Saying "yes" across generations: my meeting with Joan Baez

Categories: Music

A few weeks ago my friends Stacy Schwartz, Alexa Jones and I made an election poster, a replica of an old Joan Baez anti-war poster called "Girls Say Yes." We did it on a whim, mostly to be silly and to show our love for Obama. We put it on the internet and people really liked it, so we printed out copies and plastered them around town and felt, on a small level, like we were a part of what was happening with Obama and the election and history.

The other day, Stacy sent me an email. JOAN BAEZ IS COMING ON NOVEMBER 13. I knew what I had to do. I emailed, and emailed, and emailed, and finally on the day before the show her publicist caved and said she would give us three after-show passes to meet Joan and give her our poster. We were ecstatic. But we wouldn't really believe it until we were backstage shaking Joan's hand.

The day of the show, the three of us piled in Alexa's car and giggled all the way downtown. We got there toward the end of the show (none of us got tickets to the actual performance), and a security guard gave us our wristband passes. We stood at the door to the auditorium and pressed our ears up to the crack. Her voice was wafting through above all the other instruments and applause, and it was immediately identifiable. Joan was in there.

"I'm going to cry," I said, my excitement billowing. Alexa and Stacy laughed. I wasn't kidding.

As the show let out, streams and streams of middle-aged, graying folks came out of the auditorium, smiling and reveling in their Joan experience. The three of us headed into the auditorium, the youngest in the crowd by about 20 years, and stood by a small group of people who were waiting to be taken backstage.

Before we knew it we were being led down three flights of stairs into the underbelly of the State Theatre. There was a small reception room for us to gather in, with wine and bottles of water that nobody touched, and just as we were starting to get fidgety she appeared.

She was tiny and beautiful, a shock of gray hair standing up on her head. She had changed into a starched white shirt and jeans; she looked like the image of the Unitarian hippie mom that everyone wanted to have. Her tour manager came up to us and eyed Stacy's hand, which was clutching a stack of our posters.

"Did you make something for Joan?" he asked, and we all giggled. He grabbed a poster and ran over to her, interrupting her mid-conversation with other fans to show her our poster. She bounded over, past all of the other people waiting to meet her, and held the poster up.

"Is this you?"

"Yes!" we cried in unison. Stacy started to explain why we made the poster, shoving the rest of the stack into Joan's hand.

"Oh yeah, I saw this on the internet!" Joan said. We all stood slack-jawed. "These are for me?"

She disappeared for a moment to set down the posters, and returned to give us hugs. She leaned in to hug me and as soon a she touched me a warmth shot through my whole body, my eyes welling up with tears. "It's so nice to meet you," I said, cutting myself off before the tears could start streaming down my cheeks. I hope she knows I really meant it.

The rest of the experience was a blur. She hugged Stacy and Alexa, and then signed the vinyl records they had brought. Stacy made some comment about "that one being REALLY old," which I thought was funny, considering they were Joan's records. We posed for a picture, and Joan seemed sincerely happy to meet us and see our posters. The tour manager said he would put our poster and our photo with Joan on her website. And before we knew it, we were already walking back up the stairs and out into the night, past the other fans who were gathered near her tour bus, past the strangers on the street who were hoping for a glimpse of Joan.

Stacy gave me one of her signed records to take home as a souvenir. But the part I'll never forget is when the famous folk singer touched my arms and my friends and I got to feel, for a moment, like we were the kind of women that Joan Baez wants to meet.

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