FINAL RIVERTON THOUGHTS
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Rod preparing for his
Riverton flight. Photo courtesy Linda Becker.
A Thought for Today
Mystery is all there is to mystery unless you count the coming on of it.
ROD LIVE! Follow this link for
Santa Fe ticket information.
Here's the final batch of
Riverton reports from some very tired field reporters. Thanks, guys!
And if you'd like to take a
more in-depth peek at some of the Riverton happenings, check out the pics
Linda has posted at
This is the first chance I've had to submit a report of my Riverton trip. So much has been said very eloquently by others about the concert itself and how special Rod makes it so I am going to make my trip report a little more personal. I'll include what it's like to be a part of an ensemble and to be included in so many of the inside activities that take place to pull off an event such as the Riverton Rendezvous was. And how beautiful and welcoming to a visitor a state such as Wyoming is.
I'll start off with a statement that I made to Linda Becker and others there in Riverton many times....I don't remember when I've ever had a vacation that I've enjoyed as much as this one. The people of Riverton made Jay and I feel so welcome...just like we were a part of them. It is a small town where everyone knows everyone else and where there is so much laughter and enough smiles to light up what is already an incredible Wyoming sky.
Linda Becker is just about the hardest working person I have ever known. She was involved in and arranged everything and aside from Rod being late to arrive in Riverton (through no fault of her own) everything was seamless. Linda deserves the best for an incredible feat.
I arrived Thursday, July 19th and was met by Linda and Jay at the airport. They took me to my hotel where we had a late lunch and then later, Jay and I spent some time in the club while Linda and Jerry Lonn were speaking in a booth close to us. I was able to meet "John the bartender" who I had heard so much about from Linda...and he lived up to his advance press :)
Friday morning came early as did all the mornings while I was there. I believe I existed on no more than (3) hours sleep each night while I was in Wyoming but believe me, it was no problem because I lived on adrenalin while there. Jay and I attended the "media launch" of the balloons Friday morning where we were not really invited but believe me...nothing as insignificant as an invitation stops Jay :) We only planned to watch them from afar while Jay shot some film but Linda found us because the PepsiWon balloon needed a crew and asked if we could help. Saying I was thrilled would be an understatement.
I was able to see and participate in everything that goes into getting a balloon up into the sky and I enjoyed every minute of that experience. Though Rod was to be the guest celebrity honored with the first trip up in that balloon, it was me who was asked to take that launch since Rod was still stuck in Denver. The feeling of first taking off in a balloon is practically
indescribable ... it's such a soft glide into the air and everything is so quiet with the exception of the occasional burn of the propane. We glided over the Wyoming landscape for about a half hour...a trip I will never forget.
I was "initiated" (something you have to experience) as an official balloonist at the tailgate party following the launch and I have a PepsiWon balloon pin to prove it :) Sue (who piloted the balloon) and everyone else involved with her was so very nice to us and I had a great time. It had always been a dream of mine to go up
in a balloon...a dream now realized.
Following the launch, Jay and I left to go back to the hotel. We decided we were hungry since champagne is the only thing we had had so far that morning. There was a media brunch where Rod was to also be the guest celebrity but wasn't since he had not arrived yet. WE ARE NOT INVITED is what I kept telling Jay but he had me roll my car window down to ask the person in the next car to us where "The Bull" was. So there we went and we found out that because we were "crew", Sue (the pilot) said we were welcome to attend.
Jay and I attended the cocktail party at "Good Time Charley's" that afternoon where the balloonists registered and the committee provided the best home made food for everyone. Then it was time for the parade to begin when we found out it had been moved to a side street. Jay and I walked a block back and stood in the shade of a tree (it was very hot in Riverton) where I spotted Rod coming in the lead car. When he got close to us, he yelled out HI and said "dinner tonight, okay?" Well, of course it was better than okay :)
Later that evening at the hotel, Jay and I were waiting with Linda for Rod and Richard and Jerry to come to the car to go to dinner at a steak restaurant in Hudson. Rod came down the stairs and outside and came up to me and gave me a "hello" kiss and said how good it was to see me again...it was so good to see him again, too. This was the first time I had met Richard Kornfield
... Rod's new road manager. I want to say now what an incredibly nice man Richard is...I enjoyed so much my time spent with him throughout the rest of the weekend. He and Rod mesh well together...it was great to see them "play" off each other. Rod met up with Richard at his reunion for the first time in years and that is when Rod offered Richard the job as his road manager.
