July 19th, 2013- When East Side Story turned the Windy into Music City and made dreams come true: a tale of 3 Matt’s, mE, Em, and Pearl Jam

 a week prior:

“So let me get this straight.  You asked a friend, who happens to be the nephew of Magic Johnson, to see if Magic Johnson could ask the owner of the Chicago Cubs for tickets to see Pearl Jam play a concert at Wrigley Field?” My friend, Matt Hummer, looked at me funny.

I replied.  “Yeah.  So?  Are you shocked?”

“From you, not at all.  What did he say?”

“Well, apparently Magic didn’t feel comfortable with asking.”

“Are you shocked he’s not comfortable?”  Matt started laughing.

I wasn’t laughing.  “It’s not what you’re thinkin.  He’s not uncomfortable asking for me, a complete stranger, mind you.  He’s apparently uncomfortable asking anything from and talking with that specific owner.”


“Really.  I don’t know Magic Johnson.  But honestly, like I told my friend, anybody who isn’t a friend of Magic Johnson certainly isn’t a friend of mine.”

Matt continued laughing.

I continued talking. “I also told my friend thanks for asking your uncle, but I guess I’ll just have to work my own magic, pun intended.”


And so, there I was driving home to slowly unveil the mother load of surprises, a long but mere three months in the planning, and yet I still had no concert tickets in hand.  That’s not to say that I didn’t already have Southwest plane tickets, a killer new t-shirt, permission from my wife’s boss and co-worker to get her out of town for at least one Frist Friday of sorts, grace from another friend (a best friend of my wife) ready to pick us up upon arrival into the windy city and crash at her pad, tremendously nice and talented people to watch the bookstore for the three days that it would be open while we were awol (one in the poet Nicole Branigan & the other is cat and art-lover Maggie Carrigan), a loving mother to pick up and care for the best dog in the entire planet (that’s bearKat in case you forgot), and pretty much everything else lined up in perfect timing in order to pull off the best, most secretive adventure I could dream up to surprise Emily Frances Harper Beard more than ever before (including the marriage proposal).  Yes, every single thing mentioned above was about all that I had at the point when I was driving home from the mountain on Thursday afternoon, July 18th, 2013.

And this is how IT went up and down and up all around …

I turned in my final papers and workshop critique to the most awesome Michael Griffith (who is also the author of the must read novel Trophy) and he let me depart out of Sewanee’s School of Letters a few minutes early so that I could make my magic happen.  On the drive home, I checked in with several other personal connections that I had been checking in with throughout the past few months that still bared some sort of hope, before and after I tried my luck with the all-time great Laker.  Lucky for me, the ticket scalping service a friend of a friend uses and relayed my way had plenty of tickets available.  Unlucky for me, each of the tickets they had to purchase, even the ones that were higher than the highest nosebleed seats, were astronomically and comically priced to say the least.  I like Pearl Jam.  I love my wife.  I also like and love my house, car, dog, cat, and food to eat for the next two months too.  I hung up the phone and smiled because I knew that I had a dark horse in my back pocket still out there in hiding somewhere.

I arrived at Eastside Avenue with a few minutes to spare.  To preface, my wife, even after all of my planning and days of ups and downs on ticket leads, emails, talks, and phone calls, seemingly right under her nose, hindsight, still had absolutely no clue of what was about to happen to us.  She was already talking about weekend plans around town with various friends.  In fact, I kinda felt like in the final week of planning that the entire world knew about my secret plans but Emily.  If anyone who came across my path the final month of planning mentioned the word or thought of Chicago, you can bet I mentioned my idea and asked if they knew of any connection to the coveted tickets that had previously sold out in record time back in February.

Back to the house.  I got home and bearKat (the greatest dog in the entire universe) greeted me with jumping paws and a Michael Jordan-like tongue.  She knew what was up.  She could sense something huge about to happen.  She is so smart.  She might be the smartest dog in the entire universe too for all I know.  I do know that I used the few moments I had relatively alone to stash the killer t-shirt that I had purchased to seal the Pearl Jam surprise deal and the airline tickets that were going to let us go there into my carry on.  I stuffed the bag.  The front door opened.  I had called Emily when leaving Sewanee to ask if she’d be willing to not make any plans with any of her girlfriends for the evening to possibly partake in a celebratory happy hour with yours truly for completing my latest semester of classes on the mountain.  She agreed on the spot and said she would even get home a few minutes earlier than usual.  The plans were set.

