MARCH 10, 2016
Reluctantly, I stood up from the break room table. Lunch hour over, I picked up my phone and started towards the door.
“Well, I should check that email before I go back out,” the procrastinator in me thought. I stopped, clicked the Mail icon.
ULTIMATE FAN EXPERIENCE, my inbox proclaimed. The sender line read Don Henley.
I’ve never clicked anything so fast.
I don’t know what I thought it would be, but an all-inclusive trip to a Dallas, Texas resort with a Q&A, photo op, and mini-concert with the famously private Eagle wasn’t it. Yet that’s exactly what the email was offering me.
Immediately, I sent a screen shot to Mr Coyote with a frantic, heartbroken text.
“WHY NOW???? WHY WHEN I ABSOLUTELY CAN’T GO?!?!”
Mr Coyote’s text came back just as quickly. “GO.”
Walking back to my office now, I sighed loudly.
“What’s wrong?” My manager asked.
“Oh, it’s okay,” I replied, sighing again. “I just got this email with this amazing meet and greet package to meet my one favourite artist I’ve never met, who never does meet and greets…and I can’t go.”
“Why not?!?” Manager exclaimed. “That’s so cool, you should do it!”
“We’re buying a house! And we have to pay for the freaking wedding! In like 3 months!” I moaned. “Plus this thing is in, like, 6 weeks, it goes on sale Saturday, I don’t have the time off and I think somebody else is off that weekend. And Mr Coyote is telling me to go, and there’s just no way, and that makes it even worse!”
“Go!” Manager responded. “Oh my God, go! We’ll figure it out, somebody can cover you!”
I got back to my desk with my mind spinning, but still convinced I couldn’t do it. I hadn’t even looked at the price yet, but I knew it was going to be, um…high.
“I won’t even consider it if it’s over $2000,” I told Mr Coyote.
MARCH 12, 2016
“OKAY, I’ll be in my office buying this trip—NOBODY BUG ME until I come out!!!”
It went on sale at 9am Eastern. By 9:04am, the confirmation had landed in my inbox.
I was going.
It was $1995.
APRIL 30, 2016
I shivered as I stepped out the door of my friend’s house in Toronto. It was -1°C at 3:30am; 12 hours later, it would be 82°F, so it seemed wiser to dress for that.
At least, it seemed wiser before I stepped out the door in my jean jacket, short sleeved dress, and sockless feet.
Taxi to the airport, then wait, wait, wait. And worry, worry, worry.
It hadn’t been a good week. Something happened at work—essentially, I took the fall for something that wasn’t my fault—and it was entirely likely that I would return the next week to find myself unemployed. The purchase of our first house loomed, and we’d closed the deal, which meant we had a legal obligation to buy. But I worked for the bank that held my pending mortgage, so losing my job there also meant losing that, and entering a legal tailspin. To make matters even worse, we were buying from a close family member who was counting on the sale for their own purchase.
The trip was prepaid, so there was nothing to gain by staying home, but it still wasn’t a great setup for a relaxing vacation. I was close to my breaking point. I figured I wouldn’t even be able to enjoy the trip, and I very seriously considered calling the whole thing off.
Plus, I’m scared to fly at the best of times.
And then you add the tornados.
The flight to my transfer point, Minneapolis, was uneventful.
I was able to concentrate on worrying about other things, like the job/mortgage situation, and whether I was even doing the right thing taking this trip.
(You thought an uneventful flight meant I wouldn’t worry? Hah! I am Kooky Coyote, Overthinker Extraordinare.)
Shortly after taking off for Dallas, we started to bounce around a little bit. I haven’t had to deal with a ton of turbulence in the air, and any time it has happened, it’s been over quickly.
Not this time.
The weather had looked ominous for a few days, with a line of tornado-warned storms occupying most of the Midwest. I was really hoping to get lucky and miss the worst of it.
But again, this was not my lucky week.
A little bit of turbulence gave way to a lot, which then gave way to a live reenactment of an episode of Mayday. I tried the “look to the flight attendants” trick, but that only works if they’re not worried. They were; anxious glances were exchanged as they stopped drink service and sat down in any available seat. Often when I feel like we must be rolling around out of control, I look towards the front of the plane and it’s generally always level. This time, it really was angling sharply down, then up, then down again. Air pockets? Not sure. Whatever it was, in my already stressed out state, it was too much for me.
You always hear the worst sob stories on the news after a disaster. I could just hear my own headline. “Just weeks before her wedding, she died tragically in the crash…”
I’ve always been able to hide my fear, but not this time. Eventually my loud sighs of terror (maybe even a whimper or two) and shaking hands noisily flipping pages in my magazine caught the attention of my seat mate, who was kind enough to chat with me for a bit to try to calm me down.
