It’s Still There

I heard from him the other day.

Not unsolicited, of course.  No, I’ve hardly ever heard from him out of the blue like that.  Even when I was working for him, emails from Rick Springfield only appeared in my box with the inevitable re: in front of whatever subject title I had been writing about.  The emails were never long.  I learned, after we started hosting online chats with him, that he was a hunt and peck typist, which I suppose accounts for some of the brevity.

Still, it was a thrill to see his email address in my inbox just the same.  Even though it’s been years since I’ve worked for him.  Years since I’ve even been in the same room with him.  Why is that?  Most of the people I knew who were avid fans at the time of my work for Rick are still in the mix, posting like crazy on message boards or Facebook or the relic Yahoo email groups that were our lifeblood way back when.  They still are going to his shows because he still tours all of the time, nearly every weekend.   They fly, or they drive insane distances.

I get it.  I used to as well.  As I was looking back on some of my old photos after my trip to Michigan a few weeks back I marveled at how much I’d traveled.  At the time it felt like I was constrained, never as able to go to shows as often as my girlfriends who were fans.  They didn’t have young children, or their husbands were more able to care for the kids in their absences.  Still, as I ticked through the places I’d been, I chuckled.  Dubuque, IA.  Las Vegas, NV.  Rockford, IL.  Columbus, OH.  Chicago, IL.  Tucson, AZ.

But I don’t anymore.  Things are different now.  I don’t work for him anymore, and while I’ve come to peace with how that all shook out, it’s something I carry with me, still.  It definitely put out some of the fire I had towards seeing him, being a part of the madness and mayhem that is the fan experience.

Still, when I looked through those old photos, one leapt out at me.  The moment it captured, one of the first moments I’d ever shared with Rick.  It was after a charity event, where he’d sung about his dead father.  I’d used my mother’s inheritance to attend.   It all came together, his loss and my loss and I thought:  my mother made this happen for me.  She led me to this man who had been my unknowing savior during my teen years.  And I told him so.

At some point during that conversation, this photo was snapped.

(of course I blurred my face….couldn’t actually put a real photo of myself here)

Looking at it again, after all of these years, I couldn’t help but be amazed.  At the intensity, the beauty, the essence of what passed between us captured in it.  And so, even though I haven’t emailed Rick in probably a year or more, I uploaded the photo into an email and sent it along to him.  I told him that I had found this photo and was moved to share it.  How wonderful that moment was.  And that despite everything, I would never forget how wonderful he was to me, that day and many of the days that followed.

I won’t say what words he used in his response, but I will say that they brought a very big smile to my face.   For whatever it’s worth, even after everything, there is still something special about him.  And I am grateful, every day, that i was fortunate enough to live out that one, crazy, teenage dream.

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Looking Through The Window

I don’t know what made me think of him last night.

R is out of town, as he often is, and I was having myself a little Grey’s Anatomy marathon on my computer.  Me, myself and a bottle of wine hunkered down after the children went to bed, and I fantasized about happy endings with my own personal McDreamy.  I know you’re reminding me I’m married and all that, and you’re right.  I have my own real life version of a happy ending with a good man.  That being said, I know that it’s TV and it’s not real, but sometimes it just is easier to imagine that had life taken this turn or that turn that I living a completely different life with an insanely handsome man who knows how to use hair product in addition to being sensitive to my dark and twisty needs.

When I opened up my computer screen this morning, my internet browser screen was still open.  And I realized that I had drunk Googled a few people in my wine induced haze late last night (I also woke up wearing my jeans and the turtleneck I’d worn all day yesterday; don’t judge me).  Thank goodness I hadn’t drunk Facebooked or worse, drunk emailed, or the grandaddy of them all, drunk dialed.  Although I’ve already done that with this person before.

I’d searched for Dennis.

