Have you ever had a life-long dream come true? You know, something you’ve wanted for longer than you can remember but never thought would ever happen? And then it does, and your mind just kind of shuts down for a while? Yeah, that happened to me in Boston on May 10th and I still haven’t come down from that incredible high. I don’t think I ever will.
OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD
It’s no secret that I’ve been in love with legendary guitarist Jimmy Page and his music since I was a teenager. Everyone has a soundtrack to their life, and Jimmy wrote mine. I’ve met a lot of rock stars in my life, but I’d never met Jimmy, and I thought I never would. He’s a very private individual and doesn’t run around doing meet and greets, and very rarely signs autographs. Then this happened:
I first learned of this from my amazing friend author S.A. Hussey. After all, we met because of our shared admiration of Jimmy, so it was very fitting that she was the one to tell me he would be in Boston in May. He was slated to receive an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music and would deliver the commencement address to the school’s graduates. My inner fangirl kicked into high gear at the thought of being able to see Jimmy in the flesh, and I booked my flight to New England that very night.
The keyword here is see Jimmy. Honestly, that would have been enough for me, to just see him. Meeting him, talking with him? Pipe dreams I never thought would come true. But then we got to Boston, and things started to happen.
It’s traditional that the Berklee graduates perform for their families the night before the commencement, and those being given honorary degrees usually attend this performance. So Stephanie and I headed to the Agganis Arena on the campus of Boston University where this performance (and the commencement the following day) was to take place. No, we didn’t have tickets, and we didn’t expect to get any. After all, this performance was for the families of the graduates (and a select number of dignitaries) and they were the ones who should be in attendance, not us. But Jimmy was there, so that’s where we were, too. While there we met up with two other die-hard Page fans, and the wait began.
Of course it had to rain off and on all day, and it turned cold. I had left my jacket in the back seat of my car when I got out at the Memphis airport, so I was freezing. Desperate, I ended up buying a hoodie from a street vendor in Boston so I wouldn’t die of hypothermia before I saw my idol. While the sweatshirt was warm, it wasn’t the prettiest thing I’ve ever owned as it sported a large red lobster on its front. But, hey; my hair was frizzy from the rain and my makeup had pretty much washed off, so how bad could a lobster on my chest be? Just wait – you’ll see.
The four of us who love Jimmy more than anyone else in the United States of America does staked out our spot at the back of the arena where we were sure Jimmy’s motorcade would be after the performance. We were right – the motorcade was there waiting for him, along with enough security to choke a giraffe. The guards were pretty tolerant of us, though, (with one notable exception) and when Jimmy came out to his car we were finally able to see our idol. Sighs of admiration abounded, and at that moment we felt our lives were complete even though we hadn’t been able to get very close to him.
Satisfied for the moment, we retired to a nearby Irish pub to eat and talk about our adventure. While there, we decided that if Jimmy was staying in Boston, he was almost sure to be ensconced at the Four Seasons, the nicest hotel in town. At that moment we came to the conclusion that we were extremely thirsty, and the only drinks that would quench that thirst were the ones at the bar at the Four Seasons. So we hopped a train and off we went.
AN AUTHOR GOES DEER IN THE HEADLIGHTS AT THE FOUR SEASONS
By the time we reached the hotel I was in some distress. Public bathroom facilities weren’t available at Agannis Arena, and I’d been too excited at the pub to even think of hunting down the ladies room there. So when we got to the Four Seasons I left Stephanie and the others to find a table, and I went off in search of the facilities. There were a few diners here and there in the restaurant portion of the bar, but I spotted some hotel employees standing around in what appeared to be an empty part of the restaurant. I walked up to one of them who looked startled and taken aback at my accosting him. But when I asked if he could direct me to the restrooms, he visibly relaxed, smiled, and pointed out the quickest route. I thanked him and headed off in the direction indicated. While in the ladies room I stripped off the lobster sweatshirt, and made some repairs to my hair and makeup. After all, we were in the Four Seasons, and I was rather ashamed at looking like an idiot upon entering such an august establishment.
As I made my way back to the bar to find Stephanie, I glanced into the empty portion of the restaurant where my friendly hotel employee was stationed. That’s when I noticed that one table was occupied. Yes, there sat Jimmy Page with his friend, photographer Ross Halfin. I’m sure that if a photograph had been taken of me at that moment I would have resembled a deer in headlights. As I stared at the beauty that is Jimmy (barely bothering to register poor Ross with my peripheral vision), he looked up at me, smiled, nodded, and gave me an almost imperceptible wink. I managed to smile and nod back, and I think I might have even given him a tiny wave as I passed by. The moment I was out of his sight, every single bit of maturity I possessed flew right out the window, and I reverted to the teenaged fangirl I’d once been. Somehow I managed to locate Stephanie and mumble some garbled, incoherent words that indicated Jimmy was right over there! We abandoned the table and took up a position on a couch near to where he was eating.
