Okay. This is the story of me and Bobby McFerrin.
First of all, I violined. I don't know if you knew that. I violined for ten years, and at the end I was still not a wonderful violiner, but I did love to play inside of an orchestra. Orchestra was a really big part of my life from 4th grade through 12th grade, and I continued to play violin regularly through much of college. I still pick it up every now and again; it's under Natty's bed in Zeke's room.
But I digress....
In 6th grade, my teacher Ms. Sanyer sponsored a contest for us orchestra kids. If you could practice at least 120 minutes a week for like six weeks, you got a prize at the end. And I did it -- and it was the one semester I ever really really improved as a player. (You'd think I would have learned, but I really didn't.) At the end of the 6 weeks, Ms. Sanyer gave the five of us who'd made it a very special prize -- a mix tape she'd made herself, with her own gorgeous handwriting on it.
I didn't listen to the tape much -- too bad, I bet there were some great things on it -- but one song I did get off it was a song off of the album "Hush," a collaboration between Bobby McFerrin and Yo Yo Ma. And I loved it. I LOVED it. Turns out my mother actually owned the real album, on CD! So I listened to it a lot in 8th and 9th grade. (Oddly, my two favorite albums in 9th grade were Hush and a collaboration between Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. No wonder I had no friends.)
In 9th grade choir, we had to do this thing called an IMP -- individual music project -- and I brought in the song "Coyote" from "Hush." At this point, I'd already been to New Mexico with my orchestra, already fallen in love with the state, already declared my intention to move there when I grew up, & so forth. "Coyote" reminded me of New Mexico, reminds me still, of the desert sky at night, the crystal of the stars, the loneliness.... Anyhow, so I turned off all the lights in the echoing choir room and made everyone lie on the floor and listen. Coyote.
In 10th grade, I wrote an autobiographical poem at the beginning of the year, in my Multicultural Lit class with Rebecca Fox-Blair and Camille Farrington. There was a line about Bobby McFerrin being some sort of god with really cool hair. My mom, never missing an opportunity for me to make a fool of myself, made me send it to Bobby McFerrin.
Can you believe that?? I haven't even thought about this in years, and I'm still embarassed, eleven years later.
Also in 10th grade we had to write our future selves letters, to be delivered in five years. The thing was, I was in a senior English class, so everyone else would be 22 or 23 when they got the letters, solidly out of college, solidly adults. I'd be.... 21. BO-ring. But I wrote it, extremely awkwardly, covered it with stickers from Ben Franklin, and gave it to my teachers to mail to me in 2001.
Somewhere along the line, my mom started a friendly relation ship with Bobby McFerrin's publicist. I guess she'd read the dorky poem I'd sent, and thought it was cute, and my mom did her "my daughter the nerd" networking, and next thing you know we have backstage passes to Bobby McFerrin in Milwaukee.
You have to understand, I never liked NKOTB or any such band. I never went through that shit. I mean, I cried when Kurt Cobain died -- we heard it on the radio in art class, in 8th grade -- but I didn't WORSHIP Cobain like I worshiped Bobby McFerrin.
So we saw him in concert in Milwaukee, and it was amazing. We'd seen him live before, at Ravinia in Chicago, but this time we MET him. And I was such a dork, I was like, "Oh my god, hi, I love you!" And he kind of laughed and said hi. My younger sister Megan was completely unimpressed; she didn't say a word but kind of nodded at him, so he pressed his hands together and bowed to her. I was too drunk on adoration to be jealous.
Over the years I saw him several times more, always wonderful. Most recently, my mother sent me tickets to see him at Popejoy for my 25th birthday. And he was wonderful again. He did the Bach Prelude/Ave Maria thing with the Popejoy audience, and it was something holy. One of those rare moments in your life when you're entirely present and you can actually look around and say, this -- this -- is a moment of grace.
And the letter? Delivered to me in the late, lazy Grinnell summer of 2001. I wandered through beds of native prairie grasses and purple conflowers to sit on a bench in the peace grove and read it. It was covered in stickers and addressed, awkwardly, to "you -- I mean me, I guess -- I mean, you know. Weird!"
And on the front of the envelope, it cheered,
BOBBY MCFERRIN FOR GOD IN 2000!