I turn my back to the wind
To catch my breath,
Before I start off again
Without a moment to spend
To pass an evening
With a drink and a friend
-Time Stand Still, Rush
This past weekend I was cleaning out a few boxes and came across an old photo a friend had gotten signed for me circa 1996. Most would think it a kind gesture, but the story still makes me scream, “Are you kidding me?!!!” in my head.
I have been a die-hard Rush fan my entire life and recounting this story brings back a weird mixture of feelings between loss and silliness. I’ve never been one to hold celebrities in high esteem but this represented two thirds of the greatest rock band in the world! So it was different.
This friend of mine, who I’ll call Tom, use to frequent a restaurant in Toronto called Pronto. At times a little stuffy, Pronto was known for a good wine list and on occasion would host some high-end wine tastings. Another frequent patron of Pronto was Alex Lifeson.
It was another Friday night wine tasting and Tom found himself seated across from this funny blond guy who really liked his wine. They got to talking about their wine collections, their love of golf, Toronto restaurants, and places they had travelled. At the end of the evening, the funny blond guy told Tom he was having a few friends to his house the following night for a little food and wine and he’d like to invite Tom to join them. Tom thought it sounded like a fun night and accepted.
While not really into music, Tom was able to connect some dots and figure out that Alex was in some Canadian band called Rush.
Tom showed up Saturday night and instantly the wine was flowing. There were six of them in total exchanging grape-flavoured tales, and one of the fellows present was another guy in the band named Geddy. Weird name, he thought. After awhile the conversation turned to stories from the road and music.
At one point, Tom said, “I have a friend who is just crazy about you guys but I had no idea you were actually quite popular.”
“We’re just getting going. Call him up and invite him over. There’s plenty of wine,” said Alex nonchalantly.
“Yeah, call him him up!” Geddy replied while raising a glass.
One of the other men present said, “Do it. I’m sure he won’t even believe you.”
Now it’s at this moment I cannot believe the turn the story takes. It seems like an invite of every Rush fans dream. Tom had just one job at this point. One job. Pick. Up. The. Phone. But something happened in Tom’s brain that to this day remains inexplicable.
“I would, but he’s not really a wine drinker,” Tom stupidly muttered. “If you guys could just sign something for him that would be great.” Now to be fair, 20 years ago I wasn’t much of a wine drinker but have come to enjoy it over time. But I certainly could have faked it for a night.
The night continued well into the morning. More wine. More stories. Headaches had by all.
Monday morning came around. Tom called me early at work and said, “I’ve got something for you, let’s meet for lunch.” We met at our usual spot and Tom began recounting the story I’ve just told. I remember it almost word for word as I went from despair, to disbelief, and back to despair. I almost didn’t believe him until he handed me this:
Alex: “Join us for a drink next time”
Geddy: “Too bad you don’t drink.”
Tom had a big smile on his face, thinking he had done something good. I looked at him like he was insane.
“So let me get this straight, Alex and Geddy want you to invite me over to hang out with you guys, and you don’t think that’s a good idea? Are you really that retarded?” I said to him incredulously.
At that moment Tom realized the gravity of his error in judgment as he sheepishly said, “But, I was drinking.”
We are still friends to this day. But we have never spoken of this incident again.