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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Anniversary

"Don't go to Chicago."

Four words.

Four words my father said to me. Four words that could have changed my life, had I listened to them. But of course, I did not. Why not? Because when you're 19 and someone offers to fly your band across country to play for a youth convention, you ignore your Old Man's advice and you go.

His reasoning had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the trip. He told me not to go because it was cold in Chicago. No arguing with that. It was -17 degrees when I got off the plane at O'Hare. -17? I had never experienced cold like that. We musicians were dressed for New York cold, not Chicago cold. We shivered in the overstuffed cars all the way to Lake Geneva.

So he was right about the cold. But I went to the Midwest to play music. What neither he nor I expected was that I would come back with a wife.

Well, maybe it wasn't quite that dramatic. The convoy of cars drove from Chicago's O'Hare Airport for a little over an hour in the freezing dark of night until we pulled up in front of the Americana Club in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. We shlepped our bags, amps and instruments into the convention center. I looked at my bass speaker. It was demolished. It looked as if one of the baggage handlers had taken a real dislike to it. And maybe he and a few of his friends had jumped up and down on the speaker. A few. Dozen. Times. This was bad. Because I had talked some very reluctant YU guy into lending it to me for the trip.

I think I had a very pathetic look on my face when the director of event introduced me to my...crew. Actually, I'm not sure what I was supposed to call them. I never had a crew before. But it was a pair of young women who were supposed to be responsible for the band. Get us tea. Keep us from kvetching. Make sure we showed up to play. I don't want to cast aspersions any prior musicians, but apparently, the previous band had required quite a bit of TLC.

Back to sad little me trying to figure out how I was a) going to play without a bass speaker and b) explain to the guy back home that I ruined his cabinet. I was pretty sad-looking when they introduced me to this thin little waif of a girl with the biggest bluest eyes I had ever seen and told me she was responsible for keeping me happy. That took me by surprise. None of the band knew how to react. Normal people would have probably introduced themselves and thanked them for their offer of help.

We instead decided to pretend we were from England. Well, if they were going to go to the trouble of treating us like rock stars, we might as well act like rock stars! We put on our best Spinal Tap accents and promptly began acting like a bunch of immature putzes. At some point during the weekend, our accents ran out. Despite this, our 'crew' continued to do their jobs and pay attention to us.

I wasn't sure what to make of the blue-eyed one. She seemed refined and somewhat delicate. But as soon as she opened her mouth, you could tell who was in charge. She was telling everyone what to do. The regional director. The head adviser. The technical director. My guitar player. But that wasn't the surprising part. The surprising part was that everyone listened! I don't think that convention could have run without her.

So we musicians did our jobs too. I plugged my bass into the keyboard amp and it worked. And the band roomed together and we made comments about each other's hygeine. And we talked to the kids and told them how cool it was to be in an Orthodox Jewish Rock Band.

And I still had time to hang out with Blue-eyes. We talked about almost everything. We shot some pool. She brought us tea. But to be honest, as a musician, I was used to attention from girls. Strap a guitar to the dorkiest guy and he still becomes a chick magnet. There was something else about this one. I was impressed by her competence. And her sincerity. And her sense of humor. And the blue eyes. But I think there was one other thing that sealed the deal for me, and this is the first time I'm putting it together.
It was a long, five day event. We were staying up playing and having sessions and singing until the early hours of the morning. And one of the staff got sick. No big deal. She was just puking all over the place and stuck in bed. I think this was the night of the big banquet, and everyone was dressed up all fancy. Most people were content to send her to her room and leave her there. But Blue-eyes went to her room and took care of her. Brought her water, cool compresses, held her hand. I can't tell you how impressed I was. When the band was back on the plane headed to New York, I turned to one of my mates and said, "I'm going to marry that girl."

I'll never forget the date I first saw her. December 25, 1985.


torontopearl said...

I turned to one of my mates and said, "I'm going to marry that girl."

PT, I thought that only happens in these romance novels I get to copy edit!

What a nice story...(with a definite happily-ever-after)

Doctor Bean said...