I don’t know what made me think of looking for him last night.  Maybe it was because the episode I was watching (Season Finale of Season 4 in case you’re a fan) had to do with kids in high school.  Dennis defined my high school experience, my kind English teacher who gave me the attention I craved while nursing the wounds (both literal and figurative) that forced my family into lockdown during my teen years.  I harbored a not so secret crush as I lobbied to be his favorite student during my high school years and his over achieving mentee during my college ones.  As we transitioned from teacher student to colleagues, our relationship changed as well, eventually turning into an affair.  I swayed dangerously back and forth between guilt and full on life fulfilling love until I forced myself to stop seeing him.  We remained friends and kept in touch sporadically until I moved away from my hometown in 1999; I haven’t contacted him since.

I think about him though, sometimes.  And in these days of 21 century technology, that means I consult Dr. Google to see if I can find him.  A phone call after all of this time seems so intrusive, but I always think that a casual email would be a fine way to reconnect.  Or a Facebook message, as so many have done with me over the last few years. And each time I have consulted The Big G, I find bupkus.  Nada.  Nothing.  Not even a random comment on a message board.  Which seems odd to me, always, and then I go back to my life and don’t think about it again for weeks or months or longer.

But for some reason he popped into my head last night.  And when I opened up my computer this morning, I saw something different.  I saw his name listed on a cover band website.  The name, an unusual one, was right.  The location was right.  And sure enough, there were photos.

It was him.

He looks about what I’d expect him to look like 13 years after not having seen him; he was 22 years my senior, which puts him now in his sixties.  He plays guitar.  There are photos of him singing, playing, in a recording studio.  There he is, alive and well, and living life…just like me.  One of the photos is of him and his wife, sitting together after a gig.  Smiles, his arm around her.  Happy looking.

I’m glad he’s happy.  And frankly, I’m glad he’s still married.  I’m glad he is still that good but flawed human being.  At least I think he is.  I don’t know, of course.  And that’s the rub.  Because now I’ve seen him.  And now I want to know things.  Like if I was the only one or were there others after me.  Or if he ever told his wife about us.  Or if he now thinks what we had was a mistake.  Or if he randomly Googles me from time to time.

Which is all insane.  Because all of that, it’s all about me.  He’s gone on to live a good life; so have I.  I don’t need his validation and approval and attention anymore.  These days I know who I am and I am (mostly) secure in my self worth and place in the world.  Why do I need to hear that he remembers me?  And thinks well of me when he does?

I can see him now, through the window.  A one way glass, he doesn’t know I can see him.  But I can.  I can see where the last thirteen years have brought him to in his life.   So why I am I struggling with this?

I can’t decide if it’s enough to just look through the window.

Part of me wants to knock on the door and see what happens when he answers.

Why isn’t it enough just to look through the window?

Seeing KV Again

I parked my car in front of my friend Erin’s little bungalow and sat there for a minute.  I looked up at the sweet little home she’d bought for herself last year, and saw the lights twinkling inside.  I had been on the road for an hour, since she lived south of me in the suburbs beyond the state line in Kentucky; why was I hesitating now?

Erin had invited me over for a “Living Room Show” with Kyle Vincent.  I’d followed him for ages, and became friendly with him  seven years ago when we finally met before a show.  He’d been bubbling under the surface of the music business ever since, with sporadic touring to showcase his CD releases.  I’d seen him last in 2001, when I’d dragged Erin with me to his appearance at our local Borders.  She’d become hooked, and had been a fan ever since.

But lately Kyle had been doing something really different to promote his records:  instead of waiting to be booked in clubs or other appearances, he instead allowed fans to book him directly into their homes for small, intimate shows.  I had to admit it was kind of genius.  He had a very dedicated and loyal fan base, and so now he was touring the country playing living rooms filled with people much more likely to walk away fans than if he was an opener for some other act at a club somewhere.

And so Erin had jumped at the chance to see him again, in the comfort of her own home, with her closest friends there to be part of the experience. She’d recently gotten an upright blond piano at Goodwill, and paid more to have it tuned for the performance than she had to purchase it.  Several of our close mutual friends were coming, and we were all going to have a slumber party after the show was over.  It all was perfectly arranged and should be a great time.

