I had been looking forward to this concert since the end of the last one, or at least since the posting of the last blog when several of my friends came out of the woodwork saying they would have come along if they’d known I was going solo. The crappy work week that preceded only served to further my desire to put “real life” behind me for a few days and have a nice mini-vacation. I had my friend pick me up from work in the morning so we could hit the road immediately. After working a 10 hour shift by myself, I’m amazed I even held out for one coherent hour in the first leg of the drive. The trusty GPS and my uncanny knack for waking up at the right moment were most helpful, as we were making a detour to stop at a friend’s in Alexandria who was doing me a huge favor making some tour surprises for a couple of my favorite guys, and my snoring and drooling was not conducive to her finding her way.
We made pretty good time (and really good gas mileage—we only stopped once for gas in my friend’s Toyota as opposed to the 2 or 3 stops we’d have had to make in Belle) and got to the hotel, where my Dallas friend and third companion for the show made a beeline to the hotel so we could hang out for a few hours. I had my first Red Robin burger (and my friend half-flirted with the bartender after ogling a bottle of Tuaca on the bar) and we hung out in the hotel room eating and giggling like teenagers. Well, like teenagers who were pre-writing blog reviews and watching political/hurricane coverage with rapt fascination.
The next day my travel mate got to visit some yarn stores and a pub she’d heard about, while I got to have lunch with my friend—who had taken the day off to spend with me and be fresh for the concert—and another Dallas friend I hadn’t seen in a while. I even got the bright idea to stop at a Hallmark store to get a birthday card for one of my students (with the intent of getting it autographed after the show) and an ornament or two while I had the chance. Too bad I left the hotel without the card in tow—I was trying to do too much. (Mental note: bringing copious souvenirs for the dancers sounds like a really good idea on paper but is hell at the security check.) We stop for dinner at Mimi’s Bistro, a reasonably passable taste of New Orleans ambiance in an Arlington strip mall, where thanks to my Dallas friend driving the two of us visiting girls get to enjoy a white wine flight before the show. We arrive at the arena shortly before the show and encountering the parking attendant mambo, my friend—who, since we’re in her car with the handicapped parking placard—inquires about remaining parking spots in the handicapped section. They direct us to a spot closer than we’d had gotten in the other car and aside from trying to rip off the underside of her car with the curb in a too-tight turn, get parked right in front of the entrance ramp. We get inside and I realize I spent all of my side cash…cash I’d intended to hold on the side to buy a souvenir program. Oh, well, I’ll have to head for my seats and brave the t-shirt line at intermission where I KNOW they’ll take my debit card. We work our way down to our seats—slowly, as my friend occasionally needs a cane to walk and we had quite a few stairs to go down. (Found the elevator at intermission so at least she didn’t have to hike back up after the show.) More off to the left than I might have liked and 16 rows deep, the only “obstruction” forewarned by the tickets was the light assembly that partially blocked the central video screen. Oh, and the tallish woman who wound up sitting in front of us and had this amazing knack of leaning over to talk to her friend right when I was snapping a picture
The show’s awesome (as evidenced by the epic novel I wrote previously) and I’m waiting around for after the show to see about a meet and greet with the dancers. You see, Chehon posted on Facebook to message him the day of the show you were attending to be put on the door list, and even though I messaged him three separate times with all of our names, I got no word back as to whether or not it was a go or what to do to get in. After lingering a while a lot of young girls had these stickers in tow, which apparently were issued to area dance studios as…wait for it…passes for the meet and greet. Security was not having it—those stickers had to be on and visible or you had to get out. My friends were not as interested in waiting for the dancers as I was, and as the night air was getting colder and my friend was definitely not up for leaning on a cane for nearly an hour I didn’t want to keep her longer than I had to. But I was emptying that bag in Grand Prairie one way or another. So with one friend already waiting in the lobby and the other one heading up toward there to go to the car, I tried to at least distribute my goodies without having to wait, but was ushered outside in the line with the rest of the diehards.
My camera was nearly dead and I had not yet mastered the smartphone I inherited from the hubby, so I stood outside hoping for the best. I worked my way close to the barricade next to a mom and her three kids—a teen boy, a teen girl and a nine-year old girl who was dismayed at “losing her spot” to me. I had been listening to her siblings mercilessly tease her for the 10-20 minutes we’d been out there, so if the fact that she was a young child wasn’t enough for me to let her up front when the dancers came, the tormented baby sibling thing clinched it. I told her she was fine and I’d let her in when the time came, and also eased her mind when her brother kept telling her the dancers weren’t coming out because they knew she was waiting and being impatient and they just wanted to annoy her. My new friend Carlyn and family were pretty humorous, particularly when Dad, tired of waiting in the car came out to try and coax everyone out of the line (to no avail) and was asked by his son about the “hotness” of some of the girl dancers. Surprised at Dad’s appreciative response to the girls, the teens responded in semi-horror, “But Dad, you’re OLD!” I almost turned red hiding laughter at the teens’ reaction.
