After the last two days of cold, rain, and even some snow flurries, I dressed in layers. I’d be outside all day, so looking cute was going to have to take a backseat to being warm.
The morning of the first Chicago concert dawned bright and sunny, so that was a relief.
L needed to head to work very early, so by 8am I was at the train station, waiting for the Metra into the city.
I’d slept a combined total of approximately 7 hours in the last 2 days. I felt great, full of energy and anticipation….until I sat down on the train. Headphones in, MP3 player rocking, I drifted off pretty much right away.
CHICAGO, DAY TWO
Earlier, I said I’d love to go back to all these places one day and take pictures.
This one moment, I wish I could just go back in time and capture it as it was then.
I woke up from my nap a short time later, and I can barely describe the moment.
My favourite Lindsey song, “Turn It On”, was starting to play through my headphones. I was looking out the window at a brilliant sunrise, silhouetting the distinctive skyline of Chicago in the distance.
And I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of…uh, feelings.
I told you I can barely describe it.
I was so filled with the, not even sense but knowledge that something incredible was coming that I could hardly breathe. It felt like the highest joy, the most anticipation, and the strongest sense of purpose I had ever experienced, all at once and for absolutely no reason.
As quickly as it came on, it passed, but I couldn’t go back to my nap after that. I watched Chicago grow closer in the bright October sun and let my mind wander.
What was that all about?!
I headed straight for the venue, arriving around 11:30 in the morning. I was the first one there! I sat down on the sidewalk, huddled into my jacket and hoodie, and waited. N, T and K arrived around 1, complete with a portable CD player and snacks, followed shortly by our online friends P and C. I had met P only briefly in Nashville earlier that month, and hadn’t met C at all yet, so it was wonderful to finally put faces to names and get to spend time together.
We wound up in 2nd and 3rd row for this one, despite being front of the line, as some guests of the band were brought in ahead of time. The show was amazing, as usual, but it’s a darn good thing I had decided to stay–I didn’t get close enough to play the guitar!!
This venue was a little odd, in that there seemed to only be one way in and out.
Through the front doors.
We took a photo together while we waited, debating on what we wanted to do. We had heard stories of the backing band hanging out in their hotel bars, and we were feeling brave. We kinda wanted to give it a shot.
Before we could decide, Brett Tuggle was the first to exit the venue. I had a birthday card for a friend who is a huge fan of is, that I was hoping he would sign, so I rushed over to him.
“Hey!!!” Brett exclaimed, grabbing me in a huge hug. “How are you??”
I had never met him before. Yet he treated me like an old friend from day one.
He signed the card, asked how I liked the show, the set list. He then asked if there were any songs I wished they were doing instead.
“Turn It On!” I exclaimed. “That’s my favourite song, I even have lyrics from it tattooed on my back.”
“I wanted to do that one too!”
“Well you tell Lindsey it’s somebody’s favourite, and he should do it!”
“You should tell him, he’ll listen to you,” Brett replied, kindly.
“Oh my gosh, I’m never gonna get the chance, you gotta tell him for me.”
Lindsey came outside, signed a few autographs, and then the band left for parts unknown.
We stood outside, trying to make our final decision.
Then we got a text. A friend of ours had found out where the band was staying. The decision got real easy real fast.
Panic! Run! Everybody to the vehicle!!!
We ran to the parking garage, barely slowing down to ask the attendant for directions to the hotel in question. I hastily scrawled them on my ever-present notebook.
I was curious the other day, so I tried to follow them on Google maps. Surprisingly, I can still figure out what I meant, but it’s obvious I was in a hurry.
I went inside to try and figure out where the bar was while my friends parked the car. There were no signs, and I was nervous about asking the concierge, as I wasn’t sure that the general public is allowed to visit a hotel bar.
As I searched for a sign, a girl I recognized from the line-up earlier walked in, and came straight over to me.
“Is the 7th floor up or down?”
“What?” I blinked. There was no way I heard that right.
“Is the 7th floor up, or down? I’m meeting these guys in this band at the bar, and it’s on the 7th floor.”
I blinked again.
I didn’t want a billion people bombarding the band. I wanted my friends and I to have a shot at talking to them.
I’m going to hell.
I looked at the downward spiralling staircase in the corner, then at the elevator. Back to the staircase.
“It…could be down there?”
“That makes sense, thank you!”
I watched as she scampered off down the stairs, eyes wide.
My friends arrived then, and I quickly ushered them into the elevator.
“It’s on the 7th floor, go go go!”
“How did you find–”
“IT DOESN’T MATTER.”
