Keith Urban, Now Pain Free

Dawn Keith Urban Aug 2016

Summer 2016: The first time I met him.

I turned around the other day and there he was. Keith Urban. The object of my fantasies and desires for years. Countless years. He said “Nice to see you” and gave me a hug. And I felt nothing. Don’t get me wrong – it was great to see him because he’s a lovely person. And I love his music. But I felt no pain. No longing. I felt content. I felt peace. Many years ago, thoughts of Keith Urban brought me pain.

Years ago I was very unhappy. I was convinced I had taken the wrong path. My idea of what  my life should have looked like certainly did not resemble my actual life.

I spent my time wondering about a “fork in the road” – a moment of decision where I had to decide between two paths. I remember it well. I‘d just finished a semester abroad in Sweden. I’d already modeled in New York and Germany and had spent a summer as an intern at MTV in New York. This was back in the late 80s when they played music videos. I was not one to shy away from a challenge. I was fearless with a touch of blissful ignorance.

Instead of doing the risky thing and trying to get a job in entertainment, I chose to stay home near the boyfriend. I’m sure there are many reasons I did that. Having a best friend /romantic partner had always been important to me and I thought I could also find a great job. Plus, it was what people my age did.

Fast forward a number of years. Expectations not met.

So Keith Urban became my muse. I’m not sure how I discovered his album “Golden Road” in 2003 – about 15 years ago. His album and videos took me into “What If?” territory. Songs like “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me,” “Somebody Like You,” and “You Look Good In My Shirt” had me feeling elation and pain simultaneously. I felt longing. What had I done to myself? I could have had a different life. I met all kinds of people at MTV and while modeling. Famous people. Talented people. But there I was. Stuck in my hum-drum life. I thought I’d made poor choices.

Keith Urban was single back then. He represented the idea of an intimate bond with another person. Travel. Excitement. Living to full potential. Being appreciated. Feeling loved. And he’s a  hot musician! And music is my mojo! He was one-stop-shopping.

I flew to a city where Keith Urban was playing and stayed with friends. This was during his early career. I remember feeling sad that he was way beyond reach. I was just an audience member. An audience member stuck in a life.

After putting in my best efforts at the time, like marriage counseling and a move to a new city, we got divorced.

As Keith’s career was gaining momentum, he did a show in my town. I was working in country radio at the time and was devastated when I had seats in the nosebleeds. It felt painful. He was so close, yet so far, once again. The shitty seats felt like a metaphor for many things in my life.

A few years later, I got married again. I was so happy the day I got married. I no longer had a need for a muse. The happiness I was looking for was not a distant thing – I had found it. I had done the work, or so I’d thought.

My new husband and I went to a Keith Urban concert when he played in the town where we lived. And oddly enough, the pain of seeing Keith Urban was gone. I was really happy. I felt connected to my husband. I was really happy to be with him. What I didn’t understand was that my husband was feeling pain that night; insecurity. I did not understand my husband’s pain. He thought I was wishing I was with Keith instead of him. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Sure, I loved watching Keith perform. Music brings me joy. But there was no longing. No pain. Plus, I was thrilled that Keith had his life with Nicole and their kids.

About 18 months into that marriage, it ended. I understand now that my second husband’s thoughts about many things caused him a lot of suffering. That caused a lot of suffering for both of us.

A few years after that marriage ended, Keith was playing in a city a few hours away. I knew I could probably meet him via a contact with my radio job. So I drove to the venue with a few friends. My friends got to meet the opening act while I went to something called “The VIP experience.” It’s a small area where the musician does a few acoustic songs before having a short Q&A session. There’s some food and drinks and you meet other super fans. I have to admit it was really fun to be back there. But, before all that, you meet the artist. So, I got in line to finally meet him. I was at the end of the line. And, oddly enough, I wasn’t really that nervous. All those years of anticipation. I kept saying to myself “I’m about to meet Keith Urban. I’ve been waiting for this for more than a decade. Why am I not flipping shit?” I mean I was a little nervous, but it was more like fear of the unknown.

