LIFE WAS SO MUCH SIMPLER THEN (July 1988)
Two days before I was scheduled to fly down to Santa Monica to interview Robben Ford, Shelley Heber
called me and in brittle tones told me I wasn’t wanted. This was excruciatingly news because I had a
schedule to keep, a magazine to put together, and Robben Ford was slated to be on the cover.
“But, I’ve booked a flight already,” I whined. "Why?” I asked, “Why?” I pleaded. “Why?”
“Because, frankly,” she said, growing colder with each syllable, “I don’t know who you are and I’ve never
heard of your magazine.”
None of that surprised me of course because I was then (and remain today) nobody, and the magazine
did not yet exist; the Robben Ford interview was to be the cornerstone of the premiere issue. So, I was
beside myself. “What the heck am I gonna do?” I asked the angelic young lady who happened to be in
my life at that time. She was sympathetic as I recall, but didn’t know what I should do either. She was one
of those lithe and lovely creatures who, due to their ethereal nature, could not entirely understand the
intricacies of many aspects of day-to-day earth-bound life. I can only imagine what a struggle it must
have been for her to comprehend my industrious commitment to launching a small blues magazine
against all odds.
Believe it if you will, don’t if you can’t—but I am a very shy person. You need to know that in order to
understand the unlikely courage it took for me to call Shelley Heber back. My plan was to try to talk her
into letting me interview Robben by mentioning his brother, Patrick. It was, unquestionably the best card I
“Patrick Ford,” she replied crisply, “Does not represent Robben Ford. I do. And frankly,” she said yet
again, “no one here has ever heard of you or your magazine.”
Now, I was almost in tears (if I was actually, literally in tears, I’m not admitting it here…I may have been, it
meant that much to me).
So—what could I do—I panicked. What else could I do.
I called Patrick Ford, who had given me encouragement from the very beginning and who had helped me
get things rolling by supplying me with the names and numbers of others who might like the idea of what I
was trying to do. I was in a mild hysteria as I recounted to Patrick what had transpired. He calmed me
down saying, “OK. let me call Robben and see what he says about this.”
The next morning I’m lying in bed (same lovely young woman) and I get a call. It’s Robben Ford. Robben
Ford is calling me from New York to assure me that I am welcome to come to Santa Monica. He tells me
that my name will be on the guest list and after his first set, I’ll meet him back stage where we can set up
the interview for the following day. He tells me to forget about what anyone else might have said about it.
“Look at me,” I thought, “one minute I’m nobody, the next minute Robben Ford is calling me!”
Things were back on track.
The day of departure, I pack my things—my nicest shirt, a change of socks, an OK pair of jeans, pencils,
pens, notebooks, a tape recorder, extra tape, extra batteries, a beautiful little Olympus AX camera—
which is smaller than a pack of unfiltered cigarettes—two rolls of black and white film. This traveling gear
I toss into a small gym bag. Here we go. I’m on my way.
Everything is wonderful; I’m ecstatic; I’m on my way to interview Robben Ford for the premiere issue of
my little blues magazine. When I get to the podium where they issue the boarding passes, the woman
asks to see my ticket. She starts clattering away on a keyboard, looks at my ticket, clatters a little more,
hands me back my ticket and says, “I’m sorry, you don’t have an assigned seat.”
“My ticket has a seat number on it.” I point out.
“Yes,” she says coldly. “I can see that.”
“It says I’m in 23 B,” I say.
“But…” she starts clattering keys… “But…23 B is occupied.” She’s clattering keys again.
“I don’t care where I sit,” I say genially, “I'll sit wherever you like me to.”
“Yes, well,” she says and starts the clattering of keys again…”I’m sorry but this flight is fully booked,”
“Yes, and I’m supposed to be on it,” I say, “I bought this ticket more than a month ago; I am scheduled to
be on this flight.”
“Yes, well…” she says and starts clattering, “What I show here is…” (clatter clatter clatter)
At this point they make the announcement “Final boarding on Nonsense Airlines for Los Angeles, please
board at gate 47. This is the final call.”
I say, “Please, check again. I’m scheduled to be on this flight; I have to get on this flight.”
“Not according to our…” clatter clatter clatter. She’s pursing her lips and shaking her head from side to
side. A guy in a blazer comes over and whispers something in her ear. She shakes her head no. He
picks up the microphone and announces, “Will Mr. Field please come to gate 47. Mr. Field, your flight is
boarding at gate 47.”
