Why I want to get legally married – part 1

There’s a very logical reason why I want to get legally married to my husband: I want to protect my family. Those of you not familiar with the legal rights granted by that $50 marriage certificate might be thinking I’m being dramatic — but I’m not.

Despite Benjamin and I having Wills, there’s absolutely nothing to prevent one of our families from contesting them should one of us die. Given the behavior of my family over the last year this is not a passive concern. In a worst-case scenario I die and our joint assets are frozen during probate and Benjamin is kicked out of our home if my family “wins”. We’ve taken as many steps as possible to prevent that including the aforementioned Wills and life insurance policies with Benjamin as the primary beneficiary (life insurance policies are contractual documents that bypass Wills unless the insurance beneficiary falls through to the estate). If a spouse of a legally married couple dies the person’s assets transfer seamlessly to the surviving spouse.

Enough about death, lets talk about life. It’s a good thing I like wading through the tax morass ’cause as a non-legally married couple it is an amazingly hard slog. Lets say I want to further hedge my bets against a worst-case “Casey dies” scenario by transferring some of my assets over to Benjamin while I’m alive. Because he and I aren’t legally married I can only transfer ~$13k/year to him tax-free — anything over that amount he would need to pay a gift tax. Married couples can throw however much money they want at each other and not suffer the tax hit.

Lets talk about retirement. When Benjamin was working at the bank, prior to becoming a full-time student, we were actively contributing to his Roth IRA. When he became a full-time student he wasn’t eligible to contribute to his IRA because he wasn’t earning any income. If we were legally married I could have contributed to his IRA (via the “spousal IRA“) for the past three years. This is unfortunate as we missed some pretty good growth opportunities due to how low the market was during that time. A friend had mentioned that I could have hired him for some position and paid him enough money to max out his yearly IRA contributions. The two downsides to that are 1) he would have had to pay taxes on the amount and 2) it could have decreased or removed his ability to obtain grants, scholarships, and/or loans.

Those are the three big financial reasons that jumped immediately to mind this morning – I’m sure there are other financial reasons that I’m not thinking of at the moment.

Evidence Christians used lies during Prop 8

Today finished out the testimony phase of “Perry v. Schwarzenegger”, also known as the Prop 8 Trial. I’ve been following the trial via live-blogging site prop8trialtracker.com courtesy of the Courage Campaign Institute. The testimony has been very revealing — particularly the part where the Proposition 8 proponents blatently lied to the public during the campaign about what gay marriage would mean (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 9:42):

“Polygamists are waiting in the wings! If we have same sex marriage, we’ll have polygamy next.”

Despite no one anywhere advocating anything about polygamy. And:

“Let’s just say that sexual attraction is definition. Pedophiles would have to be allowed to marry. Mothers and sons. Man who wanted to marry horse. Any combination would have to be allowed.”

Aside: I certainly don’t condone pedophilia but it’s pretty obvious that pedophiles are already allowed to marry another adult of the opposite sex.

Those are just two small examples – there are many more in other parts of the testimony. It was obvious at the time, and even moreso now, that the entire campaign was run on lies and fear. It’s clear throughout the testimony presented by expert witness on both sides that there is no “better for society” reason, no “children will be better off” reason, no “it’ll destroy traditional marriage” reason to prevent gays and lesbians from getting married. What’s the real reason our right to marry was taken away in CA? Because it goes against some people’s religious views. Last time I checked it was the power of the state government, not any church, that allowed couples to marry.

And just who were these “Prop 8 proponents” casting out these lies? The quotes above were from a video that ProtectMarriage.com, the defendants, financed during the campaign. And who financed ProtectMarriage.com? Also from a video that ProtectMarriage.com created (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 10:06):

“We know that today we must win. That’s why we are so grateful that 2,500 pastors have come out on consistent basis every month. If someone is going to vote no, we flip them to show that kids will be taught this in schools. We have spent thousands of dollars on polling. Continue to do so. In 1999, LDS got involved in Hawaii. With capital S, they were significantly involved. No different this time. Campaign will cost minimum of $25 million and LDS across this state deeply involved. Catholic Bishop in SD, three evangelical ministers from SD all got involved. Asked Focus on the Family for money. They sent us $50,000 that allowed us to get petitions printed. Thanks to you, we are here, we will win.” (emphasis mine).

