This isn’t a short story. This happened.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
December 13, 2000
Woke up, fell out of bed.
December in England is NO JOKE.
Especially half-naked in the dark. My bare feet hit the freezing floor and I bumbled around, trying to gather clothes and wits. What the hell do you wear to meet Paul McCartney?
I grabbed a miniskirt, turtleneck, tights, Mary Janes, makeup bag, and tiptoed to the door tired as hell.
My boyfriend stirred, stretched, then threw off the covers.
“What’re you doing?” I whispered, hand on the doorknob. I tried to be quiet.
“I’m going with you,” he stood, pulling on his trousers.
Well this was unexpected! Christopher wasn’t a fan. Like, at all. Not that he was anti-Beatle or anything. He was just more a Lightnin’ Hopkins kinda guy — I really hadn’t intended to bother him with this.
“You’re eventually going to need the loo.” He pulled on his shirt, sweater, coat. “Someone’s got to guard your place in line.” He slapped on a cap.
I stood there, shocked.
“Well, get dressed, girl. You can’t go out like that!”
Two of Us.
Suburban north London is silent in the wee hours. We held hands alongside our breath under yellow lamplight. I can’t remember if we took a train or night bus or what. I just knew I was on my way to meet
James Paul freaking McCartney.
There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to convey what Beatle music means to me nor express the positive ongoing impact it’s had In My Life. You’re just gonna have to trust me.
But how did a little Texan get stuck on The Beatles in 1986?
Long story short:
I wanted to watch The Exorcist.
Dad: You’re 10. You’re not watching The Exorcist.
Me: I can handle it.
Dad: Tell you what. I’ll let you watch it, but (long pause as he digs thru VHS tapes extracting one I didn’t recognize) you gotta watch this first.
A black & white from 1964 sounded as awesome as chewing on foil.
—but I wanted to watch The Exorcist, so I agreed.
He popped in A Hard Day’s Night, and ten minutes in, I was desperately, hopelessly, madly, in love in Paul McCartney.
–and I’ve been riding the McCartney train ever since.
(Thanks, Dad. The Beatle industry thanks you, too.)
Anyway, back to London.
I was 24 then. Living with a fairly conservative boyfriend, who tolerated my Beatle preoccupation from an affectionate distance. I also waited tables at an Alsatian Bistro in Islington. It was there I got the call whilst making a cappuccino.
“Sir Paul’s going to be at Waterstone’s signing his book, Jenny. You should go.”
“I’m at work, Simon.” (insert swirly steamy noise) “Wait. What book?”
“I dunno,” Simon said. “But you should go.”
Absolutely not was my immediate thought.
Lifelong fan? Yes.
Apple Scruff? No.
“Can we talk about this later, Sy? I’m working.”
I’d already decided not to go. Loitering groupie wasn’t my style.
But then I arrived home to a newspaper clipping tacked to my bedroom door.
‘FIRST-EVER BOOK SIGNING FOR PAUL McCARTNEY AT WATERSTONE’S, PICCADILLY!!’
World’s grumpiest flat mate–coincidentally named Paul– who barely spoke to me, wanted to ensure I saw this.
Oh, please don’t do this to me, Universe.
Did I love the Beatles and adore Paul?
Is the Pope Catholic?
Does Dolly Parton sleep on her back?
Understatement wrapped up and tied with other understatements.
Stored on understatement shelf
Yet standing in a swelling queue with a thousand squealing fans was not appealing at ALL. Don’t misunderstand — the thought of meeting him, gazing in those lashy doe eyes, thanking him for a lifetime of cosmic musical happy AND getting an autograph was (is) swoon level a million. — But bobbing in a sea of people all hoping to relay the same thing sounded –I dunno– depressing. And chaotic. And, well. No, thank you. Maybe I’d just write him a letter one day. Or Something.
Not sure what made me change my mind.
Because there I was a few days later, scrambling to Picadilly Circus in the middle of the night with poor, gallant, prolly regretting his choices Christopher. Heart pounding, freezing cold. Allowing myself to believe this was actually happening.
We approached Waterstone’s.
The line was already around the corner!
A real fan would’ve been there Yesterday or at minimum The Night Before, you chide.
Perhaps. But we were still super early and I could still see the end of the line. So, nyuh.
