Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Jacob's 2004 Adventure: Part III- On the Road

August 30th arrived. I had gone to bed early the night before, but because of my excitement level I wasn’t able to sleep. Mom and I got up at 6:00 AM and got ourselves ready. I calculated that if we hit the road at 9:00 AM we would easily be able to make it to Toronto by 4:00 PM. A little after 8:30 we left to pick up Grandma. When we got to her house we got some frustrating news. My aunt, who lives about 45 minutes away, hadn’t even left her house yet!
I was fuming, this could throw a wrench into the gears of my whole plan. At 10:00 AM she showed up and we were on our way. We were an hour late and Mom knew what to do: drive fast (while of course obeying all speed limits and traffic laws...mostly.)

Though the weather was rainy and at times foggy, the ride was beautiful. I sat in the passenger’s seat wearing my lucky Superman shirt I had been wearing when I met Chantal Kreviazuk (that's another story in itself). I hoped it would bring me luck again that day.

Armed with my iPod and lots of good music, I helped Mom navigate and enjoyed the scenery. One of the things that sticks out the most in my memory was a sight somewhere in Pennsylvania. As we cruised along on the freeway, we crossed high above some valleys and rivers, when we did, we were almost level with the treetops of the forests running along the road. At that height, it struck me how beautiful it was to see the mist lingering above the roof of the trees. It reminded me of something out of prehistoric times in a way.
The fog got pretty dense as we passed into New York, but that was short-lived. The closer we got to the Canadian border the better the weather got. Shortly after we crossed the border, the sun finally came out and shone down upon our road.

Just after we passed Niagara Falls, our stomachs were empty and our bladders were ready to burst, so we stopped to remedy those issues. After a quick slice of pizza, we loaded back into the van and headed for the QEW. It was roughly 3:30 I think, still behind schedule, but I hadn’t lost hope yet.

Around 5:00 I finally saw Toronto emerging over the horizon. I was so excited, the city looked beautiful. Gleaming skyscrapers everywhere you turned, everything looked so clean, and the sight of the people quickly walking down the sidewalks after getting out of work was something straight out of a movie. To my Superman-loving eyes, it looked like Metropolis had been ripped right out of the comic books and I was smack dab in the middle of it.

It took a little while to find our way to the Air Canada Centre, but we persisted and made it there. We hurried inside and went straight to the box office to pick up the tickets that were waiting for us.

I had some time to kill before doors opened and I had traveled nearly three hundred miles, so I decided to check the place out and see what I could see. Mom and I went back outside and walked around the building. I was shocked to actually find a door marked “Stage Door.”
Outside of the door were a bunch of security guards taking their breaks, having cigarettes, etc. I decided to play it cool and hang around for a bit. In my mind, me playing it cool greatly resembles Richie Cunningham trying his best to act like The Fonz. After a little while, I made my way over to the guards and asked if this was where the band comes in, but he told me they had already been inside for a couple hours. I was obviously disappointed, but had nothing better to do than continue to wait around, so I did.

When I’m determined to do something, I like to think that I’m nearly unstoppable, you can’t kill my hope and motivation. At the same time, I’m not too naive to know when I’m defeated. It was 7:00, I was tired, discouraged, and I admitted defeat, so Mom and I headed inside. Having not slept the night before, I was feeling a bit grumpy and to be completely honest, if it wasn’t The Corrs, I really wouldn’t have been in the mood for a concert.

A short time later I got to my seat in the chilly arena, home of the Maple Leafs. I met up with a friend from the message board, Richard, who I had met at the Cleveland show. We swapped our travel stories and as he left, I told him to send my friend, Steph, up to see me if he bumped into her. It was then that something completely unexpected happened, as a result, Steph wouldn’t find me until after the concert.

Meanwhile a few rows back (When buying tickets, we were only allowed to buy two seats in the disabled section, so my aunt and grandma were sitting a few rows behind us) my aunt was amused by the fact that we traveled to Toronto and people here knew me. What can I say? I’m a schmoozer.

