Lately, I’ve been watching a lot of “Touched by an Angel”. There’s a Christian channel that shows re-runs, and sometimes does marathons. I TiVo it, and like to watch it before work, or sometimes at the end of a long day – it just lifts my spirits. Usually, I like fast-forward through the commercials (isn’t that why TiVo was invented?), but sometimes I just let it play. There are these little segments that run where people talk about how they’ve been “touched by an angel” in their lives, and it got me thinking about moments when I have personally felt the presence of God – or an angel.
On the show, the character of Monica used to work in Search and Rescue – she’d swoop in and push a child out of the way of a car, catch someone as they fell off the roof, guide a sleepy pilot, etc. And when I watch the show, and hear a reference to Search and Rescue, I can’t help but recall the time I had an angel on my side.
It was fall of 2001. Davy Jones was playing at the Vermont State Fair in Rutland. Being a huge Monkees fan, I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale. I even convinced my friend Erin to go with me. I didn’t sleep much the night before – I was way too excited. I was also, for some insane reason, sleeping in my hardwood floor. I think I was on the floor because I was in the process of getting ready to move, so I had a ton of crap on my bed. Or I was just in a weird phase. Those happen often.
I woke up at a ridiculously early hour – like 3 am or some nonsense. Once awake, I grabbed my copy of Shoeless Joe and read until finished. I then decided to futz around on the internet (dial-up, yo. Old school.), and finally it was time to go.
I picked up Erin, and we jammed out to the Monkees from Lebanon to Rutland. Once at the fair, we hit up the death-trap rides, junky fair food, and local artist tables. I had brought a record for Davey to sign with me, but it wound up staying in the car because I figured I probably wouldn’t be lucky enough to meet him. I also didn’t want it to be crushed on the Tilt-a-Whirl.
Once the concert seating opened up, Erin and I bounced into our seats. I was pleasantly surprised to see she was pretty excited for the show. Not as excited as I was, but also not giving off a “forced to be here” vibe. Before The Man took the stage, a woman came out to welcome us to the show. She also announced that Mr. Jones would be staying to sign autographs (but not to pose for pictures) after the show. Well, shoot. I should have brought that record in after all. Oh, well.
The concert was amazing. Say what you will about The Monkees –they were actors playing musicians, they couldn’t play their own instruments – they are all in fact honest-to-goodness musicians and showmen, Mr. Jones not excluded. I was thoroughly entertained, as was Erin.
It’s all a bit of a blur, and I don’t remember much about the show itself (aside from the spin Davey did during the chorus of “A Little bit Me”, and how we all turned into squeeing fangirls when he busted out his trademark maracas), but alas, I will forever remember what happened after the show.
We stood in line for autographs. His “people” were kind enough to provide 8x10 headshots for autographs at no charge. I grabbed one, and rehearsed what I wanted to say to this man I had waited the bulk of my lifespan to meet. I believe it was to go something like this:
“That was an incredible show. I’ve been a fan for my whole life, and I think it is wonderful for you to stay and sign autographs like this. You’re amazing.”
When I finally stepped up to the table, seeing this idol from my youth, my mind had a minor malfunction. My eloquent, thoughtful, well-rehearsed speech turned into this:
“Hi. That was an awesome show. And this is… awesome. You’re just so… awesome.” Can you tell I’m a child of the ‘80s? With a “you’re crazy, so I’ll just keep smiling” thank you, I was pushed aside for the next person. I stammered a “Thank you so much!”, turned around, and proceeded to trip over the yellow rope they had put up to keep the crowd of horny 50-somethings and one crazy twenty-something in check. Oh, how at that moment I wish there had been a “save from embarrassment” angel on my side.
Clutching my autographed headshot and what was left of my pride, Erin and I headed to my car to make our way home.
The straightest shot from Rutland to Lebanon is Route 4. It is a windy Vermont highway without a whole lot going on. On the way, you pass through a couple of small towns, including Woodstock and Quechee. In Quechee is the famous (to New England folk, anyway) Quechee Gorge. It’s a huge crack in the mountains with a river at the bottom. Not as impressive as, say, the Grand Canyon, but a lethal drop down. And pretty. Also, popular with the suicide crowd. A two-lane bridge is all that gets a car from one side to the other. The gorge is usually my visual cue that I am about 15 minutes from Lebanon.
On that drive home, Erin dozed off while I struggled to stay alert once the euphoria of meeting Davy Jones wore off, and the exhaustion brought on by too little sleep and too much fun at the fair kicked in. At one point, my eyes flew open, my head jerked up. I must have nodded off for a few seconds.
As we drove along, I started to wonder how much further I had to drive. Surely we’d come to the gorge any minute, right? Not 5 minutes after that thought tripped across my sleepy brain did we reach the turnoff for White River Jct. and Lebanon. Apparently, I had nodded off for some time, for the gorge was behind us and I had driven over it unconscious.
That was one of those moments of faith restoration. That night, God and his angels did not prevent me from making a fool out of myself. No, that night they made sure that I would live to tell the story.