The Leading Ladies of 'Nine To Five': Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, and Dolly Parton
In the summer of 2010, I was still working for a certain Bay Area coffee shop and had befriended one of my regular customers by the name of Grace, who happened to be an extraordinarily gifted artist. I had taken to working for her by cleaning her home once or twice a month. I was impressed with her many paintings, as well as by her rambunctious, lovable personality. As I got to know her, I learned many things about her life, one of them being that she was a good friend to Miss Lily Tomlin.
Backstage with Lily Tomlin! Saratoga, CA July 17, 2010
I have always been a Lily Tomlin fan and admirer, and from childhood I can remember seeing her as Edith Ann on Sesame Street, and as the “Incredible Shrinking Woman” when they showed it on television. I was intrigued by Grace’s friendship with this American icon, and I secretly fantasized that one day I would get an opportunity to meet her myself.
Flash forward to the early summer of 2010…. To my utter delight, Grace informed me that Lily Tomlin would be coming to Saratoga for a performance, and that Grace had a few extra tickets. I jumped at the chance when she asked if I would like to be her guest!
That entire evening was absolutely fantastic. Seeing Lily Tomlin perform her one woman show was highly engaging and absolutely hysterical. It was wonderful seeing her onstage, just being herself and also bringing her famous characters to life. Like Trudy (the bag lady), Edith Ann (the precocious six year old), and Ernestine (the phone operator). By the way, Ernestine no longer works for the phone company…she works for the health care industry, denying everybody health care! So hysterical!
Lily Tomlin posing as Ernestine. Saratoga, CA July 17, 2010
I had hoped to be able to visit with her a bit after the show, but there were so many people in the room wanting the same thing. We waited until she greeted the others, and once the room cleared, it was our turn to see the star of the show! But by that time her management was rushing her along to catch her flight back to L.A.. We had a few photo opportunities with her, (including one where she posed as Ernestine by the phone!) and we exchanged a few pleasant words. Then, before I knew it, it was time for her to go.
Even though it was rather brief, it was an exciting night that I will always treasure. And it would be the first of a trio of talented and legendary ladies I would soon be meeting…
Backstage with Dolly Parton! Concord, CA July 24, 2011
Thirteen months later, Dolly Parton made a local stop on her “Better Day World Tour”, and by some very good fortune I was able to go backstage before her show and meet her as well! It was an absolute dream come true, and a very special moment in my life. I have written about that experience with greater detail in this blog, and you can read the full story here: http://yellowbrickjourney.com/?p=150
Nearly one month after meeting Dolly, Jane Fonda had a speaking engagement in Berkeley promoting her latest book. I had read her autobiography, ‘My Life So Far’, and had become quite impressed with this extraordinary human being. I had appreciated some of her work on film, but after reading her book, I related to her somehow. That made all the difference, and I jumped at the chance to attend her book signing. It didn’t occur to me until after I decided to go that if I got to meet her, I would have met all three leading ladies from the film ‘Nine To Five’! Which happens to be one of my favorite movies!!
Her speaking engagement was wonderful. Raw, humorous, touching, candid, and inspiring. For the book signing afterwords, we were told that there were to be no photographs taken with Miss Fonda. We could take a photo of her, just not with her. “Well, we’ll see about that!” I thought to myself, and proceeded to the back of the line. Fortunately, I had brought the photos of Lily Tomlin and Dolly Parton with me. My thinking was that if I was in the back of the line, there would not be many people behind me who would also want a picture. And if I showed her the photos of Tomlin and Parton, she was bound to allow me to be photographed with her. After all, I had proof that I had met two of her very best friends!
With Jane Fonda (sporting my very pink August sunburn!) Berkeley, CA August 17, 2011
When it was my turn, I approached the stage and greeted her with a warm smile and a hello. I told her I thought she was an extraordinary woman and that I had been greatly inspired by her book. She made eye contact with me, and was very sweet. I said “they told us we couldn’t get our photo taken with you, but I wonder if you’d make an exception for me?” And as I said that, I slid each photo across the table to her.
As she looked at them, she gave an emphatic “Ooohhh!” And with that she said, “Absolutely, come on!” as she motioned for me to come to her side of the table. I thanked her, and with a great big smile I triumphantly left the stage where she was seated.
To my great surprise, less than a month before writing this, I was once more approached by my friend Grace to go see Lily Tomlin’s one woman show. Of course, I jumped at the chance! She was performing in Modesto this time around, and Grace and I both hoped to be able to have some more intimate, quality time with Miss Lily Tomlin!
Flash forward to last evening: We were given fifth row seats, and her show was phenomenal! It was fun to see her again, and see how she had changed her repertoire from the previous time we had seen her. This time around, she had a projection screen where she would feature a clip of some of her more famous characters before actually doing them on stage. Great fun!
And afterwords in the green room, we had the same formula… To wait and let the others have their meet-and-greet, and then we would have a chance to visit with her. And this time around, it worked beautifully! Miss Tomlin was engaging, and not pressed for time to catch a flight. I stepped aside and let Grace have her visit, as well as the two other friends who were with us. I was okay with being last, because I wanted to show her my photographs, and did not want anyone else waiting for me to finish.
It was really amazing to be able to sit with her, look into her eyes, and have a conversation. Person to person, spirit to spirit, shining star to adoring fan…. She was gracious, warm, and genuine. I told her that for someone like me, meeting someone like her, who I had watched my entire life, was a really big deal. She understood, and that broke the barrier, so that we each became human, not just “the star and the fan”.
*Photo courtesy of Doug McKechnie. Lily Tomlin teasing me about liking Dolly Parton better than her! Modesto, CA January 14, 2012
And in saying that, I showed her the photograph of her and me after the show in Saratoga. Upon seeing the picture, she exclaimed “Look at how great I look!” Then, as she looked at the picture of Dolly and me, she proceeded to tease me. She said “Admit it, you like Dolly just a little bit more!” Then when she saw the photo with Jane Fonda, she said “And Jane, too!” And then she jumped right back in to teasing me about Dolly. She said, “Look, you’re wearing a Dolly shirt for Dolly. But you aren’t wearing a Lily Tomlin shirt for me, or a Jane Fonda shirt for Jane.” And then she exclaimed, “I’m gonna pick my teeth with this!”, as she held the corner of the photograph of Dolly and I up to her mouth as if she would pick her teeth! It was so funny!!!
She also told a little story about a chihuahua that belonged to the woman who owned the villa on the set of ‘Tea With Mussolini”. She and Cher both wanted the dog, and Cher ended up confiscating it before she could get it herself. She said Cher later gave it to her sister. But it was really cute the way she told it.
After visiting for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, it was time to go. I ended up getting at least three hugs from her during the goodbye process. It was a really wonderful evening, and we all walked away feeling so happy to have had some time to share with such an amazing, talented woman.
If someone had told me that within a span of about a year and half I would meet all three leading ladies from ‘Nine To Five’, (one of them twice!) I probably would have laughed in their face. But as it is, life is full of surprises. And you just never know what kind of opportunities are going to come knocking on your door….
My magic moment with Lily Tomlin!! January 14, 2012
.* For the sake of brevity, I have omitted many details, including other friends who were part of these experiences who made them worth while and more memorable. So special thanks to Grace Harwood for the opportunity to meet Lily Tomlin twice! Special acknowledgement to her friends Bonnie and Dee who met Lily with us, (respectively). And extra special thanks to Doug McKechnie who took some fantastic photos during our time with Lily Tomlin, (including some candid shots of my visit with her!)
