I caught Nez at a good moment on Sunday morning. I was second in his autograph line. After seeing Aeryn, Jen, and Jaime (in her FULL PRINCESS GWEN REGALIA) scamper into the room at the end of his photo line, I was pretty sure that his picture session had just ended on a very high note. In any case, Nez looked up from adding his third and final signature to my battered and beloved Listen to the Band Box set (picked up in late 1996 or early 1997 in that same Scottish record store about 2 months after Justus), with a bit of a rueful–or maybe wistful–look in his eye.
“Almost got there, didn’t you?”
I returned the look with a slight shrug and half-smile of regret. “That I did.”
He replied, “I guess that’s how it goes sometimes…”
And I could only respond, “Too true.”
We exchanged “nice to meet you”s (he obviously either didn’t crack open the book or at least didn’t connect me with it, but that was to be expected with a bajillion people in his line), and I left the room to meet up with my friends, who were likely still in post-EPIC WIN mode after arranging the Nez Photo to end all Nez Photos. Anyway, as I strolled, I went to touch my owl necklace, and found nothing. In my stumbling around after four hours of sleep I’d forgotten to put it on that morning.
I guess that’s how it goes sometimes…
I’m not a huge con-goer, but I’ve probably gone to a half a dozen of various flavors over the years. However, I’ve been to enough to be familiar with the last day letdown. The good thing of course is that I had that experience, knew what was coming, and could choose to roll with the mellower flow and make it a very good, if very different, day of geekery. And aside from the familiar odor of Con Funk that was starting to permeate the Dealer’s room by mid-afternoon, I pretty much have no complaints on the day. Rather than trying to make the day something it wasn’t (and in anckowledgement of the fact that I was running on 4 hours’ sleep), Sunday’s pace was much gentler, and the recap much more reflective. Here are the highlights on the day:
Meeting Boh Cooper
As mentioned, my biggest Sad from the Chicago Nez Show was that I didn’t get to talk to Boh Cooper afterward. He was working his way down the line, and my epic conversation with Paul Leim mostly made up for it, but, well, this other guy wanted to talk to me for a bit before Boh made it to that end of the room. 😉 I contented myself with checking out his website, and discovered to my pleasant surprise that I’d actually heard him play many years before. Boh played in Michael W. Smith’s touring band in the early ’90s on a show I caught with my first boyfriend back in Oklahoma in the middle of my teenaged “Monkees are geeks!” hiatus from the fandom *eyeroll*, and long before I discovered Nez’s solo work. Everything’s connected, isn’t it? (Side note–I found a later diary entry from 1993 recapping that concert–I wonder if that counts as my first Fandom Lenses review?)
Anyway, the minute I spied Boh yakking away with Amy and Lynsey in the Vendor room, I dropped what I was doing and made a beeline over to say hi. As those of you who’ve met him know, he’s a sharp, friendly, affably geeky guy–much like pretty much every keyboardist I know well. We talked at surprising length about the three very different shows I’d attended, and he expressed a surprising amount of interest in the website (If you’re reading this Boh, hi again!) I got a copy of his solo CD signed, and he even said to tell my brother that he had sheet music for all the stuff on said album. I hope to get to touch base with him again. 🙂
Circe Link (again)
Circe Link’s and Christian Nesmith’s show was a nice bit of laid-back counter programming to the fabuloofy OMGWTFBBQ of the previous night’s show from Christian’s dad (and Christian, you were no slouch either! Loved your solos especially). About 15 minutes in to Circe’s set we all abandoned our assigned seats and moved to the front of the room, and many of us (your author included) sat cross-legged on the floor in front of the stage. I’m still working on good words to describe Circe’s stuff, so it’s probably easiest if I just provide some video. Gossip Queen (crappy view, great song) and City Lights (great view, ethereal song) are below.
The next highlight moment from a day mostly spent cruising the dealer’s room, chatting with friends, and catching the rare panel was my interview with Iain for his documentary. Now, I’d felt a little bit antsy about talking to him, because he had mentioned he possibly wanted to talk about that one viral blog post I wrote a while back about the new version of Eric Lefcowitz’s Monkee Business. However, there were things I very much DID want to share with him, particularly since fate and 3 hours worth of photo and autograph hounds kept me from Peter’s line yesterday. Also, I thought I’ve had a semi-unique experience as a Monkees Person–not so much because I know a lot or collect a lot or have done a lot, but because of how my Fan Life and Real Life have informed each other, particularly over the last 2 years. As we wandered downstairs, Iain mentioned in passing that he was still struggling to identify the “heart” of the piece. I filed that comment away in my mind, and I hope it informed some of my responses.