Emily greeted bearKat with jumping hands and a big, we might be going on a W-A-L-K around the neighborhood kind of excitement.  She turned the corner.

“Hi!” Emily said.

I also greeted her with jumping paws and a crazy smile.  “You need to go pack a bag.  We’re leaving in less than an hour.  My mom is on the way here to take us to the airport.”

“What?”  A look of confusion was a total understatement.  “Where are we going?  What’s going on?”

“We’re getting out of town for the weekend.”

“Did you tell Ellen about this?”  The first thing Emily thought about was missing work, true story here.  “I do have to go to work tomorrow.”

“I’ve already talked with Ellen.  Just trust me.”

She walked up the stairs.  She yelled, “Do I need a bathing suit?”

“Ummmm, go ahead and throw it in the bag.  You never know.  I’m not saying anything else other than it’s gonna be warm, kinda like Nashville but not raining.”

“This is just crazy.”  I think she said it to herself and to the cat, but I agreed.

My mom arrived and she joined in on the fun.  After Emily had packed, and I had packed, we took a seat with a few minutes to eat a snack.

My mom hyped up the surprise when Emily tried to pry for hints. “Gosh, if Roy Beard did the same thing for me that y’all are doing this weekend … well …. well, I might, I might just marry him again!”  Everyone laughed.

We arrived at the airport, and I took our confirmation numbers to the Southwest counter.  Emily agreed not to look at the tickets.  She went along for the ride.

We walked past security with nothing to be nervous about, but we both had big butterflies flying on the inside.  Emily, someone who prides herself on being a spontaneous person, was feeling nervous, not knowing where she was going, and out of whack.  I also try to be more confident that everything will work out more than the next person, but we still had no concert tickets.  I had a firework show planned without the grand finale; a circus without an elephant.  Mystery was the elephant in the room, in Nashville’s airport.

We had some time to spare before boarding and revealing the first secret of where we were going.  We had a drink to help squash the mystery anxiety for us both.  We toasted to the great unknown.  We passed on snacks because I hinted that our flight, despite Emily’s first guess, was not going to be an all-night flight to Hawaii.  I snapped this picture of Emily’s reenactment of her expression when I first told her to pack a bag at the house unexpectedly.




The intercom announced for passengers heading to Philadelphia to now board at our concourse, overhead.

“No way are we going to Philadelphia.”  Emily said in jest, with a shrug of confidence.  We both knew that Philadelphia wasn’t involved with either one of our dream trips, for sure.

“Just wait.”

The boarding call to Chicago was announced, just afterwards.

“That us?”

My silence said it all.  We got on the plane, after she did a little Chicago song and dance in the seat, and she immediately asked if we were staying with her friend Maribeth Joy (appropriately named … Emily only said Maribeth but Joy was implied).  I told her that we would definitely see Maribeth while on our adventure, that I had talked with her a few times, and that I had someone picking us up from the coolest place I had found on the internet to make her happy. *I never lied this entire time of planning and revealing.  **I never lie to Emily.

sweet home chicago!

Maribeth bound!


The ride, like the planning months, was relatively short but also long because of the weight of surprise still around us.  On our descent into the windy city lights, I mentioned that a few of my friends were serendipitously in town for different jobs they were working this particular weekend too.  I had discovered this fact in recent days before flying to Chicago.  She didn’t hear me.  She was already planning her trip in her head: priority one was visiting with Maribeth … then how we should go see her circus, Circ Esteem, perform, hang out with a few other people she knew who lived there, go see the art school Maggie is beginning next month, and … looking out of the window at the bright city lights, she turned to me with a mischievous grin.

-wait … I think Pearl Jam is even playing in town this weekend, aren’t they?

-Are they?

-No.  Yes, I remember reading it online the other day.  They are playing at a baseball field, I think.  I might just have to break out the ol’ credit card for that one.

-Didn’t we pay that thing off?

