Wednesday, February 01, 2006

A Great Forty-Eight (Part 2, for real this time)

Okay, "LOST" is a rerun tonight, and I have 40 minutes until "Project Runway", so it's time for me to get on with this story. (And yes, I am pathetic - I measure time in TV episodes. So sue me.)

When I abandoned the thread for illness and exploding blood vessels, we were cruising up La Cienega, the Sasquatch behind the wheel. I had taken up residence in the back of the Impala, as both of my traveling companions are tall guys. I felt bad that I'd stuck the Squatch with driving into L.A., but that was the luck of the draw. It was, honestly, a really easy trek to the hotel. Straight, a right, and a left. Driving down Sunset, we passed the House of Blues - our destination for the evening - and were sad to see that Thomas (Dolby) had not been put on the marquee for Friday night. Eh, screw 'em. He was our main reason for being there. A local friend, Pirate Twin, had made arrangements for flowers and a bottle of champagne to be delivered to Dolby's dressing room before the show - just a token of our appreciation and utter excitement about finally getting to see him perform.

Maybe I should sidetrack here briefly. I'm sure there are people who would roll their eyes and say, "Uh, aren't you a little old for this? A middle-aged woman getting excited about seeing a middle-aged English guy perform some old songs?"

In my opinion? Nope. Never will be too old for this. No way.

Here's the scoop: back in high school, when I was living in Moline, Illinois, Farm Implement Capital of the World, we only had a couple of crappy pop radio stations and no access to live pop/rock music. You would have to drive to Chicago to experience live tuneage, and, frankly, none of our parents was about to let the kids trek up there for shows. Truthfully, I was living in such a little dark bubble, the thought that pop musicians played concerts seriously hadn't passed through my mind. (Can you say "sheltered"?) I got most of my music from the public library: Elvis Costello, Joe Jackson, Nick Lowe - they became part of my life courtesy of scratched-up LPs that I recorded onto tapes and took everywhere with me. (My brother had given me a Walkman Model 1 back in 1980, and it was like a religious relic to me.)

Somehow, my friend HoyaMeb had discovered Thomas Dolby. I can only imagine it was via MTV (back in the days when they played videos), which was our only decent access to music off of the Top 40 pop dial. I still have the Memorex cassette she made for me of "The Golden Age of Wireless". (Sorry, Thomas - I know how you feel about the illegal sharing of your music - I was 16, it was 1982 - the Time Before File Sharing, and I think I've made up for it by buying virtually everything you've ever put out, in every format imaginable!) From that moment, Dolby became my near constant musical companion.

In college, I had an enormous poster of his head over my bed. (Which scared the crap out of my roommate - I remember the poster falling off the wall one night - damn discount blutack - and hearing my roommate, in a sleepy fog, screaming, "GIANT HEAD! GIANT HEAD!" That was beautiful.) I poured over the bins at the used record store right off campus, looking for Dolby bits and bobs - anything new, anything I could afford on a student's budget.

Then, at the start of my sophomore year in college, something happened. Walking to a friend's dorm room across campus, I heard Dolby pouring from the doorway of a neighboring room. It was the lair of the Sasquatch and Gonzomantis. I stopped there, and the rest is history. Twenty years later, we're still friends and cruising down Sunset Boulevard, in anticipation of hearing Dolby play for the first time ever.

As ridiculous as it might sound to a casual observer, I owe Thomas Dolby a great deal. He may not know it, really, but it's true. One of my dearest friends introduced me to his tunes, and his music has led me to meet some more of my closest friends on the whole damn planet. For that, in itself, I'm grateful to him.

Just in recent months, he's come to my rescue without so much as a word. It's true. It was a discussion of Thomas Dolby music that led a marvelous National Public Radio producer to my blog and got me a gig doing radio commentary. Most of the friends who kept me sane (and off of bridges and cliffs) over the past year are all Dolby friends. And I've recently made another cool friend - who has been encouraging me to finally write a book about my weird life in Russia - via the LiveJournal of another Dolby person.

I'm not a freaky superfan, mind you. (Although Dolby has some of those - the kind that stalked his parents and posted his home address online. And to them, I say: seek therapy, people! Really.) I'm just someone who first appreciated the music, and then the decent, friendly human being behind it, and has, quite amazingly, made some wonderful connections through it all. And, after a horrid year, this trip to Los Angeles to hear and see the man was like a pilgrimage - sort of a final exhalation, a cleansing breath - closing out a bad year and ringing in a time of promise. And it's reassuring when the man on stage is someone with whom you've exchanged Christmas cards, e-mail, and hugs. A simple connection when you've felt disconnected for so long.

I'm sorry. I did not mean to take such a long detour. It's just that... this trip really meant something to me, on several levels. It was more emotional than just going out to hear someone play some music. I hope it resonates with you because I'm not doing justice to the emotion in my words.

And, great googly moogly, I still don't have us at the damn hotel. Someone smack me!

(Part One of this unintential epic is here and Part Two-ish is here.)


Claire said...

Smack. (well you asked for it ;)

That blutack stuff was awful no matter what brand you bought. My posters were always creeping down my walls.

Your emotional connection to this journey came across very well. It even makes the 12 hrs flying for 48 hrs in LA make deeper sense- sort of changing my response from ok to aha!

Sounds like it was well worth it. Look forward to the rest.

Washington Cube said...

Interesting what this trip has triggered off in you.

Cyn said...

There will be a part 3, right? Or are you saving it for your memoir which will subsequently be chosen for Oprah's book club; and when you are rich and famous we will all be saying, "I knew her virtually when..."

Merujo said...

Claire - thanks, I sincerely needed someone to smack some direct back into me!

Cubette - Do you mean set off inspiration-wise or illness-wise? Because, it's done both. I'm inspired, and it appears that my head is going to explode. I'm still thinking about photographing my awful eye. (Bleech.)

Cyn - Honest to god, there will be a part three, where we actually get to the hotel and everything. You'd think I'd gone for a month at this rate...

Washington Cube said...

Instead of posting the eye pic, drop a little poetry on your blog today for Reya's poetry project: