This happened a few years ago...but I'd never written the story. Thought it was time.
Here's to more serendipity...
My grandmother used to say that I lived a charmed life. I don’t agree. I do believe that I live life with my eyes and ears wide open, and when you live that way, you see, hear and take the possibilities presented that the average joe often misses. One of my favorite stories to illustrate this started on a layover at LAX:
I was on my way to Seattle with my (then) husband and two daughters. Ten minutes before boarding, the gate agent announced that the flight had been overbooked and they were looking for someone to take the first flight out the following morning. The reward: dinner, hotel for the night, and two round trip tickets anywhere in the continental US. As a frequent flying instrument toting troubadour (and not one to take free airfare lightly), I exchanged a knowing glance with my husband and darted to the counter to be first in line for the swag. As I watched my family board the flight to Seattle without me, I manage to hide my smile and excitement at the possibility of spending an evening with my best friend, who happened to live in LA.
After five unanswered calls to my friend Mel, I finally received the disappointing text: “on a date”, and started thinking in terms of a Plan B. I remembered that one of my East Coast songwriter friends had recently made the move West to pursue a dual career as songwriter/comic. I texted Eric: “what’s shakin tonight? bumped off flight. here till morning”. Five minutes later, Eric texted back: “at party near airport. take cab to addy. call when u get here. meet out front”.
Fifteen minutes later, I was paying my cab fare and hugging Eric hello. Before we entered the house, Eric said, “I should warn you, this isn’t your typical party. Just be cool, and act like you belong”. We made our way through the house and ended up in the backyard where the party was happening. Eric, never one to shy away from the spotlight, made a general announcement to anyone listening, “Hey everybody, this is my songwriter friend, Cary, from Texas. She was recently cast on a TV docu-drama about Texas songwriters. She deserted her family at LAX to spend the night with us. Make her feel welcome”, and then left me to the masses to fend for myself.
As I surveyed the yard, I started to see a few familiar faces. Holding court in one corner, wearing Pippi Longstocking-style red and white striped socks with green Chucks and an equally colorful but totally clashing tunic, was Roseanne Barr. She waved hello and said “Hey Texas”. Sitting at a picnic table, deep in a cell phone conversation with her teenage daughter, was Laraine Newman. When she hung up, she came over and introduced herself and we talked about the angsty joy of raising teenage girls. At the other end of the picnic table, Paul Provenza was in the middle of a heated debate with several staff writers from Worldwide Pants. A woman named Kelly approached me with a warm hug saying, “Welcome to my crazy house. I hope you can stomach my crazy friends.” As she walked away, a cigarette-smoking stranger leaned over and said, “That’s Kelly Carlin. George’s daughter.”
As the night progressed in this surreal scene, I found myself, the stranded songwriter from Texas, at the center of buzz and activity. Everyone wanted to hear my story. Why had I deserted my family? How did I know Eric? What was happening in Seattle? What kind of songs do I write? When does my TV show come out? Will I sing for them?
The last question I didn’t take seriously, until Eric reappeared with my ukulele and said,
“It’s not everyday that you get the opportunity to entertain a crowd like this. I’d take it if I were you…” So I found myself singing my little ditties to a circle of new friends who seemed to be hanging on my every word, asking for more each time I finished a tune. After many business cards were exchanged (apparently that’s what you do at parties in LA), Eric drove me to my hotel where we discussed the best way to break the news of the evening’s events to my exhausted husband who’d spent his evening schlepping bags and kids in Seattle. After agreeing that I might want to “play it down” a bit in the retelling, he hugged me and drove off down the proverbial sunset strip.
This kind of thing happens to me a lot. Being in the right place at the right time; but more importantly, being AWARE of being in the right place at the right time. I engage people. I ask the right questions. I find out what I need to know to open the door that needs to open. I should be a reporter. I have no doubt I’d make a damned good one.