We Rule The Smaller Markets

Before I scribe even one syllable, I have to thank all of you for hanging in here with me and my kids this week. Between broken collarbones and physical therapy for two kids’ two messed up shoulders, I am toast. I appreciate all the support (and cupcakes!) you’ve given as I have shuttled my boys to their many appointments around southeastern Wisconsin, seeking healing and sanity for us all. 

This is not my best work. You’ve been cautioned.

My husband and I saw U2’s The Joshua Tree tour at Soldier Field in Chicago in June.  I don’t live and die for U2 the way I do for a certain Canadian quartet, but U2 mesmerized me with decibels only a stadium concert could make happen, volume that rattled your bones.  They built a video display wide as an NFL field to complement and extend their musical storytelling.  The crunch of that lead guitar, the driving bass, and that voice.  Oh, that voice.  Bono’s pipes hit all the notes, ALL of them, but what moved me to tears the first time was not what or how he sang, but what he said.  Bono rallied the audience–ONE audience, not one torn by political affiliation–extolling the magnificent country in which we live, the US.  He exhorted us to be conscious.  To be kind.  To help.  To understand.  To celebrate and support women across time and across the globe.  And as they marched from the island (well, tree-shaped) stage on the floor toward the main stage to open The Joshua Tree in its entirety, the power of his words, combined with that guitar intro building Where The Streets Have No Name set against a blood red backdrop, so big and bright I nearly shielded my eyes?  Experiencing an overload of every sense music engages while my husband cheered his favorite band?  I teared up a little.  I did.

I typically don’t enjoy stadium tours.  As I have taught you, friends, second row is not the front row, and you don’t get front row at U2 for under several thousand dollars.  The football field was all general admission actually, which, ugh, just kill me now.

An anxious brain needs to know where its seats are before heading into the venue.  An anxious brain needs to know from precisely which vantage point it will experience the show.  Anxious brains don’t like to have to squat for space and worry that the drunk yahoo sashaying and stumbling in during the fourth song is going to elbow the brain’s body out of its established vantage point.  That shit has happened to me more than once, and I just really, really, really hate it.  Really, really.

It’s time for the front row again, kids.

I’m meeting two of Barenaked Ladies’ most committed fans and my sweet friends Sunday in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Northern Indiana isn’t exactly a tourist hub, but it’s geographically about as close to an epicenter for eastern Michigander Bek, southern Ohioan Nikki, and me, just a small town girl, livin’ in a lonely world. . .  Sorry, wrong band.  And me, crawling again through Chicagoland traffic from my MKE home to catch my dear friends and my band.

With everyone reminding me of my “big” birthday pending, I’m feeling sorta midlife crisis-y, which is super fun for my husband, you can imagine.  The kids are cool with me taking off for an overnight–they’re so involved in their own business these days that I’m merely a chariot to their destinations.  Sure they hug their chariot driver and say all the right things, but I know where I stand.  I’m feeling moderately-to-mostly crappy that I’ll be leaving my boy with his broken collarbone and missing my younger’s last baseball games of the season, but what if my band never tours again??  What if this is it?  I gotta go.

Reading the last sentences I typed sounds ridiculous unless you’re us, I’ll grant you, but what if?  All those internet memes say tomorrow is not a guarantee, and I’m good at reading comprehension. Plus the internet never lies.  I even own socks that read “Carpe the fuck out of this diem.”  So we carpe.  That’s probs not the correct verb tense, but I don’t know Latin, so whatever.

I cannot wait to give my girls their commemorative tee shirts.  I killed the shirt this time, #nailedit.  There are two in the entire world like them (no, I didn’t make one for myself) and I’m goofy just thinking about them.  As per custom, the message is girly-girl borderline inappropriate, but HILARIOUS, because we are hilarious.  Just ask us.  We totally are.

It’s a surprise, so I can’t show you the front of the shirt yet.


I even compiled a list of things I want to ask the members of the band if we get lucky enough to talk with them after the show.  They’re in my phone’s notes app because I never again want to ask someone I idolize how his thing is.  Seriously.  I’m just gonna go over here and kill myself.

I want to be sure to tell Kevin Hearn how this picture he drew makes my heart skip.  I’m hoping my son is still eons away from requiring a wheelchair for ambulation–stupid @&$^# muscular dystrophy–but when I see kids in chairs depicted in art, well, yeah, I am moved. 


The week my son attended MDA Camp, Ed Robertson hit the Canadian talk show circuit, where he was featured for his support of Camp Oochigeas, a summer camp for kids with cancer. He wrote the camp theme song, and the symmetry of his song for camp kids and my kid’s being at camp was almost too much for me, so naturally, I got all misty-eyed. The point is that I don’t want to sound like a complete idiot this time. Not that sounding like an idiot is foreign territory or anything for me, because #skills, but I can speak cogently. Just usually not around them.

I originally planned to make this a 2-night BNL tour.  The big kid expressed interest in attending the EAA Fly-In and the Barenaked Ladies concert in Wisconsin Monday night. My band is finally coming to my home state, but their show here is general admission (see above for GA commentary).  On his best days, there’s no way my son has the endurance not only to walk around all day, but also then stand for a couple hours before and during the show.  And now with the broken bone slung to his side?  It’s a no-go, Houston. Sad face. 

I’m ever-grateful to connect with a faction of my #Ladiesladies. This will be the third show Ketchup & Mustard, and Relish are a trio. The first time we snuck into sound check, which SCORE!!! and the second time was a big city/small venue.  Nikki says we rule the smaller markets.

