Oh, it makes me grin just to type that! Yes, it happened! For the second time in my life, I got to meet my idol. It goes to show you that perseverance, heart and logical thinking can make anything happen...
Here’s the whole story. From my last posting, you can see that U2 is in town and that I had been doing my best to find a way to cross paths with them. For example, on Thursday night, I went to check out a bar the band is known to frequent: turns out Bono was drinking there a few hours later. Sigh... Then, those two hurricane relief concerts were announced with U2 in the line up, so the general fan consensus was that the band must be taking the short flight over to New York City for those performances. I figured that my stalking activities would be suspended for Friday and Saturday.
Yesterday, I had to go home to Waterloo for the final post-op check on the former site of my tonsils (I’m fine, by the way). But I wasn’t worried about leaving Toronto and missing any U2 opportunities, because they were supposed to be out of town, right? On the Greyhound home, we drove past the Air Canada Centre and I got super, super excited when I saw the huge fleet of Vertigo Tour trucks - a dozen gorgeous glossy red tractor trailers. This was the first physical evidence that I had seen with my own eyes.
Later that night, U2 appeared on the CBS fundraiser with Mary J. Blige, singing ‘One’ (not entirely appropriate, but whatever: it sounded great). They were performing from what looked like their tour set, and they were in an empty arena - not where the rest of the show was taking place. They hadn’t gone to NYC after all. My quick-thinking friend Anisa jumped in her car and sped to the ACC. She was able to get into the foyer and could actually hear the band rehearsing, but she couldn’t get any further. Later, the band sped away into the night. She tried to follow in her car, but she lost them.
Throughout that experience, I was on the phone with Anisa, and I was completely freaking out, thinking that I had missed my chance, all because of my (literally) 30 second doctor’s appointment.
So, this morning, I got myself back to Toronto on the bus as early as possible. My boyfriend (and U2 hater) humored me by agreeing to drive me by the ACC. I just wanted to see what was going on. It so happened that I spotted Vince’s friend and U2 fanatic Jorge, standing with a small group of people by the arena’s vehicle exit. The word was that the band was inside rehearsing. Shortly after I arrived, Bono’s bodyguard John came out and promised us that if we waited, the band would stop to meet us and sign autographs. I called Anisa and she and hubby Collan again sped over to the arena (that's her, waiting).
So we waited. And waited. And waited, almost four hours. By this time, Vince was long gone and Anisa and Collan had left to get to the movie theatre to see the opening of “Breakfast on Pluto” (see my previous entry). Suddenly, a white SUV roared up the ramp (see photo). There was someone hanging out the front window - white cowboy hat, sunglasses, denim jacket, a prominent nose... it was Bono! But the car just slowed for a moment. “I’m coming back! Wait! I’m coming back!”, he shouted to the waiting fans, and then he was gone.
He was indeed on the way to that film opening, as I had predicted. I’ll let Anisa tell her own story of her encounter there.
So, believing Bono’s words, about 20 of us stayed on to wait at the entrance of the arena (that's me, waiting, to the right). To be honest, at that point, I was happy to have seen him even for a few moments. But Bono kept his word: he did come back to meet us. The SUV returned and stopped at the entrance. All of us fans were very well behaved - we waited quietly on the sidewalk until John the bodyguard told us to come on over. Bono didn’t get out of the SUV - he sat sideways in his seat with the door opened. We went up two by two. People who were waiting their turn snapped photo after photo. Even though I had mine in hand, I was so star-struck that I completely lost the ability to use a camera. Besides, I just couldn’t bring myself to stick a camera in Bono’s face, although I’m sure he’s used to it. Lots of people were posing for photos, but I knew I didn’t want to do that - it’s not my style. Also, everyone else had brought something to get autographed - album booklets, photos, tour programs, LPs and so on. But I didn’t have anything since I hadn’t expected this to happen. Still, I decided I didn’t want to get Bono’s signature. I really just wanted the memory of the moment of meeting him. I knew it wasn’t right for me to fetishize some scrap of paper that would represent my lifelong love for U2. I don’t regret this decision at all.
When it was my turn, I went up with another guy who asked him to sign a rare LP of ‘Elevation’. I guess Bono had never seen this particular record cover before because he started asking the guy about it (it was a very striking piece of artwork). At this point, I was standing right beside Bono, like, an inch away. It felt like they were talking for quite a while, because I had time to think, “I can’t believe I’m standing here with the man who is the centre of this global phenomenon, this man who is such a genius and such a hero to me.” And then I realized how badly I was shaking.
Finally, Bono turned to me: I offered my hand and I said (I think), “I’ve got nothing to sign, I just wanted to say hello.” He smiled and asked my name and then kissed my hand (it was rough as he was very unshaven). If he hadn’t been sitting in the car, I doubt I could have resisted the urge to hug him. I’m not completely sure what happened next, but I remember eventually saying something like “It’s so lovely to meet you, see you around.” And then I got out of the way so others could have their turn.
After that, I backed right off and stood well away from the crowd, even though everyone else was still surrounding the car. Maybe I’m strange, but for some reason, it was very important for me to respect Bono as a normal person and not get in his face. Even though I was just one person in a crowd, I really felt like I wanted to give him space. It was because Bono had looked so very tired, sitting hunched over, and his voice was so quiet - he didn’t seem like he had any energy at all. But still, he stayed until every single fan had gotten their item signed. He really made an effort to be sure that each person had a moment with him. Of course, fans are his reason for being, his bread and butter, so you could say we deserve it. But nevertheless, I really appreciated him being so patient when he was clearly not in top form.
So, when every single person was satisfied, Bono climbed back into his seat and continued back into the area. When he was gone, a great whoop of joy rose up from the crowd. It had been a long, long wait but it was worth it. Everyone started comparing their autographs and the photos they had taken. Pro photographer Jorge had brought some of his best concert photos and Bono had signed them, which is so cool. Others had completely indecipherable Bongolese messages and hieroglyphics scrawled across their souvenirs. It was funny trying to guess the meaning.
Now, I’m at home, having found the energy for the hour’s walk back to my place. I feel totally satisfied with my brief encounter with Bono and I still have two concerts to look forward to. BOOM cha! Now, all I need is for someone to send me some photos from last night!