Which is why I couldn’t explain at all why I felt glued to the car seat.  Why wasn’t I more excited at the prospect of seeing Kyle again?  We had been friends over email for seven years now, though in the last few since I’d been working for Rick we hadn’t talked all that much.  I supposed I felt a little guilty, wondering if he felt as if I’d gotten too busy with the big rock star to maintain a friendship with him.  Of course there was also the raging crush I’d always had on him, that didn’t make sense since I was married and now had three children.  Would it all be silly and awkward or friendly and easy?  I just wasn’t sure.

Finally, I eased myself out of the minivan and walked up the stairs to her front door.  As I knocked, I looked around in time to see him arrive:  Kyle and a young girl in a small rental car pulling up to the curb.  He unfolded himself from the front seat and stood there for a moment, eyes adjusting to the dim light of evening, roaming up and down the scene.  His gaze landed on me, and his eyes opened wide with recognition and what appeared to be enthusiasm.  I sighed in relief and let my cheeks grow red as he took the stairs two at a time to greet me.

“Long time no see Mrs. Springfield,” he joked, gathering me into a hug.  “You and I have to talk.”

Pine Knob and Full Circle Moments

When I saw the date pop up on our weekly updates from Rick Springfield’s managers a few months back, a little shiver went up my spine.  “DTE Energy Theater, Clarkston, MI.”   That was the new name for the ampitheater that had been known as Pine Knob when I was growing up.  It was the scene of the crime for my first concert, which of course had been Rick Springfield.  It had also been where I’d felt my first taste of idealism crushed when my fantasy of waiting by the backstage door to meet my idol had been swiftly and unceremoniously dismissed.

The thought of seeing Rick there again, as an adult who not only had met him after all but now was working for him, was impossible to resist.  I set up plans to visit my sister that weekend and asked Rick for my customary 2 tickets and passes to the show.

Walking into the theatre had been surreal; so little had changed over the last nearly twenty years since I’d seen him here last.  The lawn was vast, the seating area was huge.  I’d gotten here early, just as I had twenty years before, but this time as I descended the row after row after row down to my seats, I was greeted by other fans who knew me from my work for him.  My sister whispered under her breath about this one being fake and that one being unattractive as we finally found our seats in the center section, third row.

A far cry from the thirteenth row that I’d stood in back in 1984; the ten rows might have well been a million.

Every so often I would glance behind me at the huge concert theater; I felt a tinge of awe and excitement as I watched it fill, just as it had at the height of Rick’s popularity in the 1980s.  As the lights went down and the familiar music of Rick’s opening boomed out of the speakers, I willed myself to stay in the moment.  It wasn’t hard.  During Rick’s show in the 1980s I had felt an overwhelming need for him to notice me, and a bitter realization that he wasn’t going to as the show wore on.  This time, I had no such need; it was therefore ironic to me that during Rick’s foray into the audience, he paused right in front of me to play his guitar during the song, “Human Touch”.  He grinned as he straddled my chair and my face grew beet red; my sister clutched his leg and screamed “This is awesome!”

After the final encore was sung, it was time.  Time to retrace my steps from nineteen years ago to the backstage door.

I pulled our backstage passes out of my bag and marveled as we were pulled out of the crowd gathered at the entrance backstage.  Dozens of adult women stood there and watched as the guards plucked my sister and I from the pack and marched us down the walkway.  I absorbed carefully every bit of it; what everything looked like, how long the walk was.  Finally, we were brought into the hallway outside of Rick’s dressing room, where a much smaller group of women was gathered, waiting to meet him.  This time Rick’s manager pulled us out of the fray and into the dressing room.

I’d been in one of Rick’s dressing rooms a few times, and they were all mostly the same.  This one was pretty large, brightly lit, with bottles of water and food lining some of the tables.  Comfortable sofas with band members lounging broke up the space.  A few of them greeted me, and I introduced my sister while Rick went out to meet the radio station winners in the hallway.  “He’ll be back in in five minutes,” the tour manager told me.  “Grab something to eat or drink if you want.”

I still couldn’t get over the fact that I was here, in the dressing room at Pine Knob.  I pulled my bag off of my shoulder and said to my sister, “Who would have ever thought 19 years ago that I’d be here, in his dressing room, no big deal, go sit over there.  Like they’re used to me being here.”

