Picture it: Buffalo. Dec. 9, 1993.
I’m in sixth grade and on cloud nine. We’re rushing home from Hebrew school on a rainy Thursday night.
The Janet World Tour with Tony! Toni! Toné! is just an hour away, and there’s plenty to do: drop off the carpool, rush home, down dinner, rush back out. The Aud awaits; two seats, red section.
But at 6:35 p.m., the mood is ceremoniously somber. News has broken.
Janet’s sister, Latoya, has held a press conference (improbably, in Tel Aviv) in which she says that she believes her brother Michael is a child molester. Shockwaves. Scandal. The Jacksons are in disarray.
But back to me. (I’m 11.)
Hours after news of LaToya’s announcement breaks, Janet announces she’s come down with the flu. And then another Janet – Ms. Snyder, if you’re nasty – announces the inevitable over the radio.
How could this be? I had waited all spring and all summer and all fall for this day. My “janet.” CD grew scratches, love marks from repeat playings. I followed Kurt Loder and Tabitha Soren’s tour updates on MTV News. This was supposed to be my night. I’d begged my mother to (advance me cash to) let me buy tickets.
We were all ready.
But the carpool is gone now. I rethink my investment on the crawl home. It’s raining out, and the feeling is mutual. This is what disappointment feels like. This is what adults go through, and stomach, and deal with, and eventually relinquish for more serious concerns, because there’s work to do and it’s only a concert. I realize this, of course. Life will go on, but how good will it feel?
My brother opens the garage door with an understanding look on his face. You’d have thought someone died. Only a child’s dream. He and mom handle me like villagers comforting the bereaved. We eat our meal slowly.
Afterward, I imagine, I’ll go upstairs for a silent bath and early retirement. Homework is done; I finished it at lunch. There are no more songs to sing, no more choreographic moves to practice in the privacy of my own bedroom. If I had been into sports, this would have been a monumental loss – my own private Wide Right.
But my mom smiles, halfway through her chicken. We’re going for a drive after dinner, she tells me. I say no. It’s too late for Plan B. But back into the rain, we go.
I don’t remember the drive, but I knew it felt refreshing. If I was to glean any wisdom from this experience, it’s that to get excited about something – a big concert, a school-night escapade, a chance run-in with a celebrity crush – is a joyous and important thing to give yourself. It doesn’t matter if you’re 11 or 35, if it costs $30 or $300. (Does it matter if it costs $500? Asking for a friend.) If it matters to you, make it happen. Savor the wait. Make it count.
And when things go bust, find a way to pivot.
The Maple Ridge 8 was quiet, even for a Thursday night. Mom buys two tickets to “Mrs. Doubtfire” and a bucket of popcorn, extra butter. We’ve never gone to the movies on a weeknight. In its own way, this is big, too.
It works. Dude looks like a lady. Never fails.
Mom turns to me. Don’t worry, she says. She’ll be back.
This wasn’t our first concert fiasco, if you consider the rained-out Paula Abdul concert at Pilot Field a loss. I’ve grown past the temporary depression that befell me on that December night (and as an adult, certainly appreciate the seriousness of LaToya’s announcement, all things relative) but this much is still true: I still get excited, and I still call my friends, and I still might scream a little in my bedroom, and to this day, right up until lights finally go down in the arena or stadium, I still get nervous that it might all be taken away.
Cross your fingers for me. On Saturday night, I’m finally – I think – going to see Janet Jackson, and I just can’t wait.
That’s the way love goes.
Concert is 8 p.m. Nov. 4 in KeyBank Center. Tickets are $39.95 to $125.95 (box office, Tickets.com).