Thursday, May 24, 2018

2018 Byrne and Kelly Retreat, Days 3 and 4

Day 3 Tuesday -- I have lots of stories today!

Today, we had quite a bit of downtime, which was nice.  It's half groupie-ville, half vacation.  I liked that.

I woke up early this morning, made myself a cup of coffee, and snuck out of the room with my writing bag. I jumped off the dock and found a little log to sit on.  I wanted to actually get some thoughts down without interruption, so I went on the side that no one ever goes on.  I think that's because it was on the side of the guys' cabin but it was freak o'clock in the morning and I'm pretty sure that I was far enough away not to bother anyone.  (Well, until I started singing, anyway.)

It was super peaceful out there, and I got a lot of writing done as I listened to music on my headphones, watched the fog slowly roll back, and smiled at the birds flitting around.  As the morning wore on, I kind of got into my music a bit and started singing and dancing along. I didn't care, it was fun. :)

I eventually got hungry, packed myself into the main building for breakfast and ran into Neil and Peter on the way. We talked for a couple minutes about the show the night before, and we both went on our ways... me thinking, "Neil smells good!"  Like... not normal Celtic Thunder guy "I bathed in cologne today" good, but lightly scented.  That makes him sound like a laundry detergent.  Shut up, it was happy and I bounced my way to breakfast.

I have practically ignored Neil at M&Gs for years. But, he's so funny and sweet and I adore him and please don't destroy my illusion. Neil is the only one I have left!

After breakfast, Perri and I went for a hike on the nature trails.  Now... she will tell you that this was a 25 mile hike.  It was three. I do feel bad that it was mostly just trails through the forest with no amazing vistas because Perri was a totally good sport. Kinda.  When we got to the trail, we realized Ryan was JUST ahead of us...  which we knew because my first conversation with a passing hiker went like this:

Me: Good morning! How was your hike?
Hiker: Amazing! I just ran into Ryan! He smells so good!

I think I caught a glance of his shoes.  I have a feeling he had to stop and talk to every person he passed because when we (as walkers) reached the other side of the mountain for the descent back to the resort, we heard him laughing all the way up the mountain.

I'm not sure that Perri is a great fan of Washington trail running -- largely due to the death-inducing drop-offs.

Perri: How could he run on these these trails??
Me: Well, he's an idiot.

At one point, we passed this sweet lady... we'd met her a few times on the retreat and she was really nice. I imagine that she's a regular attender of renaissance fairs.  She was telling us all about the different fauna that ancient women used to collect...  something, something, something, and chickweed. We went on our way and Perri mused... "Chickweed... I wonder what that looks like."

I told her, "I don't know... but I think it's what the ladies smoke."  And then I laughed for five minutes. Because I think I'm hilarious.

Upon our return to the resort, Perri complained to John the Doorman that we had been on this superlong hike and there were no views!!  He told her, "Oh, there are!..... They're on the short hike."
So she's not speaking to me anymore.

I sent Ryan a joke about people thinking he smells good -- which is a bit of a longstanding joke -- and then recalled that I spent the morning thinking the same thing about Neil. So basically, I fail.

Lunch and Quick Fire
After our hike and a little break, we went down for an outdoor Mexican lunch.  This made me laugh like heck. So we ended up at the table next to the B&K people.  At our table, there is a family.. Dad, Mom, teenage/young adult daughter.  I feel like maybe Dad is not the Celtic Thunder/Byrne and Kelly fan.  Mom is trying to be nonchalant sitting within spitting distance of the guys.  Dad is whispering..."Stalker..."  And Mom is freaking PISSED.  Like I would NOT want to be that guy for the next six months.

After lunch, the guys did a "Quick Fire" session... Where they answer questions like "Sweet or salty? Shorts or trousers?" etc, etc.  This was honestly not my favorite thing. It's cute on YouTube but I could have skipped it.  I did have Perri and Louisiana Girl with me, so mostly I just sat in the back and muttered slightly snarky things the whole time -- so that was okay.

It was a super nice day, so we sat out in the sun for a little bit... and then escaped to inside for a nap before I became a tomato.

