Did you guys know I was a finalist in the Notes & Words essay contest? Oh, I’ve mentioned it a couple of times? I wanted to make sure you’d heard. You know, just in case you’d been struck by a meteor and were rendered unable to read my ad nauseum Facebook updates.
This past weekend, my super cute hubby and I ventured to Oakland, CA for the big event. Okay, that makes it sound kind of simple, but the trip could be best described as our own private version of “The Amazing Race” — except we didn’t have to eat any funky insects or test my mettle at dizzying heights. We drove to Indiana on Friday, dropped the kids off with their grandparents, spent Friday evening celebrating with beloved friends (and pomme frites) in Indy, flew to San Francisco Saturday morning, missed our connection in Houston because of inclement weather in Indiana, spent Saturday night at the Notes & Words event and then in Novato, got all touristy on Sunday, flew out on the Sunday night red-eye, picked up the kids in Greenfield Monday morning, and then drove 10 hours back to Mississippi, arriving in StarkVegas around 9:30 PM. Then back to work and school and business as usual on Tuesday.
I didn’t win the grand prize. My fabulous new friend, Karen, did. That’s us in the picture. Don’t we look giddy and official? Isn’t she cute? She’s beautiful both inside and out. She — I’m quite convinced — is the reason I was part of this contest at all. She was my prize. I was more than happy being in the top five. And I most certainly won something much bigger this weekend. Every Single Moment of that epic journey was worth it.
From hugging the sweet and inspiring Kelly Corrigan with her deep, purposeful voice to dancing to CAKE singing “Never There” to sleeping in the home of virtual strangers who became instant friends to sharing strawberries and espresso and sourdough bread with them in the morning to partaking in a San Francisco Sunday food fest with my beloved, we had an unbelievable experience.
And here’s the best part of the story…
Sunday morning, Chris and I found ourselves in the parking lot of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church in Marin City. Those of you who know and love Anne Lamott as much as I know and love Anne Lamott know that church. It’s the quirky little congregation she’s written about in her books. At the Notes & Words event, she extended an invitation for all 1,600 of us to join her at 11:00 the next morning. So Chris and I obliged.
As we sat there in full-stalker mode watching congregants come in and out, I nearly chickened out.
“This is a bit much, don’t you think?” I asked Chris. “I mean, I’ve been a celebrity stalker before, but this seems a little too… intimate.”
I was thinking back to the Bryan Adams concert Andi took me to for my 21st birthday. Freshly tattooed, young, invincible, and legally able to drink, we went to Market Square Arena to watch Bryan sing his wildly famous and remarkably sappy, “Everything I Do.” We screamed, we sang, we bought matching t-shirts. We were in full-on, power-ballad, “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” mode.
And then we waited for his limo to leave the arena and shamelessly followed it to the airport.
When his chariot was about to enter the “restricted passengers” zone, Andi and I jumped out of her car and began banging on the steamy limo windows.
The doors opened, and there he was. He was much shorter than I expected, his complexion a bit rougher than I’d imagined. He wore a bright red skull cap.
“Bryan,” Andi said, “this is my friend, Trina. It’s her birthday.” She then turned deliberately toward me. “Trina, this is Bryan Adams.” It was the introduction that has since gone down in the annals of our friendship history.
“What was your favorite song tonight, Birthday Girl?” he asked.
“Run to You,” I said without hesitation. He was expecting me to cite the sappy love song. I went for the sex-charged anthem instead. I wanted to keep him on his toes, that Bryan.
“I like that one, too,” he said. Then he added in his super-sexy French Canadian accent, “Well, if it’s your birthday, then you should probably have a birthday kiss.”
And so he did. He kissed me. Right then and there. On the lips. And then he signed our matching t-shirts. Right across our perky, 21-year-old boobies. And then he went on his rock star way.
My stalking since then has become much more refined. I’m no longer a blatant limousine window-banger. Instead, I sit and watch and wait and bide my time. You know, in the quiet, creepy-stalker way.