And just in case you thought “three evangelical ministers isn’t so bad – must be a Mormon and Catholic thing”, here’s an email admitted into evidence that was sent to ProtectMarriage.com listing who was involved (see Liveblogging Day 10 Daily Summary near 10:23):

Evangelicals—400,000 signatures; 3,00 pastors
LDS
Catholics
Orthodox Jews
(emphasis mine)

Maybe God and I will work out our conflicts, but Christianity can go screw itself. Take your “hate the sin love the sinner” and “think of the children” mantras and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine. Using John’s logical conclusion to a metaphor in a related blog entry: forget the bathwater, the baby’s dead – throw it out.

A Grandmother’s love

One of the results of my decision to not attend my brother’s wedding was needing to call my Granny Dot and let her know that I wouldn’t be going and why. Up until this point I’d never told Granny Dot that I was gay, but she’s one smart cookie and I figured she already knew. The conversation went well (no awkwardness) and we continued to talk about the usual stuff for the next hour — she’s a talker so this is about par.

I received this letter in the mail a few days after the wedding:

Dearest Casey,

It was so good to hear from you. The news you told me was no surprise to me – I had suspected the situation for a long time. I know you didn’t wake up one day and decide to be gay – it is an inborn thing and is natural to you but the average person views it as unnatural, because it doesn’t follow the norm. They need to stop and evaluate all the couples who co-habitate. In my opinion there is not much difference.

Of course I had looked forward to your children to love, but my love for you has never changed and never will. You are a part of me and Papa and we have always been proud of you. Just be happy and people will learn to accept the situation. I wish you every happiness.

I love you –
Granny

While some of my other family members are very supportive and encouraging (specifically Kelly and Nicole) – this is by far the most affirming letter I’ve ever received from my family. And yes, I did cry when I got it.

There are bright spots to the otherwise gloomy situation.

The Ctrl-Z President?

There comes a time in all great nations when it’s necessary to hit the brakes and back up. My hope is that today we’ll start to see Obama hit Ctrl-Z several dozen times such as:

  • Rerouting funding for abstinence-only education to programs that provide education on and help obtaining condoms and birth control.
  • Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and allow everyone who wishes serve their country with dignity and not in hiding.
  • Repeal the “Defense of Marriage” Act and federally recognize same-sex unions, under whatever label, just as the federal government does opposite-sex unions.
  • Provide more stringent requirements on the financial industry to prevent a occurrence of this last financial fubar.
  • Hold all government agencies responsible for constitutional violations such as warrant-less wiretapping and ensure future violations do not occur.
  • Mandate more fuel-efficient vehicles and remove our dependency on foreign oil.
  • Listen to scientists who tell you the environment and planet is going to hell in a handbasket and act on the information.

Most of the above (with the exception of DADT) were done under Bush’s watch, if not by his hand. I’m hoping over the next few months we’ll see Obama make judicious use of Ctrl-Z and undoing some of Bush’s (and in the case of DADT, Clinton’s) screwups either via Executive Order or working with Congress. I don’t think Obama is the nation’s savior and I don’t think I’ll be happy with everything he’ll do, but for the first time in 5-8 years I have some confidence in our executive branch.

And, borrowing from my friend Mark, lets hope the undo buffer is big enough to support these actions.

Flatirons steps up – gays welcome to serve

Today I had a meeting with Jim Burgen, the head pastor at Flatirons Community Church. The meeting was to discuss and answer the question: Are gay individuals allowed to serve at Flatirons?

The answer, in short, is yes.

The answer, in greater length, is still yes :) Flatirons is committed to being a welcoming church to everyone who is searching for God’s will for their lives. Note that it isn’t a “we’re welcoming until we find out who you are” church, but a “come as you are, together we’ll search for God’s will for our lives” church. While Jim and I disagree with some what the Bible says about homosexuality, that doesn’t prevent us from worshiping and learning together. Moreover, the important factor is that Flatirons “isn’t going to cherry pick the ‘top 5 sins’ and use those as a guide on who can serve and who can’t”, to paraphrase a segment of the conversation. Jim’s message last week (MP3 of message) is particularly relevant as well – I’m sorry I missed it in person.

