Seeing The Invisible Lighthouse

Let me tell you all about the Thomas Dolby show I went to.

I know this might come across as including a bunch of little things that don’t really matter, but to me, that’s half the fun of a trip. The vending machine food, the getting lost, the overpriced beer had in cute little pubs, that sort of thing.

The story technically begins in September, when I basically sink two weeks of work into the ticket for this thing. The VIP package was 60 dollars by itself, but I also had to purchase a general admission ticket for like, 25 I think it was, not including shipping.

When you include the greyhound bus tickets to and from the show, I had to pay a student loan payment late in order to afford all this stuff.
But you don’t care about the boring bits, so let’s move foreward to the day of the show.

That day began at 3:45, because I was too excited to sleep. I had set my alarm for 5:45, but when I woke to check my cell’s clock and it said 3:45, that was it, my mind was instantly awake. I did manage to stay in bed until about 5am, though.

Getting ready was all a bit of an excited, nervous blur. I do recall having to force myself to eat breakfast because I was so nervous I was almost nauseous. This would mark the only time in history I was too nervous to be hungry.

The bus left pretty much right on time, but the bus driver got lost three different times, so we were about 40 minutes late getting in. That was all the same to me, as I had hours to kill anyway.

I ended up walking around Minneapolis for a couple hours. I managed to run across two places I’d been to during my previous trip to Minneapolis, like a cute little candy store (where I bought a cherry popcorn ball for a dollar because I was broke and it was the cheapest thing there), and a gigantic barnes and noble, where I enjoyed a huge 2 dollar ginger cookie). I feel like I must also add that if I had had more money with me, some of the Doctor Who merch at B&N would have mysteriously migrated into my life.

By this time, I was getting a bit annoyed at my phone’s confusing GPS instructions, and the battery was getting really low. I was starting to panic. I wasn’t far from the bus station, so I managed (with some help) to find my way back there so I could charge my phone.

I think it was probably around 2ish when my phone was fully charged and I was ready to hit the pavement again.

Now you may be wondering why I didn’t just call a cab, and that’s a valid question. It’s because I had a very limited amount of money with me. I’d allotted ten dollars for the cab ride, as the bus station and the show venue were less than 3 miles from each other. I figured, if I manage to get myself there one way, I can call a cab for the ride back to the station. Because I’m not walking alone in a strange city after dark. Plus there was snow in the forecast.

It is at this point that I wish I’d noticed that Google Maps has a little button you can press to get WALKING directions, instead of the driving directions I was using. This led to me walking underneath some overpasses where there wasn’t technically a sidewalk, and running across some streets with no crosswalks, as well as me climbing a big weedy hill. I almost considered climbing over a very short fence and crossing some train tracks, which I didn’t do because the estimated remaining distance on my phone kept getting smaller and smaller. So I figured I could stick with it.

Finally around 4pm I FINALLY sighted the show’s venue, the Cedar cultural center. Part of the reason it took me so long to walk 3 miles is due to strategically placed road construction, and my own anti talent at finding my way around. Seriously, if I had only had a printed out map and not a program telling me exactly when to turn, I probably wouldn’t have found it.

Now, if this show were, say, in June (like the Howard Jones show was), I probably would have just parked my ass in front of the theatre, but at this point, it was already pretty cold. I found a cute little bar within sight of the theatre, so I stopped in there to use their restroom. I also bought a severely overpriced bottle of domestic beer, because I felt bad just going into a bar to use their bathroom, plus I had some time to kill.

It’s at this point that I wish my smartphone had a better battery life, because periodically throughout the day I’d turned it off for decent amounts of time, so as not to drain the battery. I wanted enough juice to possibly take a picture with my musical idol, as well as to call my cab after the show.

I mean, I could have taken my digital camera with me, but I don’t know. I’ve been to Minneapolis by myself on these sort of trips three times now, and while the city still gives off a wonderful, new-to-me sort of vibe, I’ve kind of passed the point where I have to photograph everything. I mean, I still love photography, but in situations like this, I’d rather concentrate on experiencing things live, instead of constantly snapping pictures.

It was probably around 5ish, when my beer was long since finished, when I decided to leave the bar and go stand in front of the theatre.

There were already three people standing in front of the doors. One of them is a pushy douche I encountered when I was in Minneapolis last year for the Howard Jones concert. He didn’t remember me or how much he annoyed me, so it was all good.

