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Cleveland, OH -- Dec. 17, 2007


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First, I get all schmoopie at Clay singing to Angela's empty microphone....

....and now I'm a freakin' waterworks. laughn, that was beautiful, and I'm glad you could remember your Mom in this way. The spirit of your story....the spirit of life that life that lives in us all. So very beautiful. Thank you.

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Thank you for all your kind words... :wub:

I am sitting here waiting for a dear old friend to snatch me away for the evening for a holiday get-together, so I have tried to write some sort of a recap. I know it’s not great, but I hope it’s enough. No time to bold names or emoticons I'm afraid. I apologize.


It’s hard to know how to start one of these stories, but I decided to start with the first thing on my mind. I had the most fun evening ever.

Background Story…

I guess I’ll start at the beginning…the day before Thanksgiving and ‘the email’ for the Kalamazoo show. I called the number, recorded my story and heard nothing. Kalamazoo came and went and weeks passed. As time went on I just figured, ‘close, but no cigar.’ I truly was touched just to make the short list. Then Lin posted about Poughkeepsie…and she read…and everything she wrote about the email and the phone call was so much like my experience that I allowed a little glimmer of hope to shine through. (and yes Lin, I could see similarities in our stories too) Just maybe my story would get picked. Funny thing is, as much as I wanted my story read, that’s how much I didn’t want to read it myself. YSRN knew about it from the start because when I received the first email I called her to ask who would be a good reader as that person had to make the phone call. She said I had to read my own story, end of discussion. (we’ll revisit the dry mouth, shaking knees later in this epic)

Here We Go…

When the email arrived the day before, notifying me that my story had been picked for Cleveland I was sitting in 10 inches of snow in blizzard conditions. No problem. I grabbed my travel partner bottlecap and off we went at noon. The roads weren’t too bad by then and we were hunkered down in our hotel across from the theater by 3:30. By 4, bottlecap had already walked to the venue, checked out the restaurants and figured out which sidewalks were slush and ice-free. (good woman) She then escorted me as I walked over for rehearsal an hour later. Kiss to bottlecap. I not only have one very nasty knee, but just recently underwent surgery for a torn rotator cuff, so my arm was in a sling. I meet up with two of the other readers by the ticket office and after waiting about 40 minutes, up walks Jamie. Should mention that Jesse had walked by on his way out the door about 20 minutes earlier, so I figured he wouldn’t be there to give us our cues.

Now We’re Getting To The Good Stuff…

Jamie, who is sweet and cute as anything and whom I’m sure can seriously compete in a walking race, took off with the three of us (all firs time readers) in tow. She led us through the house towards the stage and then through this little blocked entry way on the left side of the stage. You could tell it was on old building remodeled to fit new equipment and stuff, as we had to go through this tiny little doorway, step down three steps, make an immediate right turn and walk up four steps to the stage…like a little tiny ‘L’. lol. I got to know that path well. We trotted across the front of the stage with Jamie explaining that we’ll sneak behind the back curtains when we come up during the actual show. Only Jamie and Fern, and some guy tuning the piano, were there to put us through our paces. The first reader Cincy, was having the hardest time to get the mic close enough to her chin and still have the book at such and angle that she could read. I’m telling you, she did a great job being spun around up there reading while they were trying to get her into a good spot. We were told the second reader never arrived so I went through my paces next and so did AmyAiken the fourth reader. I got the added effect of the lighting guys starting to play with their light boards when I began my run through. Knowing what the lighting backgrounds looked like for the actual show, I wonder now what I looked like up there. Hee. I just know as I was trying to read everything would flash red or blue or white. The last thing I’ll say about the rehearsal…If I never could lick Clay Aiken, I would be happy licking the black binder that the stories are read from. I can’t believe I haven’t seen anyone else talk about this lovely. It’s black leather with tooled looking filigree and all stitched in red and all. About 20 pages both sided in plastic where they can rotate the stories in and out for every show. Classy. By the way, Jamie’s backstage pass is a picture of Raleigh wearing a halo. I wondered if Durham was on the other side wearing little horns, but forgot to ask. When we first walked in Jamie pointed to a theater display nutcracker and told us that’s where we were to meet her at our designated times to go back for the readings. As we were leaving rehearsal, I was trying to reconfirm the instructions.

