Happy Birthday, Anne Lamott.
You don't know me. We've met, but I couldn't remember my name to offer as an introduction. The only thing I managed to force out of my mouth was: "I'm a fan" and "thank you."
*Brilliant* I stated the obvious after standing in a line for 45 minutes and I thanked you for what? Writing? Signing a copy of your book? Being a compassionate human being with cool hair? I spread my "thank you" frosting on your desert from my Easy Bake oven.
I didn't say any of things that I wanted you to hear.
From simple things like "Happy Birthday a few days early" to more complex things like discussing something powerful I read on the top of page 190. How I considered bringing a pack of index cards to you since you indicated it's one of your favorite writing tools. I imagined a brief exchange of pleasant laughter and then I would go on to explain that I didn't bring any index cards because I'm ridiculous. Why would you want a pack of index cards from a stranger as a birthday gift? How I tortured myself out of giving this inexpensive token to you because I didn't know if you preferred lined or unlined. I don't know the answer to that. Do you like multi-colored or plain white? For the multi-colored, I assuredly vetoed the neon colors my 12 year old would love, but considered soft pastels may be acceptable? I have no idea. Then there's the whole issue of size. 3X5 or 4X6? You mentioned that you sometimes fold index cards and put them in your back pocket, so should I go with the smaller size? It's all so stressful and sad. I have no idea what *THE* Anne Lamott prefers in notecards because we're not friends, acquaintances or someone you would pass in the office supply store.
Your writing makes me feel like we're friends - not in a weird stalker way - but in a way that when I read your words, sometimes I whisper, "Yes...Yes. Exactly." But if we were friends, I still would've waited in a book signing line in a town 4 1/2 hours away just to see you - again, not in a weird stalker way - but because I support you and I believe in the kindness of your words. But I am sorry I didn't at least say "Happy Birthday" or tell you I thought about bringing index cards, or that I drove a long time to see you or that I cherished every sentence in Bird by Bird. I didn't say a damn thing except - "I'm a fan" and "thank you." I should get points at least for the "thank you" because at least I'm grateful for something.
But here's what I am going to say to you now.
Thank you for signing my copy of Bird by Bird on page 8. It was an usual request since most everyone wants you to sign the title page or inside cover. But while I was standing in line, I read the sign that said Anne Lamott is unable to do individual photographs or autograph personalizations and I honor your time constraints and boundaries. Though, please allow me this one brief side note: You showed class when you moved your chair from behind the table and set it to the side where you could sit and rest your right arm. Your fans felt like you were more approachable and there wasn't a table barrier in front of you.
Anyway, I asked you to sign page 8 because in the bottom paragraph, you use the word *frantic* in a sentence and that was the closest I was going to get to personalization. You signed your name near part of my name and I'm delighted.
Happy Birthday, Anne. Thank you for your gifts and talents. I'm so happy that it feels like my birthday. I sort of got to meet you. You sort of personalized an autograph and as you spoke on writing, life, and religion, I was fortunate to be a part of that sold out crowd. Never blow out your candles. Keep shining your light on our shadowy places just as the flashlight in the dark or the headlights on the road.
Much respect and adoration,
The nineties were the beginning of a phenomenal and impressive career for Jim Brickman and by the look of his tours, cruises and album sales, he's still going strong. The gifted pianist has traveled around the world romanticizing beautiful music and wooing audiences for decades. Back then I was fortunate to hang out with him during a few listener appreciation parties and concerts. He is just as nice as you would imagine, probably more so; and conversation with him is easy and relaxed. His voice is smooth, his eyes captivating and his geniune warmth is as cozy as his Christmas album.
Jimmy, (l call him Jimmy because in my mind we're completely casual) is America's New Romantic Piano Sensation. Jim Brickman touts his title during his concerts. This nomenclature started as a reliable quip to warrant audience laughter, but the tagline stuck because, he IS a romantic AND a piano sensation.
On July 7, 1999, Jimmy (see I did it again) had a sell out concert on Chicago's Navy Pier. The pavilion was sheltered but open to the outdoors. It was a beautiful summer night for a concert. I was thrilled to have a ticket and enjoy his incredible performance. Brickman was brilliant as ever but what made that night so special was for an entirely different reason.