-Yeah, but I still have it for emergencies.  This would be such an emergency.

-Let’s wait and see what’s going on.  Let’s just see what I’ve got planned.

I was trying to keep the surprise suppressed and secret as much as possible.  Once the cat is out of the bag, you can’t put that thing on a leash and walk it around the neighborhood.  Cats run wild.  I was beginning to feel as if the volcano was about to burst and no plastic container or makeshift distraction could ever hold back Emily’s lava or love for Eddie Vedder from exploding once the thought arose.

We walked out of the plane and beyond baggage claim.  I finally succumbed to Emily’s twenty-third comment about “Maribeth is picking us up, isn’t she?” by telling her that Maribeth was in fact picking us up and was minutes away.  We jumped inside the van, gave hugs like handshakes, and headed north.  I felt lucky again.  The pure joy of seeing Maribeth and finding out that Maribeth was in on the surprise gave me some time to keep Pearl Jam under wrap.  Or so I thought.

sweet home Chicago!

We stayed up for a while as Maribeth shared some fun stories.  Beyonce had been in town the night before.  Not that she was interested in hearing Beyonce or seeing her dance (a friend of a friend got her a special pass, a major theme to this story or any story I usually end up being a part of these days) she got a real kick out of seeing the Beyonce shenanigans firsthand and doing so beside a dear old friend doing well for himself in the music business.  Actually, Maribeth wished she could have seen more of Michelle Obama, who was also at the show, rather than Beyonce.  Nobody in this story is much of a fan of Beyonce anyways, I digress.  We opted to talk more about how happy we were to be in such good company.  We hit the hay for the night after a little popcorn snack to get an early start on the next morning, because this day had done so much for us all.  Some of us (one, specifically) didn’t wake up this morning knowing we would be sleeping in Chicago by day’s end.  That fact alone would take a toll on any one person, Pearl Jam in the same city aside.

I didn’t know that our early start would start so early, at dawn.  I’m not sure if Emily even slept at all.  I had planned to unpack and gift the killer shirt to my wife while saying something to the effect of “You always look beautiful, but you really do need to wear this shirt where we are going tonight.”  I’m not saying I had rehearsed this exact speech and gestures during the months of planning, but I did want the gift to be as sweet and gentle as possible since I knew my wife’s head would fall off when she found out we were going to see Pearl Jam for her second time within a year and ever (I can’t emphasize this note enough.  I was there for the first time too, and that was something I can write an entire book about another time, if you want to read or talk about it more let me know … almost equally as good).  As always, what you try to plan and what actually happens in life are two different things.  I woke up.  I rolled over.  I was staring at my wife staring right back into my soul like bearKat waiting for me to feed her bedside at home, pre-dawn.  The alarm sounded.  I knew I was going to have to feed my wife with answers.  She was hungry to figure it all out.

“It just doesn’t make sense.  Are we going to Pearl Jam tonight?  We totally could have flown up here tonight for a fun, full weekend of Chicago and Maribeth.  I just don’t get it.  It doesn’t make any sense.  Did you get Pearl Jam tickets for tonight?”

I couldn’t lie.  “Truth be told, I’ve been working on getting tickets for months.”

“Seriously, you got tickets to Pearl Jam for tonight?  Didn’t you?”  She coyly grinned.  She still wasn’t hearing me.

“I’m serious.  I’ve tried Magic Johnson.  I’ve tried Kyle.” *A cousin’s husband who did sound for Pearl Jam once upon a time recently. “I’ve tried a friend’s family friend who is the guy that runs Lollapalooza, but he lives in Australia right now so he had a hard time getting back to me.”  I tried a few other promising, random connections and even had a friend who has worked for the likes of KISS and has friends who have worked for Kanye West (can you say irony with the Pearl Jam/Kanye West Bonnaroo backstory history twist on this one that makes my heart smile because I was there in ’08 and laughed with Robert Randolph the morning after) and who has catered for Pearl Jam ask around unsuccessfully.

Emily smiled.  “Don’t mess with me.  You got Pearl Jam tickets, didn’t you?”