As I sat there wearing my Superman shirt in this Metropolis-lookalike city, I could barely believe my eyes when I saw a tall, muscular, completely bald Lex Luthor clone coming up the stairs. Instinct from years of comic books had me ready for a battle or at least some intense witty banter. Thankfully it didn’t come to that, being tired and all it certainly wouldn’t have been one of my better performances.
I watched him and was surprised to see he was indeed coming to me. Who was this? Someone from the message board I hadn’t met yet?
He came right in front of me and spoke.
My aunt couldn’t take the mystery anymore and came down by us to find out what was going on.
The following is what was said to the best of my recollection. For storytelling purposes, I’ll affectionately refer to him as “Lex.”

What’s your name?


Jacob Drake?


Who are you with?

My mom, aunt, and grandma.

At this point you could see him stop and think about it.

We thought you’d be here with your parents. We have passes for you and two guests to meet the band.

After they resuscitated me, he told me to follow him.
I raced against the general flow of traffic in the main corridor of the Air Canada Centre as fast as I could, trying to keep up with him. It was like time slowed down as I bobbed and weaved through the crowd. This news had completely eliminated any feeling of tiredness I had just moments ago. I felt as though I was in a dream, after so many years of hoping for a chance like this, I was just minutes away from meeting The Corrs.

Eventually we got to a little waiting area, he told me to wait there and eventually “a big black guy in a red t-shirt” would come to take me downstairs.

As I sat there waiting, my mind and heart raced. I don’t remember the last time I had felt even close to this nervous. It was so bad that I had to keep wiping my hands because they were sweating so much. I could hear the opening act go on, but up to the point that I’m writing this I still have no idea who it was.

Fifteen minutes later a gentleman came up and started talking to us, it turns out he was one of the band’s tour managers. He was very cool and told us it was alright to take pictures, give gifts, or have them autograph anything I might have with me. He told us that as soon as they finished with another group of people, someone would come and get me. When he left I got my picture and book ready while Mom got the camera ready.

A few minutes later, the big black guy in a red t-shirt appeared. This was it, it was time.

We piled into the elevator and went downstairs. We were joined by four or five other people, they were contest winners I believe. I was led around a corner and down a hallway, I felt like such a bigshot. At the end of the hall was a door that was just slightly cracked open, I knew this was our destination. My excitement and nerve levels skyrocketed. All I could think was “Are they actually in there?” As we got there and entered, I found the room was empty. Disappointing, but a relief at the same time, now I had a few more minutes to try calming myself.

The room was quite nice and luxurious. Leather couches all around, a refrigerator, and a big plasma TV hanging on the wall. The contest winners sat off to the right of me as I got comfortably seated directly across the from where we had come in. They chit chatted about their jobs, sports, and the like. I wondered to myself how they could be calm enough for casual conversation while my main focus was trying my best not to hyperventilate and/or wet my pants.

Twenty minutes or so passed, it was nearly 9:00, they were to go on stage shortly, where were they?
At this point I was surprisingly calm. I remember I looked down at the ground for a second and when I looked back up I saw a tiny figure silhouetted in the doorway I had just come in. Time slowed down and as it hit me, I thought to myself “Holy shit...it’s Andrea Corr...”

She glided across the room, coming directly towards me. She was followed by Sharon and Jim. She waved to the other people, but kept coming in my direction. As she got closer, she spoke.

Hello, Jacob...

Holy shit! She knows my name!

We got your letter, it was beautiful. We loved it, thank you.

Holy shit! They read my letter!

With that she leaned in, hugged me, and kissed me on my cheek. I’m amazed I had the ability to speak after that.
There I was, talking to three of the four Corr siblings. To say it was surreal would be an enormous understatement.
It was such a rush to me, but sadly, a lot of it is blurry in my memory. Even so, what I do remember, I remember clearly.

