In less than two weeks I performed in three cities: Miami, Chicago and Atlantic City. My schedule beginning at end of October into November is BRUTAL...and it all began when I went to Miami. I'm sure people think it's all very cool to jet set all over the country - and it is a blessing, don't get me wrong, but allow me to give you an example of what it can be like.
First, I fly coach. LOL. I don't do first class. It would be nice, but let's face it; I'm not Lady Gaga. And I was sitting in the middle to two large men...and I'm a big girl too. I admit it must have been a funny sight. I land in Fort Lauderdale, a half hour away from Miami. We drive to the hotel, and I'm already sleep deprived from the day before because when I know I have a flight, I become anxious that I'll miss the alarm clock when it fires. So I take a nap...about an hour and a half. I wake to several messages and emails about the upcoming show in Atlantic City. I get picked up for the show around 11:30pm. I go onstage at 1:30am.
The Club at the Renaissance was the venue. The crowd was a good one. Scratch that. They were GREAT! I don't do Miami too often so I know the people who showed up really came to see me. AS I performed there were three men in the audience who were starry eyed. I rarely ever see men look at me that way. But something was different about them. Couldn't put my finger on it. As I performed, with each and every song, the energy from the audience expanded, and then I felt it. Euphoria. It's true happiness. And it is SO contagious. I feel it. The people feel it. And it is just the best natural high a person could have. When I sing, Please Stay Tonight, there is a small segment of the song where I move my hips right, left and as I do that, I lower my body. And then boom. I spring back up. Then I usually make a little joke about it. I say something like, "Ah, you didn't think I could get myself back up, huh?" Then the audience laughs, and so do I. So, there I was lowering my body....wait...um, hello? Oh, shoot!! I can't get up! LOL LOL LOL. Oh, my God! Seriously, I'm stuck. It may have been the shoes that were higher than usual, but for some reason, my legs just didn't have the oomph to pull myself up. So there I am, just squatting there. I have to sing in like 3 seconds. So, I did what we all have to do sometimes in life: I reached out for help. And two of the three men with starry eyes helped me up. I received great applause - I really had fun onstage!
Now it's about 2:15am. I have a flight at 7:40am. I need to get back to the hotel and get sleep. But I can't because there are people just outside the door of the dressing room, waiting for pictures. I firmly believe in meeting the fans, taking pictures and chatting with them. They deserve that. If they took the time to get dressed up to come see the show, if they take the time to wait on line to meet me, the least I can do is give them that time. Besides, I confess, I LOVE people. I love that we all come in different shapes, sizes, colors, attitudes, races, creeds...and I love to try to connect with each person - even if for a second. And so, I take a moment...get a couple of sips of water, and the door is opened. By now, my feet are usually hurting...but I put on my chancletas (slippers) and just keep going. There are always a few people who challenge me: "Judy, you don't remember me, do you?" Um. Hm.
When I'm in a good mood and I'm not too tired, my response will be, "No, I'm so sorry. Where did we meet?" or "How do we know each other?"
When I'm in a bad mood, or exhausted to the point I may cry, my response is, "No, I'm sorry." Period. What else can I say? But in my mind, I'm thinking, 'Um, hello, if I remembered you, you probably wouldn't have to have asked me.' But I know how rude that sounds in my mind, so it never gets released from my mouth.
But I won't lie. I won't make believe I remember that person. About 20 years ago, someone asked me, "Judy, you don't remember me, do you?" I didn't remember him, but I felt SO horrible because he had this hopeful look in his eye. So, I lied to please him, "Yeah, how are ?" He challenged me: "Oh, yeah, you remember me? What's my name? Where did I meet you?" I stood there like an idiot. I swore I would never lie again. Truth be told, sometimes I do remember a person's face, but not the name. It's hard. In the span of ONE evening, I am easily introduced to at least fifty people. It's really hard.
Okay, I got off the subject. Sorry. So, after a show there are always a few drunk ones. It used to bother me, but now I just find it funny that the next day, they will probably remember nothing. So as I was taking pictures the three men with the starry eyes came in. They took pictures with me and seemed tickled pink. I felt honored to take the pictures with them. There was something special about them. And then one of them, asked me in Spanish what my nationality was. I told him that my mother is Puerto Rican, and my father is Cuban. Their eyes lit up...as if they couldn't light up any further. He announced to me that they were all from Cuba and had been in the country for just a year. I asked them what city...they were from Havana, the very city my father was born in.
My father speaks of Cuba frequently. He tells me of the white sandy beaches, the amazing music and the impeccable dancing that occurs there. My father came to this country when he was shy of 18 years old. I understand from his stories that it was a hazardous trip, and that when he got here in the winter time, the only word he knew in English was hamburger. I admire my father for his courage. To come to a land where you don't speak the language, or know the culture...to not even have a home or know of a friend or a relative who can get you started - that takes guts. And my father created a wonderful life for himself here...and later in life, he had his sister and mother join him here as well. It is a common story for many of our relatives, but it is always admirable..this country is built on immigrants. I sure wouldn't be here today if my parents had not come into this country.
And so, the three starry-eyed gentlemen began to tell me about how they would climb to the roof of their homes with antennae to desperately try and catch Power 96, a big radio station in Miami. They told me they could barely hear No Reason To Cry but they knew they loved it. Wow. Their story, told with so much passion, simply brought tears to my eyes. The idea that they could have been in trouble if they had been caught, but they risked it anyway, truly moved me. They had looked forward to this day, hoping they could finally hear me in person, meet me. So cool. I gave them pictures, I took more pictures with them and I hugged them...really, really hard. Wow. Now, that's what I call Freestyle Freaks!! Yo quiero mi Cuba libre!!! (I want my Cuba to be free)