Keith was behind a wall of curtains. So unlike many other meet and greets, I could not see him interact with other people before it was my turn to say “Hi” and get a picture. Instead, it was wait in line, move up a little, wait a little longer, move up a little more, wait, move, get to the front of the line, wait, bodyguard opens the curtain, and “whammo” – there’s Keith with his professional photographer.

So there he was. Keith. In all his Keithy-ness. Perfectly lovely as you’d expect. And I was fine as I usually am. I’ve been told I’m “clinically extroverted” so even if I’m a little nervous I can usually pull off an intelligent sentence. I mentioned something technical about his current album which he liked and then asked if I could hug him for the picture. Obviously, he said yes.

It was all over in minutes – and I was back at my seat waiting for the acoustic set to start. And I was fine. No tears. No longing. Hmmm. I felt oddly let down. In a good way.

He no longer represented what I could not have. Something had changed. I knew it would be great to meet him. His music brings me so much joy. And if I could build a partner, he certainly seems to be a great prototype. So yes, I was thrilled meet him, but there was nothing else. He no longer represented a life I longed for.

After my first divorce I realized I had to figure out what had not worked and go toward  connection and intimacy. I thought I had found that the second time. I was wrong. But that’s okay. After the second divorce, it was back to square one.

How did I end up divorced twice? How do any of us end up where we are?

I’m learning to be curious rather than judgmental. 

I’ve been with my sweetie for almost two years. Lots of questions. Lots of scary and vulnerable moments. Lots of pain to work through. It’s been horrifyingly great.

A few weeks ago, Keith Urban was playing in a city a few hours away. Even though my sweetie is not a fan of concerts, crowds, or music, he said he’d go because he loves spending time with me. He knew my whole Keith Urban “story.” This time, we were in the radio room. We were with other radio people backstage – a relaxed area where Keith chats with folks – some of whom he has known for years throughout his career.

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Summer 2018: He is much prettier than this.

Keith walked into the radio room and saw me, gave me a hug, and said “nice to see you” because he’s polite. He would, of course, not know me from Adam. Or Eve, as he’s only met me once. But, he’s so nice and easy to chat with, I wasn’t going to complain. I, of course, mentioned something about being presentable (not having food in my teeth) and he countered with something about “why be presentable?”

Later, I asked him for another hug pic and he mentioned something about me being tall like his wife. My boyfriend, Keith and I had a conversation about his razor stubble and what Nicole thinks about it – my boyfriend also likes to skip shaving. Keith said he and Nic like the look but she doesn’t like the way it feels either. Keith said he skips shaving due to laziness. My sweetie liked that answer. Thinking back, dammit, I should have asked him a music question. Like how do they pick which songs get released, in which order. Shitballs.

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Best photobomb ever.  (My sweetie isn’t possessed. Red-eye reduction gone haywire.)

And then we got the other pic. The one with me and my sweetie. And Keith.

We got to stand in the pit and watch the concert up close. I loved it cause I knew the songs. Since we have old feet, after about an hour of standing, we went to our seats. I knew my sweetie was there enduring the flashing lights, loud music he didn’t know, a huge crowd, a long day of driving, and a $40 parking fee, just to be there with me. So, we left a song early so we could beat the crowd and get to our hotel before midnight.

My boyfriend didn’t spend any time worrying about whether I wanted to be with Keith Urban instead of him. He knows I only want to be with him.

But since he can’t play guitar and sing, I’ll just have to get my Keith fix every so often. 🙂

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Marching Band by James G.

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Waiting for the runner up band to be called at Nationals can be the best and worst feeling in the world. Your fate is decided in that instant when the announcer either does or does not say your name. This announcement of runner up and first place had serious implications in my freshman and senior year of marching band. This announcement was followed by tears both times. In between these two years were two seasons of the band declining.