There was also a lovely couple outside waiting. The lady was a teacher whose name was Lisa, which is my mother’s name, and she has a brother named David… which is my brother’s name. It was funny. We talked about a lot of different things, about the situation in high schools today, pizza places, the wonderful smell wafting around in the air… It’s funny how in just a couple of hours I’m chatting with strangers as if I’ve known them for years.
Also, the guy deserves brownie points because HE’S A GODDAMN OINGO BOINGO FAN and we fangirled about Danny Elfman for a little bit.

Eventually (and with an amusing fiasco in which the guy hadn’t changed his watch for daylight savings time and we thought there was only half an hour until the doors opened when really there was an hour and a half left) they let us in. I was actually the first VIP ticketholder in the place, so I parked my ass front row almost center (I say almost because there were already like three people seated by the time I got in) and by chance the couple I’d chatted with outside sat right next to me.

So to entertain people before showtime, this really awesome DJ was like, video DJing creepy 80s synth music. The same guy introduced the other two concerts I’d been to in Minneapolis, so it was pretty fun. His name is Jake Rudh and I really hope he doesn’t find this entry or it would be awkward for me to mention how goddamn attractive he is. Seriously, you know how some derpy looking people are said to have a “face for radio”? He is not one of those guys. I shit you not, this man is beautiful.  And he has great taste in music.


Then the main event. Mr. Dolby’s short film The Invisible Lightouse. It was really interesting, about a lighthouse near where he lives being shut off for good. He played to and narrated the thing live, with a foley artist to replace some of the sounds that weren’t captured during filming.

It was very enjoyable, if a bit bizarre, but I’d expect nothing less out of him at this point. After the movie, he did us the honor of playing a few songs live, like Airhead, One of our submarines, Science of course, and fuck I know there was one more song, but I can’t remember what it was right now.

Afterward, Thomas had a Q&A session with Prince’s old synth player. This is why when I told people I was going to a show, I called it a show and not a concert, because I knew it wasn’t exactly going to be normal concert faire. Hey, whatever. I’ll sit through anything when I’m mere feet away from a man whose music I’ve admired for years. Plus to be honest it was interesting listening to them talk and to questions from the audience.

It was at this point that the general audience was ushered out, leaving only the VIP members. There were a lot more than I figured there would be, actually.

Once the doors were closed, the VIP members were treated to a private Q&A session in which I was too scared to raise my hand and ask how one is approached with a project like Gate to the Mind’s Eye, but I was okay with that.

Then we assembled a rather unorganized line to get our chance to meet him. Guess who was near me in the line? Jake Rudh. He’s a really fun guy to talk to, and guess what? Also a Danny Elfman fan. When I heard him say that I name I whipped around and was like “Holy shit I love Danny Elfman Oingo Boingo rocks and I’ve been watching Tim Burton movies all month” and we chatted a bit and he told me I would love his radio show.

At this point, the line was almost to Thomas, and I was so scared I let someone go in front of me. I was chatting with this tall skinny guy about Gate to the Mind’s Eye, which he was actually familiar with… I’m not used to that.

Then it happened. He looked straight at me and it was my fucking turn. I think time stopped for a second. The first words out of my mouth were about Gate to the Mind’s Eye, and how my tattoo was a lyric from it, and how I’d basically grown up listening to it. I then asked if he’d allow me to give him a drawing of mine, with a lyric from I love you goodbye on it. I also told him that I had first heard that album (Astronauts and Heretics, but I was so nervous I totally blanked on the name so I just said that album) in the fall so I was always reminded of that when I heard it, and he seemed touched by that.
Then, wait for it, Jake Rudh offered to hold my phone and get a picture of Thomas and me, as a momento from this great night. So not only am I standing next to my favorite musician in the entire world, but a fine DJ with great taste is holding my phone, taking the photo. I just remember thinking, jesus is this really happening? I had taken my jacket off to easier show off my tattoo and I was freezing so what I remember from that exact moment is feeling a warm hand on my shoulder.

When I left after that is when things started to go weird.

So after that, I called a cab and was starting to freak out a little because my return bus was for midnight, and it was really close to midnight.
I ended up getting to the bus station only 6 minutes after the hour, but I was told that it had already left. Then I discovered that the lady who sold me the ticket to begin with made it for the wrong day and had made it for midnight on the 5th, not the 6th, which it now was.
I was then told I’d need to buy a whole nother ticket because they had since stopped doing transfers.