I knew the secret was no longer a secret so I reached into my bag and pulled out the shirt that I had bought for the special occasion.  I handed it to her.  I continued with the truth.  “At this point, I’m still waiting to hear back from a good friend who is cousins of Jim James, and she said she was going to talk to him again today for one more last ditch effort.  We don’t have tickets, but we’ll see what happens.”

Emily continued to smile.

“I’m serious.  We don’t have tickets, but we’ll try.”

Emily got out of bed.  There was no more sleeping for anyone of us.  Maribeth was up.  Her cat was up.  Emily was up.  I was up.  T-minus a half-day until the Pearl Jam show started at Wrigley Field.  I had to get those tickets.

Maribeth and the cat treated us to morning fruit smoothies.  I had fun deflecting the light coming into the window onto the floor as the cat kept herself entertained by jumping on said light, never really catching it.  I laughed at the cat and myself because I too was chasing something that I really couldn’t fully grasp at the moment.  Maribeth and Emily walked in the room and mentioned that Circ Esteem was having a special performance at the main building (which just so happens to be located a half-mile from Wrigley Field) at 2:30pm.  I said we’d be there and be there early if our help was needed.  She said that was fine, but a lot of help probably wasn’t needed this go round.  We were the ones that needed help.  Maribeth had to run off to work.

At that moment, I got an email from Jim James!  Well, it was from his cousin (without naming too many names here to protect privacy and keep some kind of mystery since all my secrets are out of the bag at this point of the story) telling me that Jim thought that he could secure two tickets for us for the show and he needed personal information.  My friend gave Jim James my full name and telephone number!  Not a bad way to start your day, if I don’t say so myself.  The funny things to me were that not two weeks prior I had watched part of a Cubs’ baseball game on tv played at Wrigley because another college friend was at that very game (and I fully admit now that I was selfishly trying to envision myself in the future crowd more so than spotting my friend at the game) and that Emily and I had just seen Jim James on our regular Sunday Morning show on CBS the same day as that particular Cubs’ game.  I had been ridiculously busy making and manifesting connections that Emily couldn’t see.

I relayed the email message that we now had real hope with the tickets, upon which she was finally starting to understand my honesty and situation at hand, and so we decided to pretend to be chill about this newfound, crazy hope while walking to a nearby park with some food to have an enjoyable, spontaneous lunch picnic.  You can plan a pretty picnic, right?  We did have a nice picnic and had a good time while watching Cubs fans of all ages playing on the grass, in the swings, and around the water-spraying contraptions for public happiness.  I snapped a shot of Emily reenacting her confusion about not having Pearl Jam tickets and me gifting her one of the coolest shirts she has ever had (she’s worn it every day at some point since).

shirt without tickets?

shirt without tickets?  confused?  my wife is no stranger in jorts 🙂

Then we made it to Circ Esteem in time to be amazed.  The theme of the show was pirate.  Every kid was dressed to kill (okay, more like kill the performance rather than actually walking any planks, it must be written).  The camp kids gave the crowd a magnificent performance that involved spectacular tumbling, juggling, balancing, and big, circular metal wheel (for lack of specific circus equipment terminology) tricks, and more dynamic fun routines than I could have ever imagined being a part of when I was their ages.  I was so inspired and incredibly jealous at the same time.  That’s when you know someone is doing something awesome.

At the very same time as the crowd stood up and applauded the terrific, successful show, I got another email from Jim James!  It was from his cousin, but unfortunately I could tell by the two words in the subject line stating the overwhelmingly underused word combination of Dag Nabbit that the once promising tickets (albeit two hours prior at this point) had vanished at the blink of a pirate’s eye patch.  Jim and his cousin were disappointed.  I was surprisingly not so much.  I still had hope.  But, I also felt an immense appreciation for the fact that Jim and his cousin had even spent a second out of their busy schedules and creative lives to help try to make a wish for a long shot of a cause like this crazy mission and adventure a reality.  Just thinking about the Dag Nabbit situation is unreal, even now.

