so dreadfully burned that it took poor Lucifer several moments for him to recognize the face. Was it? No, it couldn't have been...

"Moloch?"

'Twas, indeed, Moloch all right. Poor, dearest Moloch! His nose was dangling from his face and his ears were so burnt that they were now but triangular and horn-like. And as for his wings? O his wings! They were gone. Completely burnt away. Lost!

The poor Moloch kept shivering, frightened to the point of crying. But he was still so hot from heat that his tears were but vapors.

"Wha-t hath ha-ha-happened?"

Lucifer just stared at his dearest friend, his mouth agape. He could not muster up the words to answer such a question, for he was in shock. Poor Moloch was shivering so hard now that little pieces of ashed flesh were falling to the desert floor like dead leaves on an autumn day.

But, then, another voice:

"There he isth!"

The voice was angry and had a lisp. Lucifer turned to see his fellow Beelzebub leading a pack of what-appeared-to-be angry angels. O terrible! The angels sizzled and steamed and, oh, the smell! What a rotten, horrible smell!

Beelzebub was pointing at Lucifer and he was seething with rage.

"Look what fate you brought upon usth, Lusthefer!"

Poor Lucifer could see that Beelzebub's tongue had been burnt away and this was why he was slurring all his words. Seeing how angry all his fellow rebel angels appeared, the formerly fairest Lucifer secured himself on his feet and assumed a guarded stance.

"Your cause wasth but a lost one!" Beelzebub screamed. "And, with it, we are lost, too!"

Then the rebel angels hissssssthed at Lucifer. The formerly fairest angel thought it best to try and diffuse the situation.

"Dear Beelzebub, nothing hath been lost but one battle! The revolution is not over. Our cause is alive and well. We will prevail!"

This was when the angry Belial stepped forward to scream in poor Lucifer's face:

"Our wings are broken! Heaven hath been lost!"

"But in no time we'll grow new ones!" Lucifer rebutted. "And heaven will be regained!"

"Lies!" screamed another one of the angels. It was Mammon and he was furious. "It's lies you speak, Lucifer!" And then the angel dropped unto his knees, looked unto the heavens and pleaded for forgiveness. "Father, forgive me! Please forgive me!!!"

Lucifer scoffed at the pathetic Mammon.

"Pray not to God. For he is the devil!"

"No, Lusthefer!" Beelzebub screamed. "YOU are the devil!"

Such an accusation took Lucifer aback. As preposterous a notion as it was, being called the devil still shivered him at the core.

"Oh, Beelzebub, do watch what you say."

"You tricked us with your words and your charisthma. 'Fairest' Lusthefer - HA - I think not! For you, oh angel, ARE the devil. You are Sthatan in disguisthe!"

And, with those words, the friends-turned-foes hiiiisthed at Lucifer and seeeethed and then they surrounded their deceptive leader.

Lucifer searched for sympathizers, though he could find not one. He even called out to Moloch, but his dearest friend just stood and shivered, abashed, aghast, confused and afraid.

"Get him!" Beelzebub screamed.

Lucifer had no choice but to assume a battle stance. And then he fought the Rebel Angels when they attacked. Relative to his former brothers, Lucifer still had quite a bit of energy to expend and he fought them with reluctant fervor, for he did not want to fight his former rebel soldiers.

In many cases, fighting them was almost too easy, even felt unjust. For the rebel angels were in very poor shape. Many of their body parts were so burnt that, when he punched them, his fist broke right through the char. Pretty soon, there were pieces of ash floating all over the place and the smell! Oh how that burnt hair and flesh smell was just so terrible!

Soon, most of the fallen angels were beaten to the point where they were just rolling around in the sand, moaning and trying to reconnect their broken parts. As for Lucifer, he gave one of the angels one last punch that actually shattered an entire rib cage. This was shocking to him and he decided to back off.

But there was nobody left to fight him anyway. Everybody was rolling and moaning, except for poor Moloch who just stood as a passive observer in a timid state. Lucifer glanced at his surroundings and could see nothing but desert for as far as the eye could see. Then he took one last look at his dearest friend Moloch and would have cried himself had his tear ducts not been rendered useless by his heated flesh. He knew he was alone now, perhaps forever. God had successfully alienated him from his brothers and now here he was with broken wings, stuck on the earth.

But, alas, the war was far from over. He wasn't going to give up. He was never going to give up.

And, with one last nod to his dearest friend Moloch, Lucifer turned to venture into the desert. He would find somewhere to regroup, gain back strength and then the war against God would resume.

This was all far from being over.