One in the Crowd

Standing in a dark, crowded room you can feel the anticipation from the crowd. People are filing in, slowly staking claim on their spot on the floor. You watch the room fill in around you, as the lights go down and suddenly this room full of strangers are instantly connected as  the atmosphere in the room is directed toward the stage. Your favorite musician has taken the stage.

Usually, I am not one to enjoy a concert experience. Crowds make me anxious, the words “General Admission” just make me think of sweaty crowds of people spilling beer, and most of the time the music doesn’t sound nearly as good as it does on the record. There is one exception to this, for me. I will travel far distances to be in the crowd at an Andrew McMahon show. His music has been a huge part of the last ten years of my life.

It started with one song, showcased on my favorite television show and a trip to the music store, back in the days we had music stores. I bought the Jack’s Mannequin Everything in Transit album and it remained in my car’s CD player for the majority of the life of that car. I knew all of the words to every song and felt a connect to the music that I had never felt before. When I realized they would be in Detroit for a concert that winter, I immediately bought tickets for my sister and I for Christmas. Little did I know, she had the same idea. Thankfully my mother managed to make sure only one of us purchased the tickets. 

Waiting in line on that freezing February evening, in downtown Detroit, saying I was annoyed would be an understatement. We were in line blocks away from the venue surrounded by screaming teenyboppers. It was the first concert I had been to in a venue that primarily had general admission, no chairs or tables, just a room full of bodies. We found an elevated spot to call our own and waited, for what seemed like hours, for Jack’s Mannequin to take the stage. The crowd erupted once Andrew walked to his place behind the piano and before I knew it I was in for the most impressive show of my life. You can tell, by the way Andrew performs that he loves what he does, he has fun, he jumps, dances, and practically beams from behind his mic. I was hooked. 

I didn’t realize at the time but, later my connection to this man and his music would only strengthen as I learned about his battle with leukemia. In his early 20s, Andrew was diagnosed with leukemia and ultimately underwent a bone marrow transplant. Before a few months ago, I had no idea what that meant and couldn’t relate to the year his life was put on hold. 

Since that first show I have seen Andrew McMahon perform three other times, once just this last weekend in Grand Rapids. My sister and I drove the 143 miles on a Thursday evening to pack in with the rest of crowd to see Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness perform, and for a couple of hours we were all transformed to an alternate universe, listening, singing, dancing, and laughing. 
The week before we left, I found myself sitting at home browsing the list of documentaries available on Netflix. I came across “Dear Jack” the film about Andrew’s battle with leukemia. I spent the majority of the following hour crying as I watched this musician that I adored go through this fight I knew inevitably would be something I’d watch my husband go through. I was thankful for the opportunity to see it, but also terrified. Everything became very real, very quickly. 

It was oddly comforting to see that the man who made my favorite music knew about this world and used his experiences to push forward in his art. It wasn’t a coincidence that I found myself, new concert t-shirt in hand, standing in a room full of people listening to his story all over again. Eleven years post transplant and I was one of the many in the crowd, cheering him on. As usual, there was a table in the back of the venue taking registration for bone marrow donors. With tears forming behind my eyes, listening to the music of my favorite musician, I joined my sister at the table and officially became a member of the bone marrow donor registry. 

I turned back toward the stage just in time to hear his final song, one of my favorites and savored the moment. The moment my love for music became a little bit more. 

EJFP Chapters: Real World Meets Fictional World

EJFP ChaptersTraveling has never been a huge part of my life, especially if it included leaving the state of Michigan. As a kid, I remember taking two trips outside of Michigan as a family, once to Disney World and once to Missouri for my dad’s dream vacation: a week on a houseboat. It seems that I have traveled more as an adult outside of my little Michigan comfort zone, one trip was a little more out of the ordinary than the others.

(May 2011) Shortly after I got married and my sister moved back home my mom decided that she wanted to take the two of us on a trip, considering we didn’t travel much and mom hadn’t been on an airplane in almost 18 years, I was surprised when she said she was taking us to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Mom and Laura did most of the planning, I helped with the more logistical stuff, and before we knew it, May had arrived and it was time for us to fly south!

Having not been on an airplane in so long, my mom did not have an exceptionally great time on our flights. By the time we landed we were all ready to kiss the ground below us. The feeling of walking out of the doors of the airport was so strange to me, the exhaustion from a day of traveling, the blast of humidity and heat, and the anticipation of getting to your destination. It’s a odd thing to be dropped off hundreds of miles away from where you started, completely vulnerable and relying on those around you for directions.

myrtle beach

Our hotel was very nice, the view was pretty amazing, the boardwalk kept going as far as the eye could see on either side of our balcony. The streets were filled with motorcycles for Black Biker Week, all night long you could hear the revving of bikes making their way along the main drag. We settled in, and got ready for five days of relaxing by the ocean.

Our first morning arrived and all I could think about was waking up and heading downstairs to the Starbucks on the main floor of the hotel. Coffee by the ocean just seems like the perfect wake up call. Probably one of the best views I’ve had while sitting at a coffee shop, the air was still cool, the boardwalk was empty and I sat there sipping my delicious coffee just taking in the breeze.

I spent the majority of my time lounging and reading on my new Kindle. It’s amazing how many books you can read when you’ve got an endless internet connection. We packed our days with visiting shops, trying new restaurants, laying on beach chairs, and just enjoying some time to pause. Laura and Mom are much more into the tourist aspect of traveling than I am, they undoubtedly saw much more of the city than I had. By the time our last couple of days came, we were just about spent with everything within a mile radius of our hotel. On the eve of our last full day, we decided to create some spontaneity in our vacation.

Wilmington, North Carolina was only a couple of hours away and the home of our favorite TV show, One Tree Hill. We headed back toward the airport to rent a car and hit the road! I had done research the night before and had a list of filming locations we were going to search for. My favorite, by far, was the Rivercourt on the Cape Fear River. Home to many scenes and characters that we had grown to love. We enjoyed a guided tour of the sound stage they filmed on and even got to walk through some of the sets for the show, I felt like I was in another universe. If only I had photographic evidence of that experience!

The next day we packed up and headed back to the real world, literally after spending a day in our favorite fictional world. We stepped off of our fourth plane in six days and we were back home, that feeling is a little different than when you land somewhere new, but it never fails, everything always feels a little different after returning from a trip away. The world just keeps on spinning while you’re off experiencing a new landscape.

This trip was one that sparked a series of trips that we take together, sometimes including other people, sometimes it’s just the three of us exploring new territory. I look forward to these little breaks from reality that we get, they are opportunities to just exist in a new space, away from the stress that life can bring with people you know will build you up.

I may not be one that likes to travel, the lack of control is a problem for me, but I do like to relax, explore, and soak in all of the time I can with the people that I care about. This summer will bring three breaks from reality and I’m already jonesing to get in the car and drive.