Friday, December 31, 2010

It Meant Everything - Tribute to The Nadas

While I was a student at Iowa State University, almost everyone else was regularly spending their Friday nights at People's Bar & Grill to see Ames' favorite band, The Nadas, perform. I didn't realize this. I was probably sitting on the couch next to Sam's dad watching football or sleeping through a baseball game.

Later, when I was going through my divorce and suddenly found myself twenty-seven, single and childless every-other weekend, I discovered The Nadas. It was a momentous occasion, actually. The night it was set to turn 2000, I decided I wanted to do something memorable. I'd read that The Nadas were hosting a New Year's Eve Party at the Hotel Fort Des Moines. I made up my mind to go. But, I had trouble finding anyone to go with me.

I called several friends who declined for various reasons. Thankfully, my friend, Tracey, took pity on me. She left her kind husband, Jim, home with her sweet kids, Jessie and Matthew, put on a gold sweater and braved the weather to accompany me to the party.

When we first arrived and were walking up the stairs, I noticed a handsome, interesting-looking man going down the stairs. At the party, Tracey and I had fun talking and hanging out, milling around, checking out the scene. There was that guy again. I pointed him out and Tracey encouraged me to go talk to him.

He was kind. He told me he was recording the show, on video, for The Nadas, who were friends of his. It turned out we had been at Iowa State at the same time, in the same department. As a child, he had visited the San Francisco Bay Area with his family and decided he wanted to live there (just like me.) He lived there at the time. I was intrigued.

I went back and hung out with Tracey for awhile longer. She said she wanted to be home to ring in the New Year with Jim. She didn't want to leave me alone but I was having fun at the party and wasn't ready to go yet. It was easy to blend into the large crowd of people dancing and celebrating.

I walked Tracey out then came back in and saw him. He smiled at me. Later, when they were getting ready to count down to midnight, some guy I didn't know and wasn't interested in turned to me. Just then, the guy I liked arrived with a bottle of champagne.

It was like something out of a movie. When the clock struck midnight, he kissed me. Then, he told me that he was invited to perform a few songs with the band. He invited me to join him backstage. I happily agreed.

Afterwards, we went to the band's after-party party. It was so much fun. The guy introduced me to his best friend (who had a young son who was close to Sam's age (Sam was two)) and I met an amazing percussionist who was also kind.

The guy was around for the weekend. We hung out a time or two more before he left town. The romance continued via phone, email and music we shared. He'd given me three Nadas CDs. I listened to them by myself and imagined the words were intended for me.

"We've got the world to see, you and me."
"I miss you."
"I could tell by her sweet smile, she was a very nice girl."

I was in love.

During the time we were "dating" The Nadas put out a new CD, Coming Home. Even though he was back in California, the guy encouraged me to go to the CD release party.

I went & had a very fun time at the Val Air Ballroom in Des Moines. (Co-worker pictured, not "the guy.")

The next day, I had tickets to go to the Iowa State men's basketball game, at Hilton Coliseum, in Ames. I'd planned to take Sam with me to the game. We headed up to Ames a bit early to spend some time on campus. We ended up at People's for lunch. The Nadas happened to be setting up for that night's Coming Home CD Release Party in Ames. They went out of their way to greet us & be kind. I remember the percussionist calling Sam a monkey (in a good way).

Mike Butterworth, of the Nadas invited me to come to that night's show. When I said I didn't have a babysitter, he said he could find one if I wanted to come to the show. I thought that was incredibly kind but didn't really think I would take him up on the offer. But, after exploring campus for awhile, I called him & said that if the offer still stood, I'd love to come to the show.

He made a few phone calls then explained that the person who had been their sound guy would be happy to babysit Sam so I could come to the show. I expressed surprise that the sound guy didn't want to come to the show. Mike explained that the sound guy was sick of the show. I got the sound guy's address & went over there w/Sam.

I wasn't sure I was going to actually leave Sam w/someone I didn't know but when we got there, I just felt completely comfortable & was confident Sam would be fine & have a good time. So, I left him & went to the party. It was great.

Before Valentine's Day, the guy I'd met on New Year's Eve, who had introduced me to these fascinating people, was interested in moving on. He thought he had a chance to have a relationship w/someone he liked a lot. I was disappointed but understood.

I kept going to Nadas' shows. I kept asking people to go with me. Often, my friends were home w/their husbands & I went alone. The ad agency where I was working was throwing a pep rally for the city of Des Moines. We discussed having The Nadas be part of that party. My "Coming Home" cd was taken to the client meeting where they pitched the idea. The client agreed wholeheartedly. The Nadas performed at the event & were asked to write a song for the pep rally, for Des Moines. They did. It was great.

In the meantime, I'd been offered a job in St. Louis. Sam & I moved there that fall. Once, when Sam was in Iowa, visiting his dad, I drove to Carbondale, Illinois to go to a concert by another band, a group who'd toured w/the Nadas. I was lonely & looking for something familiar, looking for kindness. I met my friend, Melissa Rose Ziemer that night. (She would later play a role in my meeting Cam.)

A year after leaving Des Moines, I was back, living & working there w/Sam. Again, my friends were busy w/their families. Again, The Nadas were playing shows, having parties. Again, I was invited to be part of the audience. My job at the time took me to Chicago about once a month. I was able to see The Nadas play in Chicago once or twice. I hoped it wasn't weird to keep going to their shows but their music is meaningful to me & I was so thankful to have something fun & social to do. I kept going.

Recently, I had a chance to tell Mike Butter-
worth about how Sam & I moved to Chicago when Sam was 6 years old, how we met my husband, Cameron, there & how the three of us moved to San Francisco/Marin County, California when Sam was nine. Mike said, Sounds like a fairytale :)

While it does seem like one sometimes, there were lots of hard times along the way. I greatly appreciate the light The Nadas shown on those dark times. They helped me get through. I tell this story because I want The Nadas to know how much their music, their show can mean to people.

On one of their live CDs, when a reporter asked them what the band's name, The Nadas, means, they answered, "It means NOTHING." I want them to know that for this single mom who was trying to find herself, searching for happiness, "It meant EVERYTHING."