Two years ago, my best friend went to sleep and never woke up. His remains were not found for two days.
This week has been on my mind for ages, a huge obsidian block in the middle of my springtime, a chasm of sadness that I know I must navigate each year. I dread it and yet it feels important to me to do it – as if I had any choice. Of course, I would much rather have Frank here.
So I’ve been really apprehensive about this week’s arrival, counting down in my head the events leading up to his death. Today he was at Gregg’s. Today he talked to Maria. Today he is decomposing. It’s kind of horrifying and brutal to contemplate and I’ve worried about its ability to stop me in my tracks when what I most need to do is keep moving.
The week approached like a tidal wave, inexorable and crushingly destructive, and I braced myself for its impact. This year, maybe, I would keep my head above water.
And then, against all odds, a series of events stacked up that have caused this week to become what I can only describe as spectacular.
Several weeks ago I won tickets to see David Sedaris do a reading here in town. He’s one of my favorite authors and our budget just couldn’t justify the cost of the tickets, so I was moping. And then I won them on the radio, and off we went, and it was exactly as funny and interesting as I hoped it would be. We waited in line for an hour and a half to have our book signed afterward. We arrived at his table at 11pm, near the end of the signing, and the first thing David Sedaris did was welcome me to his golden okra chest. And then he laughed and wrote that in my book. And then he offered me some of his fried okra, and I’m actually kind of sorry I declined because I was freaking starving and that looked like some killer okra. And a love for fried okra is among the most Southern of my Southern qualities. Then, David Sedaris astutely observed that I’d dragged Seth along, but that he was very patient about the whole thing. He asked if we were married, Seth said, “not yet,” and David Sedaris whose whole name must always be used as far as I’m concerned asked why the heck we weren’t married yet. Then apologized for being awkward. Then asked again. And we stuttered out some excuses and he kind of leaned back and, even though David Sedaris doesn’t know us from anyone, he said something like, “You guys are good together and I can tell you’re going to make it.” It was completely awesome and we thanked him and told him our dirty nun joke, which he rewarded with two of his own dirty jokes, and we were on our merry way.
That alone would have made this a great week. But then Tuesday came, and you guys, Tuesday was seriously badass.
Old 97s were in town. I freaking love Old 97s, I’ve never seen them live, and the minute their new album dropped I told Seth that this meant they’d surely be touring and I felt Charlottesville was a likely stop and that WE WOULD BE ATTENDING NO MATTER WHAT. I mean seriously, they hadn’t even announced a tour yet and I already knew there’d be a Cville date. Because I’m magic. So Seth was like yes, whatever, and then the announcement came and I squealed louder than I did when Mom surprised us with New Kids on the Block tickets in 1990. EEEEEE OLD 97S!!!
Then we looked at our budget.
We were broke broke broke, broke as a joke. We kept putting off the tickets in the hopes that our next paycheck would have more wiggle room, but alas, car repairs and vet bills and optometrist visits just blew massive holes in our “discretionary” fund over and over again. And since I’d won tickets to David Sedaris, I wasn’t eligible to win again from our local radio station. So I moped.
On Monday, the morning host on our station of choice posted a thing on Facebook telling people to email him if they wanted a chance to meet Rhett Miller. And within 30 seconds I think I had written a novel-length plea and fired that bad boy off to Brad. A few hours later, he responded: we were in! We’d been put on the list for a private acoustic studio session with Rhett. I figured it’d be a good consolation prize for not getting to go to the concert.
So Tuesday afternoon rolled around and we headed to the station for the session. I hadn’t been to their studio before and expected we’d be with 20 or 30 people on folding chairs outside the booths where the sound engineer and the artist would be. Imagine my surprise when we and 6 of our newest friends were ushered into a very small studio…and Rhett Miller was a foot away from us.
He played three songs and bantered with the hosts, and it was completely awesome to be up close for the session, which you can listen to here. We hadn’t been told much about what would be allowed, so I didn’t think photos or signings or anything would be cool. But they were!
After the session, we got to take photos and a professional photographer was in taking photos too. Rhett signed CDs and such for us, and then he asked us if there were any songs we’d like to see on the setlist. HOLY CRAP! I asked him to play “Murder (or a Heart Attack),” one of my favorites. And he wrote it down along with the other suggestions. We left the studio basically floating through the air, and the minute we hit the parking lot, Seth and I were like, “okay, now we have to go to the show.”
We made a quick huddle and an agreement to skip groceries this week and get by on Ramen and PBJ, and I ran down and bought the tickets.
That night, we drove to the concert through a torrential thunderstorm, and when we arrived, we snagged a spot on the front row. Seriously. I told you this week was freaking awesome, didn’t I?
So we’re on the front row, along with some of our friends from the session. And the band comes out on stage and they are exactly as awesome as I thought they’d be, and Rhett Miller actually recognizes us from the stage and kind of waves and raises his eyebrows at us while he’s playing, and we’re in the front row at an Old 97s show and Rhett Miller just waved at me from the damn stage and I’m pretty sure I’m going to die of the awesomeness.
It was way better than that NKOTB show. My parents were right about them.
So hey, is this long enough yet? We went home, and we were happy and half-deaf and exhausted. And then yesterday I continued the awesomeness by giving a guest lecture on arts fundraising at the university.
Today is kind of what I think of as The Day, when it comes to Frank. Today, he is gone. And I miss him still, and I will always miss him. But I can’t help but notice the timing of this fantastic, surreal week I’ve been having. Frank had a novel in progress he called The Architecture of Coincidence. Despite a general lack of belief that he and I shared, this week has been different for some reason. And I’ve wondered if maybe, just maybe, there is an architect after all.