Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My Top 12 Moments of the Reunion (Thus Far): Part Two

I started with moments 12-7, and they really do keep getting better.

6. Radio City weekend: Radio City weekend was like the cruise, but on land. Thousands of BHs converged on one place for three days of New Kids madness. And I almost didn't go to the Thursday show. What was I thinking? Could I really have been sitting at home, an hour away, with nothing pressing to do while there was a NKOTB show going on? Thankfully I wised up.

Thursday I met Amy at Radio City and once in our seats we adopted Lisa, who had come from Scotland by herself for the three shows. When the lights went down and the video screens flickered to life, I got goosebumps. Tears started to flow before the curtain rose. And when we could see smoke and "NKOTB" appear in lasers just like the 2008 tour opener, I had chills from head to feet. The rush of the past two years came back at once.

Since I'm naturally impatient, I typically spoil myself on any concert surprises, but I had no idea Naughty by Nature was going to walk out on stage. It almost made me want to give up trying to find things out ahead of time. Almost.

Friday all of my lovely friends arrived in town. Amazingly they trusted me as our tour guide despite my track record of getting lost within three miles of my own house. That's love. The concerts were of course incredible (and extremely emotional), but it was just as good to have us all together again, and bittersweet since we don't know when we will meet next.
Thinking of this weekend makes me really really want a cupcake.

5. Cruise 2009: I would compare Cruise 2009 to being in Candyland. (Or, if you don't like candy, some other fantasy fairytale location. Rum Runner land?) I was in awe of everything around me, from the banners in the atrium to the daily newsletters. Since we didn't know what to expect, everything was a bonus. When we saw a New Kid around the ship or when they appeared at the deck parties, we could hardly believe our luck. I got on the boat knowing only a handful of friends, and by the time we got back to Miami, that number had grown exponentially.

4. Cruise 2010: If anything can beat three days of sun and palm trees with New Kids, it's four days of sun and palm tress with New Kids. Cruise 2010 ranks above 2009 for the no lines, day on the beach, better deck parties, and 10 times the amount of Jon singing. The biggest difference between 2009 and 2010 was that this year, it felt like everyone on the boat was friends. We were all more relaxed, including the guys we were all there to see. I can't imagine Joe's piano singalong happening in 2009. But this year, it fit the vibe, and I soaked up every minute of it.

3. July 26, 2008 CD Preview Party: Back in June 2008, when I was constantly listening to the radio to hear Summertime several times per day, I'd hear this commercial along with it.

As soon as I had heard it, I was on a mission. I have never been so determined to win a contest in my life. I entered on four local stations and then every national station I could find, knowing full well being out of their listening area made me ineligible. Those stations only allowed one entry, but XM allowed unlimited entries, so long as you hand wrote all your information on a 3x5 index card and then hand wrote the (six-line long) address and your return address on individual envelopes. I did that. 107 times.

On July 17, I was sitting at my desk at work around 6:00 p.m. when I got an email from Clear Channel telling me I was a finalist. Shaking, I got my phone out to call and tell my cousin and saw I had three missed calls from a New York area code. A little bell went off in my head, telling me that was the Z100 promotions number (which I knew since I called them more than once trying to find out when they would draw the winner). I immediately hit redial and the woman who emailed me answered and screamed YOU WON!

So there I am, at my cube, screaming and crying and laughing uncontrollably all at the same time. She was trying to tell me what the prize was and I couldn't hear a word of it. People started coming out of their offices and from the other side of the building to see what was going on. The guy who sat in the office across from me said he had never seen anyone so happy at work.

I called my cousin Nickole, who lives 400 miles away in my hometown, because she and I grew up New Kids together. I said, "Where are you?" She said, "Driving." I said, "Don't drive off the road because I won the New Kids trip to LA!" Then we both screamed some more. It's been almost two years and I still can hardly believe I won.

A week later I was on a plane on my way out to LA. This was the day I met Malina and several other BHs I still talk to.

The day of the party, Nickole and I couldn't eat, hadn't slept, and had a hard time saying more than five words in a row to each other without shrieking. None of the winners had any idea what to expect. I was picturing sitting at tables in a dark room while someone pushed play on the CD. In reality, there were less than 150 people in a small rehearsal studio and I was standing not even 10 feet from the NKs while they were on stage. They sang, they joked, they danced, they surveyed our opinions on "This One's For the Children." During Summertime, Donnie sang to me in my strapless sundress. Seriously, this happened!

