Jose Gonzalez and the Signature Quest

Hello there! For my memory’s sake, before too much time passes I wanted to capture the little adventure that was last Wednesday Night.   After drinks at my friend Derek’s bar and some Ramen, Aaron, Caty and I headed out to Brooklyn for the Jose Gonzalez concert.  (If you like lovely, relaxing guitar-driven music and haven’t heard of him, I really recommend checking him out. 🙂 )

Towards the end of the show Caty buys Aaron a concert poster and after the finale I learn Aaron wants to get the poster signed by the entire band: two vocalist/guitarists, two percussionists and Jose.  We easily nab our first two signatures from the Percussionists lingering in the music hall, and Aaron asks Percussionist 2 where we might find the rest of the band…but P.2 doesn’t know. Strategy 1 is to stay in the music hall – this tactic got us two signatures, so it seems reasonable we’d get the next three this way. But after 10 minutes the stage is getting torn down, concertgoer detritus is being swept away, and still, only the first two band members.  Security gruffly announces the room’s closing and though we know our odds of Signature Acquisition drop once we’re in the lobby, he was telling, not asking, so we leave.

Commence Strategy 2:  Merch Man.  He’s with the band, so he’s gotta be a lifeline, right?  Aaron approaches, poster unrolled, gestures to the two signatures, and says something like, we’re really hoping to get all five signatures, any chance you possibly know where we could find the other three members?  Aaron smiles, nods, returns: Merch Man isn’t sure where they are and can’t leave the table unattended to get them (never the proposition)… BUT if he finds out more, he’ll try and help us… if he can.  Feels like Odds of Signature Acquisition went up by 6% at best.

So we just stand in the rapidly emptying lobby, small talk a little, stand and small talk, and decide we should probably set a time limit.  It’s 12:05, show ended at 11:30. Give it another 10 minutes, and see.  Resume standing, lingering, avoiding eye contact with security lest they ask us to leave, and it’s 12:17.  Not a single new band member though we’ve seen myriad other crew/venue staff, and Percussionist 2 multiple times.

Naturally, this is the perfect time for a fun mental exercise.  If you can’t get the REAL band members to sign your poster, what’s the next closest thing? Who’s ‘sorta’ like the band? Listed in descending order, that might be:

– Merch Man, since he tours with the band. Practically 6th member.

-Anyone in the building of Swedish origin, like the band.

-Tear-down crew.  Both groups handled instruments tonight.  Very similar.

-Bartender & security crew. Both spent a lot of time in the Music Hall tonight and will be paid for it.  As did the band. Similar.

-Other concertgoers: the concertgoers probably like Jose’s music, and Jose’s band probably likes their music. Similar.

-Lastly: Random people walking by venue.  Jose was in Brooklyn the night of April 8th, random passersby were in Brooklyn the night of April 8th…you get it.

Random passersby wouldn’t be as satisfying as getting the three remaining band members, but we’d at least end up with the next, next, next, next, next, next best thing.  But no, we’re holding out for the real thing. At least we had a fun mental exercise to pass the time, right?

There are no other concertgoers around, nor has there been for the last 40 minutes.  Aaron still has that sheepish, hopeful, slightly avoidant demeanor that signals he’s really hoping no one’s going to shut him down on this one.

And I’m game to stick around for the Quest, for two simple reasons: 

Reason 1:  This current jobless phase of life is license/inspiration to have more adventures. I have no job to wake up for, so why not stick this out? Given the options of quitting, only 40% to our goal, or sticking around until they forcibly remove us, I pick option #2, no question.  I didn’t leave my normal life to get only 2 signatures and go home without a fight!!

Reason 2:

None of this adventure would be possible without Aaron – his generosity, his excitement on my behalf, and really, his encouragement and insight over the years that have helped shape my thoughts on life and work.  I can’t exactly repay him for any of this, but right now, I can join the Quest and give it anything I’ve got.

