ENTRY - 2/11/07 - "SEEING GREEN"
I have mere moments
'til I hop in the car that will lead me to the red carpets of the Grammy
ceremony (Actually, I have heard they are green, but let's not split hairs).
That means one moment to breathe, another to tighten my tie and one to
wish with all fingers, toes and any other appendage that can be crossed.
I have no idea what
to expect. Will people know I am not a star? Do they have some, like,
non-star radar and then brand you with non-star tattoos? And the most
important question: Will Deborah win? Only time will tell...
- 2/13/07 - "GRAMMY RECAP"
It took merely moments
upon landing in California to realize we were in for, as wise young Aladdin
puts it, a whole new world.
The first clue: the
baggage claim was located outside under the hazy stars. Where I’m
from, an outdoor baggage claim is like an invitation to join the ice sculptures
at a wedding. Even in mid-February, the air was balmy and fragrant. Jackets
were merely a comfort, not a necessity. And everywhere there was a buzz.
I couldn’t yet tell what it was, or even if it were a real noise.
I could hear the buzz like one hears the sound of a city from the suburbs:
quiet, constant and lulling. It was in the tanned face next to me; in
the lopsided smile of the crossing guard; in the blue and orange hues
of the lavish airport exterior. And when I turned to look at Deborah,
there it was. The buzz had infected her too, right there in the soft curves
where her cheeks met her lips.
Waiting for our rental
car we were cordially invited inside a small booth: “You should
come in from the cold.” Cold? “I’m used to snow drifts
and parkas stitched up to my nose. This is like heaven!” The invitation
was repeated almost every where we met. Blankets were offered. Heaters
were provided. And each time, the same response: “Heaven!”
The market was filled with fruits
and vegetables of all persuasions...including the prickly, outerspace
was a word I found myself saying a lot the next few days. Whether walking
in the white, crisp sun of an open air market – my eyes blinking
slowly like a content cat – or eating a panini under palm fronds
and thin umbrellas, I felt the inner glow of a spring that never seemed
to end. People seemed to smile more. I seemed to smile more. And if you
think I was blissful about the beaches and the shopping that ensued in
the few free hours we found throughout the trip, you can imagine what
a kid in a candy store I was when it came time for the Grammys.
Here it was…Grammy
day. Or D-Day as I liked to call it in my head. Deborah-day. The day we
had all worked so hard to reach, none more than Deborah herself. Having
poured her heart and soul into “Invention & Alchemy” –
a project that took many years of work and painstaking day after painstaking
day of tweaking every note, every flourish, every transition – it
was now out of Deborah’s hands. And I could see the sense of anticipation
and bewilderment in her eyes. How does one know how to handle such an
honor? How does one prepare for such a momentous occasion? The answer
is they don’t; they can’t. You just have to ride the crest
of one of those perfectly curled California waves and hope for the best.
Me and Shara get psyched up before heading to the ceremony
So that’s what
we did. We put on our tuxedoes and dresses – I opted for the former
– and we put on our ties and our jewelry – again, the former
– and we slipped into our Grammy shoes. We posed for pictures. We
smoothed creases. And we hugged. Then we hugged again. Then we were off
to see the Wizard.
And we were definitely
not in Kansas anymore.
Seeing the pre-telecast
Grammy auditorium was like seeing Noah’s ark. It was big. It was
filled with occupants of every shape, size and exotic persona. I’m
assuming most of it was wooden. And it was what we were all going to ride
the wave in together. Having always considered artistic endeavors as the
essence of my own life, I was in a giddy state as I became surrounded
by a community of such prolific artists. And I couldn’t have been
prouder than when I sat down with Deborah in front of the stage. Here
was a woman coming from outside all the glitz and glam of superficial
Hollywood persuasions to vie for an award that thousands strive for and
almost no one ever gets close to. Not only that, here was a woman doing
it on her own terms, in her own way and with her own special flair. Here
was a winner, and I knew right then it didn’t matter what the outcome
was going to be.
lights of Grammy magic
As time ticked by,
one award after another was handed out – look, there goes OK Go,
look it’s the impossibly tall Imogen Heap and her gravity-defying
feather hat, look that’s Lynn Redgrave giving out that golden gramophone,
and over there, it’s Miss Universe about to pop out of her dress.
Artist after artist thanked their colleagues, their peers, their agents…on
and on…and the excitement rose…our category drew near…and
The list of nominees.
