Thursday, September 18, 2014

I'll Stick Around (warning - this puppy is LONG)

If you are reading this blog, then you most likely already know me enough from my facebook page to understand that I am deeply, deeply invested/obsessed with Foo Fighters and Dave Grohl.  I decided many years ago to just accept it and move on.  For many years, it was this little (or maybe not so little) secret inside me.  People knew I liked the music, it's not as though I am shy about that.  I don't think most of them got the Mariana Trench-like depth that it is, though.  At the time that the first album came out, I was working at a music store, and could not have been more curious and enthusiastic for the record.  When Kurt Cobain ended his life, and Nirvana, my second thought was "What are the other guys going to do now?"  I had my answer, and it was good.  Really, really good.   Back then, when I was 22, I read the music magazines, the reviews, everything I could get my hands on. I love all music, but there are some artists, some bands, and sometimes just songs, that slip under my carefully constructed Armor of Cool and disarm me, leaving my heart and soul exposed and increasing my heart rate, my endorphins, and my happiness.  Learning how he built the entire first album himself, recording on all the instruments and the vocals?  It thrilled my little rock&roll heart.

So back in the spring of 2014 (not that we had one this year...) the 9:30 Club announced a show that you had to go buy actual tickets for at the box office.  Dave Grohl was going to be "hosting" the show.  Whispers were that the Foo Fighters would be playing a set.  I was still tentative about everything.  It was too soon for me to be committing to something as I didn't know from minute to minute how I would be feeling.  I didn't bother to go get tickets, despite the encouragement from my friends.  And then, when it became apparent they were playing, I learned that there was no transferring tickets.  I was so angry, mostly with myself.  I had allowed this chance to see them in a small venue vanish.

Then, in the summer, a person in Richmond basically sponsored a show by selling tickets to a non-existent show via crowdsourcing.  They decided to ask the Foo Fighters to come play for the first time since 1998 if they raised enough money. Could I have thrown some bucks in and secured my tickets back when I first heard about this?  Of course I could. Did I? Of course I did not.  I had skated by again, knowing I had the chance, and being too self-centered and navel-contemplative to even just CLICK A FEW KEYS ON MY COMPUTER.  Then it went quiet, and life continued chugged along.  The HBO show Sonic Highways was announced.  I got more excited.  I preordered the new album.  More excited.  Then, on September 2, the same day that my youngest started kindergarten, they announced that the crowdsourced show was scheduled for September 17 at the National in Richmond and everyone who had donated to the fund should check their email for updates.

Wow, did I feel like a lazy jerk.  Now I couldn't get in, because no other tickets would be sold.

I posted about needing to go to this concert on facebook, needing something positive to end my 40th year with something good after how spectacularly awful this year has been.  It was a shot in the dark.  But it pierced something because it started getting shared around.  Slim fingers of hope started to wrap themselves around my hands and heart, squeezing gently as if to say, "It's gonna happen...keep believing."

Lee was out with a friend.  He knew that I wanted tickets and planned to spend the evening trolling the internet trying to find them.  He did not expect, when he came home, for me to say, "I have a solid line on tickets...from someone I went to grade school with."  Frankly, neither did I.  I mean, GRADE SCHOOL.  And someone not only from that school, but to whom I don't think I had any contact of any kind from 1987 until, well, about 2 weeks ago.  I mean, sometime in the last year we had reconnected on facebook, but in the barest of ways.  To hear the "ding!" of my iPad, and open up Messenger and see this?  It was shocking, and amazing.

So, first of all, I got to reconnect with someone who knew me at possibly my most obstreperous and we got to be adults about it.  I mean, who isn't to some degree a pain in the ass at the age of 13?  Now, with all this water under the bridge, it's been really nice to chat back and forth.  In any case, seeing the name James Murphy pop up with this?  It was so far out of left field, you couldn't even see the stadium if you looked back.

But then he dropped the real bomb.  It wasn't tickets.  It was the band's guest list.

I am going to be on the Guest List for a Foo Fighters show in a club set up for about 1000 people, not an arena or a stadium.   HOLY SHITBALLS (Sorry, Mom.  Sometimes, that's the only word that works for the Spaghetti Monster of emotions in my stomach.)

And here's that proof:

We confirmed our plans - childcare coverage (thank you, AGAIN, Mom!) - hotel room by the venue (yay, Marriott Rewards points!).  Took off after lunch yesterday, with an easy ride to Richmond.  We checked into the hotel, and walked the two blocks to the venue.  Got in the very short line for will call (all tickets were will call).  I went to the glass, said, "Hi, how are you?" to the nice man inside.  He answered, and then I said, "My name is Colleen Wright.  I'm on the band's guest list."

Let me just take a moment to let that sink in.