Drinks with Chuck
Chuck took this photo
We wandered down to dinner... but it turned out that we were a little early.  So we stopped at the hotel lounge for a drink. Chuck was the bartender, and we really liked Chuck.  He was a lot of fun!!  We also met Angie's friend, Jill, here.  I actually really enjoyed this little refuge. We mostly talked about family and kids, not much centered on the guys or the retreat, and it felt like a nice little break from the craziness.  We promised Chuck we'd return and went off to dinner.

So... at dinner... I don't know, we were just in fine form.  Perri is a great storyteller (especially when she's had a rum and coke). If I have a captive laughing audience, I'm not awful either.  So between the two of us, we got on a roll.  She started with a VERY EMBELLISHED story about our hike... and then it turned into her wondering what the frick kind of bird we were eating for dinner (SEAGULL).  There were these two ladies at our table, and I was a little unsure that they could take us. Like they might be entirely disapproving and complain to management about the insane ladies at dinner.  But they started laughing at the antics... so we were good.

From there, it sort of morphed into this GREAT IDEA I had to replace a meal with a Dessert Buffet with a different dessert at every table... two of which would be anatomically correct chocolate figurines of the principals... which would require a variety of different Quick Fire questions for accuracy... which turned into a regaling of my Great Ryan Kelly Button Quest.

You guys... we made those ladies LAUGH SO MUCH.  I felt like I'd done my good deed for the day. YOU'RE WELCOME.

Then, we went back to the bar for another drink with Chuck. Who loved us. We also met a couple at the bar not-from-the-retreat, and we invited them out to the upcoming lawn show when they were done with their dinner.  Oh, then we got a drink to-go.  God, no wonder Perri was so drunk. Chuck sent her off with a rum and coke that rum and a TEENSY bit of coke.

Show and Drinks with Chuck
So, then the boys had their last show.

I'm going to be honest. I did not love this show. I don't know if I didn't like the songs as much. Maybe I was just tired and worn out. But it was my least favorite.  (But New Hampshire couple was there... and they taught us how to have... New Hampshire smores?  Which only have one graham cracker. Actually not bad.)

Maybe it was the intros. Jesus and a half.  Like the LONGEST SONG INTROS KNOWN TO MAN FOR SO MANY SONGS. Perri's drunk and her filter is completely gone, so I'm shushing her from complaining too loudly.  The people we met at the bar showed up... but they showed up during a song that the guys love but I don't really think is that great, and then they WOULD NOT SHUT UP TALKING.  I couldn't get them to stay any longer and they left.

After the show, we went back to the bar (I know!).  This time, we took along a couple friends and I hung behind a bit with Louisiana Girl.  Finally, I was like... "Ok, this is embarrassing. We've been hanging out off and on for three days... I like you... but I forgot your name on the first day and I've been too embarrassed to ask, and have just been calling you Louisiana Girl all the time."  She goes, "ME TOO!"  So now she has a name in my head.  We actually talked for a long time, and I had a really good time.

Eventually, Perri disappeared.... so I had to go find her... and then she magically showed up in our room. Actually, I think she was delivered.

We had a real heart-to-heart about her drinking problem and then...  No, I'm kidding. Actually we had a real heart-to-heart talk because I'm completely messed up.  And then we went to sleep.  Which was good. But I'm sure Chuck missed us.

Day 4

So....  getting up was hard today.

We slowly got dressed and made it downstairs for the lightest breakfast we could find. I think I had four pieces of pineapple and that's about all I could stand.  I chatted with a few people that I had made friends with, and then the guys came in for the final Q&A event.

I enjoyed this a lot more than the Quick Fire session.  I think it was just more interesting... Even though I've been around long enough to guess at answers pretty accurately, it was still interesting to listen to.  And Neil is freaking funny.

After that, we went outside for a group photo and lots of people hung around for a final hug with the guys.  I was tempted to skip this part...  but Perri made me -- and I'm glad that she did.

And then we packed up and went home -- with a little stop at the beach so Perri could touch the ocean. :)

2018 Byrne and Kelly Retreat, Day Two

So let's keep going...

Day Two: Monday

Perri and I were up early this morning. She's on Omaha time, I'm used to getting up at 5:30 every morning. So we fired up our room Keurig machine and enjoyed a couple cups of coffee, spiced with a bit of Baileys until it was time for breakfast to be served.