Then if that wasn't enough, we got to meet and talk to all the guys in small groups. This is the first time I met any of them other than Joe, but I still went to him first. The first thing Danny said to us was that his balls were sweaty. Donnie hugged me and kissed me and hugged me and kissed me and made it clear he was planning to convert a lot of girls come fall. Jon and Jordan did what they do best: looked gorgeous. And just when I thought it was over, they called us back in the room to get one on one photos. The new album hadn't even come out yet, and all of my New Kids dreams had come true.

(My rarely seen "other" photo, taken when Danny was trying to put my hand on Joe's ass.)

Sidenote: Tara, the girl who won from XM, had entered only once.

2. December 20, 2009 House of Blues: House of Blues almost didn't happen. A Nor'easter was threatening the entire east coast, canceling flights, closing roads, and generally wrecking havoc. But Blockheads with plans to see NKs are hard to stop, even if it means leaving a day early or taking 3 a.m. trains to get to Boston.

What catapults HOB to #2 on the list was the weekend as a whole, from walking through the blizzard to Shaw's at 1 a.m. to arriving at the after party so late Donnie was ready to leave.

Within a 24 hour period, I/we:

  • Walked into Hard Rock Cafe, saw flashes, and found out Donnie was there hugging everyone
  • Met Andrea and then shared a bed with her, from which we tweeted each other at 6 a.m.
  • Carried 38 cardboard boxes through Lord and Taylor while I looked for a headband that wasn't $34
  • Almost tripped over Donnie's piano bench before realizing the song he was playing was "I Need You" (Why? I have no idea.)
  • Were surrounded by tinsel
  • Were present for several "very serious messages"
  • Wrapped those 38 boxes with only one paper cutter between us
  • Heard both Jordan and Joe sing O Holy Night
  • Ran into Ricky Bell and Johnny Gill
  • Were attacked with run-by huggings from Donnie
  • Heard Coming Home performed for the first time
  • Saw several Christmas songs performed live, Jordan dressed as Santa, and the reappearance of Joe's gold sequined jacket
  • Watched Andrea dance with Jordan on stage (It's magic!)
  • Got the Full Service treatment with special guests New Edition (the ones who made it through the blizzard at least)
  • Got pics with each New Kid except Jordan, because I didn't want the flash to hurt his eyes
  • Found out Kevin was under the impression Elizabeth was 6'4"
  • Saw Joe, who not only knew who I was but immediately said "I still have your letter and think about your good ideas." (Me: "What letter?" Sigh.)
  • Amazed ourselves by leaving for the after party at 1 a.m., a time when we were usually sound asleep
  • Got hammered on one $11 drink at the after party
  • Stayed up all night laughing and looking at our photos
And now you know why the four of us refer to HOB as the "Best! Day! Ever!"

1. Getting to know my million sisters. The reason I have this blog, the reason why cruise 2010 was better than 2009, the reason why these memories are as good as they are is because I have shared these past two years with you. There's not one thing on this list I experienced without you, from the day of the May 2008 Today Show when I sent my first tweet to when the curtain closed at Radio City Saturday night. The kindness I have been shown by BHs is incredible. Nothing beats meeting someone in person when it feels like you already know everything about each other. People I've never met have asked me to share their fan passes for the Today Show, given me copies of rare mp3s, and sent me their vintage Joe posters because I'd lost mine.

The most generous kindess is what I was shown last summer, at the end of my mother's illness. In those dark weeks and months, I had a place to go to forget reality and smile. And during my worst times, I felt real love from a group of strangers who shared nothing with me but an affinity for the same band. For that, I cannot thank you enough.

The friends I have made in these last two years are now among the closest I have. They're the people I tell my secrets to. When they're happy I feel their joy and I cry with them when things get bad. If all of this were to end tomorrow, we'd still be a million sisters. You all have a special place in my heart.

Addendum: Thank you Jared : )

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

My Top 12 Moments of the Reunion (Thus Far): Part One

I warned you that even though the cruise is over, I was bound to blog from time to time, and don't you know that the time has arrived?

We don't know what's coming next, and I look forward to making more memories, but for now I wanted to capture what I consider my top 12 reunion memories. It was going to be a top 10, but 10 just wasn't enough.

Let's start with 12-7. 6-1 will come in the next post.

12. Long Island DVD Screening: Somewhere on my list of childhood daydreams had to have been going to the movies with NKOTB, and in January 2010, I got to. Better yet, the movie we were watching was about them and I got to see it a week before it hit store shelves.