We talked about a lot of the questions you might expect, many of which have been explored in this site–How did you become a fan? What do you think of the Crazies? What do your friends think when you tell them you’re a fan? Why do you think people stay fans? What’s Fandom Lenses? And so on. I forget everything I exactly said, and there were lots of ums and uhs, but I think I acquitted myself pretty well overall.
Finally, Iain asked, “Who’s your favorite Monkee?” Now, Nez is the Monkee with whom I most identify with these days thanks to the somewhat similar paths our lives have taken over the last few years. But he’s not my favorite. I proceeded to give the answer I have always given to that question since May 13, 2012, and almost certainly will for the rest of my days: Peter Tork. I explained exactly why. You’ve all read it (or can read the salient points here and here), so I’ll spare you. And then I stared that camera dead in the eye and finally said a proper thank you to Peter on behalf of the Frodis Femmes. I don’t know if that was the “heart” that Iain was looking for, but I hope it got him closer. If the documentary gets made I know Peter will see it, and if not, well, maybe I can sweet talk Iain into sending that clip his way. 🙂
And then, as I relaxed from making it through an interview without making a complete fool of myself, I realized Iain hadn’t asked me anything about Eric Lefcowitz or my discussion of the revelations found in Monkee Business! Well, I asked Iain as he packed up his gear, and apparently he’d already had a longish chat with Eric. Most of it’s not my story to tell, but I feel I need to share one tidbit in the interests of fairness: Eric told Iain that he didn’t know he was being broadcast live when he did the radio interview that turned most of my fandom friends’ opinion against him. He thought (or maybe just assumed?) that his comments would be edited before they went out.
Now this is secondhand from Iain, it leaves several questions still begging, and I certainly am tempted to add a note or two here but…you know what? I’m done. I’m typing up this Sunday recap from my notes on Wednesday morning (I wound up spending Tuesday evening with my husband, as he trumps y’all). I’ve already had to remind a person or two on my facebook page that Fandom Lenses is a drama-free zone (on an unrelated matter). That No Drama rule extends to me, so… that’s all I’m going to say about that.
Well, as you can imagine, that bit of news shifted at least some of my opinions about Eric Lefcowitz. One of the things I’m not so proud of from the convention is the fact that I hadn’t quite gotten up the courage to approach him at his booth in the Vendor room–I took the other route out of the room or simply skittered past when he was talking to somebody else, head low and eyes averted. However, Iain’s comments gave me a bit more confidence, and a trifle more understanding to approach him at the Expert Q&A that would be happening in a few hours.
Not meeting Eric Lefcowitz (and the “expert” Q&A)
Well, guess who didn’t show up at the Q&A and seemingly even left the convention before that session? Don’t ask me why, I don’t know and I didn’t hear anyone explain why.
I guess that’s how it goes sometimes…
In any case, The “expert” Q&A was interesting, though for me the highlight was definitely Iain, who had been asked to fill that empty seat at the semi-last minute. I liked hearing some of the behind the scenes stories from his more recent escapades, including THE FUNNIEST INTERVIEW ANYONE HAS DONE WITH NEZ IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND. (Seriously, it has a moment that’s the Nez equivalent of the Classic Simpsons scene where Sideshow Bob keeps stepping on those two rakes over and over). Fred Velez was also a hoot. Although he has amassed a hoard that most collectors would kill for, and possibly has had the best fan experience of all time (see the middle pic on the cover of his book, and then go BUY THE BOOK), he doesn’t take himself in the least bit seriously as some sort of self-decreed “authority figure” in the fandom, and was cracking jokes through the session. I do have to admit that I was pretty sad that it was all guys up there on stage, in a fandom that is easily 60-70% female. I know some very knowledgeable, gregarious collectors who happen to be female, and who might have made a great addition to that panel. It just feels a bit like that voice was missing from the conversation, just like I sometimes wish there was another guy or two on tumblr besides just poor outnumbered Andrew Hickey to cut through the squealing over there. All that said, it was a good session. Gary Strobl, my sisters and I have also been saying for YEARS that Micky SHOULD guest star on Big Bang Theory (our vote is for him to play Leonard’s yet-to-be-seen dad). And Iain, I am an Oklahoma girl. Although I’m a politically liberal librarian who likes approximately 4 1/2 country artists (I don’t need to explain to this crowd who the 1/2 is), I will happily back up your assertion with whatever feeble Redneck Cred I possess. There is no doubt in my mind that The Monkees Invented Country Rock.
