Did I ever tell you about the time I met Joe Cocker? Well, it was really the time I almost met Joe Cocker. But it was a terrific story, whether we met or not.
I was working at a vineyard when the annual harvest festival occurred. It was a big deal, lots of music, food and wine. I was just a poor student so I couldn’t afford to hang out with my wealthy friends drinking and dancing, so I opted to pour wine instead. It was a great way to spend the day… pretending to be an expert, flirting with the half-cut patrons, and making small talk with the guy who corked the bottles.
It was a long day, but we had breaks. During the breaks we relaxed in the staff kitchen, kicking back freshly squeezed orange juice that the bosses daughter made in the morning. It was the first day I ever had a muffin, well, the kind with the flowing caramel in the middle. It was magnificent.
Anyway, I was relaxing on the couch, eating my muffin, drinking my juice, when the band came in. I tried to flirt with the drummer, but he was oblivious, so I just talked with the singer. He was a some-what-well-known singer of my parents generation, but no one I thought was anyone. We talked about the river nearby, and we talked about the lake. We talked about sailing. He had a boat, and I was taking a sailing course at school. It was an elective course.
Then we were back at work, I was pouring, and he was singing. The sun beat down, and I was burning. The middle aged crowd swayed to the beat of the oblivious drummer, some stumbling with their intoxication and impossible heels. I found myself smiling and laughing, soon singing along with the lyrics of a long supressed melody.
After the festival was over, and most of the wine was drunk, we retired in. The boss and his daughter lit the barbeque and we relaxed on hay bales, drinking wine he had put aside for the workers. The band struck up a tune, and impromptu karaoke occurred. I sang a song about a raspberry beret, though I knew not the original artist. We laughed. Later when my turn was to pass again, I sang “You can leave your hat on” figuring that the theme of my song choices would be headresses. I stumbled back to my hay bale, clutching a winebottle in hand. As I lay staring up at the stars, desperately trying to think of another song about a hat, without mentioning the Village People. The singer from the band came up, flopping into the hay with me. We laughed, sang and shared a bottle. That’s when he told me he was spending the week fishing the lake with Joe Cocker. We laughed. I slapped his chest accusing him of pulling my leg. He became more serious and said it was true, and that Joe was planning on making a surprise stop at the festival, but the fish were biting, and everyone makes priorities.
That was the first day I almost met Joe Cocker. The singer whose name still escapes me invited me back to his bach, to fish with he and Joe. I declined, preferring to keep the illusion of the famous. That and it just seemed like a drunken promise that would be forgotten when the sun rose.
When I was back at school I ran into Emily. She was a major Joe Cocker fan, we both found him cool. Emily always wore amazing hats, so she loved the song. I told her how I almost met Joe Cocker. She laughed, and wanted all the details. Then she told me about when she met Michael Jackson, backstage at his concert. Emily had end-stage leukemia, she wore hats because she had no hair, no eyebrows and no eyelashes from the chemo. Michael Jackson stopped into the hospital when she was getting treatment and gave out backstage passes to all the kids and their parents. He was such a superstar back then, and never let a fan down. Emily wasn’t much of a Jackson fan, but she thought he was generous and kind. She went to the concert, the same night I nearly met Joe Cocker.
We both laughed about Joe and Michael later on, when she was dying. Not long after she passed, Michael did too. Both dead. Well before their time. But, during the time they were here, plenty of fond memories were had.
I often wonder what would have happened if I did meet Joe Cocker? Maybe by some cruel twist of fate, we would be the ones who died, and Emily and Michael would have lived. Whatever the result, one thing remains. One day I may actually meet Joe Cocker, and I will tell him the story of when he nearly met my friend Emily.