Breakfast generally consisted of fresh fruit, the kind of pastries you get passed out down the bus on high school road trips, eggs, potatoes, bacon and sausage.  It was mostly good... but I kind of found myself gravitating toward wanting something that was in between heavy and light, and there wasn't much in that category.

I think that, after that, we kind of just hung out by the pretend fire pit for a little while. We met some new people... and possibly soberly introduced ourselves to people we had less-soberly met the night before? Totally possible.

We went back to our room and had another cup of coffee while waiting for the time to head out to the boat for the first Meet and Mingle Cruise.  They did these with half the group at a time...  So it would be about 75 guests, plus the B&K people.  The sign on the boat said, '71 passengers max,' so I'm not going to say there was a ton of room.  We went up to the top level, where there would at least be air.

The way this was supposed to work is that they were going to do a M&G type line down below... and when everyone had a chance to get their photos/autographs, the guys would spend the rest of the time mingling among the guests. Get it? Meet. And. Mingle.  Forget it.

They did the downstairs first, and then Angie or Jill (Angie's friend who came along to help-- totally liked her!!  More later) would come up and get the upstairs people in small groups.  For once, I actually kind of liked our M&G picture! Perri showed off her sketchbook and got autographs in it... and apologized to Neil for laughing at him in the show the night before. :)  I gave Ryan... a button.  Well, you know.  He says I'm never going to be successful, but not for lack of trying.

Then we went back upstairs...  now...  before we left, Perri and I were sitting on the coffee table.  There was a couch.  But two fans were sitting on it, with their packages spread out between them. lol I'm not lying.  But they'd gone downstairs for the Meet so when we came back up, they were gone.  I sat on the end corner of the couch because it was way more comfortable than the coffee table! Then, they came back and ordered me to move.

This was about when I ALMOST broke my "stay slightly buzzed to be nicer" rule.  I mean, come on.  Your bags need a spot on the couch, crazypants?  lol  But it wasn't worth it.  Perri and I moved across the deck to the railing and chatted for awhile before Ryan came up to mingle.

Okay.  Let me pause to speak candidly as a longtime oldtimer fan.

I've had a lot of opportunities to meet the guys over the years. I know that when they have meet events, they are working and shmoozing and that's the job. I don't get upset when the schmoozing doesn't have time to include me, because I know that I have other avenues, and that time often gets away from them. And I try to never be pushy, I don't lie in wait. I think the problem there is that they know they don't have to schmooze me to get me in their pocket. They know those of us who are still around have been firmly supportive and they don't have to grease us. But because they know that, they let us get missed and that becomes a little disappointing.

I was once put on the list for a Meet with Ryan and Neil... and I did the same thing.  Time got away, and our interchange was a rushed one as they got pushed out the door by whoever their handler was.  Sharon asked me later if I'd had a good chat, and when I explained, she sort of swore at me, "You matter, too!" 

So I'm just going to leave that there... and move on.

We eventually gave up on waiting on Ryan's harem and went downstairs to say Hi to Neil, and chat with Nicole. I could listen to her talk for a long time.

Back at the dock, we left the boat... and I think that's when Perri and I drove into town to get Mexican and margaritas.  But only one margarita because we had to drive back and Brendan the Cute Guy warned us that they get stronger, the more you order. I've been informed that blended margaritas aren't real margaritas, but what do Canadians know?

When we came back, I think Perri took a nap and I took my writing stuff out to the REAL fire pit by the water. I didn't really get much writing done. At all.  But I listened to some music, chatted with some people.  I think this is when New Hampshire guy saved us.  Let's just say we weren't great at keeping the fire going. New Hampshire Guy is not a boy scout, but he was a boy scout leader and he made us a pretty fire.

At some point in here, the 2nd Meet and Mingle cruise came back, and I watched them do stage set-up and soundcheck from my firepit spot.  Which sort of made me laugh. Lots of people videoing them going "Check, one, two, one, two, one two, check check..." over and over. Whatever makes you happy, kids.

Dinner tonight, we sat at the same table with some of the same people... We added one lady who... umm...  was annoying. Like she would not stop talking. I glanced up and caught the eye of Louisiana Girl, who was clearly having the same thoughts I was.  We justkept making/breaking eye contact the whole meal until I got finished eating and decided to go down and join her and her friend at their end of the table.  Which was fun. I've always collected young people, ever since I was in college and was a youth leader. I just do.