Me: “Jamie, did you say we were to meet you by the, um, you know, that um (brain dead at this point) …you know, the little drummer boy…?’

Jamie: (seriously turning around to look) “Is Sean here?” (turns back and me and starts laughing) “Oh, you mean the nutcracker?”

By this time, I’m laughing my butt off as I realize what just happened and she says that ‘the little drummer boy,’ is her nickname for Sean.

It’s Showtime…

The show was wonderful. Our seats were great. The lighting backdrops reminded me of 1970s. It was fantastic. LOL. Seriously, you could see Clay and Quiana play off, lean on and enjoy one another throughout the entire evening. You could tell Angela was missed by comments made and by actions too. You got a feeling how close knit these people are as you watch them on stage. I got to sit in the house for the first half then left at intermission for my part. I was sitting the row in front of the first reader, Cincy, so the people around were giving us lots of kind words and strokes as we were both coming and going. Clay visibly loved her story and was laughing as he stated the jazzy set after her story. As the second half started, with Jamie in the lead, it was back through the narrow stairwell and to the way back behind the blue backdrop, behind another black curtain where we walked across to get ready to read. I was walking on stage both behind and to the side of Clay as he was singing OHN. I know I heard it, but I was too nervous to look at him. I was afraid I would panic more. See, at that point I was starting to sweat, and my lips were dry and I was thinking that I should leave now and I really, really wasn’t going to go through with this and Jamie’s bottle of vitamin water was looking so good and maybe if I just reached over and took a swig I would feel better and not feel like I was going to pass out or something…instead, I asked her if there was some water I could drink. So she smiled and trotted off to get some bottles of water for both AmyAiken and myself. I will still averting my eyes from Mr. Aiken at this point…Well, ok, I was peaking a little since he was like only 30 feet away or so and like singing and beautiful and all…but I was really nervous. I took my sling off, like I had planned and when Jamie came back I took a sip of water and she pushed me a little forward. Not all the way yet…just closer to Clay. Gah. Then the big push and I was out there. I had forgotten I had no strength in my left hand, and since I had the book in my right, I fumbled a little trying to raise the mic. That’s when the knee started shaking…and bouncing…and practically doing a jig! Everyone later tells me they couldn’t see it, but somehow all my nerves were living in my left leg. Thank God it didn’t show in my voice. At least I hope it didn’t. When I started to ‘sing’ my three little lines I was all thrown off key. In rehearsal Jesse wasn’t there, and now there was another tune being played not three feet from me. I don’t know yet if he started playing softer right when he heard me having trouble or if I just pulled it around myself, but I know I finished that little bit semi-in tune. I stepped off behind the side curtains again, but this time I could watch and enjoy to my hearts content. I was done. I was happy. No more nerves. I got to hear him and see him sing Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas just a few feet in front of me. *sigh* When AmyAiken was finished we both were able to watch Quiana sing WAYC as well. It was amazing and fantastic and just fun.

Meeting Clay…

Back through the teeny, tiny stair well, to the far back room. We found a place to sit at one of the three large round tables there and watched the symphony players as the left through the back entrance. Many of them stopped and complimented us and told us how much they enjoyed the stories. One woman said it made her remember what the holidays were all about. You know, I have meet Clay one other time, two years ago during the JNT05. I remember then sitting at a table looking at a doorway and being able to see Clay before the others in the room did. I remember thinking, “OMG, here he comes. What should I do.” So, I stood up. Last night the same thing happened! Everyone else is sitting down and I jump up. I don’t know if it’s my ‘flight or fight’ senses or like the President, when Clay Aiken enters a room I feel I should stand at attention, but I stood…and I stayed standing while the others remained seated. LOL.

Quiana was there also. She shook my hand. She is beautiful. With all her bling, if she reminds some of a toilet paper doll cover, I want to go live in their bathroom.

Now to the serious stuff… Clay Aiken looked wonderful…and by that I mean handsome and happy and beautiful. He laughed a lot, he and had a special conversation with each of us, he bounced around and waved his hands and told a great story and it was a thing of beauty.