Here’s a to-the-point FAQ regarding gays at Flatirons based on my conversation with Jim:

  • Are gay people welcome in the church? Yes.
  • Are gay people free to be themselves in the church? Yes.
  • Can I be open about my partner/husband/significant other at church? Yes.
  • You mean I’m free to introduce my partner/husband/significant other as such to individuals in the church? Yes.
  • Am I allowed to serve? Yes, if you are otherwise qualified. (eg: no luddites in the sound booth, interpreters must be able to interpret, etc)
  • Does Flatirons support the “gay lifestyle” and gay marriage? No, and probably not.
  • Is Flatirons gay friendly? By my definition, yes.
  • Is Flatirons gay affirming? By my definition, no. (and I’m perfectly OK with that )

Overall I felt very good about the conversation and the outcome. It was everything that I had hoped for. The fact that Jim took time out of his crazy schedule to meet with me conveys to me how important it was to him that Flatirons be a welcoming, inclusive church.

I look forward to getting involved with the Deaf ministry, barring transportation issues, and continuing to meet and get to know other Flatironers.

Church deja vu: We’ll take your money, but you can’t serve.

Note: This post is a long, but required, background to groking the following entry. The follow-up of that post is that we ended up leaving for Denver before the church leaders made a decision one way or the other making it a moot point. Previously it was locked to a small group of people but today I’ve opened it up to everyone.

Benjamin and I have been attending Flatirons Community Church for over a year now. A month ago they announced that they would be starting a Deaf ministry and were asking for volunteers. I’ve really missed interpreting and thought I’d try to become involved again. After contacting them once a week for three weeks (once by email, once by a note at the information desk on Sunday morning, and once via a call to their offices) they finally emailed me last week asking, in a not-so-abrupt way, what my qualifications were and how I thought I could help. I replied with my background interpreting for Gateway Community Church.

About the same time the Flatirons kicked off their BRiX campaign which in short is their campaign to build a new building as they have outgrown their current location many times over and are told they would not be able to renew their lease on the current building when it expires in 2 years.

Flatirons, like Gateway, is very gay-welcoming — not in the affirming way, but in the same way they would welcome a perpetrator of domestic violence or an alcoholic: come and get help. For the most part this doesn’t bother me, I find value in the sermons and worship and can ignore their unspoken bigoted viewpoints on homosexuality.

In a sense this is all a big episode of deja vu. Gateway did a similar building campaign for similar reasons about two (three?) years before we left Austin. We contributed financially to building the new building only to feel like we were kicked out of the church after having done so because the leadership found out I was gay. I can’t bring myself to even think about giving Flatirons money towards building their new building. Every time I do I have bile rise up in the back of my throat and I become hostile and defensive.

The rational, logical, part of me realizes that I’m making a strong correlation between Flatirons and Gateway and that to date I don’t have any official information that would confirm that Flatirons has the same “no gay people in leadership” position that Gateway had. Furthermore if I continue to find value and meaning in the sermon and worship, isn’t that enough to helping financially?

The rare, but alive, irrational and emotional part of me, however, still has sway. It has become obvious to me over the past several weeks that Gateway’s actions over two years ago hurt me much worse than I had thought. Between that and the tight race on Proposition 8 in California (including all of the lies by the “Christians” who are intent on denying equal rights to fellow human beings) I’ve developed a rather high aversion to the religion of my youth. I’m still trying to work through it all. I’m afraid the pseudo-rambling nature of this post highlights my internal conflict.

It’s no surprise how the greatest determent to a gay person attending church is the bigots that inhabit most of them.

Gay marriage is legal in California!

I’m sure you already heard, but good news from CA today! Gay marriage is legal in California!

“In contrast to earlier times, our state now recognizes that an individual’s capacity to establish a loving and long-term committed relationship with another person and responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual’s sexual orientation,” the court said in the 120-page ruling, “and, more generally, that an individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.

“We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples.”

Now there’s two states that B and I can move to after he graduates from college!

Gateway: Interpreting and being Gay

On Friday, July 21 I received the following email from Ted, the Teaching Pastor at Gateway:

Your ears were probably burning last night, because we were talking about you at the Gay/Lesbian small group. Don’t worry. Everyone who knew you went around the circle and said what an awesome guy you are and what an example you are to them of a Christ-follower. We started talking about you because someone in the group asked about what would happen if a gay person wanted to lead at Gateway. I recalled a conversation that you and I had at Einsteins probably 4 years ago. You told me your story and about your desire to serve God through doing deaf interpretation. I explained to you that I was excited about that. Even back then, though, it was the policy of Gateway to make sure that all spiritual leaders were walking with God in a pure and healthy way and could serve as examples to anyone who looked at their lives. While I think you may have had a different opinion in regards to the application of that policy to gays, we both agreed that your role was not necessarily a spiritual leadership position.