I shared the news with Emily, and I found out she had been researching a little bit on her smart phone on the side show as well.  She and Maribeth had discovered that Bjork was playing at the Pitchfork Festival down the street.  Apparently we had brought an element of Music City with us on the trip.  I would later find out that on top of Pearl Jam and Bjork, Phish was playing three shows in town and another friend had seen another boy band bus that I will get to in a minute.  The point being was that Emily was okay with buying tickets and taking her friend to experience Bjork, if we ended up without Pearl Jam tickets being the worst case scenario at the end of the day.  My wallet was fine with that safety net of a concept at this point in the game, but I wasn’t ready to give up all hope on Wrigley.  T-minus 3 hours until the first song.

I hurried to the closest computer and made a final push on Craigslist.  I found a few leads, some that were so obviously a scam and two or three that felt sincere.  I emailed and texted the two or three, sincerely.  I got a reply from one saying that they needed more money than what I could offer.  The second said they would meet and talk tickets in person.  I’m still waiting for a reply from the third.  Mind you, this is also when, instead of ticket prices fluctuating up and down, the lowest priced tickets for online sales on StubHub and others alike were going for well over buying a Kia … crazy, stupid prices.

Our plan ultimately changed to taking a wad of cash to the ballpark to meet the sincere ticket holders wishing to sell two to us. And if that fell through, we would simply call up Maribeth, put on our best smiles, and dance the night away at Pitchfork as our swan song (get it?).  I almost laughed at the notion that my wife was going to be the only person wearing a Pearl Jam shirt at a Bjork show down the street.  I almost laughed.  Maribeth dropped us off at statue of Harry Caray.  We waited for our next phone call for Mission: Possible.

On the way to the field of dreams, I got a text from another Matt.  All the way from Bowling Green, KY, it went as follows:

-You’re not going to The Black Crowes show tonite, are you?

-I would if I wasn’t in Chicago going to Pearl Jam at Wrigley.

-Trying to one up me, (explicative)?

-No, just being a Betterman 🙂  A total surprise for the wife.  Classic McGill move, eh?

My phone rang, and after I told the stranger on the other end that Harry Caray had my back, I was told to stay where I was at.  They were coming for me.  After I pushed end call, I started a game of trust (or mistrust if you will, and I most certainly did).  Not knowing who I was talking to on the other line, I began to judge people around me more so than usual.  Every person that walked by me got a second and third look over.  Some of them I was hoping were my ticket holders.  Others, I was forced to question on the spot if I would confidently buy them or not.

Then, I got another phone call.  Look behind you, across the street!  Come on over!  I try not to normally judge books by their cover, but this wasn’t a normal situation.  I don’t typically carry a wad or much cash at all on any street.  This was different.  These people were different, to be nice.  The guy was a fat white man with a red bandana, tall white socks, jorts, and a wicked mustache that screamed molester.  The girl by his side had neon green fingernails, dyed blonde hair covered with dyed baby blue hair, a fidgety pack of Kool cigs, and jorts to boot.  I am always good on my intuition, and I can lay claim quite proudly that my first instincts in any situation is to never trust a stranger in jorts, without going wrong.  After a few minutes of looking at the tickets and not feeling good about getting scammed, my friend Matt Hall called and gave me a way out.

I told the couple I had to pass.  The modern-day dunce, Ignatius in the flesh, asked me what he did wrong.  I told him my friend had tickets, which I didn’t know anything about yet, and that he had some for us.  I said I was sorry, but I wasn’t too sorry.

Emily walked around the stadium, still no tickets in our possession, and I talked the entire time trying to justify why I didn’t feel good about those tickets from Craigslist.  My final word was that of jorts.  I’ve watched The Craigslist Killer movie with Emily before.   I didn’t want to get scammed and end up being that guy today, of all days.

We managed to find Matt Hall at Captain Morgan’s party.  Sticking with the pirate theme, we tried to walk in too.  The bouncer said we had to have tickets.  I asked Matt if he had tickets because five minutes before he didn’t either.  He told me about a man across the street with a sign who sold him tickets that had a cop beside him to show that he was legit.  We ran over there immediately and bought tickets to Pearl Jam at Wrigley Field; two tickets to paradise.

“I think I’m gonna cry.”  Emily was beyond happy.