But then it started drizzling.
Rain, I don’t mind.
Ok, maybe I minded a little bit.
Christopher was a God-send. He popped his collar to the slanting rain, running back and forth between double deckers and black cabs to deliver steaming cups of sanctity to not only me, but our queue mates. Multiple times. The waiting wasn’t So Bad, Because it’s easy to make friends with Beatle people.
1. feel Beatle music in their cellular walls.
2. don’t entertain silly questions like “Beatles or Rolling Stones?”
3. can define “Apple Scruff.”
4. watch Beatle movies in lieu of therapy.
5. eat cupcakes on October 9th, February 25th, July 7th, and June 18th.
6. light candles on December 8th and November 29th.
7. support all post-Beatle careers.
8. take pilgrimages to Liverpool.
9. number 9. number 9. number 9.
Yes. Everyone shared stories with chattering teeth. I told them about the time I made a bunch of 4th graders watch HELP! at a slumber party. We laughed, shivered, and occasionally sang. I love that about Beatle people. Age gaps and foreign languages mean nothing. We ALWAYS feel kindred over our favorite songs. And therein lies the magic. I’m telling you– We can acheive world peace at the right concert.
Lift up your hearts and sing me a song.
Only two hours away from meeting a quarter of the best band in the history of the universe ever! Be still my beating heart! And stomach! And pancreas! I stepped out of line MANY TIMES to count the heads in front of us and gauge time til we’d meet him. We were roughly 120 in line and Paul would be there from 2-3pm signing autographs. By my calculations my book would be under his pen around 2:45. The folks behind us were elated to learn Christopher wasn’t actually in line, therefore nudging them up an inch.
Waiting for the van to come.
My face and hands were ice blocks. My mind spinning a million frosty thoughts. What would I say when he saw me standing there?
Heart: Oh, Paul. Thank you so much for your music! You’ve no idea how much–
Head: Oh, please. Of course he has an idea! Like no one’s told him that in the last 40 years. LAME. Try again.
Heart: I’ve loved you since I was 9! For reals! I’m 24 now. And I still think you’re the most beautiful man on the planet!
Heart: Jen-ni-fer. Yes, two Ns. And please will you sign it ‘All My Loving, Paul’ cos that’s one of my favorite songs.
Head: Yes. Walk up and be PUSHY. He’d love that.
Heart: Thank you for the autograph! Can we sing a few quick lines of
Mother Natures Son? I made up this harmony–
Head: Are you trying to get arrested?
Heart: You’re a butthole.
Head: Cerebellum, actually. And just be quiet. Smile. Say ‘thank you’ for the music, be grateful you met him. And keep walking.
Head: No one likes a spaz.
He would be there from 2-3 and it was almost 2.
A t.v. crew approached and pulled me out of line.
“Why are you here?” They stuck a microphone under my nose. “Do you like Paul McCartney’s art?”
Was that some sort of trick question?
Did I risk hypothermia for my resume?
Let me tell you. Trying to sum up a lifetime of Beatle appreciation with a microphone under one’s nose in the freezing rain is no easy feat. I remember giving a sarcastic answer. So much so, the camera guy’s eyes widened. Don’t be asking me silly questions, Associated Press.Why am I here.
Oh God oh God. This was it. P to the A to the U to the L. The weather hadn’t eased, but the crowd wasn’t phased. In fact, the line gained at least a thousand people in the last few hours and now wrapped around several city blocks. People were jiggling. Cold and excited. Nervous and happy. Men. Women. Clutching copies of Paul’s book “Paintings,” all eager for the author’s signature.
” ‘Scuse me, mate?” Some guy tapped Christopher on the arm. “I’ll give a hundred quid for your place in line.” He offered two fifty pound notes.
I don’t remember what Christopher said, but it was something like “I’d love to take your money, mate. But I don’t think there’s enough in the world to pay her off.”
No sign of him yet. We stretched our necks to look down the street. No one dared step out of line to ask questions. It was already past 2. He was only gonna be there til 3.
Where was he? Didn’t he have to get inside and get set up? Maybe he hit traffic. Maybe he stopped for a coffee. Maybe I’m Amazed I’m about to meet Paul McCartney.
Anytime At All.