I got engaged!
My future husband and I flew to Chicago under the pretense that we were going to see Jim's show, go to an after party, then meet some new artists the next day. Looking back, I'm stunned that I had no idea what was coming. We arrived to the venue early (as usual) and grabbed our press passes and headed back stage. Jim was there and his lovely songbird companion and dearest friend since childhood, Anne Cochran. They welcomed both of us with a big hug and ushered us into a seating area as if we were in their living room. They were delightful and charming and I remember thinking, *Wow, I am in awe of these talented, gifted people. They are famous, but their Ohio roots have kept them grounded.* Being with them was as comfortable as hanging out with your closest friends from high school.
Anne Cochran has a gorgeous smile, a friendly laugh and she's one of the easiest people to get to know. She is relaxed which makes you feel at ease while she tells you about her family or something funny that happened on the road. She's lovely. If you ever have the opportunity to shake her hand and tell her that her voice is enchanting, please do so. She will make you feel like you are the first person to ever tell her.
My boyfriend and I had some time to kill while Jim and Anne prepared for the concert, so we took a stroll along the pier. The breeze off Lake Michigan was just enough for me to ask him to give me his sports coat. He blinked. Swallowed a little harder than usual, then slowly took off his blazer. Later, he would tell me that in that moment he hoped I would change my mind and decide I was warm enough. But I stood there, my head tilting to the left like the RCA dog listening for a reason as to why it was taking so long to get his coat on my shoulders. But what you don't know is that in his right coat pocket was a box. And in that box was a diamond ring.
This was the same box and ring tucked inside his carry on when he freaked out because the flight attendant took his luggage and put it fifteen rows back in an overhead compartment. She explained that it just would NOT fit underneath the seat in front of him. The same box and ring that were hidden in his bag and placed on the conveyor belt as we passed through security. The yawning TSA lady stared at the black and white monitor with dull, bored eyes until she saw something circular and platinum showing up on the X-RAY. Now her wide eyes flashed bright as she shot a look to my guy. He was stoic and his face revealed nothing. She smiled and told us to have a "very nice day." Seriously, WHEN. DOES. THAT. EVER. HAPPEN?
Back on the pier, his coat warmed my shoulders and covered my bare arms. I settled in to walking beside him. I wrapped my hand around his pinky finger (my way of holding hands) and we enjoyed the carnival-like atmosphere - the ferris wheel, the seagulls, the parents getting balloon animals and cotton candy for their kids. It was a perfect, memorable night, just as it was right then.
It was time to get settled into our seats and savor all of our favorites songs. It was Jim's Destiny tour and still one of my favorites. If you haven't heard this album then do a search on Itunes as soon as you finish reading this Famous Feathers story.
Jim was captivating and effortless with his talent. Anne joined him for a few songs and they were as kismit and intertwined as long-time friends and professionals could possibly be. After one of their songs, their playful banter charmed and the audience responded with laughter and applause. Anne, said "You know, Jim, we have some really special friends of ours in the audience tonight." Jim nodded and said "Yes, we have." as he kept playing a melody on the piano. Anne continued, "Jim, these friends have a favorite song of ours and I think we should play it for them now." Jim said, "Yes, we should do that, but I think he has something he wants to say first."
I'm staring at Jim and Anne, completely enthralled with their vocals and the magic they were creating. Even though I had no idea who they were talking about, I was mesmerized as was the entire audience. They paused and smiled and I'm smiling back at them unaware that the love of my life had slipped out of his chair, was down on one knee, box open, ring sparkling looking at me, waiting for me to notice.
When I did, I gasped and slid down on to the floor with him. I was on my knees and I was holding his hand. He said, "I want to spend the rest of my life making you as happy as you are making me right this minute. - Will you marry me?" I was already crying and the spotlight was highlighting my shiny, wet face but I didn't care. I loved this man, this ring, this concert and Jim Brickman. "Yes! I cried, "Yes!"
The crowd went wild with approval and as their applause settled, Anne smiled and walked back to the edge of the piano. Jim offered his congratulations and together they sang, "Destiny."
We will cherish that night for as long as we live. The entire experience was pure magic and transcending. It felt like all of it was just for us. It seemed as if we were the only ones hearing "our" song on Navy Pier that night.