There was also a thrill in the buildup to the screenings, although I probably appreciate it more now than I did then. I was convinced the closest screening to me would be in West Virginia (read: not in a place I had a hope of getting to) and had resigned myself to waiting for my copy in the mail to watch at home in my New Kids-free living room. When I saw that one of the theaters that had been selected was only 45 minutes away, I could hardly believe it, and when I got the email saying I could attend I was giddy. Being part of such a lucky select group made it even more special.
11. Holmdel Let's Get This Book Drive: June 2009 was a rough month. My mother was very very ill and I was going from Connecticut to Pennsylvania as much as I could. Originally, I was supposed to attend the Mohegan show on June 18 with my friend Myka, who I would be meeting for the first time. But I made a last minute decision to buy a ticket for the Holmdel show the weekend before too, even though I'd have to go by myself. It turned out to be the only Full Service show I saw, as I was called home to PA on June 17.

A week or so before the Holmdel show I was sitting in my mother's hospital room wondering if I would be lucky enough to be chosen as a LGT volunteer, and no sooner did the thought cross my mind than I received the invitation email. (One of my small thrills in life: seeing "Joe McIntyre" in my email inbox.) The day of the show was cold and the rain came down hard, but my co-volunteers and I became fast friends. Holmdel is especially notable because it's the closest I've ever come to having a sensible conversation with Joe, despite the fact that said conversation included me mentioning Shoshanna Bean.

10. Atlantic City Casi-NO tour: Last minute decisions are always the best, aren't they? It never occurred to me to buy tickets for AC when the tour went on sale. I had Miami. I had Radio City. I didn't need to fight Jersey shore traffic on Memorial Day weekend for another show, right? So I thought until the Wednesday before the Saturday show, when Elizabeth, Kim, and I decided to meet in exotic Atlantic CIty for one extra show. We met up with Jo there, and while the concert was good, the after party was better. It was the best show after party I've been to, which may have had something to do with seeing this guy.

9. May 16, 2008 Today Show: Yup, this is really #9. I double checked. They actually get better from here.

I had wanted to go to the very first Today Show on April 4, but I couldn't miss work because I had to teach a class that day. I decided then I wasn't going to miss the next one. Remember when we didn't know BHs were champion queuers? My friend and I had this idea that we were going to take the 5:30 a.m. train FRIDAY morning of the show and get there just before 7. Wednesday of that week I turned on the Today Show and found out people were already lining up. And then my friend had to go away for a family emergency and I was left going by myself, just as I decided Friday morning wasn't going to cut it.

The first Today Show taught me a lot. Like
  1. I could tell my husband I was going to go camp on the streets of New York and he would not think I was crazy.
  2. BHs are instant friends. While I was on the train to the city I saw two girls with camp chairs, introduced myself, and they adopted me immediately.
  3. New Kids attract rain.
This was also the day I opened my Twitter account so I could send updates to other fans.

The enormity of the moment didn't hit me until we were finally allowed into the plaza around 6:15 Friday. I walked around the building and saw all of NKOTB on stage together. It was like someone physically pushed me backwards. All my breath went out of me and it became real.
ktsummer Oh and when I came around the corner & saw them all, I almost fell over. It just hit me - WOW  via txt
Even though it was cold and wet and I could see very little through all of the flags, signs, and umbrellas, I wouldn't have missed it for the world. 

8. The Today Show That Wasn't. By the time the second Today Show rolled around, we all knew better than to show up the morning of. So for the September 1, 2008 show, I went in the afternoon before. At first, everything was going great. I was with a group of 4 friends. The sun was out. My husband still did not think sleeping on the street was crazy. We were golden. And then, a guy from NBC came out and told us the show had been canceled.

At first we thought he was a heckler. But as he explained Hurricane Gustav was worsening and the show was devoting all its time to news from the area, we knew he was serious. At the time, there were about 100 girls in line. Some had already been there two days. Others had come in by bus or plane and hadn't booked a place to stay, so there was a fair bit of panic in the crowd. (We were also disappointed, but everyone there understood the reason for the cancelation and agreed that story took priority.)

Within 10 minutes of telling us the show was canceled, NBC and the Plaza security started telling us to get out. Guards were removing the barriers and shooing us off the sidewalk. We said, "We can't leave. The New Kids are going to come here and see us." Every non-fan there thought we were bonkers, but personally, it never occurred to me that they wouldn't come. One guy said we had to leave or he was going to call and have us arrested. The NBC rep kept saying, "Girls, they're not coming. They're not coming." But we were insistent that no, the New Kids really were going to come there and see us. Finally the girls who needed time to make hotel or travel arrangements convinced NBC to allow us to stay for an hour while they made alternate plans.

