So many reasons to celebrate this day. The music of R.E.M. pulled me up from ignorance to a growing sense of place and understanding that I don’t need to be able to relate to the world, but, that the world relates to me. I was The Wrong Child living through a phase of life in which I was World Leader Pretend. But, Country Feedback started stitching the panels of my youth together to a future as an adult that still seemed Half A World Away. It was The End Of The World As I Knew It and it felt fine, to a degree, first at thirteen, and then again at twenty-one through the operating room sound system just as the gas mask was being placed on my face. It was the innocent line about being my future wife’s Easter bunny, amidst a song and a world that carried so much more weight when juxtaposed against the fog of my immediate fate through which I tried, so hard, to Walk Unafraid. It was when dancing with her during our first dance that I knew that it was true: should was willing to Be Mine after all. Grace began to Reveal its hand as Summer Turned To High while my wife and I settled into a new life living on a back road in the new south where I began my career as a teacher. The optimism of the music, intertwining southern imagery with oceans and summer settings, assured me that I’d do fine. It was Belong, though, that played like heavy, dense, humidity, so memorably, through the car speakers on our way to the delivery room when we realized that our daughter was arriving a month early. It was an onstage reunion with Mr. Berry that marked the first time that we ever left our daughter with friends, four months later, so that we could steal a night on our own. Later moments would involve my kids singing and dancing along to the staples that painted the walls of the corridors that I’ve walked through in life so far…the likes of Little America, Second Guessing, Letter Never Sent, Shiny Happy People, and Circus Envy reverberating and shining through the windows of our future. A future that looks bright from where we now stand: on the heels of two trips to Athens – the latter to celebrate their thirtieth year of a band that has provided, and will continue to provide, the score to my life and the lives of so many others. Thank you R.E.M. Cheers!