She looked confused.  “Well, aren’t they?”

“I guess so,” I answered doubtfully.  “But I guess it’s just the gravity of here.  It’s a full circle thing.  I can literally feel the circle closing.”

“You can feel what closing?” said a sweaty Rick Springfield, slapping me on the shoulder as he went to sit in the chair next to me.

I paused, and took a moment to gather up my notebook and notes on what I needed to discuss with him.  But somehow, they were blurry as the emotion welled up in my chest.  “The circle.  It might sound crazy and weird, but this is the first place I ever saw you in concert.  I was way back in the thirteenth row, and all during the show, I remember thinking:   I’ll never connect with him, he’ll never know how important he was in my life.  I went up to the backstage door that night, and begged the guards to let me see you, but of course you know that they didn’t take pity on the little blond girl that was like every little blond girl out there waiting for you.”

Rick nodded, a half smile playing on his lips, encouraging me to continue.  Suddenly, though, I felt childish and stupid.  How was he ever going to take me seriously if I sat here and spun tales about how much I’d had a crush on him as a teenager?

“Well anyway, it kind of came over me tonight, again, here, what it was to feel like that, all that angst and sadness.  I just wanted to be able to reach back 19 years and tell that little blond girl:  ‘It’s OK.  It will get better.  It will get a lot better than just meeting him backstage one night.’ ”  I looked at him then, really looked at him, to see if my story was playing as silly or serious.

His expression was unforgettable.  “Thank you for telling me that story.  I love that things did get better for you and that I was lucky enough for you to not give up on that dream.”

Rick Springfield.  Lucky to have met me?  Wow.

I wanted to take that moment and bottle it up to savor, again and again, for the rest of my life.

A Nasty Mess

The phone was ringing, but I was ignoring it.  I couldn’t take my eyes off of my computer screen.  I could call back R’s sister later; reading the two thousand plus word long missive Elizabeth had sent to the thousands of subscribers to our internet mailing list could not.

I should have known it was coming.  In the weeks since I’d discovered some of Elizabeth’s mistakes, her level of defensiveness and anger about being called out on them grew.  The final straw had been when Elizabeth had refused access to the fan club store to Vivian; she’d wanted to check on the sales figures herself instead of relying on Elizabeth’s emailed reports of what was being sold and how much profit the fan club was due to receive.  I’d tried to stay out of the whole mess until Vivian asked for my help in gaining access; she thought perhaps I had been given some sort of way to get into the storefront since Elizabeth and I were close.  Elizabeth had all of the passwords to the Rick Springfield websites, because I reasoned, there would be times when things would need to be done and I wasn’t available.  We’d always had a level of trust like that amongst the three of us, or so I thought.

Instead, Elizabeth and Vivian started fighting.  Elizabeth said that she didn’t have access to any of the other fan club accounts, and until Vivian trusted her in the same way she was asking Elizabeth to trust, she would have to simply rely on her word.  Things deteriorated quickly, with me in the middle.  Once Vivian found out about the ticketing concerns and the late donation, she made a decision.  She would no longer choose to have Elizabeth working with her or part of the team representing the Rick Springfield fan club.

To a bystander, someone not a part of the heady world of crushes and fandom, it might have seemed no big deal.  People make personnel changes all the time, and at the end of the day, the boss had every right to make such a decision.  But in this world, it was unclear who was the boss.  Was it indeed Vivian, who was president of the fan club and had been the one to pull Elizabeth onto her team?  Or was it Rick himself, who ultimately through granting access and information to us three, made the ultimate decision.  Vivian felt sure it was the former, while Elizabeth lobbied hard to prove it was the latter.

Over the course of several weeks, we tried to keep the division and animosity growing between the three of us private and amongst ourselves. Elizabeth worked hard to try and plead her case to me, to our friend Kim, to Rick’s managers and ultimately to Rick himself.  One the one hand I did feel badly for her, as I knew how much her role had meant to her over the years.  One the other, her complete lack of personal responsibility for her errors gave me pause, serious pause.  I finally told her, after she proposed that Kim and I break with Vivian and join her on her crusade to start a new fan club, that I couldn’t be a part of such an idea.  In a classic case of “you’re either with me or you’re against me,” she asked me to remove any work she’d ever done from our mailing list, from any of the websites she’d helped me with, and warned me that she wasn’t going to be quiet about her dismissal.