I offer commentary like, “I would sever off my arm to hear When I Fall live,” because I am comfortable with hyperbole and I ramble a bunch. Hearing my besties’ faves, Keepin’ It Real or Toe To Toe, would make this trip magic. My Barenaked Ladies fandom wouldn’t be at its zenith without the girls. See, ours is a story of friendship as much as it is about the music.  

And the road trip.  Ladies and Ladies, start your engines. 

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I’m Practically Canadian 

I’ve passed on a billion cool opportunities in this lifetime.  Until recently, I’d have classed myself out of some perceived bonuses, believing I was neither good nor deserving enough to cash in.  Too often I’ve designated myself unworthy of any VIP lifestyle–who do I think I am anyway?  I’m mostly a rule follower, so never tried to sneak in to anything or try to score something above my station in life.  I’d observe longingly from the sidelines, questioning how did they get that?, and walk off, aware that in the us vs. them, I was a them.

Still, I marveled at how people got to do the stuff they did.  “That’s so cool!” I’d think, or “I could never do that!” or “They’re so lucky!” were common refrains.  *sigh*  I champion the underdog in nearly everything, I suppose because I know myself as that underdog.  Not coveting, but not not wanting my moment in the sun.  Surely I don’t deserve special treatment or an extra-special anything really.  I’m just this girl from Milwaukee, nothing to see here, folks, keep moving.

I never want my children to feel ordinary.  NOT entitled, never.  But not ordinary.

Saturday night my little guy and I traveled west of Chicago to see Alan Doyle in concert.  Alan Doyle is a Canadian musician/singer/author/actor, widely known north of the border, but playing comparatively smaller venues in the US.  The guy obviously loves his job!  He and his band, the Beautiful Gypsies, empty their hearts on the stage instrumentally and vocally.  I’m new to the fan club, but what I lack in tenure, I make up for in enthusiasm.  My kid and I sat near the front, and to look at my son during the performance, you’d have thought he was steps from a coma.  You’d have been very wrong.

He had a great time!  He knows Alan’s music as well as I do, and has even worked out Sea of No Cares on piano!  He loved the show!  What he dislikes?  Attention.  He may have looked like the poster child for preteen narcolepsy, but he was into it.  INTO it.  He’s eleven, so any kind of scene he’s going to make will be on his ‘tween terms.  He never stops talking or moving at home, but he’s a different child out in the big, wide world.  He’s quiet and shuns attention until he’s all in, and then he’s ALL IN.

But I noticed shades of quiet not attributed to shyness recently, and felt like Saturday night was as good a time as any to take that bold, first step.

After his shows, Alan Doyle invites anyone interested to stick around and say hello.  He’ll pose for photos and sign things for fans.  The first time my boy saw him last January, Alan gave my son his set list from the stage.  That guy!   My guy was wilting, and when an Alan überfan asked if she could photograph the list, my son was astonished into near paralysis–only his eyes moved to search me for the correct response.  We didn’t stick around then ’cause it was a school night, and we were staring down a two-hour return trip home and I am a responsible parent, but he kept the set list because, hello?   Oh, FYI, of course we let the woman take a pic of the set list.  We’re cool like that.

Late Saturday night, my boy makes his way to the restroom for the pre-travel potty break while I chatted with some friends.  Looking over my shoulder, there’s a scrum of fans surrounding the man in black.  I ask my kid if he wants to hang around to meet Mr. Doyle, and he’s quiet like, “Aaaaaah, nah, that’s OK.  There’s a lot of people, and mumblemumblemumble.”  Naturally I was like, “Let’s, honey.  Let’s go say hello and tell him how much we liked the show.”  (Because I am SO GIFTED with the words, and probably no one has ever said such a unique thing to him in his decades-long career.  Jaysus.)

He was nervous up til and including the very end.  My son, not Alan Doyle.  “Are you sure it’s OK, Mom?” (Oh no, he sounds like me!)  I produced the set list from my purse and he was all, “I was looking for that!” (his room is like an episode of Hoarders, Jr. so of course he had to be looking for it–nothing is ever where one expects it might be in that morass) and I was all, “Let’s ask him to sign it” and he was all, “I don’t know if we should” and I was all, “Then yes, we definitely should!”

And we did.  And I was sooooo awkward, not at all fleet of speech.  I wanted to show my kid it was OK to do something cool like meet the guy who just put on that terrific show and not feel like you didn’t deserve to say hey.  I probably proved actually how very little I deserved to be there–words are hard, people, even for a wiseass like me.  Instead of saying how much I enjoyed reading his memoir, how I thought he penned a beautiful love letter to his hometown with such detail I could see him running up and down that hill, how he paints pictures with words and melodies and on-stage energy, how Take Us Home is one of the sweetest songs I know, I ended up basically mute.  Super, Wendy.  But I showed my kid he could do it, even if you sound like a complete dork while doing it, the lesson is this: leap.


My kid thought it was pretty slick.  He told me that after last week’s planes, trains, and automobiles to my Barenaked Ladies bender, and this trip to see Alan Doyle, I was practically Canadian.  Man, I love that kid.  He deserves the sun, the moon, and all the stars.  All of ’em. He is kind and gentle, my kid–he sat next to me at a concert and didn’t completely die when I got up and danced.  Now if that doesn’t say something right there!  He’s funny and concerned and shows empathy.  He is not an undeserving, ordinary boy.  He’s special, and I’m so glad he’s mine.  I just hope it doesn’t take him nearly a half century to know and remember how special he is.

PS–I managed a whole blog post and never once mentioned that my Number One Son came home from OT with his first piece of MD equipment today.  I didn’t even cry. I didn’t take him to the appointment, but details, whatevs.  Today was a first. For both of us.  Exhale.