That’s Deborah’s name! I let out a scream, pouring all of
my pride into the congratulatory roar that escaped my throat. Then, without
“And the award
for ‘Best Classical Crossover Album’ goes to…”
I flung out my clammy
hand to meet my co-worker/friend Elisabeth’s sweaty palm. We held
on tight, squeezing with hope. I looked to Deborah. And in less than the
time it takes to breathe a sigh it was over.
Someone else went
up those carpeted stairs. For the life of me, I couldn’t tell you
who. All I remember is a collective escape of air, like a Whoopee Cushion
pressed lazily by persistent, but soft pressure. Deborah was clapping.
I looked down and so was I.
It took an hour or
so – including a walk through a bustling crowd and some metal detectors
and a sweeping entrance into the massive Staples Center for the televised
Grammy ceremony – to process everything that had happened. What
confused me the most was a terrible thought I kept having. I wasn’t
disappointed. I couldn’t feel, well, much of anything. I didn’t
know if it was natural. I didn’t know if maybe I was a bad person,
a bad friend, a bad employee.
It took the smell
of hot dogs and greasy fries to teach me the answer.
Crowded in like penguins
in a Pringle container, the crowd entering the Staples center passed through
a row of concession stands. Ketchup dripped down fists pushing cheeseburgers
into mouths. Fries dangled above hungry lips. Sodas slurped. Chips crunched.
Celebrity and celebrity-not were indistinguishable. All were reduced to
the plain and simple truth: they were all human. And hungry humans at
that. All had wishes and hopes and dreams of the shine of gold on their
dresser. Some were glowing from a win well deserved. Some were reeling
from a loss neither deserved nor controllable. Some were tired. Some were
bored. Some wanted a shake with a side of chicken fingers. This was just
life. It went on. Disappointment would mean there was something to be
disappointed about, and that was just not the case. It was just life.
And it went on.
After stuffing our
faces with some much needed grub, we took our seats for the show. Here
is where the “Heaven” part comes back in. The long and the
short of it was the experience was the epitome of “cool.”
However pointless or superficial, it was all just so…cool…even
if from where I was sitting the performers looked like gyrating ants.
I would have killed for one of Deborah’s premium seats!
For those who didn’t
watch the Grammy telecast, a recap would go something like this: Sting
and the Police! Mary J. Blige wins, performs, wins and performs again...yippee
(sense the sarcasm). Justin Timberlake gives some “Love,”
Lionel Richie says “Hello” and Gnarls Barkley go a little
“Crazy.” One of the, like, four awards given during the telecast
is handed out (remind me again…this is an awards show?) Christina
and Beyonce bring down the house with vocal pyrotechnics. Shakira and
Chris Brown shake their booties. The Dixie Chicks win and stick out their
tongues at the collective establishment (rinse and repeat).
Watch out, here comes
“Heaven” again. By far my favorite part of the Grammy experience
most definitely has to be the Grammy after party (and no, the open bar
had nothing to do with it…I swear). I’ve never seen anything
like it. Professional dancers gyrated on top of every available surface.
Lights, huge plants, catwalks, OH MY! Famous restaurants offered a smorgasbord
of culinary delights so rich in flavor the food seemed to burst on the
tongue. Chaka Kahn took the stage. Then Kool and the Gang. Then DJ Chris
Cox. The dancers continued to dance. A mini Cirque de Soleil took place
in every corner – limbs flying, acrobats twirling. Pure unadulterated
extravagance from start to finish, and I was lovin’ every minute
Like all good things,
the party came to an end. Or rather, our dancing feet. Weary and over
stimulated, we dragged our bodies out with the crowd, plopped ourselves
into our car seats and drove off into the night. The spotlights above
the Staples Center waved a cordial goodbye and our headlights became one
with the lights of the highway and the true stars in the sky.
All good things must come to an end...
The next day, readying
for the airport, we shared a meal with our hosts – who so graciously
opened their home to company – and laughed over two big dishes of
lasagna. Not a single part of me wanted to go home to chilly Boston –
not when the beach was calling my name from the open window – but
there was a big job waiting for us and it was time to leave our dream
world and head back to reality. So, luggage in tow, we said our goodbyes.
At the airport, suitcase
in hand, Deborah turned to me. All she said was, “Next time.”
And that’s all she had to say. Somewhere, in the breeze or from
some distant highway, I heard the buzz again; that whispering persistence.
But it didn’t come from the wind. And it wasn’t the sound
of car wheels on pavement. The buzz was the sound of hope – of the
eternal, often devastating, sometimes fruitful, beautiful struggle of
life and the dreams that never die, with or without a gold gramophone.
The buzz of each spirit – Deborah’s, mine, yours – trying
to speak to one another.