Okay, so he told me that the band wasn't quite done their guest list and to come back in 30 minutes.  We said okay, and walked off.  About 15 seconds later, I exclaimed, "Oh my God, that was the weirdest thing ever."  Lee asked why, and I said that I used to be the one making the guest list, not saying that I'm on it.  And I noticed something while I was talking.  My normal tone of voice had shifted.  I was speaking about 2 octaves higher than normal - a sure sign that my excitement had elevated to a dangerously unsustainable level.  We laughed about it, then went and had a drink at the hotel bar.  Went back.  Same story.  Went back to hotel, chilled.  Went back.  Same story.  Went to get ready for dinner, went back, no dice.  But we were assured that people on the band's guest list would be able to come get their wristbands at any time, whereas the crowdsourcing fund people had only until 5:30.  So we went to dinner, and were joined by my cousin and her son and my sister-in-law.  It was so much fun.  I'm going to post a link to the photos from the whole day below so you can see all this, btw.  Dinner was DELICIOUS, thanks Tarrant's Cafe!

Anyway, back to the venue...AGAIN.  This time, for real.  Got the wristbands.  Got in line, which extended all down Broad Street and then back 8th Street.  We were almost at the intersection of 8th and Marshall.  After about 30 minutes, the doors opened and the line filed in.  We grabbed beers and headed as close to the front as possible.  I took some pictures (or Lee did) and texted them to James, as he wanted proof that we made it in.  Posted them to facebook also, telling everyone I would see them after the show.  Phones off.  I was there to see and hear Foo Fighters, not to watch them through a tiny screen.  I can't dance and throw my hands up in the air while desperately gripping an iPhone I'd just gotten repaired.

The openers, a Richmond band called Avers, were good.  6 people, including a female bass player (YAY!).  Ultimately, they were like a combination of Mazzy Star and Smashing Pumpkins, though, and I can't remember a single thing about their music except that they all played well.  Just not my cuppa.  Too swirly-sounding, and muddled vocals.  They wouldn't pierce my Armor of Cool.

Then, after about a 30 minute set break, Foo Fighters came out.  The room exploded.  I have the setlist - it's in the photos further on.  I danced.  Threw my hands out.  Elbowed the girl in the head in front of me about 20 times.  Sang along.  So did everyone else.  It was amazing.  IT WAS HOT.  I made it 10 songs, and then I was so overheated, and underhydrated, that I had to leave the floor and head back up.  We went to the bar for water.  I must have looked bad, as two police officers and one staff member kept forcing water and orange juice at me.  One asked, "Do you need an ambulance?"  I practically leapt to my feet.  NO!  I'm fine.  Just dehydrated.

What a rookie.  I can't believe that happened.

When the encore came about, Dave came out talking, and randomly strumming his guitar.  I don't know what all he said, but I leaned into Lee and said, "That's the right sound." and he replied, "I know."  Then Dave said, clearly, "This is Times Like These," and started to play.  I just grabbed Lee's arm, gripped it tight, and stood there crying.  He played up to the bridge solo, and then the band came in and they rocked up the rest of it, at which point I started dancing again.  Wiped my tears, thanked Connor for coming with us for a few minutes, and then enjoyed the rest of the show.

On the way back to the hotel, we talked about the trip out of the crowd when I knew I was done there.  I told Lee they had offered me an ambulance.  He laughed and said, "I would have let them take you just to see how you reacted."  I leveled a stare at him and said, "That would have been the last thing you ever did."

Anyway, this one amazing night, courtesy of James from grade school.  The mysteries of this world are so huge, and so small, at the same time sometimes.  What are the chances that he and I came to know each other in the 80s, and then he went about his life and I mine for 25+ years separately.  Then a random facebook "people you know" notice sent us back into each other's spheres, but still we didn't really talk there.  Not until this.  And typing "thank you" over and over isn't enough.  I told him that we needed his address to send him a proper thank you and this was his response:

This, from the guy who took a different approach to yearbook signing in 8th grade.  Everyone else wrote things like, "Wow, what a great year!  Good luck in high school..." etc.  He wrote, "Well, this year was pretty dumb.  Stay bossy and ERA - it kind of suits you.  See you at Ursuline I guess."

I never saw him at Ursuline.  I never saw him in high school, or college, or post-college.  But he saw me pretty well there in 8th grade, based on the above.  I'm indebted to him, and to his friend who made the connection for me.

I truly love seeing how far out the concentric ripples of life are carrying me.  I'm ready to be done with 40 on this note.  Bring on 41. With friends like you all, I know I can make it through whatever they throw at me.

Photos are here:

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Been a long time...

Back in my pre-married days, I had allergies.  I still have them, but I ignored them for a long time.  My allergist is awesome.  I went to see him because I was having trouble with my throat.  He helped me.  More than at least getting my throat to be somewhat useful, he also was my favorite doctor.  I could get extremely grumpy before an appointment with him, but I knew that I would be in a better mood after I saw him.  It just worked.

I stopped going and ceased the shots when Connor was diagnosed.  I went in to see him, and told him that this was it, because Connor had so many appointments that I would always be cancelling the shots, and I had learned the hard way that not maintaining a strict schedule for your allergy shots led to bad reactions (am I right, Chris??).  He said to me, "It's okay that you are breaking up with me."  I laughed, and said, "If I ever need to come back, I'm coming back."

I needed to go back.  I called and made the appointment this week, and went to see him this morning.  As I went through the triage with his nurse, he suddenly walked in and said, "You won't believe this..."

