2017: Closer to the Heart

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My husband, clowning around in the pre-stolen Rush hoodie

My husband is a huge Rush fan, and has been since middle school, 35 years ago. For those of you who aren’t Rush fans, or aren’t intimately acquainted with one, it’s hard to describe the passionate devotion these fans have. As I learned more and more about this band, it became clear to me that this devotion doesn’t spring from the music alone. Although their music is exceptionally well-crafted (it’s tough to find a rock musician who doesn’t acknowledge Rush’s truly exceptional talent and skill), there are innumerable excellent musicians out there. What makes Rush stand out is their heart– the way this trio of hardworking men treat each other, the way they treat their fans, the way they treat their families, protecting them from public scrutiny. Their humility, sincerity, self-effacing humor, and quiet generosity stand out in an industry that often rewards arrogance, selfishness, and self-aggrandizement.

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Neil Peart, Geddy Lee, and Alex Lifeson of Rush. Source: avclub.com

I’ve written before about “geniuses” behaving badly because we enable that kind of childish behavior, and Rush stands as a constant reminder that genius and assholicity don’t necessarily go hand in hand. Most drummers consider Neil Peart to be the greatest rock drummer of all time. For you fellow classical nerds out there, he’s like the Liszt of rock drumming– he’s written things only he can play, things other drummers have to find ways around. Yet he leads with humility and graciousness, not braggadocio, arrogance, and self-aggrandizement. All three are like this (the other two are Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson)– brilliantly skilled and startlingly humble, far more apt to make a self-effacing joke than brag about their accomplishments or gifts.

It is impressive.

So as my husband introduced me to Rush, I began to understand what he adored about them, why they were, after all these years, still so close to his heart, so close to the hearts of millions.

In 2012, my husband took our teenage son to his first Rush concert. It was the Clockwork Angels tour. It was huge for my husband, as you can imagine. At the tour he bought a hoodie that quickly became his favorite. He treasured it.

Then, in 2016, the Year of Everything Awful, my husband, on the way home from work, stopped to duck into a pub to say hello to a few fellow middle school teachers for just a moment. He couldn’t stay, but he thought he should at least make a quick appearance at the gathering. He was gone for less than ten minutes. In those ten minutes, in broad daylight on a busy suburban street at 4:30 in the afternoon, someone smashed his car window and grabbed his school bag (containing nothing but student paperwork) and his beloved Rush hoodie.

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The smashed window.

We have insurance, and the school bag had nothing in it that couldn’t be easily replaced. I sighed and went online immediately to the Rush website to replace the hoodie. It was nowhere to be found. I then checked every website and did every google search I could think of. I checked eBay. I was willing to pay double by this point. All I wanted was to replace this hoodie my husband loved so much. I had no luck.

My husband is a very humble man who hates to cause trouble, so I knew my next step would have to be behind his back. Believing that someone within the Rush organization must have some of these hoodies in a box in a warehouse somewhere and would be willing to sell one to me, I tracked down several people within the Rush organization I believed might be connected to merchandising, and told them our story, asking them if there was any way I could still purchase this hoodie. One of the people I contacted was a man named Brandon Schott.

Within a few days I had received an email from a woman named Pegi Cecconi. I did not know who she was and did not think to google her. Brandon Schott had forwarded the email to her, commenting that I seemed “sincere.” Pegi Cecconi, as it turns out, is the Vice President of SRO Management. Her .sig does not give her title, and I was too much of a Rush neophyte to understand how far up the chain she was until I told my husband, who promptly freaked out.

Pegi had forwarded our email to Showtech, the merchandisers, and personally asked them to help us.

Soon, a man named Alex Mahood contacted me. They didn’t have the Clockwork Angels hoodie, but they had one like it, and they would send it right over, free of charge. Soon, we received a box with this hoodie in it.

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The man in the new hoodie.

I had offered to purchase the hoodie in every email I sent them, yet they sent this to us as a gift.

They could have easily ignored my emails. They could have easily just said, “Sorry, sold out.” They could have turned to more important things– they all have far, far more important things to do. Yet they chose kindness and generosity.

It is impressive.