Special acknowledgement to Lara, Shane, and Laura Lee who attended Dolly Partons concert with me. As well as to my friend Leslie, who attended Jane Fonda’s speaking engagement with me.
Well hello everyone and Happy New Years to all of you! I have been very busy with life and have been unable to write much these past few months.
I just wanted to drop a quick note to wish you all an abundance of joy, happiness, blessings, and love as we head into 2012. Let’s be thankful for what we have, focus on the positive, affirm and reaffirm ourselves and those dear to us, and continue to strive to find the spirit of joy in all that we do! Release the past and embrace the future with an open attitude of new beginnings and positive change.
It has been more than a month since my last post. Only a few days after sharing the prayer for Jennifer, it was discovered that her life had been ruthlessly taken by a “friend”. I was deeply saddened by this news, and I have intentionally avoided writing about it.
My heart goes out to her family, friends, and loved ones. There are truly no words to fill the empty spaces, and I will not attempt to do so.
Jennifer was a very rare, gentle, loving, human being. I only knew her very briefly, but she made such a strong impression on me. I never forgot her, and I never will. I know that she touched the lives of many people, and because of that her life was not in vain.
If there is one thing I have learned from her death, it is that we must do our best to be kind to one another. To keep our hearts open and our minds free of judgment. To express ourselves with love and kindness. We never know how we may touch or affect another persons life.
During the celebration of Dia de los Muertos earlier this month, we honored loved ones at my church by sharing photographs of them on the altar. I shared a photo of my sister-in-law Kassie, who we lost this past March. I also shared a photograph of Jennifer Pimentel.
My heart continues to go out to her family and friends. Her parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and to her fiancee. May they all find some comfort and peace after such a tragic loss.
I truly believe that we are spirits having a human experience. And by that belief, I do not think of Jennifer as being dead. Rather, I believe she is somewhere else, truly alive and vibrant, in a place where there is abundant joy, love, and beauty.
The pain and grief we feel from being separated from our loved ones when they pass is overwhelming. But how much sweeter it will be when we are reunited with them in Spirit.
Blessings and Love to The Pimentel Family…I would like to dedicate this song to them, and to Jennifer herself. Dolly Parton: In the Sweet By and By (click on the link and press the “play” button to listen)
One week ago today, Jennifer Pimentel was reported as a missing person. The search for her continues, and I continue to keep her in my prayers. I urge all of you to pray for her as well. Send her thoughts of love and safety. And hold an image of her returning home to her family and friends.
For seven years I worked in the deli at Albertsons in Port Angeles, and almost every week Jennifer would come in with her mother. She always made a point to say hello to me, to make some conversation, to ask me about my day and to share with me about hers. I remember her as being very kind and gentle. She is one of those rare human beings who are unscathed by the world. A true innocent. Full of light and love.
I would like to share a prayer for her here, and hope that you will join me in saying it and believing in it. If your belief in a Higher Power is different from mine, please pray from your heart to what you believe in. Together we can join our beliefs with the intention of safety and deliverance for a truly innocent soul.
I am including a few links to Jennifers story for those of you who have not been following it. God bless you all, thank you for taking the time to read this.
A Prayer for Jennifer:
“Dear God; Beloved Creator, We pray to you now for protection and guidance to surround Jennifer Pimentel. We pray for her safety, and for your loving energy to surround and enfold her. We pray that she be returned home to her family and loved ones very soon, Lord. We pray that she be protected from harm and any violent or malicious activity. Dear God give her strength, hope, and courage to get through this experience. May her faith be strong and may she seek out help any way she can. Lord, we pray for the man who has seemingly abducted her. We pray that his heart and mind be softened and enlightened with compassion and empathy. We pray that he be influenced to do no harm to Jennifer, and that he would return her home to her family. And finally Lord, we pray for Jennifers family and friends. We pray that they be comforted by your grace, that they hold firm to their faith, and that they continue to send loving prayers for Jennifers return. We thank you for hearing and answering our prayer, Dear God. In the name of your Son Jesus Christ we pray, forever and ever, Amen.”
“All human beings are also dream beings. Dreaming ties all mankind together.”
It is my belief that dreams are often more than our minds processing the events and experiences of the day, or a reaction to what food or drink we have eaten before we go to sleep at night. I believe some dreams are precisely those things, but not always.
I am naturally a vivid dreamer, and throughout my life I have had a number of dreams I refer to as “spirit dreams”. These are visions, or experiences rather, that have a profound effect on me. Often of great significance, they tend to stay in the forefront of my mind, not slipping away into the shadows of my memory like so many others.
I believe there are “surface” levels of sleep, where your dreams are a conglomeration of symbols, the mind sort of running wild, a mirror of the subconscious. But I also believe that there is a deeper level of sleep. A space where a part of your being leaves your physical body, and travels to an alternative dream reality. This is often referred to as astral travel, and I have many friends who have experienced this same phenomenon.
I hold this belief in part due to the fact that these experiences are intensely vivid, and in them I have experienced all five of my senses. From taste to touch and everything in between. I have looked upon different landscapes with exquisite detail, and have encountered people, places, and things that I remembered from previous visits. The people I dream of have distinct, authentic personalities. Their voices and physical appearance are absolutely genuine. And it is my belief that there are people in the world, unknown to me in this lifetime, who are also dreaming of me somewhere.
Dreams have always played an important role in my life, and there are some themes which repeat themselves over and over. I have had numerous dreams of flying and levitating. I can honestly say that I know the physical sensation of flying through the air with my body. One of the most thrilling and wonderful experiences. Absolute freedom. There is nothing like it. What a gift our dreams are, and we can learn much from them by keeping our minds and hearts open.
The first dream I can recall took place when I was a toddler. Two are three years old. And I believe it was my first Spirit Dream. I found myself in a shallow river, and on either side of me were the river banks. The water I waded in was a comfortable temperature. It’s color a lovely shade of pink.
In fact, everything seemed to emanate a beautiful pink hue. Even the earth of the river bank was tinged with it. The sky too was pink, and illuminated by a ray of orange from the sun. The whole sky was lit up like the most beautiful sunset, and spotted with cotton candy clouds.
Swimming serenely around me in the river were little yellow ducklings. They resembled the rubber duckies you find as bath tub toys. At the top of the river banks were fluffy, white baby sheep. They were all my friends, and there was an understanding between us, a telepathic form of communication. I was so happy there, it was absolute bliss. And I remember being very, very sad when I woke up…because I wanted to go back.
In more recent years, I have had a number of Spirit Dreams, but there is one in particular I wanted to share with you, as I believe it holds special significance for all of us. It took place during my mid twenties, at which time I lived in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Incidentally, I experienced some of my most vivid dreams while living there.
I found myself standing in a room, staring at a portrait on the wall. It was a scene filled with lush green plants, they were big and appeared to be a scene from the jungle. Just giant leaves and greenery framed in gold. To my left stood the figure of a male spirit, much taller than me. I had the sense that he was one of my spirit guides.
He was invisible, but I could somehow see him out of the corner of my eye, and I could feel his presence. As we stood there, gazing at the painting, he took his right arm and pointed at it, as if to show me something. Again, he was invisible, but I could somehow see him. As my eyes followed where he pointed, I found myself leaving my body and entering the portrait, which seemed to be fully alive. As I entered, the plants moved away to reveal what lay beyond them.
