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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mamarose's Clay Aiken Christmas Adventure

The CB's mamarose10 has posted this huge recap of her Albany and New Brunswick concert and meet and greet experience. Reading this made my day... enjoy!

Christmas stories, right Clay? You said you wanted Christmas stories! Of course you added down the road the stipulation that they could NOT be about you. Well Clay, this one IS about you, because YOU continue to be an integral part of the Christmas memories your family of fans are making together, with you, each and every year. Your tours, OUR tours, each Christmas have become our own big Christmas party, family reunion, holiday gathering! We come together, we laugh, we cry, we love…as all families do.

So Clay, here is a 2007 Christmas story for you!

New Brunswick, New Jersey: Dec. 6, 2007

We began, Newmie and me, leaving her house in Connecticut on Thursday morning. Our destination was New Brunswick, NJ, and Clay Aiken's Christmas in the Heartland tour concert number one for both of us! We set out that morning with plenty of time and a new companion…Newmie's brand new birthday gift, a GPS system that she had christened "Mindy." I have been told these GPS systems often have other not-so-nice names, but I won't go there (though you can bet I am thinking it now). For the uninitiated, a GPS system is a little handheld gadget that actually speaks to you as you drive along and tells you where to go to get to your destination (Clay Aiken). image

In the beginning, we wanted to get to know Mindy. We wanted to be Mindy's new best friend as we would be sharing this most joyous and special time of the year with her (Christmas, Hanukkah and Clay Aiken)! Newmie insisted that she was a brunette. I supplied that I was SURE Mindy was a Clay Aiken fan. And I was also sure she would love us! Ahhhh…if I knew then what I know now! Now I know…Mindy secretly listens to Daughtry and she drinks! image

Anyway, we rendezvoused with SecretGarden and then with Claydorkable, then split up and proceeded in two cars. We did not directly follow each other, nor exchange too much in the way of directions. After all…we had Mindy!

Getting used to Mindy at first was a challenge. It wasn't her friendly but sometimes jarring chirping of the orders that got to me. It was the particularly perplexing "stay right and then stay right, and then stay right" she liked to repeat, over and over and over! Don't even get me started on her propensity to say "turn left, and keep right." Yep, I was beginning to realize that not only was Mindy drinking, she didn't share!!

We detoured into the Bronx to pick up another dear Clay fan friend. We parked on a residential tree lined street to pick up our friend. On returning to the car, we learned a little known fact! Bronx birds have a diet rich in colorful fiber and they DO like to share…and I mean really share…all over your vehicle. Needing a clean and clear windshield to drive (and reach Clay Aiken), Newmie squirted the wiper fluid and turned on the wipers….only to watch the passenger side wiper flop free and useless from it's moorings and scratch across the windshield. No…Mindy didn't squawk out "clean windshield and clean windshield" as I half expected her to. Newmie and I quickly decided A.) We didn't know how to fix the wiper and Mindy didn't either. B.) We needed a man for this and C.) We can and will drive through bird poop to get to Clay Aiken.

So off we went. But this is where things REALLY started to go downhill. There was an accident on a bridge somewhere in the NYC area. Who knows where…I can't remember…but the result was our once one hour trip became a three, four or was it more hour trip, bumper to bumper in standstill traffic in our green spotted car. We were at times LITERALLY sandwiched between four tractor trailer trucks with zero visibility. Mindy, of course, had several melt downs trying to recalculate our route as she couldn't "see" either and couldn't seem to cope with either overpasses or standstill traffic. Newmie and I munched trail mix and ate Lindt chocolate truffles and kept in cell phone contact with the equally-stuck somewhere Claydorkable and SecretGarden.

As time dragged on and on, it became woefully apparent that our plans would have to change. A stop at the hotel to change into our concert duds before the pre-party WAS NOT going to be possible. Oh my! Here we were in jeans, having had no REAL food since breakfast, with a decision to make. As time wore on and Mindy directed us everywhere but to our hotel, three things became crystal clear: 1.We would have to go directly to the pre-party if we were to make it at all. 2. We would have to change into concert gear SOMEWHERE, and 3. Mindy was NOT our friend. We finally found the venue and, after a few more circles around the block, we found a parking garage.