My freshman year I was completely new to the idea of being in a competition band. My freshman year was my first year playing Tuba and I was introduced to a whole new world and intense level of music. This new thing was called high school marching band. During the summer before my freshman year rehearsals began and they seemed very similar to any other band I had been in until about the third rehearsal when the marching part was introduced. After that rehearsal the reality behind the concept of marching band hit me. I thought to myself. I have to march, and play? Those two tasks are hard enough to do by themselves. Not being a person that quits often I accepted the challenge and decided to stick with it. My section leader Adam was a wonderful leader and was a great teacher. He kept me in line throughout the summer rehearsals and band camp. As the year went on I progressed fairly well. Soon enough competitions started rolling around. The first seven competitions we won first place and then it was time for us to get first at Nationals. Nationals isn’t just a walk in the park by any means. Our school had never won at Nationals and I believed with all my heart that this was the year it was going to happen. Nationals were held at the Naval Academy football field in Annapolis Maryland. All I really remember from the show is the very beginning feeling the cold wind whip around freezing my body and seeing my breath slowly rise above my head as we were introduced and given the thumbs up from the judges to begin. I also remember this same feeling of the wind blowing throughout the stadium like a wind tunnel and my breath rising at the end of our show, but the only difference was that I was drenched in sweat. The band as a whole had a very good show, and it was by far the best of the year. After the show a few hours passed by and it was time for awards. There were about twenty teams in our division and they started calling the names of the bands in their respective place starting with twentieth all the way down to sixth and the name Susquehanna Township had not yet been called. With our hopes rising higher and higher with every band announced three more names were called “Annapolis Area Christian HS, Morris Knolls HS, and Shepherd Hill HS”. This left Susquehanna Township and Timber Creek HS. I looked at my good friend David and said “Yo I think we’re gonna to do it”. He responded with a simple affirmative head nod and said “Yessir”! The next high school called earned second place and was Susquehanna Township HS. This was the most devastating moment of my freshman year of marching band. As hard as this was to accept I had to muscle up a fake smile and clap/cheer as if I was happy with the second place finish. When we got on the bus to go home tears streamed down my face and I kept saying to myself “I am not letting this happen again”.

Nearing the end of freshman year we started rehearsals before school even let out for summer break. The band rehearsing way ahead of schedule was a great sign for the upcoming year. I now was experienced in the field of marching band and I honestly believed that I knew all there was to know concerning marching band. During my sophomore year my main focus was ME.  The only thing I worried about was having a perfect show every week. The position of a sophomore in this band is very gray because you are no longer a rookie, but at the same time sophomores aren’t really in a leadership position. This was great for me, but in the end I think it hurt me that I only focused on myself. What needed to be done for the good of the band and helping others wasn’t on my agenda. I was very selfish and it was all about me. I should have been more of a leader to the freshman even though that wasn’t my position, but I knew most accurately what they were going through since I was just a freshman the previous year. The senior class my sophomore year was talented but their main focus wasn’t winning at Nationals. This angered me very deeply and it was so blatant that all they worried about was having a good time and looking out for themselves. I realized this and began to feel bad because I was a reflection of the leadership in the band and we could not win with this mindset and lack of dedication to being one band united trying to attain the goal of getting a gold at Nationals. Then the competitions started approaching and we started to somewhat get our acts together. We began collecting our first place trophies at all of the minor competitions, and again it was time for Nationals. During Nationals weekend of my sophomore year I came to practice with a completely different mindset than I had at any previous competition. I basically had my blinders on and didn’t let anything distract me and I had a very productive practice that Saturday. Then Sunday I kept this mindset throughout the whole day, including the performance. This again was our best performance of the year, but I saw some if the other bands before and after our band and I saw the writing on the wall, but I stayed positive and figured that we would still pull it out. I definitely wasn’t as optimistic as my freshman year, but I still thought we would win. Just as the names were announced the previous year, the same occurred my sophomore year. As we got down to the top five I began to get filled with that same excitement I had freshman year, but that all went away as we hear Susquehanna Township’s name called for third place. This definitely was not satisfying by any means, but I couldn’t say I didn’t see it coming. On the bus ride home I didn’t cry but I just started thinking what has to be done next year so that we can get a National Championship. Not having the first place trophy from Nationals gave me an empty feeling at the end of the season. I did not want to have this feeling again.