There was a session or two left to go (I’m told I should have stayed for the troupe who re-enacted some monkees eps live), but after the Q&A my brain and heart were full. After over 48 hours of intensive fun, I had finally had all the strawberry ice cream I could eat. So, I wandered downstairs to the lobby to meet up with some of the people who I’d probably spent the most time with–Melanie, Jaime, Aeryn, and Megan. Amy, Lynsey and Iain also flitted through at odd intervals. We simply sat and had my favorite kind of Fan Chat–plenty about Monkees Stuff, or course, but also about out real lives and other interests. We half-heartedly played Monkeeopoly for a bit (Aeryn invented an alternative house rule called Kirshner Mode–“I roll the dice and you do what I tell you”), we ordered in sandwiches, but mostly we just chilled all evening. There was a time in my childhood when I never thought I’d have a circle of friends that consisted of ANYONE, much less Monkees people. So when times like Sunday evening come I hold them as precious in my mind. Even the most mundane times of light gossip with nerd friends somehow seem a little miraculous to me. In any case, the evening drew to an end relatively early, around 9:00. We were all exhausted, and we all had to drive or fly back to reality in the morning. We parted company with hugs and admonitions to stay in touch, and I wandered upstairs to read some of the goodies I’d bought over the weekend and start packing.
Because it came out during my Late 20s-early 30s “I have more important things to do with my thinking” hiatus from the fandom *eyeroll*, I missed the 3-disc release of the Head soundtrack a few years back. Fortunately, Rhino still had plenty on hand at the booth and hooked me up. I haven’t played it yet, but before I packed my bags, I read the liner notes while playing back my muddy-but-still-awesome audio from the Nez Show. Not for the first time, I was struck by the thought that the circularity of Head could be taken as a rather prescient metaphor for the journey of the band over the ensuing 45 years. Each reunion and revival has been slightly different at the beginning, middle, and end, but I don’t think anyone could dispute the fact that every 5 to 10 years, often after they said they would “never work together again”, Two or more of the Monkees are right back up there in some form singing Circle Sky. The lineup varies from time to time and there was that one time they changed the lyrics, but after almost 30 years in the fandom there’s part of me that thinks that this rhythm of the band will never change. Of course the Black Box has become far more colorful, roomy and convivial, they remodeled a couple years back to replace that fourth wall with a nice semipermeable barrier, and they’ve all learned they have the power to slip in and out at will (at least temporarily), but the spiraling circle of their career essentially remains the same. They have all left, and they have all come back. But of course, this last (and maybe final?) spiral has been rather different. Just as each loop allows the guys as a group and us as fans to experience something new, it forecloses something old, sometimes forever.
Back in May through July of 2011 I spent a brief stint in psychotherapy. I had no way to know what was coming almost exactly a year later (I discovered while hunting through gmail for something else that I actually contacted that shrink for the first time a year to the day before Anissa died), but the things I learned there laid the groundwork for my emotional journey through 2012 and beyond in very important ways. I’ll spare you most of what I learned in that time, but there’s one key lesson that is applicable here. At the end of the day, you can rarely be 100 percent certain that any decision is right. It’s often the case that you have to make a choice of which you, are, say, 57% sure. That realization has given my perfectionist brain a lot of relief, but I still look back on some of my fandom-related choices with a note of regret.
Due to a life choice that was in retrospect about 57% right, I went home to the US over spring break in 1997 and missed my first and last chance to see (and thank from a distance) the Monkees as a foursome in Glasgow. Due to PhD Obligations (and the Life Phase I was still in at the time), I missed the 2011 tour. Because I simply didn’t care enough about Davy’s solo work to keep track of what he was up to, I never went to a single solo show–including his final show, performed two hours from my house, less than a week before he died. Most bitterly of all, because I was tired and overwhelmed with an unexpected house closing, my first national conference presentation, and a sudden opportunity to apply for a PhD program, I squandered the last chance for the Frodis Femmes to spend one night together as a foursome. Now, each of those decisions was the best I could make at the time. I’d even grant that all but one of them were “right”, at least in that 57% kind of way. Those choices still stink.
I don’t mean for my convention coverage to end on a downer. We all have to make those hard decisions in our lives, and if the last two years have taught me nothing else, I’ve learned that the things that truly matter will always loop back to you in some form if you can learn to pay attention to the Rhythms of life. But one also has to accept that for as long as we live in a mortal space, every spiral comes to an end–for ourselves at least. For all those reasons I’ve learned you must tell people how you feel about them as often as you can, choose joy and silliness whenever possible, and take the coolest opportunities that present themselves, even if they seem scary. That’s the best way to live life that I’ve found, and I learned a surprising amount of that philosophy from watching, listening to, and living my life as a fan of the Monkees, singularly and collectively.
So that’s the Con. But How did I make all of this make sense to 11 year old me? Well, in the diary I just handed to the Doctor, I made a change here and a deletion there, but not really as many as you might think. If you want to see my closing message to her, Catch my epilogue post. It’ll be up shortly.
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