It had been 10 years - I wasn't even sure he would remember me.

He went on to say, "Just yesterday I had a patient in the room next door whose child has an undiagnosed neurological problem, and I was telling him about a patient who had a child with neurological issues who was in a band, and did all this cool stuff - gone on tour with the USO and all...and then I looked at my patient list for today and there you were."

He remembered me.  He then said, "Okay, I gotta go finish that other appointment.  It was just too weird not to come tell you this. Back in a few minutes..." and walked out.


Man, I love this doctor.  I'm so glad I insisted on seeing him and  not one of his partners.

Anyway, he came back, and one of his first questions was beautifully phrased after he heard me say, "He had a diagnosis, which morphed into another one."  He said, "Has your son passed?"  It doesn't sound beautifully phrased, but when I have had to say what happened, a hundred times this year already when someone asks after him and they don't know, it is a welcome relief to just be able to say, "Yes." and not explain further.  It gives me a chance to swallow the lump back into my throat and compose myself.  Long sentences don't allow that.

Anyway, I have to go get allergy tested again.  NUTS.  But he gave me prescriptions, too, which led me back to CVS.  I walked up to the counter and there was my pharmacist, and I handed over the scrips.  She typed a bunch, asked for my card, etc.  When we were done, she said, "It's good to see you again," and smiled.  I smiled back, finally brave enough to speak to her again, and said, "It's good to see you, too."

I had to buy something on my way out, and the clerk said, "Girl!  We haven't seen you in so long!  Where have you been?"  I swallowed again, and then said, "I don't have as many prescriptions to fill now."  True answer, easier to say.  She said, "You don't need prescriptions to fill to come in and say hi."

It's rainy, it's cooling down, and I am spinning towards the end of my 40th year.  But today was still pretty good.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


So everywhere today, you are seeing and hearing "Never Forget."  I don't forget, and I can't forget.  But this year, for the first time, this day isn't nearly as bad for me as it has been.

September 11 was the first truly impactful event of my adult life.  I was still a child then Challenger exploded, and my reaction to it was childish and appropriate (maybe?  I honestly remember only that my initial though was that the teacher who told us was kidding, and then being sad.  Otherwise - blank slate).  It doesn't sit in me, peeking around the corner every once in a while to remind me about sadness and how little control we have in our world.

But 9/11 - it changed us all, in enormous and minute ways.  It settled on us, reminding us daily of how small we are in the world, and how precious our lives are.  It replaced sunny optimism with fear and anxiety.  It tore families apart as our country ended up engaging in wars halfway around the world with mixed results at best.  It deepened the divide between political leanings and created a chasm that few can comfortably stand astride, wanting to have a middle ground.

It used to be that when I looked back, I thought about how it almost ruined our carefully planned wedding.  How self-centered of me.  Now, I look back and think about how much more poignant it made the wedding, because we all so deeply needed something positive to happen, and it was so meaningful to me that many of our guests traveled in a more complicated way and world to come celebrate with us.  Seeing each of them, hugging them, telling them how glad we were to see them, that they had come - it was truly meant.  Everyone knew it, and probably felt it.

It was a pretty good party.  And it showed me that you cannot stop the good in the world either.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


Since Drew started elementary school a few years ago, he has almost always been driven to school because Tucker needed to be dropped off at his school right after (and much further away than I - or he - could walk).  This is changing this year, and no one is happy about it.  Well, I am happy about it, but neither of the boys are.

So yesterday, I posted that the bus drove by on 26th Street as we left, and how bittersweet that was for me.  The first year in 9 that we haven't had Connor out at the end of the driveway, ready for the first day of school, was not easy.  But we had the excitement of Tucker starting kindergarten to help divert our attention.

So we walk, and they complain, but I know it will get better.  It was made easier on the way home through 90+ degree weather by Mrs. Smythers, who distributed popsicles to people (and dyed my kids hands blue - but that's better than wilting children halfway home)!

This morning, the boys lobbied hard for me to drive them to school.  No can do, boyos.  Get your sneakers on and your backpacks ready!  Want to walk up Potomac Street?  YES!  (Sometimes, incentives are that simple and satisfying).  What we weren't expecting was to encounter our neighbors outside waiting for the bus, and us watching it roll right by the street.  It's their first year in the system, and their sweet, happy son is headed to school for the first time.  I immediately whipped out my phone and dialed the Transportation Department and gave him the phone, as well as the Route number I'd seen yesterday.  It took about 10 minutes of talking/holding to get answers, none of which were satisfactory to me, and I was only listening to one half of the conversation.  Turns out the bus that went by yesterday shouldn't have gone by at all - it should have gone up a block earlier and picked up a new student.  But it didn't.

The boys played with the new student, and once the phone call was done we kept going, though I had to carry/speedwalk with Tucker to school, I managed to get them there on time, but only barely.

Now I'm gathering contacts for our neighbors of advocates so they can ensure that the bus makes it to their home each day as it should.

I can't escape the bus.  It feels good though to have this experience I can share with parents who are new to this element of the system.  I guess it's one way I can channel the feelings, and give back in a direct fashion.