I started feeling nervous. What if he didn’t show. What if this book signing was just a marketing ploy. Something to raise attention for Paintings. The crowd was restless now, our energy fading. We were cold, tired, and hungry. Adrenaline can only carry you so far. Maybe he–
People started cheering.
I looked around.
We all looked around.
A limousine pulled up to the curb and I think maybe I stopped breathing a little. I know my heart did something gymnastic. Oh God. Oh God. Paul freaking rock-and-roll deity McCartney was about to get out of that car and that’s it. I was gonna collapse on the cold, wet, pavement in a puddle of joy. Someone would have to scrape me up with spatula and carry me inside for my autograph.
You know I believe and how.
Our part of the line was still around the corner from the entrance so I didn’t see him enter the building. But the screams confirmed his presence. Thank you Simon for letting me know about this. Thank you grumpy flatmate for clipping that article. Thank you universe for aligning I should be in London right now. Thank you God for minor chords and middle eights and the magical pre-war water in Liverpool. Thank you Dad for making me watch A Hard Day’s Night. Thank you William the Conqueror for–
I said, move over once. Move over twice.
We inched forward slowly and finally turned the corner! It Won’t Be Long ! I wasn’t waiting so much as floating. A man came out of the building and told us how we were to behave inside. I didn’t feel cold anymore. Or tired. Or hungry. I asked Christopher if my lip gloss looked okay. The number of heads in front of us got smaller and smaller as they Let ‘Em In the building. I think people started singing Beatle songs. Excitement bubbled above our heads like steam from the Mad-Hatter’s tea party. We inched forward. Less than 100 feet from the door now!
It’s all too much.
“Maybe we should’ve taken that bloke’s money, Jenny,” Christopher said gently.
“He’ll stay longer.” I stared at glass doors, willing it to be true. It was warm in there. And Paul was inside. Signing autographs. We’d been standing outside roughly 12 hours. Only 20 people in front of us. TWENTY. “Nearly there,” I whispered, shivering. Watching the doors
–that suddenly burst open.
Then screams again.
The crowd swelled en masse, pulling away from the wall.
I grabbed Christopher’s arm.
What was happening.
“Is it 3?” I looked around. “It’s not 3, is it?”
I couldn’t catch anyone’s eyes. No one listened. All attentions focused on someone being ushered from the building.
People bumped into me.
Jumping in the air.
Yelling his name.
My periphery swirled in violent, hi-def ferocity.
Post-millineal Beatle mania.
I tried holding onto the wall.
Head: Told you not to come.
Heart: But he was supposed to stay a whole hour.
10 feet in front of me. Corners of his eyes crinkling in a smile.
Wooshed to his car by handlers.
Peace-signing to the girl waving a “Go Veggie!” sign.
He was leaving?!
He wasn’t going to sign my book?
It wasn’t 3 yet!
I should’ve arrived earlier.
People swarmed his car.
I felt floaty. Confused. Nauseous. Short of breath. My belly clenched in warning.
15 years Beatle Love + (12 hours adrenaline – gut wrenching dissapointment) =
RIGHT as The Sun snapped its front page picture for the next day’s paper, I bent over. Let me take you down, cos I’m going to puke.
Nothing actually came out. But still.
If someone finds that picture (I couldn’t) I’ll point out the side of Christopher’s head. You Won’t See Me. I was doubled over in probably the loserest moment of my young adult life.
Christopher walk/carried me to the nearest caff, positioned me in a booth where I stared at the wall for about an hour.
I Should’ve Known Better.
This is why groupie life wasn’t, isn’t, –and would never be– for me. My tender little heart wasn’t conditioned for this level of disappointment. Not to mention the dignity quotient’s (severely) lacking. Just leave me belly down in bed with my pen and manuscripts listening to Band on the Run. Seriously.
Christopher ran back to to Waterstone’s to see if they had signed copies to sell.
That was 16 years ago.
Paintings still sits on my shelf, unsigned.
January 29, 2016
I’m not particularly proud of this story. Definitely one of my top three suckiest days ever. Plus it paints me a little shallow. BUT. It was a pivotal day In My Life and I’m all about writing those down.
What did I learn from this experience?
I’m going to Liverpool next week with my Lennon-loving bestie, courtesy of my
who married me anyway.
Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!