You're a lucky guy. She still treats you like a rock star, albeit a rock star with six kids.

MC Aryeh said...

This is one of my favorite posts of yours. Funny and sweet. I hope this will turn into a series. It's like a movie where you know the outcome, but you don't mind, cause the getting there is such a wonderful story...

PsychoToddler said...

I'm afraid the story isn't always happy. But it would be interesting.

And Pearl, I have not embellished a thing. I actually left stuff out.

tuesdaywishes said...

Mazal Tov!

I guess this would be the wrong spot to mention what SHE said about you, and about the rest of the band, after she came home. Do you ever hear what happened to the other girl? (Vicki?)

Ezzie said...

What a great story...! More to come? Perhaps Mrs. Balabusta's side?

Irina Tsukerman said...

What a story! And you really said that last line?!

I'm hoping more is to come?!

Jack's Shack said...

That is a great story.

wanderer said...

Very nice story - you really are such a rockstar! There's something about December 25th and Jewish couples by the way. My parents' wedding anniversary is the 25th and they will have been married 39 years this Sunday!

Stacey said...

Awwww, this was sooooo sweet.

Sweettooth120 said...

Darn Stacey, you took the words right out of my mouth.

PT, that is really a very sweet story. Have you ever written a song about it?

Wanderer...isn't that funny. My parents anniversary was Dec. 29.

Sweettooth120 said...

Do you have any pictures from your wedding that you can post?

cruisin-mom said...

P.T...I asked the question in my blog (shameless plug...somebody please come read me)if you have ever wondered how one event changes the course of your life. What a sweet story...more please!
And Wanderer, my parent's anniversary was Dec. 25th as well...I guess Jews just need something to do Christmas day.

Mrs. Balabusta said...

Well, it took me a while to read the post - and I will write an appropriate response in due time - but I would like to elucidate a few points.

1. This was a Chicago region event. I worked for Chicago region NCSY when I was in high school, from which I had graduated in June. I wanted to be a nurse and I wanted to finish school before I got married so I decided to go to school in Milwaukee (Marquette) on this theory: If my bashert wanted to marry me he would have to find me first, and who would think of looking in Milwaukee? So I wasn't going to work this convention, I needed to focus on school, etc. get out of "high school" crowd. But the regional director directed several of my friends to apply pressure to distinct pressure points. I think the homer was "We moved the convention to Wisconsin, now you got to come!"

2. How was I supposed to know they weren't from England?

3. To this point, I didn't know a bass amp from a keyboard amp, that was all about to change.

4. When I drove home I parked my car on the wrong side of the street, because I had been without sleep for so many days I actually lost one. More on that later, but when I came in the house, just before I crashed into my pillow, my mother said - "So how was the Shabbaton?"
I said "Ma, I'm going to NY."
I think she said "That's nice."
Then I fell asleep. Wait til I tell you what happened when I woke up.

Safranit said...

PT...too sweet a story...I echo what the others said.

Eshet Chayil said...

I think that has to be one of the sweetest things I've ever read.

yonah said...

(hope this doesn't post twice - tried last night, but I see it didn't work)

did we once gig at that americana? I remember being in some snowbound wasteland place with you that had a state-of-the-art recording studio and we hung out in there and learned about some of the bands who had recorded there over the years, like zeppelin, and some eclectic name I can't recall - - do you remember this?

and I'd like to join tuesdaywishes by asking what happened to vickie? she was the best! (or 2nd best in your eyes, obviously).

dilbert said...

very nice story, hope you have many more anniversaries.

Essie said...

Chills and tears from this post. What a beautiful story! MrsBalabusta, that just goes to show you! :)
Congrats to the 2 of you.
Chanukah Sameach!

PsychoToddler said...

Yonah: Yes, that was the place. I think they told us Dire Straits recorded there.

Re: Vicki: I ran into her about 2 years ago. I was playing a wedding with Ruby Harris. She came up to me and told me it reminded her of old times. She was single at the time. I haven't heard anything since then.

Wickwire said...

Merry Anniversary Mr. and Mrs. PT. Good reading. I love happy endings.