A tribute to a friend of a friend
We met at the hotel bar last night about 11:00pm. Of all the things I thought I might do while on tour with the Boys of Pop, planning a memorial service was not one of them.
It takes about 200 people to put on a show the size of the Backstreet Boys. There are riggers, carpenters, electricians, lighting and pyro technicians, wardrobe, and a whole team of production folks to coordinate the logistics. They are what the outside world would call “roadies.” I guess I should say “we” are what the outside world would call roadies. A lot of this crew has been together since the Millennium tour a couple of years ago. The really big one that put the BSB on the map of pop sensation. I, being the nubile tour-sponsor-roadie, not in the thick of it like the rest, have only just recently gotten to know the crew. They are really an amazing group of people.
Sometimes, when I have an extra minute during the day, I sit in one of the arena seats and just watch the action. At any given point there is someone climbing high in the rafters, someone leading a crew of local hands assembling parts of the stage, and someone else mastering all the pyrotechnics that make the show go boom in ways I will never ever understand. These are all the same people that just ate toast and cereal with me or laughed about a favorite Simpson’s episode the night before. Many people have families who we get to meet when we pass through home cities, or who visit the tour during a long stay in a city. As cheesy as it sounds, though, the people who you tour with quickly become a different type of family – they become the constant in the very surreal and inconsistent world of concert motion.
Anyway, we had just finished three nights in Boston, making up for the shows we missed in July when AJ entered rehab. It was actually great to be back in Boston. This time around, we all knew exactly what to expect with setting up the show, so it went oh-so smoothly. Plus, we were looking forward to heading North for a day off and three nights in Toronto. You know how much I love Canada. So, on Monday night, after the last show in Boston, we got into our busses for the overnight drive to Toronto. If all had gone as planned, we would have woken up across the border ready to change our dollars for loonies and enjoy a day off before our first show on Wednesday. It didn’t quite happen like that.
Tuesday, September 11. By now, you all know what happened. What you don’t know is that one of our carpenters, Daniel Lee, was aboard the first airplane that crashed into the World Trade Center. Daniel was taking two weeks off to be with his pregnant wife who was due any day. Actually, I think today’s her due date. It was hard enough to believe the live coverage on CNN was anything other than a gross Bruce Willis flick intended to rile the audience against some foreign terrorist – but to imagine that someone who you’d just seen the night before was on that plane is unfathomable. I watched several crew members break down unabashedly in our hotel bar, where we sat watching the details unfold. I did something I don’t normally do – get rip-roaring drunk. Cosmopolitans seemed the only appropriate response to the ludicrous events in New York and DC.
We got through yesterday’s show, which was an amazing feat. The managers debated about whether to cancel the show, and everyone was mixed about what would be the most appropriate response. The consensus seemed to be that “keeping busy” would somehow help the pain. The Boys went on stage and asked for a moment of silence for Danny. I have never seen an audience of 15,000 so quiet. Carolyn and I did not do our Pop promotion last night, either. How could we go on with our silly shtick like nothing had changed?
I volunteered to organize a memorial service for Danny on Friday before the show, which is what put me back at the bar last night at 11:00 pm. I asked for a couple of crew that knew him really well to help me. I just want to make sure I do it right. If we do nothing else but come together as a group to acknowledge the personal tragedy, that will be a start.
These past two days have been traumatic on so many levels. I had to excuse myself from the lunch table yesterday when a fellow crewmember commented that perhaps it was finally time to “kick out all the foreigners.” I also excused myself from a conversation where, after I pointed out that we have been bombing the Middle East for years, a crewmember responded that we just “need to try harder.” I understand their pain and you understand my politics, and this is a hell of a time for me to learn patience and restraint.
I am saddened that at this time in history, there is no Gandhi, no MLK, no Mother Teresa to help guide the world through what could be one of the worst moments in history. Even the Pope couldn’t seem to say much beyond the obvious. I’m sitting here listening to the music of the Sufi mystic Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, wishing he, too, was still around. It helps that he is singing in Arabic. It helps that I can’t understand what he is saying. Sometimes there are just no words for sadness.
With much love,