I then found myself on what appeared to be a boat, floating on an exceptionally wide river. I was in my body once again, and my eyes took in the rich imagery of the landscape that surrounded me. The river was wider than any photographs I had ever seen of the Amazon. The water that filled it was the most beautiful shade of blue, as was the magnificent sky above. The trees and foliage that occupied the landscape on either side were enormous, and exquisitely green. Everything seemed so big and fresh. And somehow, new. The air I breathed in was pure and refreshing. I sensed that I had traveled back in time to a secret place which had preceded history. I was in an ancient part of our Earth’s memory.
The floating device I found myself on seemed to be a giant gray stone that had been carved and hollowed out, somehow formed into a boat. It’s design was similar to an open heeled slipper or sandal. Behind me was the covered area of the device, where you would metaphorically put your foot into. I sat on my knees in the open area, (where your heel would go, except instead of being rounded like the back of the foot, it was square), my hands in front of me, flat on the hard surface. My back slightly arched forward, my eyes taking in the vision of the exotic new world around me.
The floating contraption moved in the opposite direction of my vision, and I seemed to be alone on the boat. Up ahead on the horizon of the river I could see four immensely tall towers, also made of stone but of a lighter color. They were pointed at the top and considerably arched forward towards the wide open river. As the boat drifted the opposite direction, the towers grew smaller in my vision. I had a distinct understanding that they were part of a temple, and I remember being curious about the people who erected them. I wondered who they were and what the significance of the towers were.
What I saw next filled me with even greater awe. There came from the left side of the river a giant mother duck, as big as a large house. Her size was not the only unusual thing about her, for she was made entirely of a wood. She seemed to have been carved out of a colossal sized tree, and somehow had been gifted with the spirit of life. And as in the previous dream I described, she resembled the kind of rubber ducky you find in the bathtub.
As she swam towards the center of the river, she passed in front of my view, and then she slightly turned right so that she moved in the same direction as the boat. Swimming behind her came a procession of smaller (but still very large) ducklings, also made entirely of wood. I watched each one of them as they floated single file, following the course of their mother.
As the last duckling swam past me, I watched as it spread its wings and took off into the ancient air. As it leaped from the water and into the sky, I again left my body and went with it. We moved away from the river, and as we soared high above I looked down to see miles and miles of the lush, green tree tops. They were so thick and numerous in number that you could not even see the ground below.
As I flew on, I lost perception of the duckling who had been flying with me. I noticed that the landscape below became slowly peppered with tall buildings and giant skyscrapers. Just a few at first, but as I moved forward there were less and less trees with more and more buildings. Pretty soon, there were no trees at all. Just buildings crowding one another where the dignified woodland once stood. The air was filled with smoke and smog which rose up from the buildings. The living forest had been sacrificed for the concrete jungle.
I hovered over the rooftop of a certain building where I saw four semi-trucks on the roof. They were driving around in a circle, over and over and over. Going nowhere while releasing fumes into the atmosphere. My heart was saddened and deeply troubled by what I saw, and I longed for the beautiful scenery and simplicity of the majestic forest I had left behind.
And that is all I remember.
Upon reflection, I can’t help but wonder if Spirit was showing me that this ancient world I saw is a symbol of what we once were…what the earth once was. A place where everything is fully and wondrously alive, where all things are connected to to each other.
And was I also being shown the damage we have done to our earth and the chaos we have brought into our world? What we are still doing to our home. The vision of the sky scrapers and building tops does not seem so far off from the world we live in now.
Interesting that the duckling seemed to disappear as the buildings started to appear. Possibly symbolic of the death of life in other forms, animals and plants. It also seems to suggest a death of innocence. Upon writing this, I am wondering if there is a significance with the number four. There were four towers, and then four semi-trucks. Order and chaos perhaps.
Perhaps we all have a responsibility to be more conscious of our world. To be more aware of our surroundings. To have compassion for the environment and the air we breath. Our planet and it’s inhabitants depend on us to collectively wake up. Make a difference.
Perhaps we are like those semi trucks on the top of that building, going around and around. Maybe it’s time to change course and move back onto the river. Flow with the rhythm of life. Become one with our world, with the trees, with the animals. Make a difference.
Perhaps it starts with you and me….
* I would love to know your thoughts and interpretations of this dream. And I would also love to hear about your Spirit Dreams. Please feel free to share your thoughts.
”Now we don’t know what Heaven looks like. But we’ve seen enough hell right here and right now. But when the road is the roughest and the problems are the toughest. Or when the times are the hardest and that ol’ sky turns the darkest. You gotta keep the faith, ’cause I believe there’s a better day. And those ol’ blues, why they’re gonna just roll right on away! I know they are, listen to me…”
“I’m still burning doing the neutron dance…”
And I was just burning while leaving The Pointer Sisters concert that hot Saturday evening in late July..
Photo by Ronnie Casey
As I made my way back home, I received an email alert on my new android phone, (one of the plus sides of getting mugged- I got to upgrade my phone). It was the email I had been waiting for!! It was from the webmaster at Dolly Partons official website, and the title of the email read “Congratulations!” But that’s getting just a little bit ahead of things…
In the autumn of 2007, a few months after moving to The Bay Area from a small town in the Pacific Northwest, I had an opportunity to meet RuPaul, one of my all-time favorite artists. I had met a few celebrities back home, (B.J. Thomas, The Fifth Dimension, Billy Idol, and Joan Jett) but meeting RuPaul was a really big deal for me. Not only did I get to meet RuPaul, but I actually got to interact with him as well! It was a dream come true.
Having that experience woke something up inside of me. The doors had been opened. I remember coming home that night absolutely elated. If I could meet RuPaul, then who else would I possibly meet? I had always thought that if I could meet one celebrity, it would be Dolly Parton. And that night after meeting RuPaul, I knew in the deepest part of myself that one day my dream of meeting her would come true! I remember laying down in my bed that November night and just thinking “I’m going to meet Dolly Parton…”
By late Spring the following year, Dolly had announced her 2008 ‘Backwoods Barbie World Tour’. I had purchased my tickets and had ninth row seats. I had also become a ‘Dollyite’, an official fan club member. Which meant that I had access to sign up for the meet and greet with Dolly. For each venue she plays, Dolly hosts a backstage meet and greet with her fans. A truly amazing act of generosity for a star of her magnitude. Now that I had become a Dollyite, the prospect of meeting her never seemed more possible.
The only catch was that for each city, they could only allow a limited number of people the backstage pass to meet her. You had to apply online, and the winners would be selected at random. I had convinced myself that I would be chosen, that my dream was about to come true. I even went ahead and told all my friends that I was going to meet Dolly. And the day that I got the email saying I had not been chosen, I was considerably disappointed. However, the concert was absolutely wonderful and greatly uplifting. The joy and elation I received at her show made me forget my disappointment, and I truly believed that the next time she went on tour, I would surely meet her. My time would come…
Photo by Shane E. Clabaugh
Flash forward three years. It’s the summer of 2011 and Dolly is about to embark on her first tour since 2008. The ‘Better Day World Tour’ was coming to The Bay Area, and this time around I had sixth row tickets! In the months leading up to the announcement of the tour, and in the days that followed, I kept a close eye on her website for the meet and greet form. But it was never available. A little more than a week before her show and they were still not up. I resigned myself to the fact that this time around, she was just not going to do the meet and greet.