2nd concert was next!

This concert was performed on one of the outdoor lawns, and our balcony happened to look out over it.  So instead of sitting down in the seats, we decided to get in our pajamas, open a bottle of champagne, and watch it from the comfort of our balcony.  This was honestly the best thing we did all week.

We saw them come out to start the show, but missed the fact that they were hiding behind the bushes. So we start cheering...  Ryan's all "SHHHHHH!!!"  Oops.

This was my favorite show.  They played an acoustic set list...  which they opened by saying a lot of it was songs they'd never done on the B&K stage.  But that was a trick.  Because half of them were from CT X, and that's kind of not the same thing.  Even so, I liked it a lot.  And also, when they had long intros (which was a lot.... and worse the more whiskey they had -- I sort of lost it and started laughing when Ryan intro'd some serious song with "So this is just a song..."... long pause... looong pause...  I'm like, "Really? That's what we're going with?"), the bathroom was VERY CLOSE.

After the show, some friends dropped by our room for awhile and we cracked open the mango salsa -- which was good!

And then I kicked them out because I'm old and needed to sleep.

2018 Byrne and Kelly Retreat, Day One

Hello...  So I've just returned from the 2nd Annual (but my first) Byrne and Kelly retreat, and I wanted to share what my experience was.  Sort of like when I went on the first Celtic Thunder cruise. I am a very longtime fan -- and a slightly jaded one -- so sometimes my glasses are a little bit of a different color.

I went into this trip, much like the CT cruise, with a little bit of trepidation. Initially, when the retreat's location was announced, I thought "Well, it's 2 hours from my house. How can I not go and at least try it out?" So I invited Perri, one of my dearest friends, to come out from Nebraska and go with me -- but then the "what did I just sign myself up for?" doubts started. I got in an argument with someone in the band. Fawning really irritates me and I wasn't looking forward to that for four days. I'd heard that last year's retreat featured a good amount of various cliques monopolizing the boys' attention, and that was likely to put my eyes in permanent roll mode.  If I wasn't looking forward to spending the time with my friend, I might very well have cancelled.

But I didn't... and my general plan for the four days was to enjoy the time with Perri. And maybe stay just slightly buzzed for four days so I would be nicer.

So this is how my experiences turned out -- the good and the eh. Fair warning, I'm long winded.

Day One: Sunday

This is Perri's first time to Seattle and I've been listening to the things she was looking forward to doing.  So, we got up on Sunday, stopped at Target for a little alcohol (for the retreat, not for the drive), and took the long way/scenic route --  because it included my favorite ferry ride.

I've never seen someone so excited to be on a ferry. It was kind of like Australia Kate and the squirrels.

Once on the other side of the Sound, Perri was pretty sure I didn't know where I was going.  Which is fair.  My GPS kept going out, and I was like, 'Oh... we're probably good.  Don't worry!!" I don't think I was convincing.  But we got there, okay?!

The retreat was at a lovely resort in Western Washington, right on Hood Canal-- Alderbrook Resort in the bustling town of Union. I'd never been to this particular part of the state -- but it was beautiful, and blessedly, we had great weather the whole time.  So now 150 people think this is what Washington looks like all the time. Sorry when they move here.

We pulled into the resort and there were a gazillion fancypants cars in the parking lot.  I pulled up in my minivan. At this point, I was pretty sure I was going to be out of my league. We went inside to check in... While standing in line, I turned around and noticed John the Doorman (who was about my favorite person by the end) getting all of our stuff out of the van.  ALL of our stuff.  Including the copious amounts of alcohol we were planning on sneaking in later. Oops.  So we got checked in, I grilled the desk lady on the likelihood of being eaten by bears on the hiking trails, and John took us up to our room. Gave us the grand tour, etc...  Laughed at our alcohol supply, treated us to his best Scottish impressions. We were good.

Perri and I settled in... took a little tour of the resort to get our bearings.  But it was hours yet until anything was supposed to happen at the retreat. We'd seen a friend in the lobby when we were checking and decided that maybe we'd go down to town to get ourselves some of the ice cream she'd come in with.  We asked Cute Lobby Guy -- we'll call him Brendan because I don't remember his actual name-- how to get to there.  He told us how to get to the closest shop, but he'd have to drive us to the actual town for ice cream because it was a mile down the road.

