I’d planned it perfectly. We would see Jeff Tweedy on Thursday, June 5th at the Masonic Temple in Detroit, then head out the next morning for a surprise camping trip overnight Friday, at Waterloo near Chelsea. A night of great music, another day and night in the woods with hiking trails, a fire and a beach, this was sure to be a lovely little jaunt. Then two days before the show it turned out Dana had to work Thursday night. There was a ripple in my plan.
Undeterred, I made my best effort at adaptation. I would see Tweedy with a friend, hightail it to the campground and set up at the crack of dawn, then pick her up Friday morning for our surprise adventure in the wilderness. I concocted a plan to make up for her missing the show. I packed my portable bluetooth speaker and mp3 player featuring the double live album Wilco: Kicking Television Live in Chicago. It’s an amazing show, if you haven’t heard it, consider it highly recommended. I’d keep her in the dark on the details, promising a sunset concert. I imagined we’d find a quiet place on the beach with a bottle of wine and a blanket, and listen to Wilco wail and warble as the big summer sun dove down the horizon.
I made plans with a friend to meet the night of the show, at a hole in the wall bar near his place on the west side. We would take his car, leaving mine at the bar, packed tight with all manner of camping fare for the weekend (I would scoop up Felix after dropping off Dana Saturday morning, and finish the camping weekend with him). Eric and I would have ourselves a nightcap after the show, I’d crash on his couch to be closer to Waterloo, then head out at daybreak.
Doors opened at 730. It was 740 when Eric finally called. His daughter was sick and he couldn’t leave her with the babysitter. He was out. I pondered for a moment who I might find ready to race out the door at the drop of a hat to catch the show, then realizing the hopelessness of that endeavor, turned my attention back to the young couple down the bar.
Jared and Alana were celebrating. At 22 and 23 years old respectively, they had only days before eloped and ran off from the Northeast to Michigan, to stay with his aunt; The only member of either family that approved of their nuptials. They were gorgeous. They were the bright fire of love that only naive twenty somethings can be in this jaded world. He kissed her neck while she whispered in his ear. She played Bobby McGee on the jukebox, they danced like wild Indians. They daydreamed out loud and made everyone in the bar jealous.
While waiting for Eric I struck up a conversation with them. He had a fantastic Koi tattoo on his forearm. He admired my Hunter S. Thompson piece. She told me Gonzo should have been President. They drank whatever was put in front of them, congratulatory cocktails and Miller Lites from a bar full of bums who wished they could be Jared and Alana, if even for a night. I had told them I was waiting for a friend to see Jeff Tweedy, at which point Alana broke into a spontaneous A Capella snippit of the opening verse from A Shot In The Arm. They were big fans, both. When I hung up the phone my frown gave me away. They had overheard my end of the conversation and offered their condolences in the parlance of their times – “That sucks dude”
It did suck, dude. But, there is often a reason for rifts in the grand plans we make.
I asked Jared if he had a car, if he was ok to drive? Yes, and yes. Then I slid my tickets over and told them it was a wedding present. There are few things more disheartening to me then wasting good concert tickets, and watching newlyweds celebrate in a shithole when they could be somewhere more appropriate. First she hugged me. Then he hugged me. Then she hugged me again and he shook my hand like he had just sold his first used car. And they were off. I gave him my card, scribbled my personal email on the back and asked them to let me know how the show turned out.
It was still light outside, and Waterloo was 30 minutes away. I had reserved the site beginning Thursday night so that I could set up ass early Friday, it was mine for the taking. Everything I needed was in the car. I had about 45 minutes of daylight upon arrival, just enough time to hoist the tent, unpack the essentials, start the fire, light the tiki torches and make myself a drink. I was nearly alone, a smattering of campers spread out over the vast campground. With Dana working and having drinks with friends after, assuming I’d be at the show, I found myself doing some of my favorite things – sipping whiskey, listening to the sounds of the woods mixed with old blues, and watching a roaring fire I built with my own hands. Friday morning I retrieved the little lady and we enjoyed a damn fine day of hiking and cooking, laughing and learning each other, even a walk to the beach, so that I may do some reconnaissance for later in the evening.
Did I mention the mosquitoes were both ferocious, and abundant? At the campsite, which was large and backed up to the woods, things weren’t so bad. I had sprinkled the ground with some organic, hippie approved repellent made from pepper and herbs that did a reasonably good job on its’ own. In addition we had sprays, and torches, and a citronella candle and a fire to keep our little slice of nature mostly bug free. None of these things were in place at the beach, however.
With the mystery of the concert somehow still intact I gathered a blanket, the wine, the music and her, and headed toward the beach shortly before sundown. We explored several places, she being a good sport the whole while. But everywhere we went those bastards followed. It was simply untenable to have a romantic moment in the midst of that madness. Finally, I relented and told her what the plan had been, and that we’d have to make other arrangements. We returned to the campsite, poured ourselves a variety of drinks and ate cheese and chocolate (later to be finished by a raccoon who broke into the cooler in the middle of the night) and listened to Wilco next to the fire. It wasn’t the plan, but it was perfect.
Fast forward to today, when checking my email this evening I found a message from Jared and Alana. They were writing to thank me again for the tickets, and to tell me they are pregnant. Based on obstetrical math and their memory, they’re pretty certain it was the night of the concert when it happened. He found a job selling used cars, she’s working in a dress shop. They proactively invited me to the not yet planned baby shower. I’ll send something Wilco inspired, and good karma. I want to be philosophical and say young love needs all the help it can get, but mostly it just needs Jeff Tweedy and a stranger with extra concert tickets.