We had a great dinner with Linda, Rod, Richard, and Jerry along with Senator Peck from Wyoming, his wife and son and daughter-in-law. The meal was fantastic...Rod treated all of us. I sat across from Rod at the dinner and we had a chance to talk and catch up on things. After dinner, it was during the drive back to Riverton that I had my first real glimpse of the incredible stars in the sky. I had my face glued to the side window on that drive and I told Jay that I had to come back out away from the city lights to see them one more time before I left.
When we got back to the hotel, Rod and Richard carried (200) book/cd sets to my room where we all sat on the bed and chairs and removed the bad cd and stuffed the good cd into all of the sets. Jay had some Grand Marnier and also gave Rod some gifts along with the Tall Blonde vodka from Jana. We talked and laughed the entire time...just the (4) of us trying to get all of the books and cd's in order and not mixed up. During that process, I came across one book that was bound wrong...when you opened the cover, the cd's fed from the bottom up...not top to bottom as they should be. Rod said that I had found a true collectible and he signed and gave it to me :) Rod finally opened up the vodka and he and I and Jay and Richard shared a drink. We finished stuffing the cd's around 12:30 that night and then they returned to their room in our hotel to try to get some rest before a 4:30am call that morning.
Saturday morning was another balloon launch but this time, Jay and I didn't "crew" for PepsiWon...we just stayed at the field watching the launch and then participating in a tailgate party when Rod's balloon crew returned from their trip. Richard and Jerry had their first balloon ride that morning and I was teasing them both about their "initiation" that was to come. I'll just say that Rod did the initiation himself...and it was much more "involved" than mine was ;)...something that those two will never forget. *grin*
Later on Saturday afternoon was the car show and Jay and I walked around with Linda and Rod and Richard and Jerry as Rod judged the cars and motorcycles. Rod was soooo tired that afternoon...he told me several times that he felt like he was going to fall down. He had practically had no sleep for over (36) hours due to the "Marquis deLinda" as he laughingly called her ;) and her schedule. Following the judging, we all went back to the hotel to got some rest before the concert that night.
We were invited to the sound check, so we all had to be at the college by 5:00pm. Just after Rod got there, he decided he needed a few things, so Richard came out with the list and Jay went off to get them while I was able to just relax and listen to Rod rehearse. During the rehearsal, Rod motioned me up to the stage a few times to ask me how he sounded...or to say how tired he was and how it would be a miracle if he could pull it off. Then he motioned me up one time to tell me that when Jay got back with the "package" to tell him to give the lemon to me...Rod and I planned a little "gag" for the concert and he told me to keep it a secret ;)
Rod also asked if he could use my reading glasses during the concert so I gave them to him. He thereafter referred to me as his "blind friend" ;)
Around ten minutes before curtain, Rod asked me to type out his song/poem list so Richard and Jerry and the band could have copies....and I hurriedly went into Linda's office and typed out the document for them. Then came time for us to take our seats for the concert. Rod came out in a black suit which surprised us all :) but oh, how handsome he looked. And he performed wonderfully throughout the night even though he was so tired. The songs he performed have already been described in other flight plans, so I'll leave that part of the story out.
At the end of the second act, Rod came out on the stage (right before encores) with a bag. He proceeded to get out the Tall Blonde vodka, some ice, some water, and a martini glass. (He had forgotten to ask Jay to get some vermouth and gin) He then asked if anyone in the audience had a lemon...everyone laughed and laughed because who in the world would bring a lemon to the concert??? After the laughter died down somewhat, Rod said "I'm serious" and I yelled out "I have one" then I ran down the auditorium stairs to meet Rod at the stage (just as we had planned). He leaned down and said thanks and gave me a kiss for my trouble :) The audience really seemed to get a kick out of our "routine". I told
Rod later that I would be willing to sacrifice my career and follow him around the country as his "lemon lady" *grin*
After the concert, I was able to spend some time out in the lobby getting to know D'Marie and her family (who are all wonderful) and speaking with Kyletta and three very nice ladies from Texas, among many others. Many people came up to me and said "how convenient that you had a lemon" or "so you're the lemon lady" :) it was so much fun to laugh and joke with everyone about that gag. I bought another ASPTL book and asked Rod to sign it for my mother who will be thrilled to get it. It was a very long night so when we all got back to the hotel we just said our goodnight's and went to our rooms.
