When I was 17, I took a trip with my family across the country to LA. We were meant to take the train, but the Mississippi flooded so badly that year that we had to fly from Chicago to Phoenix, then resume our train journey from there. (We were on the local news in Flagstaff talking about the “inconvenience” the floods had caused to our family, I suppose the closest thing they could find to “flood victims” in the deserts of Arizona.) Somewhere along the way I realized I’d left my contact lens solution at home, so I borrowed my aunt’s solution, which was for hard contact lenses, and made my eyes start streaming with tears. I had to wear my glasses for the rest of the trip.
When we got to our hotel in LA, there was a group of long-haired guys with instrument cases hanging out in the lobby. I was strangely bold then, yet self-conscious, so I took off my glasses, and stumbled my way up to one of them to say hello while my family checked in.
“What are you guys doing in LA?” I wondered if they could tell that I wasn’t focussing on their faces properly.
“We’re in a band? Called Jellyfish?”
“Oh! I’ve heard of you!”
“You should come to our show.”
“I don’t think I can… I’m here with” - here I rolled my eyes like I was a weary 20-something - “family.” When really I was having a great time with my family. They made me laugh.
I don’t know what else we talked about. I was probably awkward and eager, they were probably polite and curt. But this was enough. Squinty-eyed, I had met Jellyfish.
Later that night, glasses back in place, I stood at the window of our room, behind sheer curtains, looking down at the pool in the courtyard where the boys in the band drank beers on the sun loungers and talked to girls they may have met at the bar. I wanted to be out there. (I’m suddenly remembering how many family vacations I spent staring out windows at cities - Honolulu, Cleveland - wishing I was at the party.)
The next morning, before breakfast, I went out to the pool, where I spotted the sole remnant of the party from the night before: an empty guitar string packet on one of the glass tables. I swiped it from the table and took it back to my room. A souvenir from a party I never attended with a band I sort of knew.
(And that is my Jellyfish story.)