It was my first night alone in nearly three years.
I kissed my husband and three kids goodbye, hopped aboard a train, and worked on the edits for my second book (newsbreak: it’s titled SKIPPING A BEAT) as we rushed along the tracks, heading toward Philly. Then I took a cab to my hotel, the gorgeous Palomar, and congratulated myself on finding a bargain room on the Internet.
Now it was time to pull out the big guns. It was time to shop.
I had big plans for the night ahead. I was holding a ticket for the Rock Bottom Remainders Concert, and couldn’t wait to see the band which is composed of authors Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, Amy Tan, and Scott Turow. They’d all be on stage, supported by back-up singer and Philly’s hometown girl, Jennifer Weiner. And I desperately needed a new outfit!
I hadn’t shopped in … months? Years? It certainly felt like it. Being a writer means I don’t need dress-up clothes, and my usual weekend activities – soccer games and birthday parties – tend to be less than black-tie affairs. So with my credit card in hand, I strolled along Rittenhouse Square, searching for the perfect outfit, something hip and vaguely rock-star-ish. But I couldn’t find it.
I shrugged and bought a sandwich at Cosi and headed back to my hotel room to take a long bubble bath and read the trashy magazine I’d picked up at the train station. I’d just have to wear the old outfit I’d tossed in my bag, one I’d already gotten plenty of use out of. No big deal.
A few hours later, I was in the front row of the crowd, screaming for Amy Tan as she sang, “These Boots Are Made for Walking” (she can sing, by the way! And clearly channeling her inner rock star, she wore fishnet stockings, a black leather dress, and huge white-blonde wig). Then someone announced that people could bid on a chance to get up onstage and sing back-up. I thought about the fact that the money would go to support the Free Library in Philadelphia, a terrific cause. I thought about the fact that Jennifer Weiner, who has been incredibly supportive of my book, is on the board of the library, and had bought tickets for me and a bunch of other people to attend the show (hell, she even bought our drinks that night, like she hasn’t done enough!) And then I thought about the outfit I didn’t buy.
Instead of buying a rock star outfit, how about buying a chance to be a rock star for a few minutes? I wondered.
I gave my credit card to a library staffer and told her the amount I could bid, and moments later, I was ushered backstage, where Scott Turow was trying on a giant rainbow-colored wig and struggling to learn how to pronounce my name. And then my friend Lindsay Maines (who also bid to sing) and I were onstage, facing the cheering crowd. Jen Weiner handed me a cheap plastic kazoo (just about the only instrument I can play) and the band launched into “Wild Thing.”
Man, it was intoxicating! I sang, did a few back-up moves, and threw my kazoo to the crowd (people actually tried to grab it, which was the funniest thing I saw all night). Then the song ended too soon, so I grabbed a Tasteykake from the stash provided for the band, and headed back to the crowd to cheer for the finale song (“Gloria.”)
What a night. And the memories, unlike a new outfit will last forever.
(P.S. That’s me in the middle of the stage, in a black top and colorful skirt. I’m playing the kazoo. Jen Weiner is to the far left as you look at the picture – her face is blocked by a light- and you can see Amy Tan’s fishnet stockings to the right of the picture. I believe she’s being held in a head-lock by Scott Turow.)