There is no other way to explain what happened.
It took a confluence of miracles to lead to my meeting with Clay Aiken.
Understand that I am still on a
high from meeting the wonderful Jerome in Sacramento and having him deliver my folder of essays to
Clay's bus. That was a blessed day.
How could I have known that that was just the beginning of the blessing I would receive?
Sister lives just 30 minutes from San Jose, so we left from her house.
Seemingly out of the blue, we
decided to leave before 3 PM for a 7 PM concert.
No real reason to leave so early.
We stopped before we left to pick up her photos from the Sacramento concert.
Didn't have to do that, either.
We headed down the highway, with Clay's new songs as the soundtrack of our lives.
We arrived in San Jose around 3:30 PM and, instead of parking, decided
to drive around the stadium a
couple of times. Where Sacramento had been completely open, this place looked like a maximum
security prison. The artists entrance was behind a 20 foot tall fence at the end of a 100 yard driveway.
There was a concrete wall of equal height all around it. We couldn't even see the buses, probably parked
under the stadium.
"Fort Knox", I said. "There is no way we would have been able to get our letters to Clay at this venue."
Both of us said another thank you, God, for our blessing in Sacramento.
So we parked and headed for the box office to pick up our tickets. No,
far too early, they won't release
Will Call until 6.
So why are we here?
We notice a group of fans congregating off to the left of the box office.
Maybe they are there for a
pre-concert get together, I'm thinking.
Then the doors open, and there is Jerome and another guard announcing the
rules for the Meet &
Huh? Isn't that over by now?
"Step forward if you have green wristbands."
Now all of my powers of persuasion can't coax a wristband out of thin air,
but Sister has another letter
for Jerome to give Clay (the first one was hastily written and joking in tone, and she had some serious
advice she wanted to give him). We wait until everyone gets in, then hand Jerome the letter with our
We start to walk away as Jerome closes the door and announces that he'll
be back in five minutes to
collect gifts for Clay.
[Aside: Somewhere in here I meet the Goddess herself. I really am rather
shy and had planned to lurk
the concert, but I'd given Goood Baby Brush a description of myself because I really wanted to meet
her. All I can say is, GBB, you totally and completely rock. Glad to meet you.]
Take this for the truth: Sister and I absolutely did not mind that we couldn't
get into the meet and
greet. We both felt so richly blessed that we had met Jerome, given him our letters to Clay, enjoyed a
great concert in Sacramento and were now blessed enough to see Clay in concert twice.
Then it struck me.
"We should give Jerome that picture we took with him in Sacramento and write our thanks on it."
So Sister pulls her package of photos out of her purse, and I write on
it "To Jerome, from two members
of your fan club. Thank you so much for everything! Love, (real names)."
When Jerome reappears, a few more people with wristbands are allowed in,
then Jerome starts to collect
Clay's gifts. We give Jerome the photo and then walk out of the crowd and stand by ourselves near the
And then the Angel of Light appears.
A lovely woman walks up to us and says:
"Would you like to go inside?"
And the world stopped.
I hear her say:
"My daughter is afraid of the crowd. You can have our wristbands."
She pulls hers off and hands it to me, and removes another one from her
tiny beautiful daughter and
hands it to Sister.
And all I could think to say to our anonymous benefactor was "Thank you so much."
(I do not know your name or why you chose us out of two dozen people who
wanted to go inside, but
may God bless you always. You will never know what your act of kindness means to me.)
I turned to Sister and said, "Let's go meet Clay."
We waded back into the crowd, holding our wristbands up. I could swear
Jerome was beaming at us as
we went inside! We joined the line and Sister asked, "What should we say to him?"
I could not think of a single thing.
I couldn't remember the well rehearsed inquiries, like seeking the answer
to the question "Was the first
line of 'Run To Me' changed?" I could barely remember that his name is Clay AIken!
The line began to move. Think, think. I'm still blanking, and I am getting desperate.
Still nothing. Well, good, something for Sister.
"Be sure to tell him you are a teacher. Ask him about his degree. Tell
him we didn't bring him a gift
because we are making a donation to the Bubel-Aiken Foundation instead."
Still nothing for me.
We are getting closer.
"Sister, give me those pictures. Where's our Sharpie?"
And I remembered the line I thought of many months ago and told myself
to commit to memory as the
first thing I would say if I ever met Clay Aiken.
And we rounded the corner, and there he was.
We ran out of time to prepare. Ruben was missing, so Clay was first in line.
I won't even attempt to describe how gorgeous that man is. It surpasses
the physical. He simply glows.
He radiates beauty and love and kindness.
I did not feel nervous at all.
I felt awed.
Sister went ahead of me. I stepped back and tried to get a few pictutes
of them together. I could hear
her talking and laughing and behaving like a rational person. She had not handed him anything to sign
yet, so Clay disengaged from the Smile-Hello-What's-your-name-Sign-Thank-you-for-coming Mode. He
was instead fully engaged with her. That was cool.
Only then did she hand him her copy of Entertainment Weekly, which he signed
with a smile. And then
he turned to the person who had just been introduced as "my sister".
That would be me.
I handed Sister the camera, walked up, put out my hand and said to Clay Aiken ---
And Clay locked his eyes with mine, then put back his head and laughed out loud.
"Now, Clay (I said), we don't normally give autographs, but we are going
to make an exception in your
And I handed him the photo of Sister and me with Jerome, on which I had signed:
"To Clay: God Bless! Love, (Berkeley) and (Berkeley's Sister)"
He studied it for a moment, looked up at me again, beaming from ear to ear.
"Why, thank you! I am honored!"
Blank out time. I said something about being a filmmaker, yada yada, you
never get used to long hours,
yeah, whatever, Berkeley... If I had just shut my trap, he might have had a chance to say something to
Then I handed him my copy of Rolling Stone, yammering on about not getting
autographs --- "It will
just be Neil Young --- and you."
While he was signing, I mentioned the blue folder I had asked Jerome to
give him in Sacramento. Clay
looked back at me and said, "Oh, yes, I remember it. I am so sorry I haven't had the chance to read it
yet, but I promise to look at it on the way to L.A. tonight."
My time was over.
I thanked him, shook his hand again (soft skin, firm grip, nice and warm),
looked once more into those
emerald eyes and I said, "See you next year, Clay."
I released his hand and walked away.
I made my way down the table, shaking hands and uttering inanities. Sister and I then left the room
I felt such an overwhelming desire to cry, but it was neither the place
nor the time. I felt so deeply
moved, so richly blessed, so profoundly happy.
Neither Sister nor I had remembered to take a single photo of him alone.
We just weren't thinking at all.
We met Clay Aiken --- and that in itself was more than enough.
"Berkeley" is an assistant director of motion pictures, a screenwriter and a member of the Directors Guild of America. She resides in Berkeley, CA, and can be contacted at email@example.com