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Hailing Neil
(Saratoga, NY, August 24, 1996)

by Denise Vanderburgh

You could sorta call me a "closet" Rustie... I attended the SPAC RustFest and show, and at the fest, Rich (Old King) threatened me if I didn't post my Neil experience, so...

Some background first:

My husband is definitely NOT a fan, in fact he is barely tolerable of the music. The trip was a birthday present to me (since he asked what I wanted). Our plan was to spend the weekend in Saratoga, since we had never been, and we were due for a long weekend away from home.

We arrived in Saratoga on Saturday afternoon; we checked in and headed for town to check out the sites (racetrack and the SPAC). The lady at the front desk at the hotel recommended a restaurant to us, and while we were looking for it, we made a wrong turn, but when we turned the corner I saw the top of a bus peeping up over some bushes/trees and I said to Fred (hubby), "lets go over there to see if that is Neil's bus." My husband, the driver, not believing a minute of it (and not really caring) turned away from the parking lot and proceeded to head in the opposite direction.

So, we headed to the restaurant and ate our meal. Afterwards, I suggested that we head on back to the motel where we saw the bus because I saw a sign advertising Big Band Music, and since we like to jitterbug I thought I could persuade him back. So then he wants to know how will I know if it is Neil Young's bus, so I tell him that the license tag says "ZUMA". Well, we head back, and Fred is just doing this to humor me (I can tell), because he has to be the first one to go check out the license plate just so he can say "ha!" But the surprise is on him because, sure enough, it's ZUMA he sees!

At this point he starts to get excited (I think). We go into the bar and suffer through some absolutely horrible music...a cross between Don Ho meets Van Morrison (honestly), but we do manage to find some music to inspire us to dance, and besides, nobody knows us so we can make fools of ourselves in front of all these people we will never meet again. Neil doesn't show up in the bar (we didn't really think he would but...) and it is probably a good thing considering the music (how embarassing).

We head out after about an hour (it is about 10pm) and we see some people standing around the door to Neil's bus. But Neil isn't among them, and being the shy person that I am, I did not inquire further. So we get into our truck and head out, but the parking lot is blocked off by a van. So we have to turn around and head out the other way. This takes us right next to the bus...

This time I see a wheelchair, and at about the same instant my husband says "there he is with his back to us." We stop and I roll down my window and shout "Hey Neil" (all along thinking that this can't really be him), and he turns around. The look on his face is very unpleasant, almost angry, and this throws me a little, but I can't really blame him. So I say the first thing I can think of which is "See ya tomorrow night" and I wave, he waves back and his face softens a little, and off we go.

Naturally, I immediately think of a million things I should have said or done, and my husband is saying I should have said this...I should have done that... I think that if we could have just met him, my husband might really begin to like Neil and his music... But it's too late to go back.

Anyways, it is something like this that you are never prepared for (unless you are Shakey and trying to find the opportunity wherever you are). I'm just happy to have had my own personal Neil experience; something I never dreamed of in a million years. It was great.

Take care all,

Oh yeah: we won $150 at the track, betting a 25-to-1 horse named Harmony.
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