And then Newmie uttered the words: "We will have to change in the car!" I just looked at her! "Newmie," I said, "I am a big woman! I can't change in a car!" She said "Yes…you CAN!!!" It was that simple. I knew that being in concert clothes was all that stood between me and possibly the three most glorious things in life: Food, Drink, and Clay Aiken! I grabbed my duds from the suitcase in the back, piled back into the front seat of the car and paused. We were here…the party was in there…and somewhere waited Clay. Oh heck, what was I waiting for?! Clothes started flying. Of course by this time, I was uncontrollably laughing. Add in the fact that it had been a very long, long time in the car without the use of a rest room, and well, you get the picture. About that time I realized there was a man sitting in his car, about two cars away from us doing God knows what and we were here whipping off our clothes! For Clay! I put it out of my mind. Such is the resilience of Clay fans! image We accomplished the task at hand!

In the brisk walk from parking garage to the pre-party, I discovered my pants were on backwards. I had just changed in a car. I had only eaten trail mix and chocolate all day and hadn't relieved myself in about five hours. As I turned into the rest room, I could here Mindy say "Bear right and bear right."

As I was flipping my pants in that thankfully warm rest room stall, trying to bring my breathing back to normal, I was struck with the incongruity of this situation when relating it to my life five years ago. Five years ago, could I have ever imagined being here, re-routing my backwards pants in a restroom after changing my clothes in a very cold car in a very public parking garage? But now, five Clay years later, it didn't seem that unusual after all. Hey, we're Clay fans. What can I say!

And so our family holiday reunion party officially began. Kudos to the wonderful HopelesslyDevoted for arranging such a lovely event. It was JOYOUS to be with family together again…Clay's family. And we all knew in an hour we would be with the man who brought us all together and we would be able to sit and listen to an angel sing.

One cosmopolitan on a totally empty stomach later…well…let's just say we DID make it to the venue! No one had to carry anyone there! image

Clay in New Brunswick was amazing. I was struck, as I know many have been, with the difference of this show from other Clay shows. True, he does not talk to us as we are accustomed too. But this tour has a beauty and a symmetry all its own. It has a beginning, middle, and an end. It is compact, but in a good way, like a gem perfectly formed. You can hold it up to the light and turn it in your hand and just look at its perfection. Clay very obviously sought to create this type a reverent show and he succeeded. It is something he is clearly proud of, as he should be. It is something he has done himself and given to us, a gift he created and wrapped and presents to us, his fans, with love.

I was also struck in New Brunswick by his voice. (I didn't know what was to come in Albany). Sitting there in New Brunswick, I was stunned (a word I will be using a lot) with the beauty of his voice. How stupid it seems to say that. I know what Clay sounds like by now. But he is just in totally stunning voice right now. It took my breath away even more so that usual.

The show ends much too soon. Not a criticism, just a fact. I just wanted it to go on and on, so I could just sit there and soak him in. But after the last note of "All Is Well" triumphantly rang out, we knew it was time to go and we had to once again hop into our Mindy-guided spotted green sleigh and find the hotel.

I won't go into detail. You don't need to here the names that Mamarose called Mindy that night. Let's just say that Mindy (the blond, booze-guzzling selfish Daughtry-loving hussy) guided us to a RESIDENTIAL area, down a DEAD END ROAD, and at the end of that DEAD END ROAD she said: "TAKE A RIGHT!" There WAS NO RIGHT!!! There is NEVER a RIGHT at the END of a DEAD END ROAD. There is ONLY DEAD END AT THE END of a DEAD END ROAD Mindy! image

At that point, Newmie decided she would do the opposite of everything Mindy told her. I believe she was mad at Mindy! If Mindy said "Go right," Newmie would go left. If Mindy said "Go left," Newmie, now shouting at Mindy, would go right. I am not sure exactly how we got to the hotel. I think God took pity.

Finally, in jammies and after wine, Cool Ranch Doritos and much talk, Claydorkable, Mamarose, Newmie, Secret Garden turned in. As I climbed into bed I am sure I heard Mindy say "Turn Right."

Albany, New York: Dec. 7, 2007

After breakfast with JojoCT, we found a MAN! That is a man (the hotel concierge) to reattach Newmie's windshield wiper. Things were looking up. We gathered together, somewhat well rested and this time, driving in tandem and not trusting Mindy (thank goodness), we headed to Albany.