And, no, we didn’t go over to him. Yes, we’re his biggest fans (oh, yes, we are! I didn’t see anyone else flying 1,300 miles one way on the off chance they might catch a mere glimpse of the man.), but we also respect him, and to interrupt his dinner is something we would never do. It was while I was sitting there sipping a glass of Cabernet that I realized that when I spoke to the hotel employee, I was standing right next to Jimmy’s table. If I had just glanced over to my right, I would have seen him, and I was so close to him that I could have reached out and touched him. And I didn’t even realize it at the time. On the heels of that came the thought that the first time Jimmy Page ever laid eyes on me I was standing there with frizzy hair and a big red lobster on my chest. Y’all, there’s not enough Cabernet in the world to erase that kind of mortification.
Not long after, Jimmy and Ross finished their meal and left the restaurant. I watched as he walked toward the lobby, and decided my life was now complete. I had seen his gorgeousness up close, he’d smiled and nodded at me (and let’s not forget that almost imperceptible little wink!), and I had smiled back. I could now die happy.
IN WHICH THINGS GET INTERESTING
The next day Stephanie and I decided to go back to the Four Seasons after the commencement had concluded to try to catch one more glimpse of him. And that’s when life went from being complete to being transcendent. Because Jimmy did something he never does; he came outside to meet the fans gathered there (they weren’t there the night before, I might add) and to sign autographs. I mean he never does that, so when Stephanie and I got in line we knew how freakin’ lucky we were!
By the time we reached him he’d been out there for some time, and we were worried they’d cut the line off before it was our turn to meet him. Ross was standing next to him, making sure no one tried to molest him or bother him too much. Since Stephanie and I are both fans of Ross’ photography, we both spoke to him and expressed our admiration of his work. We received grudging nods of acknowledgement, and to get one of those from Ross is huge. Right after I’d spoken to him, Ross leaned over to the security guy and told him he was cutting the line off “right after these girls.” Believe me, “these girls” knew we had received a benediction, and were more grateful than we ever could have expressed. We now love Ross almost as much as we love Jimmy.
Stephanie met Jimmy first, and he insisted on signing her book with the red marker she’d brought instead of the blue one he’d been using for everyone else’s. Honestly, I was so in awe of being that close to him that I can’t remember one single, solitary thing about her encounter with him, but as soon as she blogs about it I’ll be sure to let you know.
Then it was my turn. Since it had rained again that morning, my hair was up to its usual tricks, but at least I wasn’t sporting a lobster on my clothing. I asked Jimmy to sign my cell phone cover. At first he was perplexed, but when he saw his own photo on it he understood that I hadn’t completely lost my mind. Though Stephanie urged him to use her red marker, he decided to go with the blue, stating that it would look better on the phone cover. I have to tell you here that it was funny watching Stephanie and Jimmy. Ross had moved aside to speak with security, and Steph took his place. She stood there stroking Jimmy’s arm and telling him what to sign and where to sign it. He just grinned and did what she said, with the exception of which marker to use for my phone cover. After he wrote my name and signed his under it, he gave me his marker. Gave it to me! (Sorry, fangirl moment there.)
I won’t go into how it felt to hear him say my name repeatedly (which he did!) but suffice it to say that I’ll never forget how it sounded. I also asked him if he would sign my arm. I wanted to have his signature tattooed there, but he laughed under his breath and said, “No, you don’t want that.” Of course, I contradicted him. “Yes, I do.” But he shook his head, smiled, and said, “No, you don’t.” I nodded. “Okay.” C’mon, y’all. If he’d told me I didn’t want to breathe anymore I would have agreed.
It was then that Stephanie grabbed my other arm, the one with Jimmy’s symbol tattooed on it, and told him, “Wait. Look at her arm!” (I must add that when Stephanie gets excited her Massachusetts accent ramps up to level 10, and it came out as, “Look at her AHM!” It still makes me laugh!) And that’s when it happened.
Jimmy Page took my arm in one hand, and my hand in his other and pulled me to him so he could see my tattoo. And I would give almost everything I own if anyone had taken an effing picture of that moment. But Jimmy had asked that no photographs be taken, and almost everyone was abiding by that edict. There were a few exceptions, and that’s why we have the few photos we do. Anyway. The moment he took my hand, my own fingers closed over his, and if I had been able to speak I would have said, “Um, Jimmy? We’re totally holding hands right now, and I’m afraid that my fingers are now permanently locked in this position and I won’t ever be able to let go. So you’re just going to have to come home with me, ‘k?”
On the one hand, it’s fortunate I wasn’t able to speak right then so I couldn’t embarrass myself. On the other hand, it’s unfortunate that speech deserted me, because when Jimmy saw my tattoo, he looked up at me, his eyes filled with a questioning wonder, and he asked, “What is this?” I think I responded with something brilliant like “Uhhhhhhhh ….” What I wish I could have said was, “You and your music have meant so much to me, and have touched my life in so many ways. I wanted to honor that, so I got the tattoo.” So, Jimmy, if you’re reading this, that’s what that is. And if I ever get the chance to meet you again maybe I’ll be able to articulate it.
Still holding my arm, he ran his fingers over the tattoo and said, “I can’t believe this.” Then I think I said something inane like, “Thank you.” You’d have never known in that moment that I’m an author and make my living with words because nothing coherent was coming out of my mouth. But Jimmy Page was holding my arm. And that’s something I never thought would happen. It’s no wonder I was struck dumb.
It was the highlight of my life, and I’ll never forget it.
Stephanie and I did a lot more during my trip to New England, and I’ll tell you about those things in another post, promise. 😉