Rush has a song called “Closer to the Heart” that says we can create a better future for each other by approaching our work, whatever that work is, closer to the heart.

2017 is an uncertain year for people all over the world. People are feeling anxious, frightened, and helpless. They see open hatred increasing all around them. They fear for the future. There is only one way to respond to this: Everything we do from this point forward needs to be closer to the heart.

We must take care of each other more now than ever, and this experience gives me hope. I understand replacing a stolen hoodie isn’t equivalent to saving a life or fighting for justice, but the impulse comes from the same place. It’s the impulse to lead with love and to take care of those around us, and we must, now more than ever, take care of those around us.

Not every important action will be earth-shattering and felt by thousands. Sometimes working for a better world is one tiny, unseen act. Listening and believing instead of dismissing and arguing. Hearing the truth of someone’s lived experience with an open heart and mind instead of acting defensively and angrily. Holding space for grief and pain instead of policing the way that grief and pain is expressed. Taking a moment to understand that our experiences and beliefs are not “right” or universal. Taking a moment to understand that difference can be celebrated rather than feared. Taking a moment to see the humanity in each other.

Sometimes we take care of each other by standing against racism and homophobia, robber barons and oligarchs, zealotry and hatred. Injustice. Hunger. Greed. Selfishness. And sometimes we take care of each other in small, personal ways. They are all important.

Yes, 2017 is here, and many are frightened, but we are not helpless. Every day, you can lead with love and act closer to the heart. Every day you can work for justice. Every day you can recognize the humanity in others. Every day you can reach out your hand to help someone, in large ways and in small ways.

Maybe it’s silly for a single hoodie to give me hope. Maybe, maybe not. But I have hope in others. I have hope in you. Live 2017 closer to the heart.

Happy New Year.

(And thank you, thank you, thank you Brandon Schott, Pegi Cecconi, and Alex Mahood. <3)

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25 thoughts on “2017: Closer to the Heart

  1. pswrites says:

    Wow. Needed that! Thanks.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  2. So well written, thank you for putting this into words.
    Would love to meet you at RushCon someday!

  3. Suzi says:

    this is fantastic and gives me hope…thank you

  4. George Sapio says:

    “And the men who hold high places must be the ones who start. To mold a new reality, closer to the heart.” Nice to see the kindness permeates the organization. Saw them six or seven times back in the Permanent Waves/Moving Pictures/Signals days; always a stunning exhibition of blazing talent accompanied by good humor.

  5. Kelly says:

    My wife introduced me to Rush in 1976 when 2112 came out and we were 15 and 14 years old.
    To make a long story short, we were separated the next year when my parents retired and moved us across country from Virginia to Seattle… 32 years later we reconnected via our high school website and married 3 months later! This was 2007.
    My two son’s very first concert, of any kind, was Rush’s Snakes and Arrows tour… exactly 2 months before Renee and I found each other again. (July 21, 2007).
    We moved back here to the east coast in 2008, and we’ve all seen every Rush tour, together, including R40.
    Rush, needless to say, is and always will be a HUGE part of our life!
    This is a great story and actually made my eyes sweat. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  6. Michael Lark says:

    Very Cool story and state about the Greatest band out there…… thanks for “understanding” your Hubby…… Rush on !

  7. Peter Iveglia says:

    TOUCHING STORY. WHAT MORE CAN YOU SAY THERE IS HOPE. RUSH GREATEST MUSIC EVER PLAYED.

  8. Ian says:

    Fantastic.
    This truly is a story of kindness and compassion, very eloquently told by “Bitter Gertrude”.
    It is really refreshing to read a story, that, although seemingly innocuous, could be massively consequential for anyone that cares to read it.
    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to read it.

  9. TC says:

    What a wonderful story.
    Best band, best music, best fans, best concerts and for good reason. Closer to the Heart is a message that is timeless.

  10. mike ryan says:

    Beautiful words .

    Thank you for them

    Peace and love in this new year and beyond .

    Mike .