On the Monday before her concert, six days before showtime, I happened to check her website again. I was surprised to see that the site had been completely made over. It had been updated to match the look and layout of her new album. There was a note from the webmaster saying that the meet and greet forms were now up, and that they wanted to do the make over to the site before making them available. Well, I practically flipped with excitement. Here it was!! This was the moment I had been waiting for!
As I clicked the link to access the form, the page froze! I could not believe it. Here was this opportunity practically right in the palm of my hand , and I could not access it!! I had to take a moment and just say to myself, “It’s not the right time to do it tonight, Ronnie. Go to bed, and when you wake up tomorrow it will work just fine.” So that’s what I did. And would you believe in the morning it still would not work!? Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather!
Fortunately, I was quite persistent, and for one moment the link actually did work. I filled out the form as fast as I could, my request had been submitted. I immediately started jumping up and down, yelling “I’m going to meet Dolly Parton! I’m going to meet Dolly Parton!!” I believed it, I owned it, I affirmed it. I just knew that this time, my request would not be turned down and that I would be selected.
I kept thinking of Charlie Bucket from ‘Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory”. How he genuinely wanted the golden ticket more than anyone else. There is a scene in the film where one of his grandparents tells him “You have just as good a chance as anybody”. I did, too. The golden ticket would be mine.
Photo by Ronnie Casey
Before leaving for work I decided that I would not tell anyone about it. I reasoned that the time before, I had gone ahead and told everyone. Most of those people probably thought “yea, right” when I told them I was going to meet Dolly Parton. And all of that disbelief could have gone out into the Universe and worked against me. So this time around only faith, belief and personal affirmation would be sent out into the cosmos.
For those of you who don’t know, I work for a local church as the campus care night attendant. Every Tuesday in the early evening there is a womens vocal group that rehearses in the choir room, which is located behind the sanctuary, away from the main section of the campus. I rarely go back there while they are rehearsing. But on this particular day, I found myself heading back towards that area of the church.
As I approached the hall outside of the choir room, I could hear voices speaking. And then, just as I arrived to the hallway, the melodious music from the piano filled the air. To my astonishment , the group started singing a beautifully arranged version of Dolly’s classic hit song, ‘Here You Come Again’. Goosebumps covered my flesh and shivers went up and down my spine. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was a sign. A confirmation that I would indeed be meeting the legendary Dolly Parton.
Photo by Ronnie Casey
Every night I would lay in bed and picture receiving the email telling me that I had been selected. I pictured arriving at the venue and getting my meet and greet pass. Waiting in line with other fans who were just as excited as I was. I pictured meeting Dolly, the emotion of it. How it would feel to see her with my own eyes, to stand next to her, to be in her presence. I pictured the concert and the joy of being there. I thought about how I would share my photo with Dolly on facebook, and anywhere else I could share it. I thought about being able to tell everyone that I met Dolly Parton. I experienced the whole process as if it were really happening. And I did that over and over and over.
I was to receive the information letting me know whether or not I had been selected within 24 hours before the concert. The night before Dolly’s show, I had the opportunity to see The Pointer Sisters (another favorite!) and as I wrote in a previous post, was completely elated by this experience.
“I”m so excited, and I just can’t hide it…”
Photo by Ronnie Casey
Shortly after the show while riding back home, I got the email from dollypartonmusic.net. When I saw the headline that read “Congratulations!”, I nearly burst with excitement. I had indeed been selected to meet Dolly. My dream was about to come true!!
On one hand, I was so surprised it was actually going to happen!! On the other hand, it was almost like “Oh yea, this is the email I have been expecting.” But between both simultaneous reactions, one thing was certain, I was exuberantly filled with joy for the moment that awaited me.
The next day, I met with my friends Shane, Lara, and Laura Lee who were also attending the concert. They were all excited for me (and maybe a little jealous, too) and we all headed to Concord from Oakland to attend the concert. When I got to the box office and received my pass, I was beyond ecstatic. I was literally moments away from meeting Dolly Parton.
My Official 'Meet and Greet' Pass
For me, the prospect of meeting her meant so much. I had first been exposed to her when I was three years old. A babysitter of mine used to play her song ‘Me and Little Andy’, and I would ask to listen to it over and over. As an adult her music and message of love, faith, joy, and hope have inspired me and gotten me through some hard times. She makes bad days worth while, and she makes good days even better. Her voice is like a holy angel to me, she is so authentic and genuine that listening to her is like being with an old friend. And for me, she is the perfect example of a human being who embodies the true spirit of God’s grace and love.
When I got in line for the meet and greet, there was one other person in line ahead of me. Her name was Lisa, and we had briefly exchanged words on the forum of Dolly’s website. It was really nice to meet her in person, and to have someone to chat with and share in each others joy. We were both beside ourselves with anticipation. As we exchanged friendly words, the line quickly formed behind us. There must have been about twenty people.
In a moment, we were led backstage by a very important looking gentleman. We were greeted by some of her people, and told that she would be brought out in just a moment. Lisa and I both almost started to cry when she was about to come out. But we both supported each other to not cry! “We must hold it together”. Makes me smile now, to think we were practically in tears.
Photo by Ronnie Casey
As she came out of her trailer and descended down the stairs, I could not believe my eyes. There she was in her yellow dress with her golden hair, I was absolutely awe struck. My eyes took in the vision of her, and it will forever be imprinted into my psyche. I had always heard that she was quite small in person, but I was surprised to see just how tiny she really was. Standing next to her, I was slightly taller than she, (and that’s with her hair and heels!!)
When it was my turn to meet her, I walked up with a huge smile and said “Hi Dolly!” She put her arm around me for our photo, and I was absolutely elated and mesmerized by the fact that she was actually touching me! I could feel her left breast on my chest, and I was very conscious that my arm was also around her, my hand touching her back around the waist, and hers touching mine. Imagine, standing next to Dolly Parton!
There were security guards and photographers standing all around, as well as many other official “backstage” people. We were instructed not to bring any of our own personal objects with us, including our cameras. The official tour photographer took our picture, and it was later posted on her website to download. There was an unspoken sense that this was more of a photo opportunity than an actual meet and greet. Her people seemed to want to get us in, and get us out. I have met a handful of celebrities since moving to The Bay Area, but I have never been so star struck as I was with Dolly.
Photo by Ronnie Casey
Once our photo was taken, she took her right hand and placed it on my chest where her picture was located (I was wearing my favorite Dolly shirt). And as she placed her hand on my chest, she said with her signature Tennessee drawl, ”I like your shirt”. What a moment!! I turned towards her and told her how much I loved her music. I looked right into her eyes, and I can still see her looking right back into mine. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was essentially that her music meant so much to me and how much I loved her. I do remember saying “Thank you for giving me this opportunity to meet you.” You can’t really see it in the photo, as her eyes are slightly slanted with her smile, but her eyes were big and wide, the most gorgeous blue I’ve ever seen. She took in every word I said. And before I knew it, the next person was coming up for their turn, and then it was over.
Afterwords, during the concert, I was on cloud nine. The excitement, the joy, the endorphin release was out of this world. I do not usually take photos or video recordings at concerts, as I find it distracting and prefer to be completely in the moment. But I was so elated that I wanted to capture as much of this experience as possible. I am delighted to say that I took many photos and a handful of video recordings to preserve the memories, and to share some of them with you here.
