I’ve posted about my trip to Newfoundland, and my musical experiences while there. One more thing happened to me during that trip that I will write about here. It may not be exciting to anyone else but me, but those of you who know me well will understand why it was so significant. Things like this just never happen to me. Ever.
I left Bay Bulls at 5am to get to St. John’s for a 7am flight out. As I mentioned in Part 1, I was sad to be leaving. I had said my goodbyes the night before, and left my cousin’s house quietly so I wouldn’t wake anyone at such an ungodly hour. As I came over a hill toward the St. John’s International Airport, I saw the city all lit up and it brought tears to my eyes. I wasn’t ready to leave. I wanted to stay, for another week, another day, however long I could get away with. But I had to go and I knew the journey home would be a long and tiring one. I had to fly from St. John’s to Halifax, to Toronto, then to Boston.
I boarded my flight at St. John’s and we took off on time at 7am. I was in the very front row of the plane. The woman who checked me in at the counter earlier had told me that when we arrived in Halifax, I could remain on the plane but I would have to change my seat to 9B, the middle seat. She said she was sorry but that’s all that was available. No problem, I’m flexible. I don’t care where I’m sitting as long as it’s inside the plane. When we arrived at Halifax, I took my carry-on bag and moved to the 9th row, the middle seat. Eventually a gentleman came down the aisle and informed me that he had the window seat. He looked oddly familiar to me, though I couldn’t place his face at that early hour. I was too tired and sad to care, frankly. He looked tired and disheveled, and I moved to let him into the window seat, where he promptly fell asleep. A minute later I looked up to see another man coming down the aisle toward me. This time I recognized him immediately as the drummer from my favorite band, Blue Rodeo! It was the very handsome Glenn Milchem and he sat down right next to me in the aisle seat. I was stunned, because it suddenly dawned on me that the man sitting in the window seat was Bob Egan, the keyboardist. That was why he looked so familiar to me! I was sitting between two members of Blue Rodeo. My heart began to pound and I looked up just as Bazil Donovan, the guitarist, sat down in the seat in front of Glenn. Then I realized-the entire band must be on this flight. I watched the aisle, waiting to see if Jim Cuddy would, miracle of miracles, come walking down the aisle and sit in front of me, or across the aisle. Suddenly I saw him. Yes, it was him, entering the plane, coming toward us, then stopping and putting a bag in the overhead compartment-several rows up, right near where I had been sitting on the previous flight. My heart sank as he took his seat without even glancing down to where I was sitting with the rest of his band. Why was he not sitting with the rest of us, I wondered? So not fair! I looked around and realized that the whole band and some of their crew were all sitting around me, all but Jim Cuddy, the one who really mattered most (to me anyway). As we got ready to take off, I sat and pondered what to do. I knew I had to say something to Glenn. How could I pass up a chance to speak to the members of Blue Rodeo when they were right there next to and in front of me? Glenn took a book out of his bag and opened it. I had to move quickly–I didn’t want to interrupt him once he started reading, after all that would be plain rude. I turned to him and said “It just occurred to me who you guys are. Can I be a total dork and ask you for your autograph?” He laughed. I laughed. My face was on fire, burning red. As he signed a page in my little pink notebook that I keep in my bag for songwriting ideas, I mentioned that I sometimes include Blue Rodeo songs in my sets when I need to fill in with some cover tunes, to which he said “that’s very cool, which songs?”. I told him, and he just smiled. He passed my notebook over to Bazil and told him to sign it as well. He turned to me and said “Bob will sign it too, just ask him”. I informed him that Bob was already asleep, and I didn’t want to disturb him. He said “He’ll wake up eventually–get him to sign it then”, and smiled. I really wanted to ask him to go have Jim sign it too, but I couldn’t find the nerve. I just thanked him and we chatted for a little while. He told me they had just played a gig in Sydney, NS. It had been a very late night and they were all exhausted. I told him I was on my way back to Boston from Newfoundland. He asked what I was doing in Newfoundland, so I told him about my family there, the George St. Festival and the Folk Festival. The plane took off, and we stopped chatting. He opened his book, which I took as my cue to leave him alone, so I put my ear buds in and listened to my mp3 player. Bob continued to sleep.
I could see the back of Jim’s head from where I was sitting. I stared at it, trying to mentally will him to get up and come back to where we were. It didn’t work. I thought about going up to the front of the plane to use the restroom, and then saying hello on my way back, but I couldn’t muster up the courage. I didn’t want to bother him if he was exhausted from the night before, and I was afraid that if he was that tired, he might be a bit cranky and wouldn’t be pleased if I bothered him. I didn’t want to be that person. So I sat in turmoil knowing that my songwriting idol was sitting just rows ahead of me on this two-hour flight and I was powerless to speak to him. I wanted to cry, but instead I dozed and let all kinds of Jim Cuddy fantasies run through my head. Glenn fell asleep too, and I noticed that his legs would occasionally jerk, as if he was dreaming he was playing his drum kit. He kicked me a few times, and I just laughed to myself, wondering if all drummers were like that.
Eventually Bob did wake up, and before he got too engrossed in his magazine article, I asked him to sign my notebook. He said “oh sure” and signed it. I had 3 out of 5 signatures from the band. I don’t know why but it never occurred to me to even look for Greg Keelor to see if he was on that flight. If he was, he must have been up front with Jim. I have no idea.
The flight was over much too soon, and as we were leaving the plane, Glenn said “It was nice to meet you, I hope you have a good trip to Boston”. I said “It was great meeting you too, good luck with whatever comes next for you”. By this time Jim was long gone, sadly. I never did get to talk to him face to face. I will always regret it. As I walked up the gateway and headed toward customs, I saw Bob Egan in front of me. I said “Thanks Bob, have a great day”. He turned and smiled and said “You’re welcome”.