…Blake Shelton. I’m here to testify: Blake Shelton is a really nice guy, as in bona fide, really nice guy. I’m starting to think that maybe I need to give my “broken to smithereens” Hillbilly Bone a second chance.

I already told you that country music is not my thing. I cut my teeth on my father’s jazz and what were called “Negro Spirituals.” As a child, I’d tuck myself into some hiding hole in our home, dig out my mom and dad’s album collection of songs around the world, and listen to the soulful, moving songs of an oppressed culture. My child’s mind did not fully grasp the pain and hope infused in the singing, but my body could not deny the body twitching rhythm which infused each song. As I grew, my tastes evolved into R&B, Motown, Funk, Hip Hop and Rap. I may have been raised around country folk but the music never called to me – except for my favorite uncle’s fiddling, that is.

And, I already mentioned my freaky, mad crush on Blake Shelton. Why Blake Shelton? For a year I have sought answers. At last night’s concert, more was made clear.

The concert, held at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, CA, was going to be packed, as evidenced by the stream of cars that we found ourselves in. Countless sweet young things in country attire and dudes in cowboy hats sand Western boots strolled towards the arena. I was wearing a super comfortable but clingy dress, blue tights and supple European, ankle-high boots. Long, trailing-past-my-shoulder feather earrings completed my attire. I did NOT look country – I looked, or at least felt like a twinkling, little, pixie-like fairy-woman, just touched down from Netherland. I did not care. I looked hot and I was in the zone to meet Blake, my previous dry-mouth anxiety forgotten.

When you get your Meet and Greet badges, you are supposed to plaster them upon your person. You are also supposed to clutch the small, white strip of paper that says that you need to keep the badge visible at all times. Nothing was said on that paper that you needed to keep the paper itself. We affixed our bright yellow badges and pushed through the crowds. People saw the badges and envied us. They drooled. And then they turned and bought another Coors, their envy forgotten. They came to watch Blake Shelton sing. We came to meet him.

There was no clarity on where to stand to head backstage. “Underneath that Pepsi sign,” someone in the know told us.

We stood. Then we thought, “This can’t be right. No one else has the sacred yellow badge on.” We moved to another location, next to the line to buy more Coors, advised by someone else. “Nope, this can’t be right either.” We asked someone else. Finally, we found our spot on the concert floor.

A small group of yellow badged people waited. We couldn’t really talk because Tia Frampton was now on-stage. Another person in the know came over and asked us if we had our badges.

“Roger that.”

“Do you have the little white piece of paper that came with the badge? The one that told you that you needed to have the badge on your person?”

Uh, shuffle, sort, dig in pockets. “Got em!”

“Okay. Wait here.”

We waited. Finally, we were told to come back stage. We shuffled backstage to stand in a line with our fellow Meet and Greet chosen ones. We waited. Next we’re moved a little bit closer to our destination, a few feet away. We waited. Another shuffle forward. Another wait. Finally, we were herded towards the Sacred Place. A small dark corner had been cordoned off. There were entrances on either side.

“Go to the other corner,” we are told.

Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle.

“Go back to the first corner.”

Is this a test of our listening skills? Shuffle, shuffle, shuffle. Wait.

“Now enter and stand here.”

We enter, we stand. We can see the backdrop of the signage that will be our backdrop for the pictures. I read Blake Shelton in reverse, since I am looking at it from the back. We wait on the concrete floor. Excitement is in the air. Finally, Blake enters through the non-descript door at the back. A few of us whoop. Most are silent. What is WRONG with you people? Can’t you see who just arrived? Show some enthusiasm, here! And then it begins.

We are guided towards our turn. We are told we can be in a small group, or solo, but not both. I choose solo. Now I know we are probably not supposed to chitty chat but I can hear Blake making small talk with each person who enters The Corner. It’s a short, 20 second encounter. I have my sound bite prepared. It’s my turn to enter. Here’s how I remember it:

Blake Shelton and Calinda BHim: “Hello, sweetie.”

Me: “Blake Shelton, it’s an honor to meet you. Can I jibber jabber for a minute?”

He cocks an eyebrow, amused. I can tell he did not expect that question.

Me, speaking rapidly: “I did not know who the hell you were until I saw The Voice a year ago.”

He nods, as if that makes sense.

Me: “I was finding my own voice at the time, writing fiction.” I can feel the pressure of the guy at my back in charge of keeping the flow. I speed up my sound bite. “I thought ‘who is this guy? He’s cute, I’m cute, he’s funny, I’m funny, he’s a star, I’m…” I pause. Blake laughs, getting the joke.

The Flow Guy says “We need to get this picture taken.”

I press on. “I had a dream and you told me…” Turn, smile, flash, picture done.

Him: “What did I tell you, sweetie?”

Me: “You told me to just be yourself and you’ll be a star.” Another person steps into position and I’m being guided out.

Him, smiling: “That’s right, sweetie, you’ll be a star.”

I turn and he’s got his hand up to give me a high five. I brighten, we exchange the palm contact and I am now seriously being guided out of there. I don’t care. I am elated. Mission accomplished. When the person who went before me pushes back to get her autograph, I realize I’ve forgotten mine, too. I walk back, proffer my thigh where my badge has been pasted. “It’s all I’ve got. Do you thing,” I say.

He scribbles and then I’m away.

You could tell, the guy is practiced at the Meet and Greet. I imagine that he kind of slips into auto pilot, in his seriously nice, friendly way. Smile. Nod. Say something to this moment’s sweetie. Next person. Smile. Nod. Comment. Next person. And he may have wanted to do that with me, too. And chances are good that he won’t remember our exchange – come on, I’m just one in a sea of people. But honestly, it makes me feel fantastic that, just for a second, I had his attention – “What did I say to you, sweetie?” And he told me I’m going to be a star. I know I already am.

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