Photo by Ronnie Casey
The concert itself was one of the best Dolly concerts I have ever attended (this was my fourth concert) Although, each one has left me with the same outstandingly good feeling afterwards. She called her album and tour “Better Day” to inspire and uplift people during such hard times in America and in the world. And that is exactly what she did. Everyone I talked to afterwords was absolutely ‘walking on sunshine’. Her talent is phenomenally amazing. She played at least twelve different instruments, including violin, guitar, auto harp, piano, saxophone, and a handful of others. She also danced more than I had ever seen her do before. And when she interacts with the audience, she has a magical way of making you feel as if she is talking specifically to you. And then when she pulls out her guitar and sings her little song, you feel as though she were singing right to you as well. A rare gift for any performer.
Dolly and Richard Dennison performing 'Islands in the Stream' -Photo by Shane E. Clabaugh
After the concert, while wading through the crowd as we exited the show, I spotted Richard Dennison. He happens to be Dolly’s longtime back-up singer. Since the 1970′s he has contributed backing vocals on every album, and performed on every tour with her as well. I approached him and introduced myself. I told him I had seen him perform several times with Dolly, and that I also enjoyed his voice. During her show, he sings Kenny Rogers part for the live performance of “Islands in the Stream”. He was very friendly, and he kindly posed for a photo with me. It was an added bonus to one of the best evenings of my entire life.
With Richard Dennison after Dollys performance.
I would like to thank the two other Dollyites I met that night. Lisa, who stood in line with me before the meet and greet. And Ericka, who also met Dolly, and sat behind me at the concert. Together we shared an experience that went beyond our wildest dreams. You both helped to make this experience more memorable, and I am truly happy to have had the opportunity to meet you, and I look forward to staying in touch!
I would also like to thank Shane, Lara, and Laura Lee for attending the concert with me, and for being a part of such a wonderful experience. Extra special thanks to Shane who bought my extra sixth row ticket at the last minute, and to Laura Lee for driving all of us there and back again. Thank you all so much for your friendship and mutual love of Dolly!
Photo by Shane E. Clabaugh
Sharing this story with you reminds me of a dream I had many years ago. I found myself back in my tenth grade english class. We had each been put into groups of four, two desks side by side facing opposite each other. My friend Erin Marie was in my group, along with two other people. We had an assignment for some kind of project, almost like a sort of show and tell.
I somehow had connections to Dolly, and had secretly arranged for her to come to the classroom for this project. I had brought in a karaoke machine, and I knew that Dolly was waiting outside the class room. She was to come in and surprise everyone by singing one of her songs. While discussing the project with the three other students in my group, I leaned in close to tell them of my surprise. With my voice in a whisper, I feigned my best southern drawl, and emphatically said “Wouldn’t that be excitin’? A real live Dolly Parton!” With that, we all broke out into hysterical laughter…
On reflection, I am completely awestruck by my experiences during the month of July. I can’t help but feel that I somehow experienced an amazing journey, and came full circle with it. Despite the fact that I got mugged, a series of wonderful blessings occurred for me. From being able to visit with my uncle to meeting Barbara Eden. From seeing The Pointer Sisters for the first time, to being able to meet the iconic Dolly Parton.
I still cannot help but muse over the fact that the very first week of July I was robbed by three thugs, literally looking down the barrel of a gun. And less than three weeks later, I had my arm around Dolly Partons waist. Life will never cease to astonish and amaze me. And I am very grateful for the little every day miracles that help make life more wondrous.
As always, the metaphor of the yellow brick road rings true. The three thugs were some dangerous characters I encountered along my path. Henchmen for The Wicked Witch. But like Dorothy and her friends, I survived. And I discovered some very important truths along the way. After all, it is a matter of perception. And for me, Dolly will always continue to represent Glinda the Good Witch, the embodiment of all that is pure and beautiful….
Photo by Shane E. Clabaugh
I am going to leave you with two videos I took of Dollys performance. The first was a real treat, a rare performance of ‘Son of a Preacher Man’ with a little saxophone playing thrown in. I could not resist the urge to dance around a little, so please excuse the wobbly camera footage.
The second is a beautiful rendition of ‘Little Sparrow’, one of my favorite Dolly songs. Arranged with minimal accompaniment, it is nearly an acapella piece. In past concerts, you could have heard a pin drop. But this show had it’s fair share of rowdy drunks, so you’ll have to excuse the unnecessary whooping and hollering. If you can get past that, it’s really a hauntingly beautiful song.
Courtney and I the day she first sang 'Jesse James' for me. August 2010
In the welcome post of my blog, I talk about the yellow brick road as a metaphor for life’s journey. We all have our own scarecrows, tin-men, and cowardly lions who help us along the path of our life and make our adventures more memorable.
For the past sixteen years, my friend Courtney has been a constant companion on my own yellow brick road. A true and loyal friend, we have shared many wonderful memories and experiences together. We’ve laughed and cried. We’ve shared in each others most joyous moments and deepest sorrows. We’ve confided personal secrets to one another. And let me tell you, we’ve danced our asses off.
Courtney comes from a very musical family, and has always had in immense talent for music. She is an amazing vocalist, and quite a talented guitar player as well. Back in the days before we were old enough to drink legally, you could always find her singing at the coolest house parties. Some of my favorite memories of the late nineties and early millennium include her belting out a few songs while everyone cheered her on.
On several occasions I’ve seen her bring down the house at open mic events, and I’ve also listened to some absolutely beautiful audio recordings by her. She is a pure power house, and nobody does karaoke quite like her, either! Any time I’ve ever seen her do karaoke, she garners an enthusiastic response from the crowd.
One time in particular we had gone to a karaoke bar, we were fresh faced twenty-one year olds and so excited to be out drinking and dancing! She rocked a few songs that night, but what I remember most is when a group of lesbians got up to sing Melissa Etheridges ‘The Only One’. She really loved that song, and with youthful boldness she snatched up a microphone, joined the group a few minutes into their performance, and completely took center stage, belting out each lyric with the passion of a true star. The ladies absolutely loved her. And to this day it remains one of my most favorite memories.
Another favorite memory took place during my last visit home to the North Olympic Peninsula during the summer of 2010. I had not been home in two years, and was very excited to be reunited with my family and friends, including Miss Courtney.
One day, during a pleasant afternoon visit in late August, we were chatting at her house when she pulled out her guitar to play me a few songs. She surprised me by singing a beautifully arranged acoustic cover of Cher’s ‘Just Like Jesse James’, dedicating it to me. It was one of those magical moments where I got goosebumps and a little tear formed in the corner of my eyes. Being a huge Cher fan, I was really touched by this thoughtful gesture. Incidentally, in the summer of 2002, Courtney and I had the great fortune of having third row seats during Cher’s ‘Farewell Tour’.
At the time, I mentioned that she should consider recording a video while performing ‘Jesse James’ so I could listen to it whenever I wanted. I also thought uploading it and putting it online would be good exposure for her. Over the course of the past 13 months, every once in a while I would give her a little nudge to record the song. Just a little bug in her ear and then waited patiently for it…
To my utter delight, I came home from work last evening to find she had indeed finally recorded it, and shared it on my facebook wall. Watching the video for the first time was exactly like experiencing it all over again. The goosebumps, the little tear in my eyes, the uncontrollable urge to sway along, and the feeling of being immensely proud to have such a wonderfully talented friend.