Albany: Where I had a Meet and Greet!!!! I had managed in many ways to put it out of my head until this point. But today there was no denying it. I was admittedly nervous. I really needed an uneventful trip to Albany and thankfully we got one. We arrived at the hotel in Albany with lots of time for lunch and concert prep. No backwards pants for Clay tonight!!

At about 5 p.m., Claydorkable and Newmie, knowing how I was feeling, took me by the hand and escorted me from the hotel to the venue Will Call window. Clay fans are very knowing and caring people! Then they went back to the hotel, but I was not alone. Clay fans are never alone are they? Family is always nearby. The other Meet and Greeters began to arrive in varying degrees of nervousness and we waited. Finally we were moved to the theatre lobby and finally that glorious hunk of a man., Jerome, appeared. He is the sweetest guy! He took us to an upstairs hallway, had us put our gifts on a table right there, sat us down in a semi-circle of chairs, gave us the lecture, and then went down some stairs to the left to retrieve Clay. That would be Clay Aiken! Oh my.


Now one unfortunate thing is, in keeping with the Christmas season I guess, there seemed to be no room at the inn that night. It seems that the Palace had no place to hold this Meet and Greet, so we were conducting it right there in that upper hallway. And this meant, again unfortunately, that the Meet and Greet was somewhat rushed. I am not complaining, although it is too bad that had to be the case.

Soon I saw Jerome coming back up the stairs from whence he had departed. And on the steps below him, following behind, it came into my consciousness, very slowly, that it was Clay. In that first glance as he was well down the stairs I am sure I uttered an OMG. Had I really not realized up until this point that Clay was planning to come and talk to us??

But as he reached the top of the stairs it all suddenly seemed, well, how can I say this …NORMAL. A friend had told me to remember that it is just "my Clay." Her words came into my head and after that point all nervousness was gone.

He made the circle of the chairs making introductions and finally plopped himself in his own chair. He looked…well…you know how he looks. Wonderful!! Having him right there before me…he looked wonderful! My head was shouting "remember what he is wearing," Folks always want to know what he is wearing. I attempted to make that mental note. I noticed the navy blue sweat pants of some sort, the well-worn slippers, some sort of hoodie. Oh forget this…I will never remember…back to concentrating on Clay breathing before me. So there he sits looking all casual and tousled and perhaps a little like it has been a hectic day and there I sit and what am I thinking?? I am thinking we need tea. Yep, we need tea. And the cookies are right over there on the table in their red Christmas bag. But, we need the tea on this cold winter night, and I need to be in my sweatpants and slippers too Clay. My mind wanders. I digress. At this point I realize Mindy might be saying: "Keep right, and keep right."

I pull my mind back to listening to Clay speak. We talked about where we were from, someone asked what was in his stocking at Christmas. He replied he got an orange…to which I added that we did as well. Just fruit and candy….no presents. He got the same. (Makes for a bit of a boring Christmas stocking I think).

I really felt that I did not want to ask him any serious probing "Clay saves the world" or "give us the real and only scoop" type questions. I just wanted to talk to Clay …casual, silly, stupid, easy. I didn't want to tax him, I didn't' want to probe him (down smutters). I just wanted to talk to him. So I said to him, there is a game we play at home in my family. We ask each other, if you are on a desert island and you can have unlimited supplies of ONLY ONE type of drink and ONE type of food and you can only have one movie to watch forever…what would they be. I imagine at this point Clay is making a mental note that Mamarose is clearly unbalanced.

But what I found so amusing was that he seemed to really mull this question over, like it was the toughest question in the world. Like he had to get it right…he was kind of agonizing over the choices, thinking about his options. He said he just could not pick a movie, period. Then he said that he gets on kicks where he will drink only one thing for a month or so…and then switch to another. He said he had been on a Dr. Pepper kick but last night had some Mountain Dew so now he figured he would be on a Mountain Dew kick. I think I might have said at this point "you don't have to over-think this Clay but you better love what you pick because it is all you are getting." So he arrived at Mountain Dew as his drink. But he added, this is too hard, to only have one thing would be torture. But then he said…I guess mac and cheese would be the food. No surprise there.