We briefly talked about the Cleveland concert, I said how great it was and then Andrea said something unexpected. She not only mentioned the signs I had (she remembered!), but she also said that my last one made her laugh and it was what made her forget the lyrics to “Breathless”! Even though I probably should feel bad about making her mess up, I can’t help but smile when I think about it.

I gave them the picture I had made and they were kind enough to sign my personal copy and my copy of the Corner to Corner book. Then they gathered around me and we took a couple pictures together.
Looking back at the pictures I’m still awestruck that I’m in the same picture as them, that their hands were touching my wheelchair, that Andrea is holding a picture that I made. Little things like that just blow me away.

One by one they wandered over to mingle with the other guests, but Sharon seemed to hang around and talk with us the longest. Mom congratulated her on her soon to be born niece or nephew and we talked a little bit about how far we had driven to get there that night. This next bit I remember so clearly simply because I found her choice of words so damn adorable. After Mom commented on how tiring the drive was, Sharon replied by saying “Oh, I know. It’s a puffer.” Not being a word used in everyday conversations where I’m from, I absolutely loved it. Puffer.
As Sharon was about to join Jim and Andrea in mingling with the others, I made a decision. I decided to fight my shyness and speak up, so I did. I blurted out “I’ve got to ask...can I get a hug?” I’m so glad I spoke up, it got me a hug from the lovely Sharon Corr.

Still in shock after meeting them and unable to believe that they were still just feet away from me, I sat there with the biggest smile across my face you would ever see. At some point my aunt noticed Jim had forgotten to sign my book. When it comes to shyness, Aunt Karen is the exact opposite of me, the word “shy” doesn’t exist for her. That said, let me give an example of her in action.
Without hesitation, she walked across the room, grabbed Jim by the arm, and told him he forgot to sign the book. When she came back I couldn’t say anything due to the fact that my jaw was dropped after seeing her do that.
Being the great guy that he is, Jim graciously came back to sign my book before heading for the stage.

As the three left the room, they waved and said it was lovely to meet me. All I could think was “Who the hell am I? It was lovely meeting you!”
Jim was last in line as they made their exit. I called out and said “Come back to Cleveland soon!” He turned as he walked, waved and said “We’ll be back!” With that, they were gone.

I sat stunned. Did that really just happen? So much happened so fast it was like those few moments when you first awake from an incredible dream. You feel the joy from experiencing such a great dream, yet you also feel sadness in knowing it was nothing more then a dream. For me there was none of that sadness. Dreams do not write their names on your artwork. Dreams do not take pictures with you. Those facts and the memories make me smile because they remind me: on August 30th, 2004...my dream came true.

Before we even left the room, I could hear that they were already on stage and starting to play “Humdrum”. By the time we got back to our seats they had already finished it and were beginning “Only When I Sleep”.

Again, the concert was phenomenal, though my mind remained backstage replaying the night’s events over and over again. As a result, the two hour long concert seemed to speed by in about fifteen minutes.

After the show, Steph finally found me. When I told her what had happened earlier, her jaw dropped and her eyes nearly popped out of their sockets. The look on her face was priceless.

I gave her a copy of the picture I made and she and her father walked with us for a bit as we left.

Shortly after 11:00 PM we were on the road again and headed back to Niagara Falls. As I gazed out my window and watched the streetlights silently whiz past in the night, I reflected on my long, but amazing day.

After the long post-concert drive, we arrived at our hotel at 1:30 AM. We wearily unloaded our suitcases and went inside. Before leaving home, Mom had called and let them know we'd be a very late arrival and to hold our room...so of course we get inside and find out they gave our room away. We protested a little to the concierge, but we were exhausted. He gave us free valet parking for the night, put us in a cityview room, and said we could get into our original room the next day. We were too tired to argue, so we went up to the room. I knew I would have sweet dreams that night.

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