I’ve listened to this video a handful of times since receiving it last night. It takes me back to those house parties from our youth and to those wonderful open mic sessions. It takes me back to those wonderful karaoke performances. It takes me back home to the beautiful North Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. And it makes me feel as though Courtney were right here in my living room, playing her guitar and singing her heart out.
Since she dedicated her performance of this song to me, it only seems fitting to dedicate this post to her. So Courtney Aleen, this one’s for you! Big Love to you, my sister. Keep on shining. And keep on singing.
(If you should enjoy her rendition of this song, please don’t hesitate to go to her video on youtube and leave an encouraging word.) youtube.com/courtneyaleen
With Hollywood icon Barbara Eden of 'I Dream of Jeannie' fame. Castro Theater, San Francisco 2011
“These are wonderful times we’re living in. God still walks in the hearts of men. And Eden’s garden waits within, so let the flowers grow…” -DOLLY PARTON
In the days that followed my experience getting mugged that first week of July, I spent about three days cocooned away with my cat in my apartment. Of course I did the necessary things, created a new checking account, bought a new phone, and got myself a new California State I.D. But other than that, I really had no desire to leave my home. I absolutely did not want to be in public.
I spent a great deal of time in reflection. The truth is, those few days alone are but a blur to me. I enjoyed having some quiet, peaceful time to reflect on my life. I do recall that the day after I got mugged, I was picking out a new phone at the Sprint store, where I ran into a friendly acquaintance, Suzette, who I knew from the Paws on Piedmont shop. I am very grateful to her for her company that day, just being a calm, warm presence for me. She even treated me to a fresh loaf of bread. Thank you, Suzette!
Another thing that stands out in my mind is that I had to get to the DMV, but was weary from the idea of having to take public transportation. I called up my good friend Kiyomi to see if I could possibly get a ride from her. When she answered her phone, I asked her what she was up to. Her response; “I’m on my way to the DMV“. I could not believe it! How’s that for serendipity? WOW. Afterwords, we searched near the area where I got mugged to see if we could find any of my belongings, but only in vain. Next, we enjoyed some food and cocktails during happy hour at Lake Chalet. Other than that, my weekend was spent completely and wonderfully at home.
Prior to the mugging, I had plans to meet my Uncle Scott in San Francisco, who had come from Seattle for work. We planned to meet on Sunday the tenth, four days after my ordeal. I was really looking forward to getting to visit with a family member, someone who had known me practically all my life. But I was also experiencing some anxiety around the idea of going into the city, using the public transportation, and being around so many people. I just felt so much more vulnerable than I ever had before.
I put my fears and anxiety’s aside, and made my way from Oakland to San Francisco without any incident. It was wonderful to get to see my uncle after such a harrowing experience. I was very comforted by his presence, and was able to relax while we enjoyed breakfast together at Mel’s Diner.
We spent the bulk of the day together, traipsing around the city. The highlight for me was going to see the Picasso exhibit at The DeYoung Museum in Golden Gate Park. It was amazing to have an opportunity to see some of the paintings and sculptures by one of the most famous and extraordinary artists of the last century. And although I was still battling a touch of anxiety with the crowds of people, I began to feel myself gaining my confidence back in regards to being in public.
After we enjoyed a pleasant Thai dinner, it was time to say goodbye to my Uncle Scott. For a number of weeks I had plans to attend the gala tribute to Barbara Eden at The Castro Theater. He walked with me to The Castro, and then we parted ways.
Once there, I met my friend Lara who had just returned from an extended trip to Paris. It was the first time I had seen her since January, and we were both excited at the possibility of meeting Miss Eden. Lara and I had purchased the most affordable tickets, way up in the balcony. My friend Laura Lee (whom I also work for) was ushering at the event, and once we got there she had a surprise for us. She had spoken with the person in charge, telling her about my unfortunate experience getting mugged, and she was able to exchange our tickets for the more pricey “Silver Dollar” tickets where we enjoyed the event from the sixth row!! Fabulously wonderful. Thank you so much Laura Lee. And thank you for sharing this experience with me, Lara.
After the festivities and the live interview with Barbara Eden, there was to be a meet and greet. I enjoyed the performances and the film clips. I very much enjoyed Barbara Edens interview. I was fascinated by the things she had to say. But I was mostly looking forward to meeting “Jeannie”. As she made her exit, she walked right past my isle seat. I said to her, “We love you, Miss Eden” and she looked right at me, flashed me a million dollar smile, and breathed “Thank You…”
Getting to meet Barbara Eden, whom I had admired so much as a youngster watching the re-runs of ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ was particularly special for me. In part due to the nostalgia surrounding her legacy as Jeannie. But also because of my experience getting mugged. Meeting her, almost as if by magic, seemed to transform me.
I internalized that I had to be my own Genie, and change my own reality. I was overcome with a joy for being alive, and despite what had happened only four nights earlier, here I was!! Not only that, but I took the metaphor of the genie and the magic lamp and internalized it to get in touch with my own personal power. I was on a quest to find my very own Garden of Eden, and no one, not even if they had a gun, was going to stop me.
I am overcome with gratitude that only days after such a traumatic experience, I had a visit from my uncle and an opportunity to meet a true Hollywood icon. I draw much comfort, joy, and strength knowing that these were put in my path just when I needed them most. I was immensely inspired, and they helped give me internal tools to move beyond the fear and anxiety, and march forward into a brand new day. So thank you Uncle Scott. And thank you Miss Barbara Eden.
Two weeks later, I had the opportunity to see my favorite trio, The Pointer Sisters. Their music has always uplifted and filled me with an ecstatic sense of joy. I can remember hearing their songs on the radio as a child, and getting caught up in the spirit of their music even then.
It wasn’t until after I moved to Oakland in 2007 that I realized they were born and raised in the very city I live in now! This makes me feel closer to them whenever I hear them blasting on my speakers, and it makes me feel closer to them while walking around Oakland. Sometimes I’ll be somewhere and I’ll think to myself, ‘The Pointer Sisters may have been right here…‘ For years I desired to experience their music live in concert, and this past July, my wish finally came true.
The show was absolutely phenomenal. High energy. Sass and class. All the great hits, and a high level of professionalism. However, there is one song in particular that really sticks with me. It’s a song I have listened to over and over. But hearing it live….no, experiencing it live, was beyond anything I could imagine. I refer to, of course, The Neutron Dance.
“I don’t want to take it anymore/I’ll just stay here locked behind the door/Just no time to stop and get away/’Cause I work so hard to make it every day…”
Now The Neutron Dance is not a dance, you understand. It’s a philosophy. It’s a way of life. It is essentially a metaphor for the nuclear holocaust. The world is blowing up all around you. Nothing is going right. The daily grind is too much to bare, and your faith is fading fast.
“There’s no money falling from the sky/’Cause a man took my heart and robbed me blind/Someone stole my brand new Chevrolet/And the rent is due I’ve got no place to stay..”
Desperation is knocking at your door. You see it in the faces of the people you pass on the street. Corporations rob the common man, and you are a slave to the system. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The world gets sicker and sicker every day.