Fast-forward to a few months ago . . . Gary Foran, our Small Groups Pastor, was introducing some people to you after a church service. I believe they had a son or daughter that was interested in studying sign language. Anyway, while you all were talking, you introduced Benjamin as your “partner” to these folks. These were people who didn’t go to Gateway, and Gary felt very uncomfortable about what they would think.

Hey, if I just met some people, and Stephanie [Ted’s wife] was standing next to me, of course I would introduce her has my partner to anyone. It’s just that in this case, it bothered Gary enough to bring it to our Management Team — John, Gary, Charles, and Ted. They started a conversation with me about your role. Some of them feel like it is a position of spiritual leadership — that you are communicating Scripture from up front. I told them that I don’t view it that way. You’re in a serving role, which you do faithfully and sacrificially and with excellence, and it would be a mistake for us to walk around disqualifying people from service just because we had questions about one thing or another in their character.

That’s about as far as the conversation went with those guys, but I get the sense that it’s going to re-surface soon. Recently we removed a woman from a prominent spiritual leadership position because she had an affair and was unrepentant about it. As would be expected, her response was, “What about this person and what about that person? Do you know what they do? Why are you focusing on only me?” And so the past couple of weeks we have been talking through different folks in leadership that we need to have hard conversations with. It’s not going to be pretty.

I can’t help but think that soon I’m going to be asked to have a “talk” with you. That would break my heart because of the friendship I have with you and Benjamin and because of my belief that you are not necessarily in a spiritual leadership position. It would further break my heart because of the ramifications it will have on many in the gay community, whose friendships I also cherish. So, I was wondering if you and I could talk things over unofficially before this goes any further. I want to hear your perspective, and even your frustration. Maybe together we can figure out some kind of solution.

Casey, you and Benjamin are an important part of this church. I’m sure it hurts you tremendously just to read this email. I’m sorry for that. I just think that before the current situation snowballs, we can have a dialogue and figure something out.

You are welcome to share this email with Benjamin, but please keep it confidential until you and I have interacted more about it. We can carry on this conversation via email, phone, or in person.

Wow, what a way to kill my weekend. I thought about it some and replied back with this few hours later, notice the attempt at humor, that’s often what I do initially to compartmentalize when I feel very hurt:

This almost feels like deja vu .

Last night Terri and I held another Silent Dinner for several folks who are helping out with the Deaf ministry at the church. It’s a chance for folks to practice their signing skills as well as for us to get to know each other better. One of the gals asked if I was planning on attending the Kids Quest Party out at the Massengale Ranch and I said that no, I wasn’t because I didn’t want to go without Benjamin and that I’m trying to ‘lay low’ about my sexuality so church leadership doesn’t ask me to stop signing. They asked what I meant so I explained about the standards for church leadership positions, how being gay didn’t fit in that definition, and that I was operating undercover until the church leadership decided that what I did was a leadership position and was asked to stop.

Looks like I didn’t lay low enough. I recognized that the conversation with Gary would probably come back to bite me but such is life.

I’ll tell you what I told the gals last night: I respect that the church *must* have standards for people who are seen as leaders, in fact – I as a layperson demand it. I obviously disagree where being gay falls into these standards but I accept that standards must be set. I’m wanting to ride this train of helping with the deaf ministry for as long as God has me on it. If God decides that he wants me doing something else (or somewhere else) then so be it. Will I be disappointed? Very much so. Will I be frustrated and heartbroken? Yes. Will I be bitter and jaded, only for a few hours :)

I hate to say it, but this really doesn’t come as a surprise to me. Because of that reason I have had some time to think about what I would want to do if I was asked to step down. Despite thinking about it, I don’t have any good answers at this point. Based on the conversation with the women last night and their reaction, I have concerns that the deaf ministry would be severely hindered. I also have some concern about Gateway’s reputation among the gay population who may feel as though they are being treated as second-class citizens (I’m not even sure that I would disagree with them). I hope and pray that neither happen.

Ho humm… not exactly the email I was hoping for on a Friday afternoon. I don’t mind getting together to talk about it if you’d like. I prefer email or in person as Benjamin tells me that my social phone skills are very very poor and that I don’t communicate well via that medium. I agree that keeping this between you, Benjamin and myself is an excellent approach. I appreciate you giving me a ‘heads up’.