The captain came on the PA at one point, apologized for the bumpy ride, and said he was going to attempt to change course to get us out of the line of storms we must have found ourselves smack dab in the middle of.
After a couple hours of the world’s tallest roller coaster, I watched the solid line of clouds give way to clear skies and farmland views.
I went back to my regularly scheduled overthinking.
Beyond just the job situation, I really wondered if this trip would be worth it. Some of the comments on the trip company, Runaway Tours’ social media, were pretty discouraging.
“It’s just a cattle call!” “You don’t get to talk to the artist unless you get picked and only 4-5 people get picked anyway!” “It’s too expensive!”
Truthfully, that didn’t really bother me. Before booking it, I asked myself if I was okay with paying that much strictly for a 1 minute photo op, similar to the one with Glenn Frey in 2006, and I was. I’d done meet and greets before, and knew friends who’d gone to conventions. I was familiar with the line up—hi-smile-FLASH-coolthanksbye!—rush out format. It was worth it to me.
When Carl Wilson of the Beach Boys died, I made a promise to myself that I’d find the rest of my musical heroes, meet them, and thank them for their influence on my life. Even if all I could do was scream out THANKS DON! a split second before the camera fired, that was enough for me.
Don was the last one, the only one I hadn’t met yet. And though I had something I’d always wanted to say, I knew it was not the kind of thing you stood up at a Q&A to talk about. It wasn’t a Q; just a statement about my favourite song of his, “My Thanksgiving,” and I had no intention of…stating it. It was a bucket list thing, at this point. There were 3 things I had left to do: buy a house (happening in June), get married (happening in July), and meet Don Henley.
So although I was still occasionally turning the “will the price be worth it?” question over in my mind, it wasn’t really that which had me nervous.
Nope. It was Don himself.
As the song goes, “he had a nasty reputation as a cruel dude…”
He just…does. People don’t like him. And some people have not had great experiences when they’ve actually had the chance to meet him.
However, I reasoned, people also said the same about Glenn Frey. And I met him, and he was a sweetheart to me and my friends.
As a writer (a hobbyist writer, but still a writer) and a sometime lyricist myself (angsty 20’s mostly), I theorized that some of his lyrics were so genuine, and heartfelt, that there had to be more to him than what people outside his immediate circle see. And we seem to be mad at the world in the same ways, for the same things.
More concretely, I’d met much of his backing band years before, during Glenn Frey’s solo tour in 2006, and they were lovely. I feel like good people surround themselves with good people, so surely they wouldn’t have stuck around so long if he was as bad as people say?
And everyone has people that don’t like them, especially in business situations—hell, I found myself in that position, that was part of the work issue.
This is not to romanticize a man I’d never met, or invalidate everything I’d heard to the contrary. I may have my heroes, and I may be fond of them, but I know they’re imperfect. And above all else, I know I don’t know them—they could be literally anybody. They’re just humans. I go to see—and hope to meet—my favourites because it means something to me, not because I think they’re flawlessly special.
I was prepared for, perhaps, a curt meeting at best. Literally “Thanks Don!”—silence—photo—smile and walk away. I was hoping to be wrong about that, but more so, I was hoping that that “nasty reputation” wouldn’t be right.
So, as I listened to his music on shuffle and the plane winged its way towards his hometown, I worried that the Don I’d meet would not be the Don I hoped he was. I worried that I would not, actually, feel the cost was worth it, especially in my current predicament.
I worried about my job, the mortgage, and the implications of losing it all.
Every so often, the weather helpfully nudged the plane to remind me to worry about my impending death and subsequent CNN coverage.
Eventually, though, we blessedly hit the ground as the result of a controlled descent at the DFW airport. In a gift of awesome timing of the shuffle function, my iPod played “My Thanksgiving” as we taxied to the gate.
I walked out of the plane, stood in relieved disbelief in the terminal for a second, was struck by how extremely flat Texas is—it’d been a while since I’d been in the Midwest—and then trekked out to go find a taxi to the hotel.
Every step I took, somehow, felt further and further from all of those airplane thoughts. I have no idea why or how to explain it, maybe I just dissociated/had a very wonderful mental break, but by the time I arrived at the Gaylord Texan Resort, there was no work situation, no legal, financial and familial ruin. There was no “bubble-headed bleach blonde” talking about my tragic death “with a gleam in her eye.”
There was only Dallas, and a dream about to come true.
This is the first in a 5 part series. Click here for part two!