Next it was my junior year and I could finally start somewhat of a leadership role in the band. I just helped out the freshman somewhat, but the seniors still had the most leadership responsibilities over the band. The only problem with this senior class is that they were very petty and immature. They fought over things that were very minute and they always wanted to horse around and just have fun. This affected not only the band, but the band instructors. Mr. P, my band director had to spend entirely too much time telling students to act right and stop horsing around. Many times he would say “This is the kind of stupid stuff that’s holding us back”. That statement couldn’t have been more true. We held ourselves back from greatness that season and the result of Nationals really made it evident. I entered Nationals weekend my junior year with that same intensity as I did the previous year. I was ready and had my head on straight when it was time for us to perform but evidently everybody else wasn’t in that same place mentally. We laid an egg at Nationals that year and got a fourth place finish. This show was far away from our best performance of the year. People were making simple mistakes that we hadn’t made in months. I knew that we had no chance of winning that year after that horrible excuse for a show that we performed. On the bus ride home no tears came, but instead I was just mad at the seniors. Their leadership, or lack thereof seemingly made us regress for our Nationals performance. On the way home I realized that now it was my turn to be a senior section leader and I promised to myself I would not disappoint. I knew that if we didn’t get a National Championship my senior year, my whole marching band career would be a bust. Nearing the end of my junior year we started rehearsals and I knew it was now all on me. It was now my turn to lead…

Finally it arrived, senior year was here. It was my turn to lead my band to a first place finish. Now that I was a senior I had a large number of responsibilities. These responsibilities ranged from keeping the underclassmen in line, to reporting progress to my instructor, to creating and teaching choreography for the band. I sat down with my band instructor Mr. P during school one day, and I asked him “What’s the band gonna do this year?” he responded with a calm “That’s up to you guys, especially you seniors”. This was just another sign that the fate of the band was basically in our (the seniors) hands. I took this conversation we had to heart and made one very large change. That change was my attitude and seriousness about marching band. The same intensity and mentality I had going into the Nationals my performance during my sophomore and junior years, I had that all year during my senior year. Every single marching practice, every music rehearsal, and every single run through of the show from the beginning of the season to the end was at full intensity and one hundred percent effort. This mindset was something missing from the band leaders in previous years. One hundred percent wasn’t given at all times and the intensity wasn’t there.

So the season started differently than every other season of my marching band career. Our first competition we finished in second place. This was definitely a setback for the band because we have never experienced a loss this early in the season. Even though this harped at my mind and thoughts I kept the same attitude and told everybody not to worry about it, but instead to work harder and harder to make sure this never happens again. After this first competition we got back on track and won first place at all of the following competitions and finally it was time for my last Nationals weekend as a part of the Susquehanna Township Marching Band. During the Saturday practice I gave a speech on how important the Saturday practice was and how it would affect our performance Sunday. The band took heed to the wise words I gave them and we had a great pre-Nationals practice. Then Sunday rolled around and it was almost time to go onto the field and I looked at my friend David who was now also a senior and section leader and said “Last chance bro, we gotta do it”. He responded with a simple look into my eyes and we both understood how serious this was and we simultaneously nodded our heads. No ore words needed to be said. We marched onto the field and again it was cold and the lights at Met Life Stadium in Meadowlands New Jersey bounced off of the metal instruments giving our band somewhat of a glow. We performed and the show was nearly perfect. It was the best show of my four years of high school. After the show all that was left was the wait. This year I was on the field to receive the award for my school since I was a senior section leader. So the announcer started at twentieth place and got all the way down to second place and our school still had not been announced. The announcer then said “In second place, we have” this seemed to be the longest pause of my life and he finished with “Lenape HS”. That only meant one thing that Susquehanna Township Marching Band won first at Nationals. The announcer then went on to say “And the winner of the 2012 Group 2 National Championship is Susquehanna Township.” In that moment my life seemed so complete. My bandmates in the stands cheered and screamed their heads off, but I couldn’t because I was on the field and wanted to be respectful. I looked over to my friend David and said “We did it.” Standing in the parking lot waiting to meet up with the rest of my bandmates tears began to form in my eyes and stream down my face. I looked up into the sky and said “Thank you.”