On Sunday afternoon I sent him a second email:

Benjamin and his friend Eric were out at the clubs last night and saw Danny Harvill. Danny made a point of asking Benjamin if you had talked to me. My assumption is that Danny is a part of the GLBT small group. I’m curious exactly what was discussed such that they knew you planned to talk to me. According to Benjamin via Danny – a lot of the gay population will be very upset / possibly leaving the church if I am asked to stop. Not sure how much of that is Danny being dramatic (possibly) and/or Benjamin exaggerating (possibly) and/or it being true. but there you have it.

I shared your email with Benjamin. He took the approach that I thought he would and expressed his concern and frustration about attending a church where gay people were not allowed to be leaders. He said that he recognized that he doesn’t expect any church outside of MCC to be totally accepting of gays but he expected more from Gateway. He also said that while he loves the building, the people, the music of Gateway, that he doesn’t need Gateway to worship God and asked why we should attend or financially support a church that doesn’t support us. Granted, he can get pretty dramatic when he’s really passionate about something so take all of that with a grain of salt, but I can’t say that I disagree with his sentiments. [pause] I just want to talk to him about this paragraph and he said his essence is he feels now that he has been supporting a church via One Life that is indirectly working against him.

I reminded him that nothing had been decided for sure yet. After I said those words I had to think about it — the writing is on the wall. I don’t expect the church leadership to change their opinion on this matter so even if it doesn’t end up blowing up now it will always be hanging over my head.

The thing I found truly ironic was your message today. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good message (and a relatively easy one to interpret thankfully) but I found it ironic that here I was, a volunteer who’s volunteering days are possibly numbered, interpreting a message who’s goal was to encourage people to open their eyes to themselves and to God and to go through open doors to serve others either in the church or directly in the community. After the 2nd service today a deaf woman came up to me and introduced herself and thanked me for interpreting for her. She said I did a good job. A hearing woman came up and said that she didn’t understand sign but loved to watch me interpret, particularly the songs. Finally a young man came up and said I did a good job as well and that he was an interpreter too (both of his parents are deaf).

So there you have four rambling paragraphs full of some words but not getting either of us anywhere I fear. Being the analytical person that I am, allow me to make a list of possible future outcomes I can see from this point:

  1. No decision is made (or the decision to not make a decision is made)
    1. I continue interpreting, knowing that the decision might be made at a later time and still feeling like I’m really not welcomed there in my role.
    2. I step down from interpreting as I feel like I am no longer supported by the church staff.
  2. A decision is made to have me step down – I stop interpreting.
    1. I adopt a ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy and only tell people why I stopped if ask.
    2. I don’t advertise, but don’t hide, why I stopped.
    3. I lie when asked about why I’m not interpreting (Note: this one won’t happen.)
  3. A decision is made to allow me to continue
    1. I continue interpreting
    2. I stop interpreting due to the knowledge that the reason I’m allowed to continue is due to a technicality of me not being a ‘spiritual’ leader, not actually due to being accepted.

Of course, those don’t really get us anywhere either. I guess the important thing I want to convey is that I don’t feel entirely welcome at the church any longer doing what I love and serving how I feel that God is leading me. That makes me very sad.

Regardless of the decision and outcome I want to ensure that the deaf ministry continues. I also want to ensure that the Gateway gay community stays and feels supported. Finally, I’ve decided that I want all the players in this decision to take responsibility for the final decision and the outcome thereof.

On Sunday evening Ted replies with the following

I really appreciate the thoughtful response in your past two emails. I am really impressed with your reaction — that you want to do what is best the folks in the deaf ministry, but you want the church to act respectfully and fairly. Yes, I can totally see the irony in your situation today. That would have been very hard for me if I had been in your shoes (or in Benjamin’s). I would be very tempted to say “screw it” if I were you, but I hope you don’t.

This is an important opportunity for Gateway to wrestle through what kind of church it is going to be, and I think it is also an opportunity for you to work through what sort of faith community you really want to be in. It’s just much more complex than people want it to be. Certain people on my team want a very black and white response to how we lead leaders and volunteers, a response that doesn’t take into account individual stories. On the other side, I sense from people like Danny and others that this is a very black-and-white issue to them — “You either accept us unconditionally in all aspects, or you don’t. We don’t care what other people think.”