We pretty much skipped into the party to meet up with Matt and his brother.  Let’s just say that we hopped on over, because we were excited and because we were now down to one arm and a leg for each of us.  Seeing Matt and Emily so happy together, minutes away from the start of the show … the event of a lifetime, it was perfect.  It was beyond worth it.  Not so worth it was Matt’s story of the day.  He had been on a morning jog before work and saw a big crowd surrounding a big bus in front of a big hotel.  He waited around for a good while because he knew that it was Pearl Jam.  It just had to be.  When the doors finally opened, all of the girls began to scream.  I think Matt even screamed for joy, at first.  Then Matt screamed again for being late for work and because it wasn’t Pearl Jam on the bus.  It was New Kids On The Block (or NKOTB or whatever)!  Again, this entire day, and everything we all went through to get to where we were, was priceless.

centre of attention

centre of attention

We toasted to us and found our seats, after getting a little swag to help remember the night once back home.  Fitting that Emily opted for the baseball pennant souvenir.  It lasts longer than ice cream in a helmet.  Never in all my planning did I think we would have the best seats in the entire ballpark, but we pretty much found ourselves with the best seats in the entire ballpark.  We had pleasant new neighbors, and all was well.  Dream mission accomplished!



It is true that after about thirty minutes of the show, once Pearl Jam really started going, they had to evacuate the field and stage because of the impending weather in the area.  The lightning was a beautiful backdrop and fun for Elderly Woman Behind The Counter in a Small Town, but I understood and I wasn’t alone.  Eddie promised the crowd he would be back to deliver a show like no other.  I sat down in my seat as the rain fell.  Emily laughed at me.  She said I looked serious and kinda terrified that Pearl Jam wasn’t going to play again.  Honestly, I was not worried about a cancellation.  Eddie would have come out and played acoustic if anything else for such a crowd and monumental event in his own life.  I was mainly sad that my phone died, for two reasons:  1- I couldn’t reach Matt Hall and get him to sit with us (I knew that whoever was sitting beside him was getting a heck of a show), and 2- I couldn’t give my man and #1 Pearl Jam fan in that of Joe Guthrie a play by play of the concert because he deserved to be there for this more than I did.  I came to find out that Matt had been texting Joe a play by play, especially after the last thing I could text before my phone died was a halfway downloaded picture of Emily with the pennant seen above.  That alone infuriated Joe to no effin’ end.  But that said, during the rain delay, Joe was making Matt jealous with his play by play of Pearl Jam’s setlist from their historic concert at Soldier’s Field playing on XM Radio.  The rain fell, but the crowd, like our search for tickets earlier, never left or lost hope.

Click the following link for a fun video to watch:

Elderly Woman at Wrigley before the storms rolled in

Where lesser bands like Bjork and Phish cancelled on the spot, Pearl Jam came back, as promised, better than ever.  Eddie came back on stage about 2 hours after they originally left us all in the rain (which was fun and made it all more memorable to say the least), and he sang an original song about “Someday we’ll go all the way!” in honor of the Cubs, his hometown team, and inspired by his childhood hero, the legendary Ernie Banks.  In fact, Ernie Banks came on stage after that very song!  Eddie said it was one of the best moments of his life.  Ernie was so cute. The crowd went wild.  Ernie said his  trademark phrase “Let’s play two!”  Then Eddie said screw the curfew and that they were going “to play until two!”

And they did.  Eddie’s voice helped resound Emily’s teenage youth, innocence, and memories back to the surface, once again.  But for me, and I didn’t say it that night for fear and best interest for all the Eddie fans surrounding me, it didn’t/doesn’t get much better than the playing of Mike McCready.  Seriously, Mike took it to another level on that field that hardly any Cub has ever done.  He is a guitar god.  I had to sit down, mostly because I wanted to take it all in and the other fact that it was almost two in the  morning.  We all sang, we all danced, we all cheered, and we all experienced one of the best events Pearl Jam will ever play.  Eddie, playing out his childhood dream, was between sounding like the ultimate rock star that he is all night during the songs to sounding like he was five years old again with his sincere, open gestures of gratitude towards the crowd, the band, and Wrigley Field for making his wildest dream into a reality.  I know that Emily, from where she was sitting, standing, and dancing, felt a kinship with that same sentiment as well.

After the show, it felt like we woke from a dream and we were a long way beyond a bed or a bath.  We got home safely and crashed like the wet, happy dogs we were.  Wow, what a day!

