Summer vacation: a time when students hope to relax, see friends, go to concerts and simply have fun. Many head into summer expecting it to be the best yet and for some amazing thing to happen to them, but it doesn't always work out that way. But as the saying goes: "Good things come when you least expect them."
After a drama-filled sophomore year and a bad start to summer, I figured life was just going to stay at its stagnant state; I thought I'd have to wait for a clean start in my junior year. So June went by and then July came and went with a few moments of glory found at Vans Warped Tour 2011; it was nothing major, just meeting a few little-known bands. I was letting summer take its course.
By the time August came around, I had finally begun to get excited about the Honda Civic Tour at Darien Lake. To kick off the show: Manchester Orchestra. Opening for the main performance, one of my favorite bands, My Chemical Romance. Headlining, a band I grew up on and love to this day, blink-182.
My parents packed up our motor home, we picked up some friends and we were off to camp at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort. On Aug. 11, we all got out of bed and put on shirts that we made (mine was covered in lyrics from both MCR and blink-182) and headed into the park.
We rode the coasters and searched for the boys of blink but had no luck. I decided to text a friend who knows everything about blink-182 to get his advice on how to meet the band. His reply: "Well, Mark [Hoppus] will be anywhere and everywhere, Travis [Barker] will be in kiddie-land with Landon and Alabama [his children] and don't expect to see Tom [Delonge], he doesn't go into the park."
While my friends drooled over pictures of Tom Delonge on their phone, I kept my eyes peeled for Travis Barker. No matter what anyone said, I knew meeting him would mean the most to me. Little known fact: Barker is the reason I started drumming. I listened to blink-182 religiously as a child (and still do), but something about his drumming made me say, "I want to do that. That will be me." Of course everyone has been telling me to think reasonably my entire life, and to a point I understand that, but I also have to follow my dreams.
We decided to split up and go on a Barker hunt; my friend and I searching one side of the park, including the water park and the two other girls searching the other. We agreed we'd call each other if we found him. After about 15 minutes of searching, my phone rings and I couldn't have answered it quicker if I tried. Gasping for air on the other end was my friend.
"Hannah! Hannah! The ladder game by the Mind Eraser! We found him!"
That was all I needed. I shouted to my friend and I took off running. I ran with energy only pure adrenaline can produce. When I saw the ladder game I pushed harder, ran faster ... then suddenly my feet came to a stop and I couldn't move. Ten feet in front of me was my idol, the man who changed my life without even knowing it. Barker had moved to playing a guessing game to win his children yet another stuffed toy.
The larger of the two bodyguards was letting no one who even resembled a teenager near Barker. However, adults with small children could get a picture. Pushing people farther away from the superstar drummer, the bodyguards led Barker and his kids into kiddie-land. My friend had been correct.
Following at a safe distance, so as to not seem creepy, we watched, in awe. I had been within earshot of my idol. All I wanted was to say two words to the guy. Just a simple thank you to the man who influenced me so much; it seemed like it just wasn't going to happen.
After about half an hour of watching him and losing hope, we had one last shot. A friend of mine borrowed her friend's child and tried to get a picture.
The bodyguard responded, "Don't you guys want to go ride roller coasters or something? I mean you're here, that's more fun than just sitting here, watching and waiting." (Optional commiserating for blink-182 fans.)
I couldn't control my tongue and blurted out, "He's the reason I started drumming!" With a confused and surprised look on his face, the bodyguard said, "You're a drummer?" I nodded and managed to speak a very airy "yes." "Sneak by me," he said, moving to the side a little, "you and only you."
My three friends and a small crowd of people stood in awe as the bodyguards let me pass at the words "I'm a drummer." It was like the secret password.
I walked up the small ramp to the children's roller coaster and I saw Landon Barker with a little Mohawk and leather jacket, throwing his hands up in excitement; I was ready to do the same. Not wanting to be annoying, I waited a few moments so Barker could watch his son on the ride. All I could think about was that I was two feet away from my idol!
After waiting in anticipation for a few minutes, the large bodyguard looked at me and said, "There's your chance." I took a step forward and tapped Barker on the shoulder, he turned to face me and I stuck my hand out to shake his. I had little courage to speak, but I mustered it all up to say, "Hi, Mr. Barker? I'm Hannah Gordon."
"Mr. Barker?" he replied.
"Much better. Nice to meet you Hannah."
From there on we carried on casual conversation and I told him I was a drummer, to which he replied, "Really? Girl drummers are kick***!" I waited until the perfect moment to say what I had always wanted to tell him.
"I just have to tell you, you're the reason I started playing the drums. I've listened to blink my whole life and you've really influenced me. So just thank you. Thank you so much."
I couldn't believe I finally got to tell him all the things I've wanted to for years.
"Really? I did that? That means a lot that you told me that, thank you," he said.
The tone of his voice said it all. He seemed truly happy. I asked to get a picture, and one of the bodyguards took it, although since the flash wasn't up, Barker insisted on taking another to make sure it was OK. His generosity and normalcy amazed me. He was so nice, especially for a rock star who needed bodyguards to keep screaming fans away from him. Barker even signed the back of an old flier I found in the bottom of my bag.
Just then, I heard a little voice say "Daddy!" It was Landon, pulling on his father's beige cargo shorts. "Landon, hold on one second." I told him he should talk to his son and I'll let him go now. But the next words he spoke I'll never forget. "Landon can wait a minute. I normally don't do this but -- " and with that he hugged me, and as he patted my back, he whispered in my ear, loud enough for only me to hear: "Remember this: Never let anyone tell you 'you can't' and just keep drumming, OK?"
I could have died right then and there and life would have been all right. He isn't just another celebrity crush, like most fans. To me, he is a role model and a talented man that I admire, who inspires me. Coming back to reality, I choked out my reply, a simple "will do."
We broke the hug and shook hands. Parting with a smile, I said thank you one last time before walking back down the ramp past the bodyguards and the throng of people gathered.
My friends met me at the bottom and they all had one thing to say. "Are you OK?!"
My eyes were glazed over and apparently I looked like I had just died and gone to heaven, which in all reality, talking to Barker was pretty much heaven to me. On the walk back to the campground, I was silent, replaying everything in my head. No one could have understood how much it meant to me.
Later that night, when we all arrived at the concert, a friend of ours got us upgraded VIP box seats; perfect seats for the perfect concert. We rocked the night away with My Chemical Romance and blink-182.
Good things came when I least expected them. Now, I have some drumming to do.
Hannah Gordon is a junior at Immaculata Academy.