  11. Keith says:

    I have an immeasurable appreciation for the greatest 3 man assembly of musical geniuses ever created, the drummer is the professor, the lead vocal is Gedward James Lee the father of my friend, the most recognized voice in my world, & the guitarist is my friend and Hero I have never got to meet Mr.Alex Liefson whom I can’t explain without writing a book, so for that being said, the mass produced B.S. noise polution these days just validates my reasoning for being 1 of the trio’s most loyal/greatful fan, all the way down to listening to their Jazz albums, may they live forever in their sounds.
    Keith O. Strader
    Wa. State fan 4 life

    • Brian says:

      Who the Hell is “Gedward”…some character on Spongebob Squarepants??!! His name is Gary Lee Weinrib, but when his mother spoke his name in her thick Yiddish accent, it sounded like “Geddy”.

  12. pauline pearson says:

    There is some goodness left in the world. 2112 to you and your man , a better day is ahead. K.

  13. David T LeBlanc says:

    This is why I am such fan, just like your husband.

  14. Chris says:

    Beautifully written! My husband and I are RUSH fans and have been for 35+ years also. I so agree that we must be the change we want to see in the world – and more heart (love) is definately required.
    Shawna and Chris

  15. fappyhuzzy says:

    Thank goodness for good people.

  16. Corey says:

    Assholicity is my new favorite word. Love the story and love the eloquence you used in stating it’s deeper meaning. Our world needs to move much ‘Closer to the Heart’. But all of us can help achieve that as you said. And if enough of us move in that direction, we’ll damn well drag the rest of the world with us. Overwhelm them with kindness, strength of purpose and an implacable rejection of negativity, intolerance and hatred.

  17. David says:

    So moved by your expression of gratitude. I love RUSH. In a not so obvious way the band has fathered many of the tenants I live by daily and it is unsurprising the extention of Geddy, Alex and Neil permeates the entire enterprise they have built. Thank you for sharing. As Neil wrote and you quote according to my first ever purchased 45 record let us live closer to the heart,, and the ‘b-side’ choose freewill!

  18. Nice story. The people of ShowTech are really wonderful.

    jvb

  19. JetBlue says:

    Love the story I too am a Rush fan I’m glad to see that your husband is a teacher giving back to you what was given to him just one point to point out here good things happen to good people because they do good things not everything though bad is happening to you is 4 bad reasons it’s also a good learning experience and I don’t mean that sarcastically you’re right it’s hard to go through the world today and not be skeptical I would somebody’s telling you people say I’m gullible because if you tell me something I will believe it why should I not people nowadays just lied just to lie and that’s a shame their life is so boring that they have to lie about it I know I was once one of those person the only thing I can say is it takes a lot of energy to be bitter and angry and I just got tired of being angry so I started doing good things for the sake of being good doesn’t make me a good person but it does make me feel better and I can’t live with myself but you guys very nice and it’s doing something good I thought that maybe the show of appreciation was in order plus you’re a rush fan thank you and you made my day much better rush rules

  20. Robert MacMoneagle says:

    I’m a Rush fan just like your husband and I’m really touched by this story of how human and kind the Rush organisation are. Not surprised so much because it’s well known that the “Working Men”, are as you say in your article just plain, simple, loving, generous, humble and kind guys. Thank you for writing your story; it’s good to know there are such people in this lonely planet.

  21. Eric says:

    Rush: The band that rocks out to spaceships flying through black holes, that somehow inspires you to love your fellow man.

    Yes, Rush changed my life. Maybe even somewhat for the better ;-).

    But, seriously. I can never repay Rush. However, I know all Geddy, Alex, and Neil would ever want in return from me are thoughtful gestures of kindness to those in need of them.

  22. EJR8907 says:

    Very cool story! I got to see them on the R40 tour. I promptly began to find the American made Geddy Bass. Even the people I bought it from check in to see if I’m still happy with it. I’ve lost things important to me, and I watched my Dad lose his beloved bass. No one could seem to help with that situation, just alot of sorry about your luck. If the world was more like this from the positive aspect of your story I would be far less disgruntled, and negative. Thank you for sharing something positive!

  23. I did not cry, ok? I did not… ='(

  24. Monsieur Tabernac says:

    What a great story and post. I’m so glad it all worked out!

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