“Industry don’t pay a price that’s fair/All the common people breathing filthy air (Lord, have mercy!)/Roof caved in on all the simple dreams/And to get ahead your heart starts pumping schemes…”
“And it’s hard to say/Just how some things never change/And it’s hard to find/Any strength to draw the line…”
But then, just when you think you can’t go on, something happens. You see a light. You find the groove to get you through the daily grind. It’s that spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. A song in your heart. Turn the beat around and your burdens become lighter. You turn it into gospel, baby! You turn it into love…
“Oh, I’m just burning/Doing the neutron dance/Well, I’m on fire….doing the neutron dance…”
You find joy in little things. A smile. A hug. A kind word. You continue to search for The Garden of Eden. Your faith has been renewed. And even though the world is blowing up all around you, even though some people still try to bring you down, you embody the Spirit of God’s greatest gift….Love.
“I know there’s a pot of gold for me/All I’ve got to do is just believe!/I’m so happy, doing the neutron dance/And I’m just burning, doing the neutron dance…
It’s in my hands/It’s in my feet/It’s all over me…
Oh, I’m so happy/I’m just burning….”
Go ahead, press play. Turn it up. You can do The Neutron Dance, too…
It’s hard to believe that ten years has passed since the tragedies of 9/11 occurred. I can still remember getting the phone call from my mom, first thing in the morning, telling me of the awful news. I remember seeing the footage on the television for the first time. I remember processing the information. The sadness, the horror, the shock and the grief. And the fear that came with it, which only seemed to be perpetuated by the media more and more as the days and weeks and months went on.
Today, ten years later, we all experience our memories and feelings in our own way. Yesterday, I watched a documentary that focused on the people who were trapped at the top of the towers, the ones who could not get out. The ones who chose to jump. It was an intensely moving, heart wrenching story. The tears streamed down my face. The reality of what those human beings went through is too overwhelming. And no matter how much time passes, my heart will always ache for what they went through. And it will ache for those they loved, the ones who were left behind.
As we move forward, I’d like to share something with you that I was deeply touched by. The following is a testament of how I believe God (or Spirit, or whatever you are comfortable believing) works in mysterious ways. Sometimes through art; movies, music, books, or paintings. In this case, a song and music video by Cher. Let me explain…
In the months before September 11th, Cher had recorded her hit ‘Song for the Lonely’, and shot a music video for it in New York City. The video was not released until after 9/11, but the fact that it was filmed before those events would make it all the more powerful. I still remember seeing the video for the first time. I was so moved, the tragedies were so fresh, and Chers message was so inspiring, I was moved to tears.
In the opening shot of the video, we see The Statue of Liberty, with the view of New York in the back ground. As the video opens, it is shot in cepia tone and the setting is in the 1800′s. We see Cher, dressed in modern clothes, walking the streets of the city. As she continues to walk, buildings are being erected all around her. She seems to be moving through time as she progresses from the 1800′s into the 1900′s. She is joined by people from each respective era, and the buildings continue to be constructed all around them as they move forward.
As they continue on into the 1900′s, the video turns into color. We see more and more buildings going up, and more and more people from the different timelines join Cher, until at the end there is a large crowd. There are also intercepted shots of Cher singing into the camera, looking like an angelic being.
The lyrics, in light of the tragedies of September 11, are extremely poignant. In part, she sings “When you’re standing on the edge of nowhere/There’s only one way up, so your heart’s gotta go there/Through the darkest night/You’ll see the light shine bright/When heroes fall in love or war/They live forever”
At about 1:58 minutes into the video, there is a beautiful shot of New York City. And there sit the twin towers. Standing proud and tall as she sings “Don’t give up”…
At the climax of the video, we see Cher running up the stairs of a building as it is being constructed all around her. She is belting “It’s gonna be alright! It’s gonna be alright!” as she runs up the stairs to the top of the building, triumphant, singing a message of hope and love for the people below. “Can you hear this prayer, because someone’s there for you…”
There was something so powerful to me about seeing this performance after witnessing the twin towers going down on live television. Seeing her running up the stairs of that building, the buildings going UP all around her, not down, was a very moving, symbolic statement. A statement of hope, of strength, of love. Almost like a resurrection.
The realization that it was filmed before September 11th, for me, is the real testimony of this video. There is no way that Cher or her creative team could have known of the events that would soon follow. And almost as if God had a hand in it, they came up with a concept, a song, a video, a message, that would touch and inspire hundreds of people in New York City who experienced this tragedy first hand.
She dedicated her song and album to the people of New York City.
I share this video with you on the ten year anniversary of September 11th. I hope it touches you, and I hope you continue to walk forward in your life, with hope, with strength, and with love.
It was a night not unlike any other, that night in early Summer. It was the first Wednesday of the month, and just a few days after the Fourth of July. I had gotten off work fifteen minutes early, and was eager to get home.
The walk home is a pleasant one, a nice little stroll around Lake Merritt in the heart of Oakland. The path is well lit, and it is not uncommon to see people jogging or going for an evening stroll after the sun goes down. I have always felt safe while walking home at night, and had been doing so without any incident for the past few years.
I walked while speaking to my friend Samantha on the phone. Something I wish I had never done. I realize now how absolutely important it is to have your wits about you. And now, today, whenever I see someone walking alone while listening to their headphones or chatting on their phone, I want to scream at them. It’s amazing how many people I see, especially young women, walking alone at night with their headphones on.
Under my right arm I carried an over sized pillow I had picked up for my aging cat. She needed a soft cushion to rest her weary bones. Around my left shoulder I carried my navy style messenger bag which rested on my right hip, and I walked with a brisk pace as is my natural habit.
I had just passed a handful of people enjoying their evening stroll. Across the street was a high rise apartment complex for the well-to-do, and just a block ahead of me was the Lake Chalet restaurant, a fine dining establishment. I was about half way around the lake. Half way home….
Out of nowhere I felt a presence behind me, just to my right. I felt a hand grab my shoulder to stop me, and for a split second I thought it was someone I knew. A friend who had seen me and ran up to say hello. But a second later I was looking down the barrel of a gun, and beyond that, at a face full of anger and hatred. “Oh My God!” I heard myself say as I dropped the pillow and put my hands up as they took my phone. It all happened so quickly.
I took note of the fact that moments before, there had been people walking. But now, almost as if someone had pushed pause, there was not a soul in sight. Nobody walking on the path. No cars going by on the street. Just an eerie silence and the light of the lamps that line the lake at night.
There was a third person who stood at my left side, and the two “sidekicks” removed my bag, my glasses, and removed everything from my pockets. Including my keys and my lip balm. All the while, the young man with the gun was saying “Give us everything! We want everything!!” Piercing hatred burned from his eyes, his nostrils flared, and his lips curled.
The two on either side of me seemed so calm. Almost peaceful. I did not get a good look at them, but for a moment I thought that the one on my right may have been female. I noticed pretty almond shaped eyes with long lashes. It was hard to tell. They were all dressed exactly the same. Over sized black sweatshirts with the hoods pulled up over black baseball caps, and black baggy pants. Thugs. That’s how I thought of them. But they were young. My God, they were just kids! Must have been between 18 to 23 years old….
After they had removed everything, the one with the gun started to back me up away from the path, towards the lake. He continued to demand everything from me. I told him “You have it! It’s in my bag, it’s in my bag!!” One of the sidekicks picked up the over sized pillow and was feeling it up. He said “In here!? In here!??” Without hiding my obvious disgust I replied, “THAT’S A PILLOW!!”
Now I have to say that during this whole experience I never felt that I would be shot. I just had this sense that I didn’t need to worry about that. But there was a moment where I thought I was going down. “Oh my God, they’re going to beat me to a bloody pulp!” But just as I thought that, they backed away.