If I had a Famous Feather Second Chance:
Jim and Anne, You gave us a gift that can never be repaid. After 15 years of marriage we still consider your concert the start of our beginning. Someday, we would like to say thank you by having you as guests in our home. We would enjoy great wine, dinner and conversation into the wee hours. Someday, maybe you would be kind enough to join us for a ceremony to renew our vows - no performance required. Many blessings on your continued success.
Naomi Judd has to be one of my most memorable and favorite Famous Feather stories. Soon, you'll understand why I chose her to be my first Famous Feather post. The two of us had such a brief interaction but I was dazzled by her grace through something that *ahem* was not at all graceful.
In the fall of 1994, I had the privilege of attending the SILENT FALL movie premiere in Nashville, Tennessee. Wynonna Judd had released a song with Michael English called "Healing" that was part of the original movie soundtrack. Wynonna was pregnant with her first child and her pregnancy was probably the main reason her mom, Naomi Judd was with her.
We enjoyed a Curb Records hosted dinner, (I've forgotten where it was) but I remember it felt exclusive because there were not many attendees. After dinner, we rode in a chartered bus to the Belcourt Theater for the premiere. Several people in the lobby were mingling and getting last minute drinks before going into the theater to be seated. It was the perfect time to excuse myself to the ladies' room.
It was a small restroom with dim lighting and only two or three stalls. I went to the second stall and proceeded to do what I needed to do. I heard another lady come into the bathroom. I listened to the heel clicks on the tile and the sound of the lock on the door and determined she chose the first stall. I finished, flushed, then opened my door and walked to the sink so I could wash my hands. I decided to apply some lipstick too since I was at the mirror. As I was looking through my purse to find my makeup kit, I noticed a standard household plunger tucked between the sink and the wall of the first stall. I thought it was odd. One, because it was a basic plunger, not an industrial style you would expect from a public restroom. Two, this was a nice ladies' room at a classy theater in downtown Nashville so why would a plunger be setting out in plain view? My questions were answered as quickly as I thought of them.
The lady in the first stall called out "Oh! Oh!" Then I heard the sound of swishing water from a toilet in a continual mode of flushing. The stall door banged open and there stood Naomi Judd. She chuckled and said, "I've got a mess in here." Her eyes moved over the small bathroom looking for some remedy to the messy situation. The surreal image of her standing there held me captive. Seeing her in that off-white dress with an antique looking brooch at the center of her neckline anchored me to the floor. For the longest moment in the history of crazy bathroom experiences, I stared at her as she reached past me and picked up the plunger. She opened the first stall door with true grit and shoved the plunger into the noisy swirling commode. I took a few steps behind her and held the stall door open to keep it from banging shut. I was standing there like a useless idiot, watching her do the most basic of plumbing work.
I realized what was happening and decided that Naomi Judd was too classy of a lady to be plunging a toilet in her probably very expensive heels and creamy, white outfit. I stuttered and said "Naomi, please let me do that for you," hoping my voice was loud enough so she could hear over the gurgling water and praying she didn't notice that I was unrefined by calling her by her first name without proper introduction. At that moment, the regurgitating toilet gave one last watery belch and then quieted into a simple, necessary flush. She turned and looked at me and smiled. Not at all alarmed that some lady was holding the door open to her bathroom stall. Then Naomi Judd said something that I will never, ever forget. "Honey, I've plunged a toilet at home so I can do it here." What grace she had!
She moved out of the stall as I held the door open. She set the plunger back down on the floor where she found it. She washed her hands, dried them off and walked out into the lobby. I stood there motionless, staring at the door as it closed behind her. Did this really happen? Naomi Judd just fixed a toilet and I was a witness. She was completely human and I'm an even bigger fan of hers now.
If I had a Famous Feather Second Chance:
Naomi, You are remarkable. You have had an impressive career and raised two amazing girls talented in their own rights. My mother was a Operating Room Nurse for many decades so we have a special love for nurses in our family. My favorite Judd song is "I know where I'm going" even though I don't. But, I'm quite sure my plan is not nearly as awesome as God's. Thank you for using *your* God given talent and remaining humble even with your celebrity status. Best wishes on your Las Vegas shows with Wynonna!