Around 45 minutes later, a murmur rippled down the line that we were right, and that NKs really were on their way. I have never seen such fierce primping in my life. Makeup appeared as if by magic. After my last Today Show experience of being half drowned, I hadn't bothered doing a thing with myself, but I did change my pants in the middle of the street.

Danny, Jon, and Joe walked down the line, hugging, taking pics, and signing autographs with each girl. Later, after they had left, a Today Show employee told us that when they had picked the guys up from the airport, they insisted on coming straight down to the line, even before they checked in to their hotels.

"Your fans said you would come and none of us believed them," she said to them. "Our fans know us," she said they responded. "They know we're going to be there."

7. Hearing The Block for the First Time: Do you remember (or should I rewind)? I bet you can picture your first listen through The Block clear as day, just like I can. Diving into each track like it was a piece of chocolate cake and you hadn't eaten in weeks. Squeezing your eyes shut so you could hear each voice, each note. Gasping a little when you heard how the lyrics had changed since the "oh oh oh oh" days. Being overcome when you realized this was real. It was 2008 and you were experiencing a brand new NKOTB album. They were together. It was happening. And it was just beginning.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Top 5s of 2010

So I've recapped each day of the cruise, but I haven't wrapped up the whole thing. The best way I could think to do that was two lists: most improved between 2009 and 2010 and top five moments overall. Would love to hear what topped your lists too!

Most Improved Since 2009:

5. Overall energy: Was it just me, or did the whole vibe of the fans seem better this year? I chalk it up to the explosion of Twitter. Last cruise, I knew only a handful of people. This year, it was like everyone on the boat was friends. Maybe I'm just lucky, but I did not meet with a single unpleasant person.

4. Photo op: The 2009 photo op was not ideal for several reasons, one being the severe rockiness of the boat, which obviously could not be controlled. Also I was incredibly hungover and worried I may throw up on a New Kid, but that was not a universal problem. This year the line moved more smoothly, it was easier to arrange ourselves without trying to squeeze between five chairs, and the photographer took two shots instead of one. Plus, we got the pictures more than twice as fast and didn't have to pay for a hi-res download.

3. Deck parties: Every NK participated in the deck parties this year, most of them every night. With the change in VIP set up, most people weren't craning their necks to see nothing but a dark party. The guys really put on a show. They also participated in the themes. Helloooooo tuxedos!
2. Beach day: Last year, I had a great time exploring Nassau, but it paled in comparison to beach day at Half Moon Cay. For starters, Joe wasn't walking around with his shirt off all day in Nassau.

1. Assigned seating: Hands down the biggest and best change of cruise 2010. I easily spent half my time in 2009 waiting in line. I missed eating in the dining room, going down the waterslide, and seeing all the doors. Plus, it caused a lot of fights. (The only fight I heard of in 2010 was in the line for the back rub. Coincidence?)

My favorite moments of cruise 2010:

5. Floating in the waters of Half Moon Cay: Is there a better way to spend a day than drifting in crystal clear Caribbean waters? Yes, if you are sharing the waters with New Kids and/or watching other New Kids limbo on shore.

4. The sort of game show: Jordan being endlessly amused by a microphone? Earl and Armando doing the Soul Train line? Jon talking about Tiffany and man pipes? I don't see Alex Trebek doing that.

3. Open bar:
I love c@ruise! 1:24 AM May 15th via twidroid 

2. Jon's mini concert: I could hardly believe my eyes. And then I couldn't believe them for 20 more minutes. Everyone on the boat had a smile a mile wide the whole time he was singing.

1. Joe's piano bar singalong: Even though I only saw half of it and was in the far back corner of the lounge, this was the ultimate highlight of the cruise for me. It was so relaxed and casual but still amazing. I had tears when I was stuck outside with my ear pressed to the glass, and then I had them again when I actually got inside. I wish every Joe girl on the boat could have been in that room.

Well cruisers, I think that's it for me for cruise blogs. Never say never, maybe I'll find something to write about now and then. And it's very likely I'll write something non-cruise related every once in a while. Thanks for reading, and thanks to everyone who said hi on the cruise. I hope to see you again on a future NK adventure.