So I devise Strategies 3-7 for Signature Acquisition:

3. Learning to say the band members’ names in Swedish so we can more directly call to them for help

4. Chanting “Sweden! Sweden!”

5. Learning a compelling Swedish phrase (such as, “good sirs, please take pity on us and sign our poster!”)

6. Telling everyone we see that Aaron and Caty are teachers – who doesn’t want to help a teacher?!

7. Aaron and Caty embrace and look despairing to suggest the only thing that will keep their love alive is another three signatures 

(Obviously, the goal is to strike that perfect combination of pathetic and charming to compel a stranger to help.)

But, we attempt none of these excellent strategies and now we’re well past an hour in with our two signatures.  Aaron’s holding out hope but is trying not drag this out beyond reason.  We strike a compromise: we’ll go home only after a Hail Mary.  (An all out, so crazy it just might work pass, in hopes that by some miracle, you don’t lose the game. #football #Seahawks #2016).

Our Hail Mary: Aaron will go back to Percussionist 2, explain his quest, hand over his poster and beg him to run it to the remaining band members .  Seems a good plan except this band member is suddenly nowhere to be found.

So, we’re contemplating how to get home (subway’s closed) as the crew packs up the instruments. Hey! Wasn’t that guy in the band? We squint at Blonde Swedish Guy – he’s wearing a different outfit but resembles Band Member 3.  He’s making his way to the door so we take the chance: Excuse us! We’re sorry…uh, were you possibly part of the band?  Is there ANY way you might sign our poster? 🙂 

Then we ask for advice.* Sorry, we’re really trying to get everyone in the band to sign…do you have any *advice* for how we might get the last two?  🙂 

Guy: Um, they should be coming out soon, they’re a little behind me.

Us: And you think it’s okay for us to wait, will won’t just want to go home? 🙂

Guy: Oh, they’re really nice – they’ll help you.

BINGO – Stalking Permission Granted by Nice Guy Band Member 3. The ray of hope we need.

Another guy emerges who also looks vaguely like Band Member 4.  This time, we hesitate too long and he walks out the door to who knows where.

We’ve come this far so we have to pursue every lead we get, even if that means jogging down the block, catching my breath and walking up to Ambiguous Role Guy, who’s talking with Not in the Band Guy 1 and N.I.T.B.G. 2.  

Me: I’m sorry, can I be a stalker for a moment – is there ANY way you’re with the band;  we’re really hoping to get everyone’s signatures and we need two more. (Unroll poster and smile in least creepy way possible even though you just chased this guy down the block.)

Ambiguous Role Guy:  Ah, actually I’m the tour manager.

Me: (Thinking: Ooh, fancy.)

A.R.G, aka Tour Manager:  They’re coming though, I’m sure they’ll sign.

Me: Thank you!! Sorry to be a stalker.  Good luck with the tour!

Hustle back to the hall, come across a guy who was DEFINITELY Band Member 4, politely accost him to sign.  It’s dark out and hard to tell for sure, but he looks almost imperceptibly weirded out, but he signs and I thank him profusely and rush inside to the lobby once more.  4 out of 5 signatures, we’re 80% of the way there! ** And yet, we’re still no closer to our ultimate goal since we’re missing #1 Most Desired Signature-if we called it a wrap, we still couldn’t claim the win.

So we’re back in the lobby, bleary but hopeful, when out walks that curly-haired, bearded, glorious, disciple-of-Jesus looking figure, Jose himself.  This, finally, is our moment, when we are just four feet away from tonight’s entire raison d’etre. It feels a certain distinct way when you’re in the presence of a celebrity, like the temperature changes in the room, or a soundtrack starts up, or your vision blurs beyond the glow of their hallowed frame.  None of these happened, per se, but the room suddenly felt different nonetheless.

Aaron humbly handed over pen and poster, and with a final squiggle, the night was made.  Jose seemed both quietly pleased and also slightly confused by it all, but Aaron chalks that up to him speaking much more Swedish than English.

There’s that certain feeling you get when you did what you set out to do, when you faced a challenge – tiny or mountainous- and pressed on to finish your quest.  Right now,that feeling is triumphant and gleeful and glorious.  So we happily made our way into the night, having accomplished something small yet real, and for the first time in years, I got to watch one of Aaron’s momentary dreams become a reality, ink on paper, one, two, three, four, FIVE.

*http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/want-to-seem-smart-ask-for-advice.html

**See #2.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/02/meeting-tricks-10_n_6784046.html

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