With a major dream cometh true, the rest of the weekend was icing on the cake.  Upon my good friend, Lesley Patterson-Marx’s advice, we had amazing afternoon filled with some of my favorite things:  ice cream, books, pizza, live music, and good friends (we got to hang with one of the best Bowling Green athletes who played football and graduated at Northwestern University and is one of the most intelligent, driven young adults you’ll ever get a chance to meet, Jared Carpenter.  I’ll let the pictures below say a few thousand words.

picture of Todd Dills' book beside Dave Eggers' at The Boring Store and 826Chi (see www.826chi.org and http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-14-where-the2ndhand-and-east-side-story-came-alive/)

picture of Todd Dills’ book beside Dave Eggers’ at The Boring Store and 826Chi (see www.826chi.org and http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-14-where-the2ndhand-and-east-side-story-came-alive/)

ice cream from Margie's Candies (www.margiesfinecandies.com)

MY ice cream at Margie’s Candies (www.margiesfinecandies.com)

Millennium Park's water park of sorts

Millennium Park’s water park of sorts

mE, Em, Jared, and Maribeth at The Bean

mE, Em, Jared, and Maribeth at The Bean

Giordano's with the Chicago Symphony and The Thor Building at our backs.

Giordano’s with the Chicago Symphony and the building of Thor at our backs.

One last memory made, before the rain washed away plans of meeting up with other friends in town for fireworks that ended up being cancelled, was that Maribeth pointed out the famous Chicago skyline building where they filmed one of the climatic rooftop action scenes for Adventures In Babysitting.  Some people call it by another slang term.  I call it the building of Thor.  My trip was complete!  We all took the train and made it home to crash in bed like the wet, happy dogs we were again.

To every story, there must be an end.  Our end almost never happened.  I only tell this part because it was similar to the rest of the unexpected adventure we experienced.  After we broke bread one last time with Maribeth, Emily made our way to the airport.  Because Nashville’s public transportation and lack of a train at all, we talked about how every major city trip feels even more exotic because of the fun to be had with public transit.  Anyways, we got to our concourse on time and early.

It was 4pm.  We had already sat and waited for our boarding call.  There was no surprise this round where we were going.  We were going home.  We had plans for dinner back on Eastside Avenue, where this journey started, with a friend.  Again, our plans changed.

The lady at the front desk told us that our plane had a weight issue.  They were asking some of the people on board to volunteer to get off so the plane could leave on time.  A few people took the bait.   We weren’t given the choice because we hadn’t been allowed on board yet.  They told us that we would have guaranteed seats on a plane that next morning at six, and that we were given priority standby seating for the next two flights out to Nashville that evening.  Unlike everyone else who tried to be angry and lie to get on the plane, we took it in stride because we were still riding the high of a true story dream weekend.

We walked over to the first of two later flights, and we relaxed in waiting.  While sitting back, we watched one of the same blonde ladies who had bitched and moaned at every Southwest employee at the original plane come back to make another terrible showing for the new faces behind the counter.  We ditched her and this particular flight, opting for a dinner at the Harry Caray Bar and Grille around the way.  We had a lovely meal and a hysterical older waitress that really took to us.  When we told her about our situation, we thought she was never going to let us leave her table because she kept telling us to sit tight and more jokes to keep us company.

But our time came and went, and we went back down the original concourse of the day for the last effort of the evening before we either camped out in the airport or got a last minute hotel room for a few hours of sleep (it’s easy to make these kind of decisions with less stress when you travel with an awesome life partner who packs everything she needs for any trip in one bag to carry on like I always do too).  We took our seat by the television, and we bided our time.  After an hour, we looked up and saw two people we knew … Sophia and her son Benji!  Emily and Sophia were more than ready to share a glass of wine and catch up on each other’s trip to this point of the weekend while I had the excellent company of the most excellent and awesome Benji.  We split time talking about Grandpa time in Albuquerque and watching between cartoons and news on CNN (the story about the 90-year-old lady drummer really caught us both off guard).

Emily and Sophia!

Emily and Sophia!

