It's hard to be a fan

Speech #11 - August 28, 2008

Folks that know me well know that I'm a big Todd Rundgren fan, and are probably tired of hearing it. Folks that know me less well probably say "Todd Who?" Or maybe, "Isn't he that crazy guitarist that likes to shoot guns." No, that's Ted Nugent. Or, "Isn't he that Swedish guy that was in Rocky IV?" "No," I say patiently, "that's Dolph Lundgren." Or, even "Wasn't he the Attorney General of California?" "No," I reluctantly reply, "that's Dan Lungren." But I perk up, because this gives me an opportunity to "educate" them. "Surely," I say, "you've heard the song Hello, It's Me? Or perhaps, I Saw The Light? We Gotta Get You A Woman? Bang the Drum All Day?" Sometimes, even then, not a hint of recognition. It's a common scenario for the fan of someone considered a "cult" artist. And like any "cult" it's our duty, nay, sworn responsibility, to "convert" new fans to the cause.

And for those of you with that blank look, here's the scoop. Todd Rundgren is a musical artist who has had success since the late 1960's and enjoys a fair amount of success today. So now, with that brief indoctrination, I will assume you've now heard of Todd Rundgren. After all, I just mentioned his name, and hopefully you're listening. But I'm not here today to "convert" anyone. In fact, I'm here to relate an incident that shook my very faith to the core.

Last spring, I received an invitation to a special event: a week long celebration of Todd Rundgren's 60th birthday at his home on the island of Kauai. Food and a camp space were provided. Just had to get there.

I didn't have to think about it long. We made our reservation and soon we were heading off to "Toddstock." We flew out of San Francisco, and after a one hour delay due to "mechanical problems" (a term I don't like to hear) they shuffled us off to another gate and plane, and my wife and I were in the air.

Five hours later, we arrived in Lihue airport and awaited the delivery of our baggage. Hers came, and I waited. And I waited. And I waited. Nothing. We checked with the baggage folks and they found it, back in San Francisco! I had nothing but the clothes on my back until they were able to deliver it the next day. Oh, well. Another minor bump. The delay was bringing us into our final destination an hour later than expected, so I called ahead to tell the caretaker. "That's OK, we leave the house unlocked." Okay....

We got our rental car, received directions to get out of the airport, and promptly took a wrong turn. So I turned around, and took the second of three possibilities. Wrong again. OK, ocean's on the right. Looks like we're heading in the right direction. The speed limit changed every 100 feet or so it seemed. Forty-five minutes later, we arrived at our destination and we needed to find our cottage. Again, a challenge in the dark. Down at the end of a dirt road, on the left, we were told. Here's one that matches the description, but it's on the right. It could be green, but we can't really tell in the dark. We parked, walked up to the house and went in, not sure if we were at the right place, or we were walking into someone's home. No signs, no address. How long before someone with a shotgun shoos us away? We finally convinced ourselves that we were in the right place, and settled in for some sleep.

I had no choice but to sleep in my clothes, because my entire week's wardrobe was in SAN FRANCISCO. But I was tired, so I fell asleep pretty quickly. Until 3 AM, when the roosters started crowing. Roosters! What, am I on a farm?

Well, between fits of sleep and the roosters predicting the sun's rise in four hours, I finally dragged myself out of bed around 7 AM. I put on my grungy clothes from the night before, and we readied ourselves to go over to Todd's house for our first Toddstock breakfast. A gentle rain was falling outside, creating a nice refreshing morning. Things were improving. Right.

The instructions given me for finding Todd's house were summed up as "We are the next street over, about a mile." Simple enough. I had looked it up on Google and was pretty confident we'd find it. Only a mile, we'll take a nice walk over.

Out on the highway, traffic was light and it took us only a little bit to get to the "next street over." Light rain continued to fall, and we wished we had our umbrellas, but they were in my suitcase, which was, did I mention it? BACK IN SAN FRANCISCO!

We turned on Todd's street, and began to look for the estate, littered, we supposed, with tents and campers ready to party for the week, easy to pick out from a distance. We walked, and walked, and walked some more. The rain fell, and fell, and fell some more. We were both soaked, so I decided to save some time and run ahead to see what I could find. I got to the end of the street, and no Toddstock to be found. I turned around and headed back, only to discover that my wife had also turned around, and was heading back to the cottage. I caught up, and we pretty much decided that we were miserable, and maybe this was a big mistake in coming to Hawaii at all. If only I had a number to call to get better directions. Oh, yeah, I did. But this time, no excuses of it being in SAN FRANCISCO. It was back in the cottage "only a mile away."

We got back and grabbed towels to dry off. My wife at least got to change her clothes, and I borrowed a dry T-shirt from her. My brand new shoes, barely broken in, had rubbed a sore on my toe. We called and got new direction. "Oh, make a right turn from the highway, not a left turn? But can you do me a favor first. Check on our friend in the next cottage. She hurt her back last night, and can't get back here. We'd like to know if she's OK." Alright, we can do that. So I go over to the cottage, only to discover a woman sunning herself completely in the nude! She quickly wrapped a towel around her, and we discovered this was the friend. Yes, she'd like us to bring her back some food.

OK, in the car this time. "One mile" turned out to be three and a half, but we had finally arrived. Let's eat! Oh, breakfast is over. There's some leftover fruit, and a bit of bacon. Ok, we'll take it. We took it back to the cottage, fed our new friend, and for now, things began looking up. Oh, still no clothes. I called the airport. "They'll arrive around noon and be delivered in the afternoon." OK, I wrapped myself in a towel, dumped my still damp clothes in the local dryer and waited. And waited. My clothes were dry. Still, I waited. Finally, five PM and I had my suitcase. All was right with the world.

Until three days later, when we lost our rental car keys. But there's not enough time for that story. Would I ever travel to a Todd event again? You bet! I'm leaving this afternoon to go to Vegas for two Todd shows this weekend. It may be hard to be a fan, but I'm a fan to the end.

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