That’s the gate I’d standing at. That’s the flight I’m trying to get on. I embolden myself.
“You’re gonna put this Field guy on before you put me on?” I ask.
“SIR,” she says. She takes a breath and calms herself, “we are trying to get everyone we can on this
flight, there are others flying stand-by.” She gestures toward a small crowd of people huddled over in a
corner like sheep, hoping to get on stand-by. “We are making every effort to fit them on this flight.”
“But, I’m not flying stand-by,” I correct her. “I booked this flight…”
“SIR,” she says. Clatter clatter clatter clatter. The guy in the blazer comes over again and whispers in her
“Mr. Field, Mr. R. Field, please come to the check-in counter at gate 47. This is the last and final call.
Richard Field please come to gate 47.”
“Wait a minute,” I say. Suddenly I’m inspired; I have with a thought.
“SIR.” She says, cautioning me.
“But, wait,” I say.
“SIR…” she says. She's clattering away furiously.
“No, but tell me, is this guy Field the guy who’s supposed to be in 23 B?”
”Please, Sir, “ she says and continues pounding things frantically into her computer.
“Is Field in 23 B?” I ask again (I think I know the answer).
“Yes…” she says, somewhat bewildered.
“It’s me,” I say. “It’s me. I’m Field. Please…” I show her my ticket. “Please compare…compare whatever
information you have to…against my ticket. Please,” I plead.
She takes my ticket begrudgingly. She looks, she blanches, she clatters away on the keyboard. I’m
delighted. I can tell that she has discovered that Richard mansFIELD and Richard FIELD are apparently
the same person. She says nothing. She hands me my ticket, she hands me a boarding pass and says,
“Please board the flight.”
EVERYONE is giving me the cold eye as I enter the plane. I’m the guy who has been keeping them from
taking off. I look down at my feet, look down at the markings on the arms of the seats. When I come to 23
B I toss my gym bag up into the over-head compartment, close the compartment, sit down and close my
eyes. Inside I'm a strange mix, equal parts delight and utter embarrassment.
When we land in L. A. I get up and, when I can, I open up the over-head compartment and my gym bag is
not there. I push a big suit bag aside to look behind it, and it’s just not there. Somehow, in mid-flight my
gym bag has gone missing. A woman on the other side of the aisle taps me on the shoulder.
“Are you looking for your little bag? The stewardess took it in order to make way for that big suit bag,”
she says helpfully.
So, I get in line and make my way slowly toward the front of the plane where three stewardesses are
saying, “B-bye. Thank you for flying with Nonsense Airways.”
They say that to me, but I’m not stepping right along. I stop and one of them says, “Thank you for flying
with us.” It’s the bum’s rush. She wants me to depart. But, I'm not leaving. She's unnerved and irritated by
my refusal to keep moving.
“I need to get my bag,” I say apologetically.
“Baggage claim is…”
“It’s a carry-on,” I say.
“Can you please step aside, sir,” one of them says sharply, and so I do. I step aside and one of the crew
hits me in the back as they open the cabin door.
“Could you please step aside,” another stewardess tells me, and I do. Then someone emerging from the
bathroom rams the door into my back as they try to get out. I move to get out of the way.
“Please step aside, sir,” says someone sharply from behind, and I find myself in the galley, alone, with
the stewardesses all standing with their backs to me saying “B-bye. Thank you for flying…”
For some reason one of these stewardesses catches sight of me out of the corner of her eye; she turns
and asks accusatorily, “Can I help you? What are you doing in there?”
I say, “I need my bag.
She says, “Baggage claim is below the main concourse…”
I say, “No, it was carry-on.”
“I’m sorry, sir, I don’t understand.”
“I carried it on. It's a small...”
“Well, where did you put your baggage?”
“I put it in the over-head compartment.”
“Do you need help retrieving you baggage from the overhead compartment?”
“No. It’s not there.”
“Did you LOOK in the overhead compartment?”
“Yes. It’s not there.”
“Are you sure you didn’t put it under the seat in front of you?”
“Well then you should go back and check under the seat.”
“I mean, No, I did not put it under the seat. I put it in the overhead compartment.”
“Well, sir, if your baggage was properly placed in the overhead compartment, it must still be there.”
“It’s not,” I say.
“I don’t know how it could possibly have disappeared,” she says.
“The lady, a lady across from me, said that a stewardess took it.”
“One of the flight attendants took your baggage?”
“One of the flight attendants took your baggage?”
”That’s what she told me.”