After a while, I had to text Emily to see if she could sit and watch cartoons for a second so I could tinkle (as a solid friend of Benji might put it if he’s not already talking like Arnold Schwarzenegger … too funny, this kid).  Emily took my seat and told me that Peter Cooper was around the corner.  I jumped up and, sure enough, Peter Cooper was around the corner, wouldn’t you know.  He and Eric Brace were hot off a handful of shows out west, making their way home back to Nashville too.  It was such a good feeling to feel so close to home.  But, in the flip side, we still didn’t know if we were going back with these guys or what the heck was going on.  Sophia, Benji, Peter, and the gang got on the plane.  We took our seats.

Emily and I kept our cool, waiting in the wings, as directed by one of the Southwest employees that now knew us on a first name basis, but something happened that really lit both our fires at the same time.  It was as if the theme song for the Wicked Witch of the West played over the intercom as that same bitching blonde lady strolled up to the counter, said her piece, and then was allowed to get on the freakin’ plane!  Oh hales no!  Emily and I hopped up, stormed to the counter, and told the lady behind the counter that that blonde witch did not deserve to be on this plane.  The employee told us that they had another weight issue with this plane due to a combination of overloaded seats, too much fuel, and short runways (I guess they don’t call it Midway for nothing).  Emily told her that we didn’t want the plane to crash, obviously, but we really didn’t want that one witch on this plane (even if we couldn’t get on there tonight) because of the way that she had treated everyone the entire day.  Good people don’t always have to win or get ahead, we understand that completely, but bad people should never win or get ahead, in my humble opinion.  But we got the last laugh.

As fate would have it, the plane and all of the passengers inside, sat still for about two hours.  I felt sorry for our friends, but we couldn’t do anything but sit and wait for answers.  Similar to the Pearl Jam show, we stood outside and waited for magic to happen.  Benji and several other people were allowed to get off, stretch, and walk back around the concourse instead of sitting still (understandable since the rest of the airport was pretty much closed down for the night).  Benji and I watched a few more cartoons for good measure, and, lo and behold, Emily and I were given two of the last seats available on the entire plane once the problems were magically resolved without answers being given to the public.  At 2 am, it didn’t bother Emily or me that we didn’t get to sit beside one another.  I sat beside a lovely old couple that had to drive two more hours once we landed in Nashville.  I fell sound asleep after the first wave of turbulence. Emily sat between a cool, working musician, shocker, and a loud-mouthed, decent looking Russian girl, coming to Nashville with dreams of starting a music career, that never shut her mouth and kept Emily and everyone around her awake the entire ride back.

We all landed safely home on Monday morning, later than originally planned but earlier than the standby ticket scheduled for sunrise.  Our Sunday dinner plans had long been shot.  The cab fee reminded us whey we never take cab rides in Nashville.

And we crashed to bed, happy and tired as dogs, heading straight ahead towards our next dream, together.

Credits and extra links:

(in order of appearance above)

-Emily Frances Harper Beard = www.efharper.com

-Ellen Pryor and Frist Center for the Visutal Arts = www.fristcenter.org

-Nicole Branigan = www.facebook.com/BlackbirdPoetry 

-Maggie Carrigan = http://reallifemaggie.com

-Michael Griffith = www.amazon.com/Trophy-A-Novel-Michael-Griffith/dp/0810152185

-Sewanee’s School of Letters = http://letters.sewanee.edu

-Circ Esteem = www.circesteem.org

-Jim James = http://jimjames.com & www.mymorningjacket.com

-Lesley Patterson-Marx = www.lesleypattersonmarx.com

-The Boring Store = www.notasecretagentstore.com

-Todd Dills = http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-14-where-the2ndhand-and-east-side-story-came-alive

-Dave Eggers & 826 Chicago = www.826chi.org 

-Margie’s Candies = www.margiesfinecandies.com

-Peter Cooper & Eric Brace = http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-12-where-writers-read-sing-and-eat-their-great-uncles-with-a-side-of-red-beets-for-dinner-outdoors

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Patricia August 11, 2013 at 11:51 pm

OMG that was one amazing story! I laughed so hard I cried. What a great lot of friends you have, and such a darling wife. Thanks for sharing your adventure! Patricia


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