Sunday, May 14, 2006

Jesus Take the Wheel

The lyrics from Carrie Underwood's big-time, blockbuster, no-holds-barred chart burner were wandering aimlessly through my head, trying to form new sentences that would guide me out of the boondocks I found myself lost in.

They hopped all over the giant blackboard standing firmly in the back of my mind. But once parked in place and making no sense whatsoever, the board morphed into a massive Etch-a-Sketch.

I held my head still so as not to erase their message. It might be a way out of this mess.

My companion displayed her composure and sense of humor from the passenger seat.

"I know why you went this way. You brought me out here to kill me."

At least the laughter muted the silence in a nervous, boy-I-shouldn't-be-laughing-kinda way.

The evening wasn't supposed to end this way, a mangled, decrepit bookend to an otherwise fantastic day.

Hope and Anticipation are really the only aspects of my Life that keep me sane these days, and today possessed both in ample amounts.

Carrie Underwood you might recall from the media juggarnaut that is "American Idol" was last season's winner. She's made huge strides on the country and pop charts and really appeals to middle America.

And of course, zealous "American Idol" fans.

It has been over three years since I've attended anything resembling a concert. That timeline coincides with my failing health, which has tested my ability to enjoy myself.

So when my friend Jess asked me to go, I realized I could use my massively impressive connections to get free tickets. Although the sales executive who ran the account waited until the very last minute to actually place the stubs in my skinny little paws, it was worth it.

Floor seats. Twelfth row.

If you've never been to the Konocti Ampitheater overlooking Clear Lake, it is probably one of the most picturesque backdrops you could ask for. Rolling hills and sparkling water. Very Normal Rockwell, very Americana.

I decided the best plan would be to meet at the station around 4pm and head out in the Stacy TruckMobile. Jess arrived looking extra adorable, but I tried not to notice because I know that's not what she wants and I'm in no shape to date anyone anyway.

The entire circumstance actually made the day much more enjoyable because there wasn't any pressure.

The drive itself is nearly a ninety minute advertisement for Dramamine.

It's as though someone decided that the best way to connect two points was to get drunk first, start sketching and then try and finish the design before passing out.

The view is awe inspiring though.

It was when we were pulling into the Konocti parking lot around 5:45pm that I realized I had forgotten my Konocti cash.

Who knew this would be forshadowing of events yet to come?

We still had tickets to the BBQ, so all was not lost.

I had made sure to have her bring her copy of Carrie's album "Some Hearts" because I had a surprise.

We were going backstage.

This would have been a bigger surprise, but apparently she's not a big fan of "surprises."

So be it.

There's usually an air of excitement when you go backstage to meet an artist you're about to see perform. The line is usually populated with about twenty to thirty people. They're either dutiful fan club members, relatives of people "in the know" or people like me: radio personalities who promote the show.

Whenever you go backstage, I suggest you be on your best behavior, because there are an army of security personnel just waiting for an excuse to expel some agression.

They lined us up like little six graders and explained what was going to happen. By some act of wacky Fate, I managed to become first in line because I was with the radio station.

I know. Pretty cool.

The trailer that Carrie was occupying was about eight to ten feet above the platform that we were populating, the entire area overlooking Clear Lake.

Fortunately, Jess is a thinker and brought her digital camera.

When Carrie came out, she looked stunned by the number of people who wanted to meet her. She didn't say a word and just followed her manager to the railing overlooking the view.

I walked up and mumbled something about how much our listeners love her single releases. She quickly grabbed my album and singed it while expelling a whisperey "thank you."

We looked up together to take the photo and she puts her arm around me.

And then I froze.

I know. What an idiot. She's one of the few celebrities I've met who actually looks better in person. She's mesmerizing.

And, as Jess pointed out, "so tiny!"

Television definately adds ten pounds, as the cliche goes.

My boss mentioned before he went on stage to introduce her that she's not full of herself, just incredily, massively shy.

There could have been a hundred things that we, the fans, didn't know was going on. She's far from her family, she could be tired from the water skiing earlier in the day, she could have received some bad news...the list is endless.

"Little Big Town" opened the show and they rocked. You know how you can enjoy an artist or group and you're a fan? And then you go to a show and they surprise you by being even better in person?

That's what happened with "Little Big Town." They tried four years ago and just nosedived on the charts.

They're a true testament to "never give up, never surrender."

When Carrie took the stage, I noticed that the bleachers in back as well as the floor seats weren't full.

Is this a testament to higher gas prices or is the power of "American Idol" not as all encompassing as once thought?

Whatever the case, I take it personally because we're the only station in the market pushing the show.

Jess loved Carrie Underwood, but I was a little underwhelmed. That speaks less about Carrie's talent and more to the fact that most of the concerts I've been to have featured veteran performers.

Give Carrie another year or two and her live performances will really speak to the masses.

Not two miles from the exit to Konocti, I made a decision that Fate is still hemming and hawing about.

I made a wrong turn.

Ten miles into my misdirection, Jess mentioned we should probably turn back.

Since I am a "man" and a "man" NEVER asks for directions or admits when he's made a wrong turn, we pushed on.

This is where the night could have turned ugly, but Jess is a patient young woman. Different night with a totally different personality in the passenger seat and I probably would have been screaming obscenities back.

That just speaks to Jess' personality and patience. Thank goodness.

It was forty-five minutes of wandering the one lane highway (the stripes in the middle had ceased to exist twelve miles back) that the lyrics popped into my head...

"Jesus take the wheee-eeee-eeeeellllll."

Jesus actually kicked back, took another belt of homemade wine (it was bath water just minutes earlier) and just smiled, comfortable in the knowledge that all roads lead somewhere.

Unless you're in Napa County.

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