So I called home in a panic, and was told to try to call the only people I know in Minneapolis, who of course didn’t answer because jesus it’s after midnight.
At 1 the bus station closed, and the manager was being a total asshole, although I suppose I do understand that you can’t keep an entire bus station open for one person. Although jesus, he could have locked it for everyone else and by his mercy let me stay inside, I don’t know.

I was then told that I’d have to go to the homeless shelter across the street until the station opened again at 4.

So, that was my first experience with a homeless shelter. I ended up sitting in an armchair wrapped in two fitted sheets crying because jesus I had been up for a full 24 hours at that point, with no knowledge of how I would get home, or if my friends in Minneapolis would answer their phone. I must have gotten a little sleep because I did feel a little better but I was still pretty fried. I think I ended up going back to the bus station at about 6am.

It did make me appreciate the fact that I have a home to go back to, though.

Anyway, it was while sitting there in the station, that this girl about my age approached me and asked if I had internet, because she needed to send a message to someone. Well, the asshole bus station manager situation in which both people involved refused to help me out fresh in my mind, I decided that yeah, I would help her out.

While chatting as she sent the message I let it slip that I needed 20 bucks for a transfer ticket (not expecting help mind you, just explaining my situation, because she did ask) she goes “You need 20 bucks? I have that.” She went and broke a 50 and just handed me 20 dollars. I was flabbergasted. She said it was god’s kindness and that jesus had plans for me. If my eyes hadn’t been so dry and I hadn’t been so dehydrated, I probably would have cried. You know, I’m still on the fence about religion, but it was just, how amazing is this. I don’t exactly believe in god, but what made it so that I left the homeless shelter at exactly the right time, and was sitting with my phone out at exactly the right time. What made this girl specifically ask me, when there were others in the station who had smartphones… it felt a little like a guardian angel type situation, even though it was my fault I got into this mess.

It was not until after I’d bought the ticket for the 5:45pm bus back to Clear Lake that I learned there was a noon bus back to Mason City, and of course there was nothing do be done about it. Oh well. I had a ticket, I had a few dollars, I had snacks, and most importantly a sketchbook and a sharpie. I spent hours on a spontaneous drawing build around the lyric “the earth can be any shape you want it”, which had popped into my head after that lovely stranger named Emily had bestowed 20 bucks on me.

I was complimented by a couple different people about my drawing. At one point, one of the guys said he thought god sent me down for a reason and that I had found it.
Now, I’m really not religious, but it was a really nice sentiment.
At this point I’m getting pretty deliriously tired, so I spent my last two dollars on a vending machine latte. To be honest, a lot of the time between is a blur of the weather channel playing on the station tvs, me listening to Thomas Dolby music continuosuly on my phone, and discovering that the chocolate variety of jammie dodgers tastes GREAT when you dip them in coffee. Even a vending machine coffee. And honestly the vending machine coffee did not taste that bad.

At some point there was a man who had a considerable amount of time to kill, charging his phone at the same outlet I was charging mine at, and we chatted for quite a while. At one point he bought me a Dr. Pepper and even offered me a smoke, which I politely declined. Now normally, I probably wouldn’t have even accepted his offer for a soda but I was delirious and caffeine starved. He was like I think the third person to compliment my drawing. I honestly can’t remember because I had had so little sleep at that point.

Now, in the afternoon/evening, a somewhat distressed lady came up to me and said she’d give me two bucks if I let her make a phone call. Normally I would have offered to do this for free, but the caffeine from the last coffee I had had worn off and I had only a few coins so… yeah I let her. She told me I was an angel. She was trying to buy a ticket for her son I think it was, and didn’t know which time he wanted to leave, so I was glad to help out. And glad to eat a tiny bag of goldfish and drink a vending machine americano with sugar.

Not long after that, the bus was FINALLY there, and I was finally sitting on a REAL SEAT again with padding and everything. That is seriously underrated, and I don’t think you really appreciate it until you’ve been sitting on a tile floor for 12 hours.
Upon arrival at home, almost the first words out of my mom’s mouth were how she thought my feet smelled. I don’t know if you’ve ever been wearing the same shoes for a day, a night, and then another whole day without taking them off, but yeah, they’re probably not going to smell like roses. After that I was awake just long enough to inhale some leftover chicken and mashed potatoes, then I went and passed out in bed for 10 hours.

Honestly, all in all, if I had to do it over again, I don’t know that I would change anything. Despite having to call into work because even if I had managed to get on the noon bus, it wouldn’t have arrived home in time for me to be at work.