But even my wildest imaginings had not prepared me for her angst filled rant, which publicly called into question nearly everything about the fan club and the efforts we worked on to keep fans informed and engaged.  She defended her work without an ounce of guilt, finding rationalizations for every misstep along the way.  My stomach rose into my throat as I read through it, knowing that all the fans would be emailing about for days was this chink in our three way armor.  I always dreaded the idea that fans who didn’t even know me drew all sorts of negative conclusions about me, mostly out of jealousy, spite, or trying to knock me down in Rick’s eyes so that perhaps they could take my place.  Even with all of the negative things I’d been thinking about working for him lately, I still didn’t want to stop working for him through any other reason but my own choice.

More than anything else though, as I read and reread her words I realized something else was bubbling up underneath the surface.  It was sadness.  Perhaps before I had thought that this would all blow over and that somehow Elizabeth and I would remain friends after the smoke cleared away.  But I realized now that it would never happen.  By hitting the Send button on her keyboard this morning, she had effectively and very publicly chosen to end our years long friendship.  I was sure she would argue that it was my own doing by choosing to not support her and her side of the story in our strange celebrity fan triangle, but no matter.  My phone would no longer ring warning me about this or that, I would no longer rant and rave to her on my cell phone on the way to Gymboree, we would no longer go to shows together and sing the chorus together in off key unison.

The phone started ringing again.  I looked to the caller ID and saw the 310 area code:  it was Rick himself.  Time to tear myself away from the computer and see what he had to say about this nasty mess.

Sucked Back In

I was staring at my computer screen, finally back home and mostly recovered from my case of “childbed fever”.

My baby was quietly slumbering next to me in his stroller; I had actually put him in it awake after I’d put his older sister down for her afternoon nap.  I had a million things to catch up on with my Rick Springfield work, and the only possible time I’d be able to make any sort of dent in the pile of emails and redesign work was while Melinda was asleep.   I had heard her protesting from above for a while after I put her down, but I was single minded in my focus; the phone had already rung three times this morning between my other two partners asking for the status of this or that.

I was honestly starting to wonder if doing all of this was not such a great idea.  I felt anxious all of the time.  If it wasn’t  fans bickering about this or that, it was the three of us running the fan outreach bickering between ourselves.  If I wasn’t answering an endless monotony of answering emails about Rick’s fan mail address, then it was questions about his citizenship status or his touring plans.

I wasn’t getting paid.  If I had more time to think about it, I might actually sit down and calculate the pros and cons of where I was spending my time and energy.  While working and interacting with a celebrity was high on the coolness factor, it was coming at a cost to everything else in my life.   My daughter already spent too many hours in front of Baby Einstein videos; I tried to console myself that they were learning tools, but I knew better.  You were supposed to talk to the kids and interact with them while they watched, not use them as a baby sitter.

And now with another baby, what was I going to do?  At least before I could manage to go to enough concerts that it made some of the craziness worth it.  The dinners, the sitting backstage, the meetings with record people, the free (often front row) concert tickets;  each amazing experience I’d had with my teenage crush was added to my sweet story of how I’d made my sad dreams from twenty years ago come true.  But now, with two children under the age of two at home, I’d hardly be able to get to any shows this year.  I’d only been to a few last year. It was an awful lot to take on without any real payout.

I looked over at my baby, his tiny fist curled up underneath his chin, and yearned to reach into the stroller, scoop him up and lay with him on the sofa until Melinda woke from her nap.  My gaze went back and forth several times before I saw the inbox number jump from 145 to 160; 15 unread messages sucked me back in.  I clicked on the Mail icon and looked at the sender names.  How odd, I thought.  One was from my father, who hardly ever emailed me.

“I’m going to be in Las Vegas next week for work.  I remembered you said that if I ever went, you could maybe set me up with tickets and backstage passes to see Rick in his show there.  Is that still something you would be able to do?  Let me know.  Love, Dad.”

