40 for 40 #8: Blondie

Vintage Electric Guitar

The first time I almost met Debbie Harry I was 26 years old. I was staying in the Grace Jones room at the Chelsea Star Hotel and it was one year after Joey Ramone died. She was to be at a posthumous birthday party for him, and I was to be there with a certain friend.

After traipsing around the city all day, participating in both planned and spontaneous activities, I returned to my room to wait for my friend to call. She had been at a picnic all day and that was the plan.

I waited and waited and waited until I finally fell asleep. At about 3 a.m. the phone woke me up. A friend of my friend called to tell me that she fell asleep a few hours ago. Both parties were over, and I foolishly chose to wait and rely on someone else rather than do what I wanted to do.

Blondie has visited the Lehigh Valley many times over the years. And, even though they are one of my favorite bands, and I feel a connection to many of their songs unmatched by other artists, I have never gone to see them. Until this year.

The Friday before my 40th birthday, I saw Blondie perform at a local venue. And it was fantastic on many levels.

Rapture. At last.

40 for 40 #2: An Evening with Andre

OK, so it wasn’t the first time I had ever seen Andre Watts. Nor was it the first time I ever saw him at New Jersey Performing Arts Center. And it really doesn’t compare to that magical night in the conservatory at Longwood Gardens last spring. But my yearlong celebration of my 40th birthday would not be complete without a night with Andre. No one can play Rachmaninoff like he does, except of course for the maestro himself. Hearing Andre play is always an ethereal experience during which I feel suspended somewhere between reality and a magical world where I embody my idolized purple pegasus and soar around the world at least 20 times. I always need to constantly remind myself to be present, to be focused on the experience, when I hear him play because, no matter if he is playing Rachmaninoff or a less favoured composer, he takes me to another world.

40 for 40 #1: Joan Osborne

Last summer, when listening to various tracks on my MP3 player while on a road trip, my mother mentioned that she loved Joan Osborne’s Right Hand Man and One of Us which she had never heard before. When I first heard her Relish album at 20 years old, I fell in love Joan’s almost paradoxical combination of soulful stirring and playful irreverence — something with which I could deeply relate. So this spring, I decided to see Joan in concert, and I took my mother with me. It is interesting that there comes a time when it is acceptable, even desirable, to share remnants of youthful rebellion with a parent.

There we sat, in the front row of the balcony in a small, intimate venue, after nearly another 20 years of my life had passed. Needless to say, she was amazing as was her musical partner Keith Cotton. It was there that I was introduced to Raga (inspired by Dorianne Laux’s equally beautiful poem, The Shipfitter’s Wife), the best working class love song written since Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer, during which I broke down and wept — and to my second favorite new song on her newest album, Work on Me. I felt as though I had neglected an old friend with whom I grew up, as I had not listened to her music much in those almost 20 years, and was so grateful that we had the chance to become reconnected. My appreciation for her work has truly blossomed as much as I have over the years.