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We Are One Tonight

We Are One Tonight

Buckle in: this is going to take a minute.

As I’ve mentioned before, Tim Green spends a lot more time in Believe in Me contemplating things like faith and destiny than I had anticipated when I sat down to write the story. As much as he wants to rely on a rationalist approach to sorting out the world around him, moments arrive where things happen that he can’t explain, threads of his life colliding in ways that make him question whether the universe is indeed random, or if larger forces may be at work. As he notes at one point, “Reason only gets you so far; sometimes the only logical thing left to do is to give in to wonder.”

I had one of those moments yesterday, as three of the major passions of my life—writing, music, and baseball—all converged in a single evening.

Yesterday we launched the print edition of Believe in Me—a big milestone for me personally, close to a decade in the making (yes, I’ve been working on the story for that long, though I set it aside for almost four years at one point). It was a day full of joy and affirmation.

Weeks earlier—before I’d even set a launch date for the paperback edition—I had noticed that Swichfoot was playing a show October 22nd at a club in nearby Santa Cruz.  The searching, heartfelt lyrics of Switchfoot frontman/lyricist Jonathan Foreman are quoted twice in Believe in Me, including a featured spot for their anthem of unity “We Are One Tonight” in the next-to-last chapter of the book. And while Jordan Lee, the frontman of the band at the center of Believe in Me, isn’t based on any one performer in particular, his determination to live a life of meaning definitely reflects ideas and attitudes I’ve observed as a fan of Switchfoot.

So, I grabbed tickets, and paid extra for the “meet and greet” package as well, knowing that at the least, I would get to meet a band I’ve admired for some time, and at best, I might be able to hand a copy of my book to one of the guys whose words and music helped to fuel and inspire it.

Meanwhile back in the world of baseball, my San Francisco Giants, after being given little chance to win their division, let alone advance in the playoffs, and after battling through the loss of two of their best players, had become The Team That Would Not Go Away.  Losing the first two games of the Division Series at home, they won three straight on the road, the first time in playoff history that had ever been done. Down three games to one in the League Championship Series, the Giants’ #5 starter, the much-maligned Barry Zito, had pitched the game of his life in game five to send the series back to San Francisco, where the Giants had dominated in game six.

The pennant-clinching game seven was just underway as we left for Santa Cruz at 5:20 in the afternoon. I was torn about missing it, but settled for wearing a Giants t-shirt—featuring game seven starting pitcher Matt Cain, for good measure—to the show. My son Josh and his fiancée Abby and I listened to the game the whole ride north, cheering as the Giants scored again and again, and then tracking the game on our smartphones all through the show’s opening act. During the opener’s last song, after a series of unlikely plays helped them build a 9-0 lead, and in the midst of a very-unusual-for-San Francisco downpour, the Giants won their sixth consecutive elimination game, and the National League pennant.

A comment about the Giants’ win was pretty much the first thing out of the mouth of Switchfoot bassist Tim Foreman—Jon’s younger brother—when he snuck out to the stage ahead of the rest of the band to let the crowd know that it was Jon’s birthday, and ask everyone to yell “Surprise!” on cue after the first song so the band and crew could throw confetti and bring out a cake.

So, yeah: my novel came out, the Giants won the pennant, and I’m going to hand my book to Jon Foreman on his birthday.

Just wait, though. It gets better.

The main room at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz is a big rectangle with high ceilings and small balconies on the left and right sides. It turned out our meet and greet tickets also entitled us to early entry, so we were able to grab one of the eight or nine tables along the rail on the right-hand balcony, about halfway back. About two-thirds of the way through the main set, as the band tore into the propulsive number “The Original,” Jon Foreman did something he does at almost every show—he climbed over the front barricade and down into the crowd to mingle as he sang. High-fiving and hugging his way deep onto the floor, singing all the while, he had the audience almost literally in his hand.

And then, just when I expected him to turn and make his way back toward the front, he didn’t. Instead, he continued toward the back, and began to veer left. Left, toward the stairs that led up to the balcony where we were sitting.

As he briefly disappeared from view, I rose along with everyone else on the balcony who wasn’t already standing, and watched the top of the stairs expectantly. A moment later, Foreman appeared and began making his way toward us, still singing into his mic, still slapping fives with his free hand. As he closed in on us, I instinctively raised my hand for a high-five.

But Jon Foreman didn’t high-five me.

Instead he reached up, grabbed hold of my hand, and used it and my son’s chair to vault himself up on top of our table. Where he stood, continuing to grip my hand in a kind of backhanded soul shake, holding on for balance as he sang down to the 300-strong crowd 15 feet below us. And sang. And sang.

It was a moment.

Oh, who am I kidding. It was electric. It was spectacular. Jon Foreman, singing his heart out to a delirious crowd below, trusting in a stranger’s hand—my hand—to make sure he didn’t tumble over the edge.

Jon Foreman is younger than me, and also smaller than me, but inside of that moment, I was no longer a mature adult nearing the end of my fifth decade on the planet. I was an awestruck 17-year-old, sharing an unfathomable moment of connection with a performer I regard as one of the most honest and gifted songwriters of his generation.

A minute later, Foreman let go and stepped down to the floor again, leaning over the rail a couple of feet away to continue singing down to the roaring crowd below. I snapped off a few pictures and then stuffed my phone back in my pocket, wanting to stay focused and in the moment. Whereupon Foreman glanced over at me again, noticed the Giants logo on my chest, pointed at it with his free hand and gave me a big “Congrats!” smile.

Meet & Greet: Jason, Jon Foreman, Josh, Tim Foreman, Drew Shirley, Jerome Fontamillas, Abby, Chad Butler

The meet and greet after the show was nice, a quick 90 seconds during which I got to say hi to the band, make small talk with Jon about his adventure on top of our table, hand him a signed copy of the book—with “Happy Birthday” hurriedly added to the inscription while standing in line—and explain to him that his lyrics are quoted in it and helped to inspire it. I do hope he’ll enjoy the book, but that feels a little beside the point now. The moment—the real moment, the one every concert-goer I know secretly hopes for—had already happened.

Call it destiny. Call it grace. Call it what you will. Whatever it was, I’m grateful for it, and filled with wonder.

Comment (1)

  • Andy Warburg

    Livin' the dream!! Great stuff!! Love you Bro!!

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