Sunday morning dawned to another balloon launch and this time, Jay and I were part of Rod's "chase" crew. His guitar player Peter was able to take his first trip up and I played around with Peter a lot about his "initiation" to come ;) Linda has described the balloon launch and landing so I'll leave that part of the story out. When we got back to the tailgate party, Peter gave me his camera and asked me to take pictures as he was initiated. Peter is such a nice man...I really enjoyed getting to know him.
Then there was the book signing at noon at "Books and Briar" where Rod and Richard got to know some of the local people of Riverton. The book store was like one of those perfect "mom and pop" stores that you only can see in movies anymore...not a big chain. It was a perfect setting for Rod as he signed books and his music played over the speakers.
We all went back to the hotel and then Jay and I and Linda along with Rod and Richard had lunch in the hotel restaurant. Following the lunch, Rod and Richard went to finish packing and then it was off to the airport to see them off. We were all able to spend some time together talking before their flight left. It was sad to see he and Richard board the plane...knowing that our time together this time was coming to an end. Rod posed in front of the plane with three of his band members while Richard took pictures right before boarding. Then the plane took off...carrying Richard and Rod on to their adventure of a car trip to Santa Fe for his performance this weekend.
Linda took Jay and Larry and I to a "honky tonk" bar afterward and we just sat there and relaxed with some drinks. It was a great time to kind of unwind from the weekend.
Linda, Jay and I had dinner that Sunday evening and then we set off to Beaver Rim so I could see the stars. It was about a (20) minute drive out on roads where we didn't see a single car coming or going. Linda had Jay turn off on a side oil field road and then stopped the car. The stars....remember the movie "2010" where Keir Dullea says "My God...it's full of stars"? That is what it was like...just incredible. It was so clear and so bright that you could see the Milky Way in the sky. I have never EVER experienced anything like it. I just laid myself right down on the road and looked up in awe. A special friend sent me a shooting star to tell me he was with me..........
Jay and I said our goodbyes that night as he was leaving early that Monday morning to drive back to Jackson Hole for his flight home. I tried to sleep in on Monday but didn't really succeed because I was still so wound up from my wonderful weekend. Linda came by to get me around 9:30 to go with her to her doctor's appointment so afterward, we could go to Sinks Canyon and have a picnic. I enjoyed so much my day spent with her and I thought it was very funny that I was there at a waterfall and Jay wasn't...NOT that I will rub it in to him...not much, anyway ;)
Then it was time for Linda to take me to the airport for a 3:35pm flight and what turned out to be over a (14) hour trip home what with storms in Denver closing the airport and flights being delayed. I didn't walk into my front door
until 5:30am Tuesday morning.
In closing, I want to especially thank Linda and the people of Riverton for being so kind and welcoming to me. It's just the ideal town...a small town like you don't see anymore. I want to thank in particular Rod and Richard...two of the best people anyone could ever call friends. I felt like I was a part of them and that's an experience and a feeling that is very hard for me to describe. I will just say that I am very blessed and I know that...I never forget it.
I will always remember this trip and this experience...I wish everyone could have been a part of it.
Well, Ken, from the perspective of a few days following the concert in Riverton, perhaps I can now be somewhat more objective about the
experience. (But I seriously doubt that *S*)
While listening to Rod performing at the concert, the years somehow disappeared and I was young again. I don't think that my reaction, and
the way that I felt, was a secret yearning for something lost; I think it was probably another example of Rod's ability to evoke those warm
feelings of things remembered fondly - tantalizing, bittersweet memories just out of reach, until he reminds us of them. He allows us to remember times past, the good times and the lonely times; however, he also reminds us of how beautiful the present can be.
Rod quite obviously enjoys doing what he does so brilliantly; communicating with his audience. He seems to know instinctively where it is that we want to go, and he proceeds to take us there. It's such a lovely place to be - a warm, romantic, nostalgic place. Very few performers have the ability to do that for me; none so completely and beautifully as Rod does.
As has been pointed out by others, Rod might have occasionally miscued on a song lyric, or in his reading of a poem, but we forgive him for his sweet humanness; and because those tiny miscues only serve to endear him to us, we love him all the more for making them.
Unlike those "Love Letters Unsent" Rod has recently been sharing with us in the Flight Plans, Rod wrote a love letter to his audience on Saturday night that was actually delivered. How fortunate (for those of us who were in Riverton) that we were there to receive it.