Not my finest hour. But also not the finest hour of the poor girl who thought the 7th floor could be downstairs from ground level, either…!
We got upstairs to find P and C already ensconced in a booth.
We sat down with them for a few minutes, before T and I decided to go see what the drink menu and prices were like. We headed towards the bar.
Suddenly, T turned on her heel and spun towards me, landing an inch in front of my face.
And then she was gone. I didn’t understand what she said, she said it low and fast. She had taken off back to the table, and I thought she forgot her wallet or something.
Then I saw it.
Lindsey’s at the bar.
In a fog, I ran back to the table, where T was already hauling people out one side of the u-shaped booth. I took the other side.
“Lindsey’s at the bar. Lindsey’s at the bar! Lindsey is at the bar.”
We were all in disbelief. Lindsey doesn’t drink, at all. We hadn’t expected this. At all. But there he was, at the bar, talking to Brett.
We trotted back over to the bar en masse. T and I tried to be casual, and went up to the bar. I craned my neck to try and see prices.
“I only have $20 to last me til Friday but I could probably afford like…”
“Hey!” A very familiar voice called out behind me. “The gang’s all here!”
I turned around quickly. “Well look who it is!”
And that’s how all 8 of us met Lindsey at a hotel bar.
Lindsey and Brett chatted with us for quite some time. This is another of those things that I remember in far too much detail, and I could go on forever, but essentially, they were both incredibly kind. Lindsey asked us all what we did for a living (my response, after my friends’ very professional positions, was “I work in retail, so I’m just lucky”), and we spoke about all the traveling we had all been doing and random tales of the road.
After awhile, Brett caught my eye, then spoke above us all.
“Hey, I have a question for you all,” he announced, still looking at me. “What song would you like to see this guy add to the set list?”
“Turn It On!!!” I hollered, and Brett grinned.
My own words rang in my head. “You tell him for me, I’m never gonna get the chance.”
He had given me my chance.
“We were halfway to working that one up!” Lindsey responded, those big blue eyes wide, incredulous. “Okay, we’ll do it!”
“Wait, what? Oh God, don’t do it just on my account.” I shook my head, then grinned and added, “I mean, if you did, I could just die happy, but no pressure!”
Lindsey smiled and replied, “no, no, we’ll do it. We’re gonna do it.”
There was so, so much more. We joked around with him, with Lindsey freakin’ Buckingham, for maybe 10 minutes total…it wasn’t just one of those surreal moments that feels long but is over in seconds. He truly took a long time out of his night to talk with us.
When he finally had to go, my friends and I just stared at each other in disbelief.
What. Just. Happened?
We felt like we’d been part of something, something very special and something we needed to keep to ourselves. We didn’t talk about it online, on social media or the message boards. To this day, this feels like breaking a pact of sorts, but it’s been 12 years and multiple tours, and I’m hoping that the spell is broken now.
I didn’t have time to revel in it too much, because I also had to figure out how I was going to get back to L’s house. This was no easy feat now that we were at a hotel we never planned to be at, in an unfamiliar part of town, far later than I thought we’d be out, in the days before iPhone and Android gave you instant access to all things directional.
I called a friend in Toronto, who looked up directions and train schedules, and determined if we left in about 10 minutes or less, I could probably catch the last train.
We left shortly after, drove fast through downtown Chicago, and I hopped out at Ogilvie Transportation Center and ran like the wind.
I ran without slowing down, on my bad knee, somehow instinctively finding my way through a long hallway, the shuttered train station, up two huge escalators. I burst out onto the platform, but couldn’t tell in the sea of out of service trains in for the night, which one was still operating.
“Where is platform 2?!” I yelled to a nearby worker.
“Down there,” he called, pointing to my right, “But you’ll need to hurry!”
Before he could finish speaking I was already racing for the train.
The Metra used a tri-tone chime to signal the closing of the doors.
My right foot hit the first step.
My left foot hit the second step.
My right foot hit the floor of the train and my left swung in after, as the doors closed behind me, like a scene out of an action movie.
I wheezed, and a man stared in confusion at the bedraggled groupie who’d made the last train by a split second.
I made my way to a seat and fell apart, shaking, sobbing.
This wasn’t just some stroke of luck. This wasn’t just a fan having the coolest experience of their life.
This was my When Pigs Fly moment. I knew it, but I couldn’t grasp it. It would take another day or so before I could finally wrap my head around it all.
But ultimately, I can trace everything good in my life now back to this night, this moment.
And to think I was supposed to have set out for home immediately after the show! I never should have even been there. It was only possible because something told me to stay. It was just meant to be.
And I still had one more day to go!
To be continued…