They ran across the street and away into the night. I realized I did not have my glasses, and I could barely see. I yelled towards them, asking “Please, let me have my glasses!” But the only response I got was the one pointing the gun at me, telling me to walk in the opposite direction.
Just as soon as they were out of site, then suddenly the world was back to normal. Cars going down the road, and people started walking past me again. The first person I saw was a gentleman in his late twenties to early thirties. I stopped him and explained I had just been mugged and could he please call the police. I wish I could remember his name. he stood by me the whole time I gave my report to the police officers, and he did not leave until I got in the police car, where I was escorted home. I will always be grateful to him for just being there.
It did not take long for the police to arrive. I was in a state of shock. I could not believe what had just happened. What I had just experienced. While giving my report to the two male officers, I had to tell them what had been stolen. As I realized what exactly had been taken, the full impact of the situation started to dawn on me. I started to choke up a bit as I gave them my testimony, but was quite proud of myself for keeping it together enough not to cry in front of them.
Sasha resting on her pillow which the thieves left behind.
They had taken my bag, which contained my wallet with my debit and credit card, and my social security card. (which I normally did not carry). They also took a second pair of glasses, in total, $800.00 worth of eye wear. They took my keys, not only to my apartment, but to both jobs. And the funniest thing of all, they took my peppermint lip balm which I always keep in my right pocket. I felt some slight satisfaction that they had not taken the pillow I had gotten for my cat. Oh, and my cash. All five dollars. Which is what I am sure they were ultimately after. Cold hard cash. Five lousy bucks….
As I arrived home, there were two female officers waiting for me. They were there to escort me into the building since the thieves had my keys, as well as my address. One of the officers asked me how I was, and as I tried to reply, I found no words. Only sobs of anguish. They escorted me into my unit, and they told my landlord that he would have to change my locks first thing in the morning. One of my neighbors graciously let me use his phone, and I was fortunately able to deactivate all of my accounts before they were able to use them.
It wasn’t until after I was home, after everyone was gone and I was all alone, that the full breadth of what had happened really sunk in. I realized that I could have been shot. I could have been beaten. I could have been killed. How fortunate I was to be alive and unharmed. To be home, safe with my ever loving kitty, Sasha.
As I sat there with the heaviness of my heart, I had a vision. There is no way to describe it to you, unless you have had one yourself. But that’s exactly what it was. A vision. Almost like a dream while you’re awake.
What I saw was myself, back at the scene of the robbery. Except this time, I was shot. Right in the face. My body fell back, down to the ground. Dead. Lifeless. And as I lay there, my spirit left my body. I saw the three thieves run into the night, and as they ran, I followed them from above.
As I followed them, I perceived their lives. I perceived their stories, and I perceived everything that had happened in their realities that had led up to my experience with them. As they ran further into the night, I perceived where they were going. I perceived where they were running to, and what they were running from. With this perception, I had compassion for them. And suddenly, what had happened to me did not matter anymore. It was alright. I was going to be ok.
As I came out of the vision, I was awestruck by what I had seen. I realized then that I had to let this burden go. I did not want to carry this around with me, and I did not want to become a perpetual victim of that one circumstance. I realized I would need to forgive them in order to truly move on.
And so, I got down on my knees and I prayed with all of my might. I prayed to God to help me at least be open to the idea of forgiving these three human beings who had taken advantage of me. I prayed for protection for myself, for my home, and for my loved ones. I prayed for those who assaulted me. For their lives, for their realities. I gave a prayer of gratitude, for the protection which surrounded me during the robbery. I knew there was a presence with me, as I had sensed I would not be shot, and just as I thought the thugs would turn violent, they dispersed.
After my prayer, I decided to draw a card from a deck of Oracle cards which had been gifted to me by friend Diana, who is a psychic intuitive. I shuffled the cards and focused my energy. I drew the card of Perception. This made perfect sense to me, for I found that already my perception of what had happened was changing.
As I read through the meaning of the card, I resonated with everything it said. I saw how it applied to me and the situation at hand. But I was also astonished and delighted by one thing in particular. In part, it read;
“This marker brings clarity and asks you to look and wait. Perhaps all you need to do is to relax and put on another pair of glasses; then what is in front of you might be magically transformed.”
I could not help but to laugh out loud at this incredible statement, for that is exactly what I had to do! Relax, and put on another pair of glasses!! (Thankfully, I had an extra pair at home!) You see, God really does have a sense of humor. And I again felt humbly thankful for my life, and for the love that constantly surrounds me.
As I entered back into the reality of every day life, I noticed some changes that had taken place for me. For one, I am no longer comfortable going out after dark. And I refuse to go out at night all alone. Fortunately, I have had a small handful of friends who have given me rides home at night. To this day, two months after the fact, there has not been one night that I did not have a ride home from work. My heart is full of gratitude to those people; Mellissa, Belinda, Cecilia, Kiyomi, Michael, Jackie, Noella, and a handful of others. Thank you for your friendship and for your kindness. I appreciate those rides more than I can say.
Perhaps the biggest change is that I am much slower to anger. Much less prone to get aggravated or stressed by things that would have upset me before. I now have the ability to say “Well Ronnie, at least you don’t have a gun in your face”. And that somehow seems to make things better. You see, it’s all a matter of perspective. And so, in some strange way, I am thankful for what happened. Because ultimately I came out of it a better person.
About three weeks after the incident I found a post on my facebook wall by my ex-coworker, Frieda, from Peet’s Coffee and Tea. It simply said that someone had turned in my wallet and they had it there at the store! I could not believe it!! Upon arriving, I found they did in fact have my wallet. It was in a little bag from Amoeba Records. On the outside of the bag was a note written in bold, black ink:
“Midnight Thursday. Hey! Found your cards on West Grand Avenue. Hope you can work it out… Peace out.”
I was delighted to find that the only things missing from my wallet was the five dollars. I had my social security card back!! I was so happy, and absolutely astonished that it had found it’s way back to me. I mean, I left Peet’s nearly a year ago. Someone found my wallet and noticed the photo on my expired debit card. Someone I had served coffee to nearly a year or more before and they recognized me!! Furthermore, they had the integrity to drop it off at the store in hopes that I would get it back!! Amazing! I wish I knew who the person was so I could personally thank them.
The one thing that was not in my wallet was my California State I.D. I had kept it in a separate I.D. case, along with my debit card. You can imagine my further astonishment when I arrived home from work that very night, only to find my identification card in an envelope in my mailbox!!! Serendipity at it’s finest. Imagine, getting my wallet AND my I.D. back on the same day, three weeks later, and from two different sources! For me, further proof that someone up above is watching out for me!
After I got mugged, I started to hear more and more reports from friends who had also been mugged. It is rather disheartening, what some human beings will do to others. I do my best to stay aware while I am out during the day. And I still refuse to go out alone after dark.
Sometimes the experience will flash before my eyes, out of nowhere. I relive the whole process all over again. And I get angry. I get angry for what they took. Mostly, my glasses. But I’m also angry that they took a little bit of my freedom. I’m angry at them for being so disconnected from their own ability to have compassion and empathy.
But then I remind myself to breath. Let it go. There’s nothing I can do about it now, except learn from it. And do my best to make sure I am not put in that situation again. Perceive it differently. Look at it from a different angle. It’s a process, yes it is. And I remind myself to walk with gratitude. Gratitude that I am still here to tell you about it…