I know others asked other questions. One person asked if he would like to do another Christmas show (I believe TV) and have his Mom come on and sing with him. He rolled his eyes and very vociferously said "No!" And that she would not do it anyway. Someone asked him about if he would home school his own children, he again said no, citing the lack of socialization I believe. He signed things as he was talking. He is very good at multi-tasking.

At one point Mary stopped us and gave us the order of the picture taking, telling us to remember that order. Well, we got to the picture taking point and we all stood up…but not a one of us could remember the order. I asked Mary to repeat it…and really at this point we were all talking at once. A gaggle of women chattering until Clay yelled at us, smiling of course. He shushed us all, and laughingly said we were "unruly." Yes, Teacher Clay. Yell some more Teacher Clay!

Picture taking is a bit of a blur. I did get the sense that they were rushed. They had to get us out of the hall I assume before they could let the concert patrons in as it was all totally open and not blocked from the public in any way. We took the pictures…and one Meet and Greeter started in with one last question. She started out saying "Clay, when you have children one day," to which he broke in saying something like "oh now they have me with children already." She said "well you will someday," and continued with the question about what value or lesson would Clay most like to give to his children. Obviously in a rush, he tried to get her to the actual question by drawing a question mark with his fingers in the air. I tried to stifle my laughter at that but I probably failed. TEACHER CLAY with a capital T and a capital C!!!! I can just see him doing that in a classroom. He answered her question saying that "independence" and being able to handle things on their own was the one thing he would most like to instill in his own children. And then he was gone, whisked away by Jerome. The air kind of leaves the room when he is gone. image

I went downstairs, yep…Aiken fog definitely. I met up with my group and proceeded into the concert.

To say that Clay Aiken was ON that night in Albany is such an understatement. He was great in New Brunswick. He was STUNNING and BREATH-TAKING in Albany.

WHAT AN EXPERIENCE for ME. For as hard as I tried I could not really meet up the two very different Clays in my mind. I had just come from a Meet and Greet with a slightly rumpled, very casually dressed kind of unassuming, snarky, funny but sweet young man. I had just sat in a hallway and talked about Mountain Dew and Christmas stockings with this person.

But up on stage, before me, was this enigma that bore practically NO resemblance to that other young man. He was so powerful and gorgeous to a fault. And I, who have been in this fandom from the beginning, almost five years now, who have been to many concerts, and who spend my days, every day, with the CB and with Clay, was really struggling to reconcile the two Clays.

I was blown away by the power and nuance and perfection of his voice and his presence that night. Even as I type this I know my words are failing me. It is truly the voice of an angel that comes out of his mouth. I am sure of that. Nothing we will one day hear in heaven will compare.

And again…all too soon…it was over. Over! And there were the inevitable goodbyes. Not just to Clay, who slips from the stage and takes a piece of my heart with him EACH AND EVERY TIME. But the goodbyes to our family, our wonderful Clay fan family. The people we must carry in our hearts until the next time…the next tour, the next family gathering. Sigh!!!

So to sum up…what have I learned:

1. Clay Aiken is most clearly an enigma…a contradiction that I have to wrap my mind around several times to even come close to understanding why my feelings are so deep. For five years I have been wrapping my mind, and my heart, around him. I am not stopping any time soon.

2. Clay Aiken gives us a gift every Christmas. NO he doesn't come to my house. Mamarose and Clay will never have that teapot moment in jammies and slippers…although if you think my heart will ever give that up you are sadly mistaken. No…the gift Clay gives us each Christmas is each other. A chance for his fan family to gather, to hug, to sit in awe of him, to cry, to love, to just be in each other's presence and breathing the same air with him…and EACH OTHER!. I will never be able to thank Clay enough for that…that most important gift he will ever give me.

3. I am not sure I will ever understand what Clay thinks of Mamarose, but then I am not sure I will ever understand just why I feel all of what I feel for Clay either…so in that regard we are even. We go on Clay. I love him. I will be here…ALWAYS. That is all I know.

4. I don't like Mindy! image

Love and hugs to Newmie, Claydorkable, SecretGarden, Kat, all our most beloved TWWMAD family, Snarkystripes, Sonnets, Gerwhisp, Rhustress, NYmom, Gengen and EACH AND EVERYONE of our Clay fan family that I know my "I have only had one cup of coffee" brain is missing. I love you all! image


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