On March 15th, 2005, I had an unexpected day off from work. With the normal structure of my day collapsed, I had to figure out something else to do with myself. I drove to a park to run, and on the drive, listened to (Fleetwood Mac album) “Say You Will.” It sounded new. I had the same sense of impending possibility that I had when I first listened to “Say You Will” two years earlier in my apartment in Maine, sitting on the edge of my futon with a glass of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay, hosting my own private listening party. The feeling was like an emotional flashback, a very clear nostalgia.
I had felt bored recently, and I had begun having dreams of Fleetwood Mac concerts. In one dream, Fleetwood Mac opened their set with “Edelweiss,” to say the least, a unique selection for them, even in the dream world. This is the song that my mom requested to have played at her funeral. At the start of the dream concert, I was in the front and unconcerned. Whenever Dream Me became conscious of where I was or worried about maintaining my position, I was immediately transported to the back of the audience, by myself and away from my place of meaning.
Real-life me had thought frequently of Las Vegas because I had spent time there the previous two Marches with my parents, talking and gambling with my mom. This time of year always reminds me of Las Vegas. I associatively worked my way from these thoughts to thoughts of my mom’s birthday, which was May 10. One of her friends had mentioned having some kind of celebration or merriment that year. My daytime, reality- constrained self reasoned that a journey of some sort, possibly to a concert, possibly to Las Vegas, would snap me out of ennui. No travel was on the horizon, however, so my journeys seemed to remain mental travel into the past.
The question of the moment remained: What to do with my unexpected free day? My first plan, a lunch date with a friend, didn’t take wing because of his schedule. This friend did inquire about my graduate school application, something that I had made into a focal point of self-crucifictory angst and mislaid hope. I had applied at the end of fall to graduate school in the thin and ludicrous belief that this was my only chance to get out of my current life. I frequently characterize my life during those years with a quote from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, spoken by Clark Griswold when he learns that Cousin Eddy and family will be spending the holidays in their home, complete with their RV in the driveway: “If I woke up with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.” Getting back into a graduate program seemed a reasonable way to keep my head from metaphorically being sewn to the carpet and to circumvent all related lunacies.
No, I hadn’t heard from the program. I established the new afternoon plan of inquiring after the fate of my graduate application, vowing to email the graduate director as soon as I hung up the phone. First, however, I decided to check for pertinent updates on the Stevie Nicks websites, hoping for news of upcoming interviews, concerts to be shown on television, and other off-season pleasantries.
What do my wondering eyes behold?
“Stevie in Vegas!” The headline accompanied a press release from Caesar’s Palace describing Stevie’s four-night engagement at the Colosseum Theater. The show is titled “Dreams,” and it opens on May 10. Stevie, Las Vegas, dreams, May 10. What more encouragement could I need?
My phone rang. My friend Melinda called to tell me that the surf camp we had planned to attend was changed from late May to early June, at a time when I couldn’t go. Had the call come five minutes earlier, I would have been disappointed. Timed as it was, it meant I could channel the money I had saved for surf camp to Stevie in Vegas.
I went to work, fervently looking for ticket information. My dad walked in with the mail, which, as my ironic life dictated, included a letter from the Emory University Neuroscience grad program. I tossed the distracting parcel aside and continued my frenzied research. My dad flabbergastedly exclaimed, ” You’re not going to open it?!” I opened the letter, skimmed it, called out, “I didn’t get in,” and threw the letter away from the keyboard so that it would not intrude upon my ticket mission.
My dad proceeded to mutter and curse, coming back into the room to tell me to not be too disappointed. “Okay!” I said. I was already to the refrain of “Rhiannon,” so we had a picture of him grumbling overlaid with “All your life you’ve never seen a woman taken by the sky…!” I think I disappointed him by not being disappointed. I tried to appease him by saying I would probably be disappointed later, although I knew this would never come to pass. I was too elated to worry. Several months earlier, I was convinced that my life’s progress out of that house and back into life hinged on getting into that program at Emory. Sitting on the edge of my seat, warbling “Rhiannon” lyrics, I thought, “C’est la vie. You win some, you lose some.”
What I learned from this unexpected day and the concerts to follow is to pay attention: The thing that you think is your last and only hope probably isn’t, and the thing you least expect might well be.