i’d like to make myself believe (meeting Owl City)


Some call it Luck. Some call it Grace. Some call it leading a Charmed Life. I call it that feeling you get when you realize you could have done nothing to deserve some fantastic thing; and that you couldn’t have made it happen on your own accord. Whatever you call that feeling, that state of being, sometimes it’s all around me. Sometimes I breathe it in.

The writer and musician behind this song is named Adam Young, who performs under the name Owl City. [The video isn’t his version, but hearing children sing it really captures the innocence and wonder in the lyrics in a way I’m sure he would appreciate.] He is a synthesizer player from Owatonna, Minnesota – known for its large owl population.

He came to my attention through friends. (A couple of whom suggested we should get married.) I don’t listen to Top 40 enough to know more than one half of one line of a Lady Gaga song [true story; I don’t even really know who this Justin Beiber kid is]. I had no concept of Owl City the Pop Star.

I was immediately endeared to his sweet songs, his clear voice, and the excuse to blare uber-happy dancepop in my room when no one was home. As far as I was concerned, he was Adam Young- a guy from up north who likes to play keys and sing songs about moonbeams and playing on the beach- a guy whose reckless optimism was something I wanted to grab hold of and never let go. Adam became a guy I had to meet, if only to test my theory: that the mere positioning of the two of us in the same place would send daisies sprouting up, joining hands, and dancing about the room.

Since moving back home, I have been forced to come face to face with reality and saying hello, whether I wanted to or not. And let me tell you something, he doesn’t have big eyes, pretty hair, and Buddy Holly glasses. It has been a time of disappointment, frustration, and rejection at many junctures. It has been an endless uphill struggle to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and to assume that light is not being cast by an oncoming train. The company of those I love and the parade of Little Things to be Thankful For have given me invaluable solace.

One of the Biggest Little Things has been music. And Adam’s in particular: often a departure into dreams, bliss, and outer space; it’s like getting 3 scoops of ice cream when all you’ve been getting are melty, artificially flavored Ice Pops- the yellow and green ones that no one really likes.

Anyone who knows me knows that meeting Adam is the stuff of legend among myself and my friends; fodder for thematic Twitter feeds and silly Facebook statuses. You hear people telling you to expect the unexpected. Well, I certainly wasn’t.

After arriving downtown and figuring out how to get into the venue, where we would be sitting, etc. I went back outside. Not having any clue what to do for hours before doors opened, I went around the back of the building; near where the opening bands were loading their equipment. I sat at the foot of the stairs by the backstage door: pretending not to feel more awkward and nervous than I could ever remember.

I made conversation with the roadies and the Local Boys opening for Adam (after we recognized each other from around town). A couple of my friends were on their crews and were able to keep me company for a bit. But I felt strange. Like an impostor of some kind. I kept trying to force myself to look at my phone- to try to make it seem less apparent what- or who- I was waiting for.

After a while, I heard synth sounds. It was sound check time. No one had even asked me to move an inch for about an hour, so I remained there to enjoy it. And I began to allow myself to think, “What if?”

But, even after waiting  for soundcheck to finish, there was no sign of anyone connected with the show going in or out. It was getting late, and I needed to be back in time for doors to make sure I got my spot. As a joke, I took a picture of the stairs leading up to the backstage door,  I typed in a clever caption, ready to upload it to Facebook.

And there he was, coming down the stairs, landing less than a foot away from me. I knew it was him. Because my insides were doing cartwheels. And I said, as if I had forgotten to ask him something, “Adam?”

“Yeah!” he said with a smile.

Okay, I was still alive. I hadn’t died on the spot. I could do this. I had this. Calm, cool collected. It’s just me and a guy from Minnesota with a fondness for warm weather and sea creatures. Proceed.

I introduced myself, telling him I had just wanted to say hi, if that was okay. “Sure! Nice to meet you!” I couldn’t help but smile. I just knew he’d be the type to end all his sentences with exclamation points.

I gave him a gift. A little owl zipper pouch. One of my favorite things that I carried everywhere until that moment.  He thanked me and said he loved it, putting it in his pocket.

I asked him if he’d been able to enjoy Nashville, but unfortunately, he had been under the weather.

Then it was picture time. One of the most remarkable things about this meeting is we were the only ones there: no line, no cameras, no crew, no entourage: just Adam and me. This presented a tiny problem.

“Who’s going to take the picture?” I said, laughing, “There’s, like, no one around.”

“You want me to just hold it out here and take it?” he said.

“Sure, we’ll ‘Myspace’ that!” I said [referring, of course, to the way everyone on Myspace takes their display photo].

And so we did. He asked my name again, I told him, along with our approximate seat spot. And after thanking him repeatedly for his time, I watched him go to the bus. At this point, I threw both my arms in the air in triumph. The roadies, who had kept their respectful distance and allowed Adam and I to have our moment, smiled and gave me the Thumbs Up.

I did what any level-headed person who is lucky enough to have frequent encounters with her favorite musicians would do: calmly stowed my phone, proceeded to the end of the block, turned the corner, and screamed like one of those extras in a Hard Days Night.

I went in, got my seat, met up with one of my childhood friends and my sister in law, and had a great time dancing the night away with a throng of hysterical teenage girls, feeling like a sympathetic chaperone. Of course, our photo greets me from a variety of places now. And seeing those delighted grins makes me think: I don’t deserve this kind of happy. And maybe I don’t. But I am holding on to it with both hands.

In one of his silliest songs, Adam Young writes:

“I’d rather pick flowers instead of fights.

And rather than flaunt my style, I’d flash you a smile of clean Pearly Whites”

Who knew so much of his work was autobiographical?

Thanks, Adam for making my day, my Spring, possibly my early 20s. I hope you’re feeling better today. I know I am.

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