“Which flight attendant was it? Did you SEE where she might have taken your baggage?”
”I didn’t see her. I had my eyes closed.”
So, then I find myself expelled from the plane and standing in the waiting area just beyond the gate. A
guy in a cheap suit with a walkie-talkie is asking me questions about how I managed to misplace my carry-
on luggage. He’s suspicious. Over the walkie-talkie he’s informing someone somewhere of everything I
say in answer to his questions.
How did I misplace carry-on luggage? When was the last time I saw my luggage? Why do I THINK a flight
attendant might have moved my luggage? Did I have any checked luggage? What was the nature of my
business in Southern California?
About the time a second guy in a cheap suit arrives swiftly, smoothly, on a golf-cart of some sort. He’s
heading toward me as a stewardess emerges from the plane carrying my gym bag at arm’s length as if it
might contain something foul. She says nothing to me, just hands it to one of the guys in the cheap suits
and the next question is, “Do you mind if we look through your bag, Sir?”
After they paw through my bag, I no longer exist. They go scooting off together on the golf cart.
I walk to Traveler’s Aid and ask the kindly looking old lady behind the counter what might be the name of
a reasonably priced, hotel or motel near the club where Robben Ford is to play. I give her the name of
the club. I give her the address.
“It’s not the sort of information we generally give out,” she tells me.
“I’m not asking you for a value judgment,” I say, “I’m just…Ok,” I say, “forget that. Can you tell me how
much it might cost me to get to that part of town by cab? I just want to get an idea if the guy is driving me
around in circles or not.” But, that also is not the sort of information they generally give out. “How far
would you say it is to Santa Monica from here?”
“I’m sorry, she says, “I’m sure if you ask a cab driver, they can help you; they’re very helpful.”
So, I find a little motel—a grimy little motel—about one mile from the place where Robben Ford is slated
to play. I walk to the venue just to be sure I know where the place is, and there are already people lined
up outside with tickets for that night’s show and hoping to buy tickets for the following night’s show. I feel
pretty lucky, but I don’t feel entirely confident. Until I’m actually inside and see Robben Ford stepping on
stage, I’m going to reserve all gleefulness. Things have not, so far, been going so smoothly.
I’m there a day early and I have the night ahead of me and I almost never do anything for myself and I
have a few bucks, so, I decide to take myself out to dinner. I find a suitable looking diner and walk in and
sit down. A waitress comes over and hands me a menu. I look at the menu and things look typically
American, you know, affordable and fried.
“You look worried about something,” she says.
“I’m worried about everything,” I reply. “It hasn’t been an easy day.”
“Well, you can forget about that for a while. Think about what you’d like to eat.”
“I’m thinking about a fish sandwich,” I say. “How’s the fish sandwich?”
“It’s pretty good,” she says.
“It’s made with real fish…I mean it’s not like a compressed square or anything?”
“New England cod,” she says, “it’s pretty good," she says encouragingly.
“How’s the clam chowder?” I ask, and she says, “It’s good.” She looks around and leans toward me and
says confidentially, “…Comes in a can.”
“I’ll take the fish sandwich…” I begin and she says, “The best deal:” she taps my menu with the end of
her pencil, “Captain’s platter. That’s got everything you could want on it; clams, shrimp, flounder, I think,
two crab cakes; comes with fries and slaw.”
“OK,” I say. “Ill take that. And a root beer. Is the root beer any good?"
"Dad's” she says. She has a nice smile. (I haven't had Dad's since I was a kid.)
The food is delivered, I eat, it’s good.
I’m leaning back in the booth quite satisfied when she comes by again.
“How’s dessert sound?”
“Well, I almost never eat dessert,” I say, “But, on second thought, this IS a special occasion.”
“Really? What’s the occasion?” she asks.
“Oh, I’m down here to interview Robben Ford. Do you know who Robben Ford is?”
“No, but congratulation anyway.”
“What do you have for dessert?”
“We have pie or ice cream.”
“That’s what we got.”
“How’s the pie?”
“I could bring some over and show it to you, but then you might not want it,” she says quietly.
“What kind of ice cream do your have.
“Well, we have vanilla and we have chocolate. Which would you like?”
“Surprise me,” I say.
When she comes back and places a big bowl of vanilla ice cream in front of me I am surprised. I’m even
more surprised when I dig in and there, inside, is a heart of chocolate. What a wonderful thing to do.
Now, I am almost in tears (if I was actually, literally in tears, I’m not admitting it here…I may have been,
after that day, it meant that much to me).
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