We're like... a mile? We could probably walk a mile.  Off we went...  Well, it was two miles.  Along the highway. And there was very little shoulder. So we almost died a lot. Ironically, this is also how Joel and I almost died when we visited the Moy. But we eventually made it to the country store, got our ice cream (which was quite good, by the way. Olympic brand ice cream. Super yum), and ate it on the porch of the store.  I sort of felt like we were old people smoking a pipe watching the buggies go by.

Perri and I are friendly people. We'll talk to anyone.  So... we're talking to anyone who comes in and out of the general store, and this guy stops and asks, "Hey, do you ladies like salsa?"
"Well... yeah. Who doesn't like salsa?"
"Do you like fruit? How hot do you like your salsa?"
"Yes, and...medium?"
"Hang on," he says - and heads off to his car.
I'm thinking "Aw man, this guy is going to try to sell us salsa out of the back of his trunk."

But no!  He comes over with two FULL SIZE jars of mango salsa, and he's just like, "Here," and he drives away.  So we had to buy chips. Union is a great town, y'all.  Well, then we were tired, and we had giant jars of salsa to carry, so we just called the resort and asked them to come pick us up.  We were expecting Brendan but got another guy...  so we chatted up Voice Over Driver Guy instead.

At this point, we probably went back to our room and opened up the rum. Our balcony looked right out onto the waterfront, so we sat out on it and sipped a couple rum and cokes. It's a hard life, kids... I think we brought #3 to Dinner.

We were a touch late, so we found a couple seats at a table along the back wall, ate dinner, and made friends with the other people at the table. They're big tables, so I won't remember everyone was there.  But lots of nice people...  I met my favorite people this night. We're just going to them the New Hampshire people -- largely because that's what I called them the whole time. "Oh look, it's the New Hampshire people! I love them!" Seriously nice, both the husband and wife, really funny.  I honestly liked them. Louisiana and Ohio Girls across the table -- young and edgily snarky. But amusing.  There are more. Perri has sketches.  Oh wait, I think we talked to Ryan and Neil too... but I kinda don't remember.

After dinner, we went back to our room for one more drink and then went to the first concert of the trip. Someone else is going to have set lists, but I just don't.  It was a good show... I definitely enjoyed it. Fun and lighthearted...  Ryan sang Brothers in Arms, which is the only song I ever seriously campaign for, so I was happy.  (Ryan, you caught me off-guard when you asked if it was okay...  but yes, it was fine. I cried -- so either it was really good or really bad.) Perri completely lost it while Neil was trying to intro "Step It Out Mary" and couldn't stop laughing. It was a good time. We'd had four rum and cokes, so it would be hard not to.

I'm pretty sure we were exhausted after that and just went to bed!!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

When what you love is what they hate...

I was party to a conversation yesterday where...  Basically, Person #1 ended up belittling what I knew was a deep musical love of Person #2 ...  and I just thought, "Yeah, this probably isn't going to end well."

I ended up thinking about that a lot last night. I think it's true that the things we love... the things we really love... become a part of our identity, they are part of who we are. I definitely think that's true about a lot of different kinds of art. When I look back over my life, there are books that have become a part of me. There are movies that are a part of me. There is definitely music that is a part of me.

But, when someone belittles one of those things... even when doing so, to them, really isn't anything about me, it feels like it's about me. It feels like they are saying, "This thing that you love... this thing that is a part of you... it's not an acceptable thing. This part of you is not an acceptable thing.  And therefore -- YOU-- are not an acceptable thing."

I know I've certainly had that experience with my Celtic Thunder fandom...  there have been times that people I've loved have really ridiculed that. Deep in my heart, I knew that those people loved me, and didn't mean hurt.  But sometimes it hurt anyway.

In a lot of ways, it's similar to how I felt, in my younger mom days, when I felt someone was passing judgment on the things I had chosen to do as a parent.  And, I think, for very much the same reason. Being a mother had become an integral part of my identity. It was who I was... and when someone came along who deeply criticized that or criticized how I did that, it really stung.

And yet... with hindsight... there's not a ton of things that I would do differently. I might choose little things to mother differently. I might choose different expressions of how to share the things I had chosen to love. But I don't regret loving them, and I don't regret letting them become a part of me.
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