in which I become BFFs with my favorite band (part three)

...continued from here.

The tour bus was what I'd guess you'd expect - huge, well-outfitted, with bunk beds, a kitchen, and a sort of den area in the back.  Ken invited me and Baseball Friend to have a seat with him and the others in the main cabin.  After a minute, he left in search of nourishment, and I found myself chatting up the band's tour manager about, of all things, grocery club cards.

He sat to my right; to my left was an actor I had to Google later, though at the time I thought he looked vaguely familiar. Across from him sat Rhett, eating from a plate he held in his lap - Baseball Friend was next to Rhett.  Ken sat at the kitchen table, along with the girls from Those Darlin's. Murry and Philip were in bunk beds further back in the bus.

The tour manager was exceptionally friendly and gracious, and I genuinely enjoyed talking to him - but the whole time I had a rather distracting inner monologue. Holy Christ, you're in the Old 97s tour bus, sitting across from Rhett Miller.  REMEMBER EVERY DETAIL.  It was a challenge to concentrate on, you know, grocery club cards, while I was straining to hear three conversations at once. I'm a dork, I know. But I didn't want to miss anything. Again, just imagine this was you and these were your all-time favorite celebs/idols/crushes/whatevers.

Rhett and the others were discussing, believe it or not, hilariously and or crudely named sex acts.  (Can you imagine what I was thinking at this point?  I was dying.) Rhett started to explain some particularly crude expression he'd heard, and then interrupted himself on my account. I called him out on it.  "No, no," I said.  "I'm like one of the guys right now. I'm hanging out on your tour bus, for god's sake. Go for it."

"No way," he said, laughing. "I can't.  Not unless you can tell me what a dirty Sanchez is."  And the next thing I knew, the entire tour bus was quiet, and looking at me with expectant smiles.

Yes. This is a thing that really happened.  On September 1, 2012, Rhett Miller of the Old 97's asked me to define "dirty Sanchez" for him, his band mates, his opening act, and his tour manager. On their tour bus. Which Ken Bethea had invited me onto. Hello, Surreal Moment Number Five!

Let's pause for a second and check in with 22 year-old Ellie, shall we?  What's she up to?  Oh, there she is!  She's curled up in the corner of a ripped-vinyl booth at Grill, her favorite (only) 24-hour diner in Tucson.  She's got a butterscotch shake in one hand and a dog-eared copy of Paradise Lost in the other.  Must be Milton final time!  What's that playing on the stereo?  Why, it's Time Bomb, of course.  This restaurant, after all, is where a very sweet manager named Matt introduced Ellie to the Old 97's in the first place.  And he played them nonstop. It didn't take long for young Ellie to fall madly in love with the band, and had you told her that, fifteen years later, she'd be sitting with ALL FOUR OF ITS MEMBERS, discussing scatalogical sex acts, well, it might have made it difficult for her to ace that final. Which she did. BOOM.

Now, back to 2012. Back to the tour bus.

The truth is, I was only 70% sure I even knew what the aforementioned act entailed, so I hesitantly did my best.  At which point, Rhett now had to finish what he'd been starting to say, which he did, and uncomfortably at that.  Still, it was about a thousand times funnier.

Yes, that's right.  That's what I listened to Rhett Miller - the crush of all my crushes - say, in person, a foot from where I sat. That was Surreal Moment Number Six.

Anyway, after a while up front, I ended up sitting in the back den area with Ken and another musician (who does sound for the 97's as well as performing in a few other bands), talking about podcasts.  At some point, Rhett came by to - wait for it - offer me a hit of pot.  Which I took, ringing in Surreal Moment Number Seven.  Honestly, I don't even really like pot any more - I hate the paranoia and thickheaded-ness - but come on.  How could I possibly turn down the opportunity to get high with the Old 97's?  How could anyone?

I didn't stay much longer past that, but they were all very sweet and thanked me - ME - for coming to hang out and break up the doodz factor of the tour bus for a while.  The only bummer of the night was that the pot was so strong that I was nearly incapacitated by it. I staggered about a block before realizing I was too high to even function, much less find the bus or a taxi.

I started to panic, thinking I wouldn't actually be able to get myself home.  I knew A. would be up and probably out, so I called him, and he was sort of life-saving.  He calmed me down, let me know I was going to be fine, and talked me through the seemingly gargantuan task of hailing and climbing into a cab. He made sure I got home safely, and once there, he stayed with me until I stopped tripping (which I was, majorly).

And that's the end of the story in which I became BFFs with my favorite band.  And by "BFF" I mean, another of probably a few dozen fans that, over the years, they took the time and effort to be extra cool to.

Awesome, awesome guys, and I'm a fan for life.