(Before I start storytime, I wanted to thank you all for continuing to bear with me as I adjust to my new job – I’m about settled in, and your regularly (un)scheduled programming will continue. Also, there’s a moral to the story you’re about to read.)
Angela and I were hanging out in Kansas City last Thursday, seeing the sites. We saw Amos Lee in concert Wednesday night and were going to see Jack Johnson Friday night. Neither of us had ever really seen much of Kansas City – her parents love suburban malls, and mine were always too poor for us to travel much, let along enjoy traveling. Our visit was like seeing Kansas City for the first time.
We ended up in Union Station. It’s a lovely building with great architecture, but we soon discovered that there really wasn’t much to do there, except for seeing the controversial Bodies Revealed exhibit. And that was expensive.
As we stood deliberating whether or not to fork over the money to go to aforementioned exhibit, this guy walked in front of me.
He was carrying a car seat and had two young boys (probably 3 and 5) in tow. He was wearing a green T-Shirt, some cargo shorts, and a backpack. He looked really familiar – I knew who he was, but it took me a second to realize it.
It was Jack Johnson. Yes, the Jack Johnson you’re thinking of. The same Jack Johnson that’s my favorite artist and why we were even in KC in the first place.
I looked at Angela and say “That’s Jack Johnson!” Before she could mutter “Nuh-uh!” I had already gotten his attention and moved the 10 feet to talk to him.
Surprised, he looked at me. I’m not sure whether I yelled it louder and more forcefully than I thought, or whether he was surprised that someone noticed him.
I walked (briskly) and shook his hand.
“I’m a big fan of yours, and I know you’re here with your kids, but I was wondering if I could get a picture with you.”
Angela caught up shortly after I started talking to him and managed to meekly wave and say “We’re really big fans.”
“I’m sorry,” he said “but I promised my wife I wouldn’t do that anymore. We lost the boys for like ten minutes the other day when I was signing and talking to a fan and it really scared us.” He looked like he wanted to, but was trying to honor his promise and take care of his kids.
“I understand,” I said as I noticed that his boys were already on the verge of getting out of sight, “that’s really scary. Hey, we’re going to the concert tomorrow night, so we’ll see you there.”
“Thanks – I hope you enjoy the show.” He ran to catch his boys and to check in the car seat.
He walked around a bit trying to figure out what he’s going to do, and we stood back trying not to stare. Angela was wheedling at me to get the camera out so we could take a picture of him as he’s walking around, but I fought the urge for both of us – the man was with his kids.
He disappeared downstairs, and we went back to trying to figure out whether to go to the exhibit. I was mad at myself for not saying something more substantial and blowing an opportunity for a decent thirty second conversation with my favorite musician. (This frustration hits Angela a day later.)
We finally decide that we were going to see the exhibit. We went downstairs, and there he was again. His boys were being young boys, and he was having a hard time keeping them contained while he was on the cell phone. We walked around him and his boys, trying to give them wide berth.
“Hey guys,” he said as he walks up to us, “have you all been to the Bodies Revealed thing? I’d like to see it, but I don’t know if the boys will like it.”
“No, we’re trying to figure out if we’re going to do it,” I said, surprised that he’s talking to us.
“I’d like to see it, but I’ve got ethical issues with it,” Angela said, as surprised as I am. (In case you can’t tell, Angela’s not shy about telling you what’s on her mind.)
“Oh, that’s cool. I think we’ll just go to the science exhibit. Thanks – see you tomorrow.” He managed to catch his oldest boy and drag his youngest to the ticket counter. He paid and went to the exhibit.
This second encounter threw us off to the fact that we’d decided to see the exhibit. We went back upstairs and went through the deliberation to see it all again.
I got more frustrated with myself, as I blew a second opportunity to say something significant. We decided (again) to fork over the money and see the damned exhibit.
What was interesting about it was that no one else knew who he was. Had I not pointed him out, Angela wouldn’t have noticed him either (as you can tell, I’m fairly observant). He walked around completely unassuming, and he looked just like any other dad spending the day with his boys.
We didn’t see Jack again until the following night – but we did catch him playing a pre-concert with Zack Gill.
When Experiencing Something is Better than Getting a Picture
I’d rather have seen what I saw of Jack than to just get a picture. By opening our eyes, we got to experience not mega-star Jack Johnson, but a laid-back dad on a trip with his kids. He was doing the best he could to spend time with them and honor a promise he made to his wife.
I respect that more than his music-making skills. There are a lot of people who are talented musicians but horrible spouses and parents, and the fact that he was able to be a family guy in between concerts told more about his character than the scores of interviews I’ve seen or heard.
But it was also cool that he took the time to talk to us again. It really did seem like he cared that we were fans – but he was primarily there to spend time with his boys. Fans took a backseat – a close one, but a backseat nonetheless.
In case any of you were wondering what I wanted to say, here it is:
“Jack, you got me and my fellow troops through many a dark day when we were deployed to Iraq. I really appreciate you and your message – and just wanted you to know that the value of your music is measured by many more things than the money that it yields. Your music continues to make our days brighter and influences the music that I make and play.”
It turns out that words like that don’t come out when you get starstruck. Instead, you become a rabid fan and ask for pictures.
The Moral of the Story
You may be asking yourself: “What does any of this have to do with productivity or flourishing? Isn’t that what this blog is ostensibly about? Why the storytime?”
I’ve said before that one of the ways we become more virtuous is by having examples of virtuous people. There’s (usually) a very tight correlation between those who are virtuous and those who are living the Good Life.
By all accounts, Jack and Zack are living the Good Life. Their families tour with them and they seem to have happy, normal children. Jack and his crew have started a non-profit organization called All At Once that seeks to unite local social action groups. And he still loves what he’s doing.
Watch and learn, folks. Watch and learn.