You would have loved the Riverton Rendezvous, Ken - the wonderful way everything was organized, the city and its people, those gorgeous hot air balloons, and the concert of course. The total experience was something that I'll treasure always.
See you at Carnegie Hall in April, 2003, Ken, when Rod will be facing "Seventy Without Fear". (That's unbelievable isn't it? Where has the
2003, Larry? Why, that's only another 639 days to go. See you then.
A WEEK IN HEAVEN
Good Morning Ken,
Sorry this took so long but, unlike Rod, some of us need our sleep.
It was a great trip... what more could I ask for... a chance to see waterfalls and Rod in the same week. I see that others have
filed their report on the concert and there is little that I can say that would not be a repeat so I will try to fill you in on other happenings during the week.
As everyone knows Rod’s plane was late, cancelled, and otherwise delayed so he was not able to attend the Media Balloon Flight on Friday. Melinda and I ‘stood in’ for him. It was a great excuse for us to help crew one of the balloons. We were rewarded for our help by being taken up so we could touch the sky. We were invited to attend the tailgate party afterwards as well at the Pilot’s Brunch and the afternoon Cocktail Party.
Rod ... you missed some great times and a chance to meet some really nice town folk.
As the cocktail party was winding down we made our way over to Fremont Street just in time to catch Rod ride by in a ‘67 White Mustang. He finally made it... only a day or so late. Linda was pulling her hair out ( LOL ) wondering if he would get in in time for the parade of cars.
After a quiet dinner and one of the best steaks I have ever had, Melinda, Rod, Richard Cornfeld, Rod’s new Road Manager, and I, ( damn... that’s a lot of commas ) adjourned to Melinda’s room to spend the next hour or so stuffing CD’s into the A Safe Place to Land book that would be for sale Saturday at the concert. I hope Rod got a few hours of sleep before he had to be at the balloon field for his ride by 5:30.
Saturday started with the balloon ride, a tailgate party and judging a car show. I went back to the motel and crashed but The Kid was still running. He invited Melinda and I to sit in on the Sound Check which was interesting. To see Rod running through the pre-show was an experience. The man had been on his feet for 24+ hours and was still going strong while the rest of us were praying for the concert to start so we could sit down.
The concert was similar to Aurora but was completely different. To see Rod walk out at the beginning of the show was a bit of a shocker. Rod in a SUIT ??? And a TIE ??? Fortunately the coat came off after a song or two with the tie to follow shortly.
Rod was fun in Riverton. He showed us the humorous side of McKuen throughout the show. The bit with the bottle of ‘water’ and the lemon was a hoot.
Ken... he read “Goodbye” for you and me. He read ‘I Always Knew’ for all of us. He sang his songs to the audience and to everyone who could not attend. At various parts of the concert I could see and hear the audience singing along. It was ‘our’ show too.
After the concert Rod signed anything and everything that was placed in front of him. He took the time to let everyone who asked have their picture taken with him. Everyone in line got ‘personal’ time with Rod. The Kid made some new fans that night.
Sunday started with another balloon ride and a book signing. From there is was off to the airport for his flight to Denver and on to Sante Fe.
The highlight of my trip came while we were there at the airport. As I shook Rod’s hand to say Goodbye I told him thanks for allowing me to be a part of the weekend with him. He gave me a big hug, put his hand on my shoulder and said... “You’re Family Jay”. To hear him say that gave me goosebumps. He gathered up his computer and he, Richard and Kyletta rode off into the sky.
Just a word for you who weren’t there. Richard is a great guy. You will like him. He and Rod worked well together the whole weekend. Once he gets his feet on the ground and learns Rod’s ways they will make an incredible team. I look forward to seeing more of him at future McKuen activities.
Thanks to Linda Becker for everything she did to make this happen and for all the things she did for me. Linda... you are the greatest ( next to Rod of course. )
Waterfalls from Riverton and beyond,
Tomorrow is a tough day for
our Australian friends Ken Ball and his wife, Heather Mackinnon as Heather
is scheduled to undergo major surgery. Know that all your friends at ASPTL
will be pulling for you, Heather, and we hope you'll soon be back to your
normal, cheerful self.
- Ken, Johannesburg,
Rod McKuen concert and
appearance details can be obtained via the link below.
Concert & Appearance Details