So, there we sat in the church parking lot, Chris and I.
“I can’t do it,” I said to my husband. “It’s too weird.”
“It’s your choice,” he said.
So I Hey-Tell’ed (Hey Told? What is the proper past tense of that fabulous Walkie-Talkie-ish app?) Mary and Shmee. And these were their responses:
“You better go meet her RIGHT NOW, Katrina,” Mary said. “RIGHT NOW. You totally go to church. And then get back in that car and call me with every single detail!”
And Shmee chimed in on the next message with, “Oh. My. Fucking. God….” (Which is probably more than the worst kind of sacrilege when listened to in a church parking lot.) “Get out of the damn car and go to church with Anne Lamott RIGHT NOW. I will kill you if you don’t. Go to church with Anne Lamott. NOW. Oh. My. God. Oh. My. God.”
And then she — Anne Lamott, with her trademark dreadlocks — pulled her Subaru into the parking lot.
“That’s her,” Chris confirmed, and I nearly lost my strawberries and espresso and sourdough bread.
“I know! I know!” I screeched. “And that’s her grandson! That’s Jax! I just finished reading about him in ‘Some Assembly Required!’ Look how pretty he is!”
“Let’s go,” Chris instructed, pulling on the door handle. He knows me well enough to know that I’d have sat there blubbering and slobbering and gushing and missed my golden opportunity. After 24 years, he’s well aware of my more appealing shortcomings.
Before I could second-guess any of the stupid things I might say or do — and I was certain I’d both say and do a myriad of stupid things — we were walking toward my literary idol. I kept thinking about “Bird by Bird,” about “Grace (Eventually).” I’m quite sure I had a dumb ass smile plastered all over my sweaty, nervous, stalker face.
“Hello,” she said kindly as we beelined for her.
“Good morning, Anne,” I said. “We’re visiting from Mississippi, and we’re taking you up on your Notes & Words offer to attend church with you this morning.”
She smiled warmly, welcomed us, introduced us to Jax and to her friends, led us into the sanctuary. While we walked, she asked about our adventure from Mississippi, and I explained that I was a finalist in the essay contest. We chatted like old friends, and I noticed her pant leg was tucked slightly into her sock. I commented on Jax’s missing shoes and she said they’d had some “organizational issues” that morning.
“But his shoes are right here,” she said, pulling them out of her bag. “I’ve got it covered.”
She was charming and gracious and slightly disheveled and altogether adorable. She treated us like we’d known each other forever, greeted us with open arms. The church was filled with a vast array of humanness — black, white, Asian, hispanic, young, old, fat, skinny, gay, straight.
A man tethered to an oxygen tank handed us each a copy of the “African American Heritage Hymnal” and we commenced to singing and clapping and swaying to the beat. During the “Handshake of Peace,” strangers shook our hands, welcomed us, hugged us. I sang “Amazing Grace” (my mom’s very favorite hymn) at the top of my lungs. I couldn’t stop smiling. There was no judgment here, there were no rules. There was just love and acceptance and understanding and a great deal of kick-ass music.
My stalking this time turned out to be much more spiritual (as I guess it is wont to do when it happens in a place of worship). I felt renewed, uplifted, genuinely happy. I wanted to stay for the “fellowship” after, but thought we might be pressing our luck. I was sure to say something bordering on insane, spill my coffee down the front of Anne’s shirt, have a booger hanging out of my nose as I declared my undying love for her.
It was best to let the magic moment carry us over the Golden Gate Bridge and into the city.
I’d met Annie. (That’s what her friends call her.) I’d worshipped with her, celebrated with her, sung “Amazing Grace” with her.
I’d touched the hands that were responsible for recording so many life-altering, beautiful words.
It was more than enough.
And the warm, wonderful African American preacher who blessed us on our way out the door taught me my favorite new prayer…
“God bless you real good.”
A to the Men.