Last night my friend Jill and I experienced Bayou Country Superfest in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge. She was supposed to come with me last year, but, at the last minute got a violent stomach bug that dashed any chance that she could make the flight and sit in the hot Louisiana sun. We bought the tickets the week they went on sale last fall, and we’ve been counting down the days ever since. We could not believe it was finally here, and Reba McIntyre and George Strait – superstar icons of the country music world – were back-to-back on Day 1.
I met Jill on a project team when we both just starting our careers. I remember her beautiful 25-year-old face when I first met her. She looked so young and fresh. I was divorced from my first husband at 35 for only a few months, and I was looking for my career to give me wings to fly. I had no idea how to be single, and I was struggling with what that might look like personally, but I knew I could perform professionally. It was an easy focus. Jill was living with her now husband and wanting desperately to get married. We hit it off pretty quickly when we found out we were both country girls. Her lifestyle growing up – shucking corn, shelling peas and playing in wide-open fields – was not very different from mine. Her summers were shorter, of course, being a home-grown yankee, and she had the luck of living in close proximity to an international Fortune 500 company which would launch her career. We became fast friends.
Our lifestyle was crazy. We were transitioning 22 nation-wide Factory Service branches into a centralized environment, and we were the field team. My Franklin Planner was always stuffed full of paper airline tickets and itineraries that changed from day to day. At 9 PM on a Tuesday, we might be told to call ‘travel’ to book a 5 AM flight on Wednesday to another city in another time zone because they were in trouble. Transitions got delayed. Spending the night on the floor in the office was not uncommon. Weekends blurred into the weeks because there was no meaning to time anymore. Everything was another day to get stuff done. It didn’t matter what day it was. There were about 10 of us that lived this lifestyle for about 1 1/2 years while the rest of the people we worked with went about their daily lives. Our lives became hotels, airplanes, beepers and fatigue. It was the most fun I have ever had at work. And those of us on the transition team became a family.
Scenes from last night
When everything came to a screeching halt in the project because of a system bug that couldn’t be fixed or a higher-up’s command that we figure something out before we moved forward again, we were stuck in Knoxville. It was where I lived, so I was home. But, Jill was from Michigan, and she resided in a Residence Inn on Peters Road. Knoxville had a country bar called Cotton-Eyed Joe’s. Jill and I had picked up cowboy boots on the Houston transition, and we had a bond with our country roots. EVERY Thursday night that we were in Knoxville we line-danced and two-stepped our way until closing time. It was the one thing remained stable for us during this time. It was our oasis amid chaos and work stress and unendurable waiting. We never minded staying out until 2 AM and getting into work at 8. It was our time, and it was the way we breathed.
I know we danced to George and Reba back then just as we danced to them last night. Reba took us on a tour of her lifelong career, explaining where she was personally during this time and how the songs had meaning for her success. ‘Fancy’ was an early country favorite for me, and she closed the night in a stunning red sequin dress with a plunging neckline telling that familiar story of a poor girl making it on her own. George’s songs brought me back to whatever I was doing or feeling in my life when those songs were popular. He could have sung hit after hit, but he chose to pepper his biggest hits with music that I didn’t even know. I love his lyrics… his words. Words are the way my spirit flies to another dimension on my cloud of imagination. When he sang the song Throw it Away, I remembered how my ex always told me that song reminded him of me. He was actually dead wrong at the time because I had no wish or intention or even ability to ‘throw it away’, but it’s sort of how the whole thing turned out. Last night, for the first time, I was able to dance and sing that song with the wisdom of the other side of pain. As the words stepped into my heart, I realized that after all was said and done, that’s exactly how I feel now. ‘There was nothing there worth fighting over.’ But I did keep the diamond ring. I earned it.
We went downstairs between George and Reba to grab a bite to eat and got distracted by a group of about 30 girls huddled around a cowboy hat in a corner. We went over, and, surrounded by these cute, pretty gals and a few police officers, was Jason Aldean. We got a picture snapped with him and could not believe our good fortune. It added an extra dash of fun to the evening to think we had that short brush with greatness. The weather was perfect. I never even broke a good sweat, the music was great, and the company was perfect. Jill and I have always bonded over country music. When we get together, it’s usually in Nashville for a half-marathon, and we dance from bar to bar listening to those beautiful sounds that take us places deep into our imaginations.
Our Brush with Jason
Somehow, we parked in a place where it took us 30 min from turning the key into the ignition to driving up in my driveway. In the short span of time, we talked about our brush with Jason, and in hindsight Jill thought it didn’t make sense that he would be there. We looked at pics on the internet, and, sure enough, he was a match. Then I suggested she look at his schedule. He’s playing in Indy tonight. There’s no way he was in Baton Rouge on Friday for fan shots, Saturday in Indy for a concert and back to Baton Rouge on Sunday for the Superfest. I was a little disappointed and mildly embarrassed at being duped by a look-alike at first. Then I realized that’s really what a night like that is all about, isn’t it? It’s about surfing the imagination with what could be, changing history into what you wish it was and flying on a cloud for just a few hours. So… the story stands. I hugged Jason Aldean, y’all! Wonder who I’ll meet tonight??? 🙂