I smiled to myself.  Just when I’d nearly talked myself out of all of this mayhem, it is my own father who pulls me right back down into the mud.  My hands flew to the home row and I started typing a response without even thinking twice. “Of course, Dad, just let me know the dates you’ll be there….”

Phone Calls From Handsome Men

My phone rang out through the silence of the house.  My father was out getting groceries, R was in Ohio wowing the folks at the hopefully new place of employment, Z was at school and my sweet five day out girl was sleeping.  I dashed to get it before its shrill rings woke my baby up, puzzling over the area code I saw flashing on the caller id.

“Are you there?” asked the sort of familiar voice on the other end of the line.

It was Rick Springfield.  I gulped.  “I am here.  Is everything ok?”

Rick had called me a few times before.  Usually it was either some very important piece of news that had to be placed on the website immediately, or something that was on the website that needed to be removed immediately.   Once there had been a tour date I’d listed that was supposed to be a private date for a corporate event, and no one wanted a crowd waiting to get in made up of some of the more ardent of Rick’s female followers.

“How are you doing?  Are you feeling ok?  I am so sorry to call you so soon after the baby.  How is she?”

Rick had sweetly asked me to alert him when the baby came, and so I had, sending a small digital picture that R had taken a few hours after Melinda’s birth.  He’d responded kindly, telling me how beautiful she was.  It still felt strange to think that this person who had made up my dreams for so long now knew intimate details about my life.  But somehow, it was true.

“She’s great.  Actually, I got six hours of sleep last night.  I feel nearly human.”  I paused, trying to think of the reason why he must be calling.  There was no way he was just calling to make small talk.

“That’s great.  Hey, have you been on the website today?”

And there it was.  The real reason.  “No, I’m sorry, I haven’t had a chance to get on the computer today.  I just got Melinda down for a nap a bit ago, though, so I was going to check in on everything in a few minutes.  Is something wrong?”

“Well, yes, actually.  The website isn’t working.”

“What?”  I took every failure, every error message on the website very seriously, and basically stopped everything until I’d fixed whatever problem there was.  But the website had never gone offline before.  What could be wrong?  “It’s completely offline?”

“Yes.  Apparently the old web guy had gotten some emails about renewing everything and never sent them to me; he’d taken care of setting everything up.  He finally sent me the last one, and it has a bunch of instructions to follow in it that I can’t understand.”

I laughed softly to myself.  “Send the emails to me, and I’ll take care of it.  If I need anything else, I’ll call you back.  But if things are really offline due to nonpayment, it could be hours or even a day before they restore service.”

“That’s OK,” Rick said quickly.  “As long as I know we can resolve it.”  A measure of panic resonated in his voice.  He understood that the website was starting to drive a lot of people to him and that it was going to be instrumental in keeping his tour going and moving sales of the upcoming live recording.

“Rick,” I said, trying to put on my best mother calm.  “Don’t worry.  Even if there is a problem, I have all of the files on my computer, and I can upload them all again if I have to.  Nothing will be lost, nothing will be gone.  It might take a day or so, but this is totally fixable.  In the meantime, we need to make sure we get that guy off of the administrative contact and you or me put on there.”

“Absolutely.  When you log in to all that stuff, please make sure you put yourself in there.  I trust that you will alert me whenever I need to know about stuff.  But otherwise I’ll just have to send you this stuff anyway because it all sounds like Greek to me.”

“OK, that’s fine.”  I looked over and saw Melinda stirring slightly in her Pack and Play.   “Well, let me go in there and get this all fixed up for you before my girl wakes up.”  Insanity.  I was rushing Rick Springfield off of the phone.  What had my world come to?

“Thank you,” Rick said, using my name.  “I’m really sorry about the timing here.  Give that baby a kiss from Uncle Ricky, ok?”

Prickly sweat broke out on my forehead.  Yep, this was not old hat yet.  Not by a long shot.

“Sure thing, Rick.  Take care.”

I hung up the phone and gave myself a moment to catch my breath before going to repair the website.

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