We spent Memorial Day weekend at a beautiful ranch in Texas’ Hill Country, far away from highways and civilization. When the clouds blew away, we could see the stars. We had long, leisurely talks with good friends, sitting on a porch or in front of the fire. No, it wasn’t officially cold enough for a fire, but like Richard Nixon, I am always up for a fire as long as somebody else makes it.
The only flaw in the weekend was my developing an overly intense relationship with a key lime pie. We’d bought the pie at the Pink Pig restaurant in Fredericksburg after I made sure the crust was made out of graham crackers.
It occurred to me that the pie would be a nice — even generous — contribution to the general welfare of the weekend. Nobody except my husband knew that key lime pie is my favorite dessert on the planet, but now that I’ve spent two days hovering around it and probably eating half of it (and I do not exaggerate when it comes to dessert), my cover is blown. Some contribution to the general welfare.
But what is a personal blog if not an opportunity to rat yourself out? If I commit a felony one of these days, my lips are cemented shut. But confessing idiotic misdemeanors is my life.
All of which brings me to Paul McCartney, obviously.
He came to Austin and performed for two nights right before the holiday weekend. As usual, I’d neglected to get tickets and the shows sold out. They were wonderful, electric shows. I know that, since every other one of my so-called friends on Facebook posted photos and rave reviews.
After a while, I started to get a little resentful. Why them and not me? It wasn’t fair. Paul had always been my favorite Beatle. And since I recently met the Beatles’ former secretary, Freda Kelly, I was kind of part of their inner circle and everything.
I was pondering the unfairness of the universe, when it occurred to me that Paul might possibly be staying nearby. After all, we live next door to a luxury hotel. Maybe Paul was there — staying just a few hundred feet away from our apartment. Paul! I couldn’t think of a celebrity bigger to a woman of my age. Who cared about popes and kings and Nobel laureates? This was a Beatle.
So I started skulking around, looking for information. You might call it snooping, but I call it journalism.
Yes, Paul was staying in the hotel, I learned quickly. In fact, one of my neighbors had come within a few feet of him the day before — a few feet! Paul! — as he exited a black Suburban. I milked our neighbor “Mark” (his real name) for as many details as possible (e.g., color and make of car, arrival time and place, etc.)
“Mark” was basking a little too much in the whole glory of the moment, if you asked me, recounting over and over how he’d waved at Paul and given him the thumbs-up. “And Paul waved back,” “Mark” reported 30 or 40 times for a small crowd in our lobby.
“God, ‘Mark’ is such a celebrity whore,” I complained to Colin, one of the men who works in our lobby. “Remember when he crashed his bicycle just so Lance Armstrong would notice him? He’s shameless.” Colin nodded with an air of studied neutrality.
But, really, the more important point was that “Mark” had seen Paul and I hadn’t and the universe was massively unfair. To rectify matters, my friend Pat and I agreed we’d set up a mini-stakeout for Paul, close to the area where “Mark” had seen him the day before. We’d meet at roughly the same time, 5 o’clock.
“I’ll bring my dog,” Pat said, “and we’ll pretend to be walking him.”
In the meantime, I hung around the hotel a little, trying to look nonchalant. After all, at my age, I didn’t want to develop a reputation as a stalker. But no Paul. I nodded to two policemen as I left, and ran back to my apartment since it was almost 5. The phone rang. “I have to go,” I told my daughter after we’d talked a few minutes. “Paul may be leaving soon. I don’t want to miss him. I can’t think of any celebrity I’d rather see than him.”
“I wonder how many millions of women your age feel the same way,” she said.
Outside, I sat down on a bench, pretending to be engrossed in my cell phone. I watched the drop-off area through my dark glasses and waited. And waited. Paul didn’t show up. Neither did Pat. Neither did her dog.
Two women and a dog might have lingered out there without looking desperate and sad. But one woman with a dying cell phone who’d been stood up by a friend, a dog, and a Beatle looked kind of pathetic. I thought about my daughter’s remark about the millions of women who idolized Paul McCartney like they were still teenagers and the Beatles were still alive and together. It was kind of depressing, just like being 15 had been.
About that time, Colin rounded the corner. I was caught in flagrante. How mortifying.
“What are you doing?” Colin wanted to know.
“I am contemplating my total insignificance in the universe,” I said.
“Don’t do that,” he said. “You’ll just get upset.”
Later, I heard that Paul had left the hotel minutes after I did, escorted by the two policemen I’d seen. I’d missed him by just a few minutes. “I think he was in a white car this time,” someone told me.
It was disappointing and semi-heartbreaking for another five minutes, but then I got over it. That’s what it’s like to be 63, when confessing idiotic misdemeanors is your life. After three-day weekend in the country with good friends and half a key lime pie, you can bounce back from just about anything. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
(Copyright 2013 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read the tragic story about the local woman who refused to come out of fetal position