To AmyAiken he first questioned where she was from. He guessed Texas because she ‘pulled her ‘i’s’ (picture him standing now pulling his hands apart like he’s pulling taffy, repeating ‘iiiiiii’, ‘iiiiii’ to demonstrate) She said she’s wasn’t and went through all her southern roots…but none from TX…hee…and he’s still trying to prove his point with the taffy motion.

With me, it was the last name. He almost had it correct and chalked it up to a friend he has with a similar spelling. We then talked ‘names and meanings’ for a few minutes.

With Cincy, he commented on how nervous she was at the start of her reading, but once the audience started laughing she really got into it (picture him making it look like he was all cool and confident reading here)

The best story was for the substitute reader. The second reader didn’t show and they normally go out into the audience at this point (Clay said Jamie is usually sent on a hunt for someone wearing black at this point) Last night Clay had a different idea. He had known a fan from this area for several years. He first met her during the IT and remembered her first name and her nickname, ‘granny’ He thought she might be at the show last night so sent Jerome out into the audience to look for her. I got the impression that she had also attended other shows because she mentioned earlier talking to Jerome a lot. Clay was so animated and smiling telling about all this. He told us he didn’t care what color she was wearing. She was there, but she was not wearing black, Clay says, but as luck would have it, she had a change of clothes in her car and those clothes were black. At this point Clay turns to her and asks, “How did you know we pick people from the audience like this?” ‘Granny’ replied something like, ‘I had no idea. I just knew for some reason I should bring them. The man upstairs must have been telling me.’ At this point everyone just stopped and stared at her, including Clay, and Quiana raised her hand up to heaven. It was a neat moment.

Then it was picture time. I went third and Clay and Quiana both asked me what happened to my arm and when I told them they both made the appropriate ‘oohhh, that must hurt’ remarks. Then, Snap! And as they both turned to walk away, Clay took one step, spun around, walked back and gave me another big hug and said ‘thank you’ once again for sharing my story.

As he left, He waved and told us all to drive carefully…and he told Cincy to stay off the roads…LOL

I know I’ve left a lot out. Like mentioning how kind Jerome was all evening and ‘who said what to who,’ and what boards everyone’s from and saying hello to Scarlett and….you get the idea…I keep playing it all through my head…but this is enough I think, I hope. I’m afraid to bore you all if I keep babbling…and I know I babble. I guess I will just leave with a wish that you all have an evening as fun as the one I had last night.

Thank you Clay…and thank you YSRN for telling me I could do this and for making me sing. *muah* :F_05BL17blowkiss:

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Great recap, laughn. It all sounds so wonderful!!! I'm glad you had such a joyous experience! Still giggling at the little drummer boy.

So, are you gonna tell us what the great story was about? :imgtongue: Or was that the 'granny' story?

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laughn, I'm so happy that reading turned out well for you! I totally know what you mean about your leg shaking. I had the same experience, only when I was about 11 years old and playing piano for a full auditorium. It was the most people I'd ever played for at that time, and I had on a long dress. My leg was shaking up a storm, and my long dress was shaking right along with it! :lmaosmiley-1: It's funny now, but I was mortified at the time. Fortunately, I played just fine. Anyway, I'm so glad that no one noticed your leg shaking!

And how cool that you had so much fun meeting Clay! Sounds like he was perfectly charming.

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Still trying to catch up everywhere...I wanted to respond a little in this thread before it get's too far away from the day, and you know how we love to move on to the next concert....as it should be! hee.

Cindilu, yes, the story that was so great was 'granny's' story, but I realized in my haste to recap I left off part of the reason it felt so cool to me. When Clay was setting up the story, telling us about how excited he was to not only remember 'granny's' name, (lol...he was proud of that fact) but also finding her, he at the same time told us how important it was for someone to read that story that night. He explained how all the stories had to fit together and he had picked those four as a set. He was positive that had to be read together. You could see how serious he was about this and you got a sense of how far he had thought through the show itself. I realized then how much of himself he really had put into the story selection. I think I will pay more attention to the group of stories that are read for each show now.

Playbiller...I hadn't realized you lost your dad at Christmas also. I am sorry for your loss, no matter how long ago. I understand also.

Thanks once again for the kind words. I am one lucky, lucky woman.

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