Friday, November 14, 2008

Joan Baez gives awesome hugs.

On Wednesday afternoon, the better part of my work day soundtrack was provided by hype machine as I listened to every single Joan Baez song the site had available. "Yep, yep, yep" ran through my mind, song after song, as I worked. I knew these songs, quiet soundtracks to my life. Honestly, I still couldn't tell you the titles of them, but they were there in my mind, resurrected by modern technology in my sterile work environment, taking me back to my childhood, my mom's childhood, my grandma's.

As she sung to me and I typed, it still wasn't real what was going to happen. We were going to get to meet Joan Baez.

Stacy, Andrea and I made a picture, an homage to her famous print. Dressed in puffy skirts and vintage dresses, we sat stoically on Stacy's red leather couch with a guitar and an old fashioned camera. I sat up bone straight, lifting my leg slightly to try to get the perfect, non-cellulite angle.

"You look angry," my roommate said as he looked at my face in the poster. "I am," I thought. I kept that to myself at the moment.

Last Tuesday, girls and boys everywhere said yes to Obama and my poster hangs prominently on my bedroom door. I couldn't keep the joy to myself as I clapped and cheered, hugging my election night date with tears streaming down my face.

I picked the girls up last night and drove into downtown Minneapolis. Parking in a garage, we walked the wrong way out the door. Typical for me. We ran around the block, joking about how anti-climactic it would be if we got there too late and she had already left or was sleeping or something. None of us had actual tickets to the show, just after-show backstage passes. Andrea had worked her connections and we were going to get arguably the most influential woman in folk music, shake her hand, thank her, give her our poster. We stood in the vast State Theatre lobby, pressing our ears against the door, quietly rambling, clutching our posters and albums, listening to the last fifteen minutes of her show. The audience clapped and cheered and the doors opened. We watched as people streamed out. A young guy with shaggy hair saw the three of us and said "we gotta be the youngest in here by about thirty years."

"Yeah," we all said.

"Kick ass music knows no age," he replied with a huge smile.

That's true.

The girls and I walked down the aisle, still nervously rambling. We flashed our wristbands and were told directions on where to go meet Joan Baez. We walked down several stairwells into the basement of the State, not exactly sure if we were headed the right way. I began to get REALLY nervous and resorted back to my old reliable comfort: cracking jokes.

"This is exactly like Spinal Tap" or "This is exactly like the time I went into the basement of the Fine Line to meet the Neil Diamond cover band." All facetious, obviously, but I just didn't know what else to say. It was becoming real.

We stood in this large, sterile room that glowed with neon lights. I looked at the couch, the two vending machines, the loaf of bread and apples on the table, taking it all in. A small crowd milled about for a moment.

"There she is," Stacy smiled.

My back was turned to the door and I whipped around.

The three of us looked. Joan Baez was small, dark skinned, white hair. She was simply and stylishly dressed in dark blue jeans and white button up shirt with a silver bangle. I thought of my mom and how a student teacher of hers once told her she looked like a young Joan Baez. I thought of my mom.

Her tour manager took our poster over to her as she hugged this couple and their young girl. I suddenly felt overwhelmed with embarrassment and turned back around. "Joan Baez is going to think this is stupid. Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god," I thought. My mind was racing.

She quickly walked over to us and we handed her a pile of our posters. "Are these for me?" she asked. "Yep." We introduced ourselves. I felt my mouth move and heard my voice ring in my ears as I said my name. Everything was heightened. She put the posters away and went down the line, hugging us three girls. She got to me last and I stood up my tippy toes, even though I didn't really need to. She is shorter than I. "Thank you so much," I whispered as I wrapped my arms around her.

I didn't know what else to say, my nerves overcame me and my voice was caught in my throat, so I mostly stood there, with a huge grin on my face, shaking my head a lot. Andrea stood there grinning silently as well. Stacy took the reigns of the conversation, telling her the story of how our poster came to be, how much we had been influenced by what she had done. She told us how she had seen the photo on the net and I immediately thought about how cool that was. Her speaking voice was quiet. She was so graceful and unassuming.

"Saying yes across generations," she said to us, smiling. I said it over and over again in my head. "I can't forget this," I thought. And I might have a little. That might not be exactly what she said. My mind was too full at that moment.

"We loved your photo," Stacy said. "We were just having fun," she replied. "So were we!" we all replied together. Andrea and I found our voice for that one.

She signed our records and we stood in line for a photo with Joan Baez. Her tour manager held Stacy's camera and the flash fired three times. I made no ridiculous Jonesie face and didn't crack any jokes. I just stood there, still smiling.

Stacy, Andrea and I said goodbye, thanked her again, and ran up the stairs, out into the mild November night, giggling about how awesome all this was. When we got back into my car, Stacy and Andrea flipped through the photos and Andrea laughed "look how happy we are!"

When I got home, I gingerly placed the signed Joan Baez album on the shelf against my favorite corner in my bright yellow room, under my kitschy framed camera wearing wiener dog lp, next to my framed Jason Isbell and Hoot posters and my two Bruce Springsteen photo prints, next to my Obama postcard with the "I Voted" red sticker pressed against it.

There it sits, Joan Baez's signature in bright green permanent marker. Whenever I doubt that this experience happened, I can just look at that album, look at the photo, and remember how real that night was when I met Joan Baez.