It only took maybe 45 minutes for the inside meet and greet to end before dancers started trickling out two by two. The pairs of dancers started on opposite ends of the line to try to make to process go faster. And having learned from the New York trip how beads tangle in a tote bag, I took all of those jokers out and put them around my neck at one time so I could transfer them one by one. Considering I’d forgotten my child’s card and the beads and shirts were getting hard to manage, I had shuffled my personal t-shirts and the poster I was going to get autographed off to the car to make my life easier. So Matthew gets to me first and I give him his beads. Emma, Carlyn’s older sister, has offered to snap pics for me and sets up my camera to click….and it chose that moment to completely die. Efforts to use my phone fail, as there’s no discernible flash function (believe me, we LOOKED) so Matthew whips out HIS phone and promises to tweet it later. As the others come up, Emma offers to take my pics as well as theirs on her phone and text them to me later. We go through the line dancer by dancer—all thrilled to get their beads—and snap pics. Will comes by and after getting the beads reaches for his shirttail. It takes me a minute to realize he’s trying to flash me. After mock-scolding him and pointing out that there’s a child present, he lets go of the shirt. I wasn’t quite as quick with Cyrus though, as a couple of abs came out before I fussed at him. I really didn’t have the heart to tell either of them that not only would they have had to flash BEFORE getting the beads, but they were also undoing the wrong article of clothing for that to work for them. I found out Audrey is a semi-homegirl, as she told me she’s got family in New Orleans and they regularly visit.
After a while I see Cole come out, and I’m suddenly nervous about talking to a 26-year-old guy. I thank him for reading and acknowledging the blog post I wrote about his Gravity performance, and presented him with his beads and the shirts I’d had designed and made for him and Chehon with the #ninjaballetfusion thing on them. He seemed to like them and I wish him well in his future career (and tell him to tell his mom I’m a fan of hers too). Most of the girls are coming out in really cute but mostly sleeveless dresses, and even though I’m actually comfortable for once in the Dallas night air, it’s still pretty chilly for them to be out meeting with fans without a jacket or a shrug…which Tiffany and Eliana happen to mention when they get near me. At this point I’m about to have a stroke as I have one pair of beads left and Tiffany, Eliana and Chehon yet to talk to. Since I KNOW I left Accent Annex with 12 pairs of beads and I stuffed all of them into my tote before leaving New Orleans, I’m trying to figure out how two pairs of beads walked out of my bag—especially when Eliana walks up all excited and asks, “Are you the one with the beads?” I had given that pair to Tiffany since I had extra stuff for Eliana and Chehon, and the near-crestfallen look on El’s face would have wounded me had I not also brought her a souvenir New Orleans t-shirt. I gave words of praise and encouragement to all the dancers, but I felt like I really needed to let Eliana know what a phenomenal dancer she is and that she had a fan for life in me. She hadn’t moved too far down the line when I shifted my jacket to my other arm….and found those two sneaky pairs of beads hiding and mocking me. I called her back and dangled them and you’d think I was waving a pair of Louboutins or something. Happy that she was happy and I wasn’t losing my mind, I finally got to talk to Chehon and give him his beads and shirts. He also whipped out his phone to get a shot of the two of us and the now clearly visible #ninjaballetfusion t-shirt I had on (which I have to message or tweet him again to see if he posted it anywhere). Somewhere in the course of this I think I killed Emma’s phone too, but her dad came to the rescue and gave her his phone for the rest of the shots. Satisfied and touched by the generosity of my waiting friends and my last-minute photographer, I give Emma and Carlyn’s mom both my phone number and email address (as I still have yet to figure out why pics won’t download on my “smart” phone) and head for the car.
It’s nearly midnight and as Texas shuts down much earlier than New Orleans, I have not only kept my friend up before a workday but I’ve kept her from her nightly addiction of Sonic ice (from the back) and diet Dr. Pepper. Nevertheless, she drops me and my travel buddy back at our hotel and heads home. It takes me several hours to actually go to sleep, even though I know we have to hit the highway very early. We make our way back to New Orleans and we’re lucky enough to have our gas stop bring us around Natchitoches. Having spent 2 1/2 years living up there due to That Storm That Shall Not Be Named, I took her on a brief sightseeing tour of Front Street—sort of the French Quarter of Central Louisiana—which included driving past the Steel Magnolia house and having lunch at Lasyone’s Restaurant (famous for their meat pies). If we’d had more time there I could have looked in on a few friends but food and gas were all we had time for.
We had a nice semi-uneventful ride up until we got to Lafayette and my friend, who had taken over driving again, needed a shot of coffee to make it the rest of the way. Our search for a Starbucks took us in circles over the same stretch of roadway three times and confused as to why we saw no tell-tale signs in a strip mall that seemed to have everything else…until we got the bright idea to ask the nice young man wrangling carts for Target if perhaps the mecca we sought was actually IN Target. After confirming this was indeed the case and apologizing to the somewhat pushy lady inside my GPS, we made a quick pit stop and got back on the road. The one positive about that fun little detour is that it eliminated the sit in Baton Rouge rush hour traffic we would have had to endure. We managed to get back to New Orleans a little before 8 that night, and I retrieved my car to head home and get to my email ASAP, as Emma had been texting me pics all morning that of course refused to download. She was very nice about emailing them to me and really patient waiting for me to get them downloaded so she could clear her phone memory. Sadly for me, I was able to get pics from her of me with everyone…except Eliana. Considering that if it weren’t for her and Matthew I wouldn’t have ANY pics, I couldn’t be too disappointed…though I must say that scouring the ‘Net for Grand Prairie after pics I can Photoshop myself into (not to mention trying to justify a plane and possibly a concert ticket just to catch her backstage again—and this time with a fully charged camera AND an extra battery) has definitely crossed my mind a few times.
Just in case you missed the epic review post, you can go check it out here.