There are some debts in life that can’t be repaid. I have a few, and I suspect you do too. They’re just so big, so random, from a source so distant, or so imbued with Grace that you just have to say thank you and then pay them forward as best you can.
This website, and my later association with the Zilch podcast, was an attempt to pay forward a debt indirectly, because of course I would never have the chance to pay it back directly. But my life since May 12, 2012 has been nothing if not synchronistic to the point of downright fucking bizarre, often in ways that somehow involve the Monkees. Hell, I’m now fairly convinced that spraining 1 ½ ankles after Micky and Mark Lindsay’s show the weekend after interviewing for my soon-to-be new gig in Philly was a warning from the universe that I was trying to control too much, too fast, too anxiously, and too perfectly. (Alas, I didn’t actually *grok* that particular clue-by-four till many months later…). In that grand tradition of Monkees Synchronicity, when the PTFB team was preparing for Peter’s Celebration of Life, it turned out that the Shoe Suede Blues show that the team could get its hands on both audio and video for was…Bay City. At this point I wasn’t even surprised, because of course it was. I was happy to provide the audio, and Sherri had managed to find the video. Kevin Marhanka married the two files, and I was asked to provide an introduction. Most of what happened at Club 66 was covered in Zilch episode 146, but this bit is more appropriate here, in Fandom Lenses, where it all started. Here’s how I introduced the Bay City Show, standing center stage at Club 66 where I had seen Peter for the third to last time. As I said to our emcee John, no pressure. 😉
I’m pretty sure this is an urban legend, but I once read something to the effect that every cell in your body is replaced every seven years, which means that every seven years, you are a completely different person. As I said, I don’t know if that’s true, but in any case, I am not the same person I was 7 years ago, in large part because of the events of September 8, 2012 in Bay City, Michigan.
Once upon a time in the late 90s, in a Yahoogroup called Long_Title, some geeky, lost monkees fans found each other, became best friends, and called their little gang the Frodis Femmes. There was Cin, who’s here today, Mich and Mattie, who are back home in Cleveland, Ohio, me, and the bubbliest and most outgoing of us all, Anissa. Cin once called her our Davy, and she died suddenly in May 2012, a few months after Davy Jones.
Anissa was a huge Shoe Suede Blues fan since the early 2000s, way before it was cool. She went to shows in California and Ohio, spread the word to all and sundry, and even had a Shoe Suede Blues license plate! There’s a reason I often say I’m just substitute co-hosting Zilch in her place. Because if Anissa had still been here when Zilch started—well, imagine Christine the Button Queen with a healthy dash of Pinkie Pie from My Little Pony. 😉
But back to Bay City, and the show we were all going to in Anissa’s memory. That day was…weird. The weirdness started at the hotel breakfast buffet, when I looked up from my omelet and saw none other than Peter Tork walking in in a rumpled tee shirt and some serious bed head. I mean, intellectually I knew he was just a normal guy, but there’s nothing like seeing one of your crushes when you were 10 grab some granola and a coffee to bring that point home.
The weirdness continued at the show, when he played a song in Anissa’s memory. He didn’t have to do that, just like he certainly didn’t have to post an RIP message to facebook the day after she died, acknowledging her loss and giving us comfort. But he did. So yeah, Peter was the normal guy at the breakfast buffet, but he was also kind to his fans—often far kinder than we deserved. I think a lot of us know that, whether or not we’re brave enough to admit it.
And speaking of kindness to fans, I think of the meet and greet after the show, in this tiny little record store that was filled way beyond capacity with fans wanting a photo and a signature. [Sherri interjected at this point to note that the line had stretched all the way around the block at its peak]. My long suffering husband Kevin was overwhelmed by the crowd. I was overwhelmed by the crowd. That night I truly wondered how one could do that job for one hour, let alone 5 decades, without running screaming into the night. Peter was visibly tired, and I learned later his knee was in pain. But he stayed at that overstuffed, overheated, overstimulated record store until every CD was signed and every photo snapped.
But the most remarkable thing about that night in Bay City took some time to sink in. Shoe Suede Blues had helped me start healing from Anissa’s death, just as in my tween years, when the Monkees helped me start healing from learning some life lessons way younger than I would have liked. And I wanted to pay that healing forward, through sharing kindness in that same humanly heroic way I had seen Peter connect with us in Bay City. I am a better writer because of Peter Tork. I’m a better leader and definitely a better podcaster. But most importantly I’m a better person because Peter taught me by his example that you don’t have to be perfect to help build a better world. You just have to be kind to yourself and everyone you meet.
So, enjoy the concert. I hope it helps you heal as much as it did me.
The next day, I opened the gift bag that a member of the PTFB team had slipped me in a quiet moment before the celebration started. In addition to a tree ornament and some other goodies, I found this bracelet, with this explanatory note.
That bracelet has been on my wrist ever since, and will remain there for the foreseeable future. Because it will remind me that there is only one way to pay off karmic debts like the one that inspired this blog, and it’s decidedly not living a lifetime of anxious striving to be “good enough” to “earn your miracles”. The only way to balance the scales is to be as kind to yourself and others as you can be in the present moment. Sometimes being kind is lending a helping hand, sometimes it’s honestly sharing a painful but necessary truth to help someone heal and grow. Sometimes it’s putting another’s needs above yours, and sometimes it’s making sure you put on your own oxygen mask before helping others. Sometimes you need to pitch in to help, and sometimes you need to step back so others can shine. You’ll never be perfect at it, but the most perfectly imperfect way you can pull off the paradox of true kindness is by paying attention to every moment as it happens, as best you can. Because Now is all we have. Now is all we ever have. And Now I can see that the journey of the past 7 years has been a journey to grok what it means to live that truth with my family, my friends, my work, and especially within my own tough, tender self. Some people get sports cars and fall in love with a hot young thing at midlife. Me, I got a PhD, fell back in love with a septuagenarian boy band, and wrote a blog about it all. I hope you didn’t mind all the oversharing along the way.
This post feels like an ending too, but in a good, poignant way. Kind of like driving home from Edgewood with a tummy full of just enough barbecue, chatting with Cin and Debby about the joys and struggles of our lives, debating how to best share what happened with those who weren’t there, and just enjoying the moment. But even if Fandom Lenses is done (and we’ll see if it really is, some people taught me long ago never to say never 😉 ), I will remain a part of Zilch for as long as I can participate in a manner that’s kind to me, to my fellow co-hosts, and to all of you who like to take us along as you live your daily lives.
This spiral won’t ever totally end, but when I stood on that stage in that club in Edgewood, Maryland, I think I might have graciously, miraculously been given an utterly unexpected opportunity to repay the debt to Peter that inspired this cycle of growth. Or maybe there was never any debt to repay in the first place.
Either way, thanks.