I’m really hoping that all parties can have the courage to wrestle through the gray areas and not abandon the process. A lot is at stake here — a lot of hearts and some very foundational things about our church.

Casey, this is exactly why I came to you unofficially before I might possibly be asked to speak to you officially. I feel like you appreciate the complexity of this more than most people I talk to. And I hope you know that I am willing to put aside assumptions and the need for everything to make perfect sense. Remember, I’m the guy who was willing to meet with you and Benjamin to talk to you about your relationship? That was a risk, and there are many people at Gateway (unfortunately) who would be very angry at me for trying to help two guys improve their love for one another. All of that is to say, I hope I have enough money in the bank with you so that you know my intentions toward you are good. And while you have more at stake in this situation than I do, it still totally sucks for me, too.

Let’s take some time to pray about this and ask God for a wise solution. Are you willing to do that and stay in communication with me on what you are hearing from Him?

So there you have it. I’m not sure what will come of it or what I even want to come of it. There is no easy way out.

HRC Gala and Michael Buble

Saturday evening Benjamin and I attended the Austin Human Rights Campaign Annual Gala. This is our third year to attend and also marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of the organization. I heartily agree that this year’s event was the best organized from a participant’s perspective. Benjamin and I are HRC Federal Club members, a distinction obtained by contributing over a certain amount to HRC of the course of a year. We’re frequently being invited to Federal Club events although we haven’t attended any of them to date — mostly because we don’t know anyone in the organization. Before the Gala this year the Federal Club gathered for a Pre-Gala Mixer to sip on free wine/champaign/cokes and meet this year’s speaker, Joe Sol., the head of HRC nation wide. Benjamin and I attended and sipped our champaign (Benjamin) and coke (Casey) and proceeded to stand in the corner and talk to each other for about 30 minutes. Yup, we totally copped out and stood in the corner looking like dorks — total affirmation why we don’t attend the more frequent events throughout the year. The silent auction before the dinner was well done. Benjamin and I bid on at least 10 different items and at the time the dinner started was looking to be out about $1k. Luckily (nor not, depending on your perspective) someone went in during the dinner and outbid us on most items. We still walked home with a marble vase, a chandelier (that we discovered has a few missing parts – arg), tickets to the Alamo Drafthouse, tickets to a Zach Scott performance, and gift certificates to Which Wich (a sandwich joint downtown who is building a location on Parmer across from the old Randall’s).

On Sunday we got up bright and early and headed to church. The young deaf woman who has been attending regularly was there again and was particularly attentive during the sermon. I felt I provided a good interpretation although I need to ask Terri the signs for a few words (race, racial, prejudice among others).

Directly after church we drove down to San Antonio and spent the day on the Riverwalk until the Michael Buble concert started at 8pm. The weather was oddly nice in San Antonio despite it being rainy and cold in Austin when we left. The concert itself was very good. I wasn’t sure what to expect really as MB’s sound seems to target a large audience. If you’re not familiar with him, MB is a modern day Frank Sinatra. He has a jazz/big band sound that seems to appeal both to the younger teenie-bopper crowd as well as older folks like my grandmother. Given that diverse fan base I wasn’t sure if this was going to be a crowd surfing concert or a classical recital. Oddly enough it was a little of both. He had a live jazz band on stage and sang songs off both his major albums. There was only one song that Benjamin and I didn’t recognize. MB is a great entertainer. He didn’t just get up there and sing, he worked the crowd making jokes and such during the breaks between songs. The beginning of the show featured his fast songs that got the teenie-boppers rushing the stage (yes, rushing the stage) to take his picture. The tickets specifically mentioned that photography and recording of any kind was expressly prohibitive so Benjamin and I made a point to leave our camera and both cell phones in the car like good little citizens. Apparently not everyone was so inclined. Between one of the songs MB said “you know, you paid good money for these tickets, take as many pictures as you want” so of course, everyone did all throughout the performance. After a couple of songs the bouncers got the area in front of the stage cleared (which I’m sure the people in the first 5 rows who paid $$$$ for their tickets were glad of). He then switched into a slower song set and threw in two other fast songs at the very end (and the teenie-boppers rushed the stage again). Benjamin loved the performance and admitted that he would love to be one of the folks rushing the stage. I liked the music but would have enjoyed the concert more if the teenie-boppers had just stayed home. It illustrates again how different we are. All in all, the concert was well worth the price of the tickets. If you have a chance to see MB in concert, I highly recommend it.