Fear of Flying

Bombs, Back Pains & Tish Hinojosa

Saturday, July 27, 1996, Chicago: I hear the news of the Centennial Olympic Park bomb while waiting at Chicago's O'Hare airport, en route to the Southeast to play a couple of dates before hitting our gig at this very park. Still stunned by the news of the downed TWA Flight 800 and the Valuejet crash of May, being at any airport, boarding any plane already feels like we're playing Russian roulette. Fear is exhausting and we're not ignorant enough to live life blindly.

So we remain suspended in between not wanting to think about it, needing to know about it, and not being able to escape it. Our gig is set for the following Wed-Fri. (July 31-August 2). For now, the park is closed, and we may not need to even confront these questions since we don't even know at this point whether the gig is still on. However, we still need to fly, so we take one "small" worry off the pile for now, and get on the plane to Raleigh-Durham to play in Chapel Hill tonight.

Tuesday, July 30, Ashville, NC and Atlanta, GA: Centennial Olympic Park reopens today and we're driving the four hours to Atlanta, having played our two North Carolina dates. Now in our third month of the tour, traveling in our Suburban and pulling a U-Haul with equipment, we're a road-weary crew. We are: Marvin Dykhuis, Chip Dolan, Ray Edmundson, Adam and Nina (our 12 and 8-year-old children who are stuck in a "Go-To-Work-With-Mom-And-Day-Day" from hell), and Craig Barker, dad, manager, and husband. We will be joined in Atlanta by the rhythm section of Paul Pearcy on drums and percussion and Glenn Kawamoto on bass.

Actually, by around 4am, I've decided my back cannot hold up for any more road dates. After spending another sleepless night with this phantom back pain I've been chasing for months, I decide to fly home to Austin, and cancel the next month of dates, including the Cultural Olympiad dates. Craig books the flights and alerts or leaves a flurry of messages for the people who need to know, and a sleepy Ray takes me to the airport around 5:30am. Craig stays at the hotel with the kids who are asleep, then notifies the players around 9am.

After Ray drops me off at the Ashville airport, I'm finally able to connect with my doctor, who informs me that she may not be able to schedule the tests I need in the next few days, anyway. Then, it turns out that my flight is canceled after we sit on the runway for 30 minutes. Luckily, the mechanical failure is discovered before we're 26,000 feet in the air. I get scheduled for another, but have to wait a couple of hours, giving me time to think. I start having second thoughts about canceling. My back hurts, but I can't see the specialists. What the hell. I might as well be hurting in Atlanta with the distraction of being a small part of something historical, rather than hurting in frustration at home.

I call Craig at the hotel and he makes the flurry of calls and faxes to re-alert everyone of the re-changes. I call my doctor back to tell her I'm postponing for a couple of weeks, only to learn that she was able to schedule me into the hospital to do all the tests at once. At this point, I think my husband and crew may mutiny if I change again, so I tell the doc that I'll hold out another couple of weeks -- just send medication. I get picked up by a rather funky-looking crew, and we drive to Atlanta, a little worn for the experience, but managing to laugh at it anyway, as only people who've been through a lot for each other can. So, begins our truly "Olympic" experience.

Wednesday, July 31, Atlanta: After shuttle-bussing and golf-carting through masses of people and a couple of double security checks of all our gear and bags -- a hassle which everyone, including us, gratefully accommodates -- we are finally loaded in and waiting backstage for our first of two time slots. Then, we get notified by the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games that everyone must evacuate the area because an unidentified package has been spotted in the audience. After a half-hour delay, we're informed that someone has just left their ice chest unattended.

We file back in and when it's our turn, we go through a hurried festival-style sound check and then we're doing what we came to do. Some know who we are, some sit and listen, some stop for a minute on their way to some funnel cake. Centennial Olympic Park is in the middle of the main Olympic venues and there is the Olympic logo/slogan stuff everywhere in high-tech and beautifully landscaped surroundings, and yet the atmosphere here is also one of just another fair, albeit one of World's Fair proportions. There's a sense of that spirit that we are here with people of the world who've come together for something special, but it's this weird mix of world culture meets county fair.

There's a thunderstorm during the night, and this along with my back keeps me in too-familiar half-sleep state. Later, I identify with Marvin upon learning that he woke to a loud boom and headed for the door, mistaking the thunder for a bomb in his dream state.

Thursday, August 1: Our performance this evening (the only one this day, instead of the two-shows-a-day on the other days) was played to larger numbers. In the park in general, and at our shows, we definitely get the sense of people coming forth with the human spirit and overcoming the fear of terrorism, a spirit that is what the gathering in game and celebration is about.

Friday, August 2: Today we can smell the barn. One more day to Austin. Craig takes the kids to see track and field events in the morning, while I get my back a massage. We cruise the grounds a little with the kids. Lines are long and the crowds are thick, but the sights are still impressive and the multicultural throngs resilient. Everyone stops to watch the high-tech Bud display which features cascading water formed into actual falling words: B-U-D-W-E-I-S-E-R. The crowd oohs and ahhs, and like us, mutters how great it is that science has taken advertising to a whole new level. Glad we've got our priorities straight.

Our shows go fine. We stay after our set long enough to be blown away by the Stax showcase that follows us -- Ann Peebles, William Bell, and Rufus Thomas -- hearing Joan Osborne in the distance from the AT&T stage where the two previous nights have featured Ray Charles and Santana. Craig and I cap off our final night here by chugging a tall boy, then climbing onto a giant gondola ferris wheel ride with the kids, which presents a panoramic view of the whole thang. Que spectáculo.

Saturday, August 3: Most of the band is moving kind of slow, after the third night of being drunk under the table by a lively Celtic group of Irish gals called Cherish the Ladies, one of whom assures me that our guys didn't account for themselves too badly. I'm so proud. We said good-bye to Mingo Saldivar yesterday (he was smokin' when we caught some of his Dance Hall set). Today we say good-bye to the irrepressible Rufus Thomas, and to our Cultural Olympiad hosts, all of whom treated us like medal winners, and we head to the airport on a bus with the Irish gals.

At yet another airport moment, the Atlanta airport, normally one of the busiest in the world, is reportedly experiencing one of the busiest days of the year. Still, the extra security procedures now seem oddly routine. It's raining, as it has been on-and-off throughout our Atlanta time, and Nina asks me if planes fly in the rain. With all the talk at the last airport about bombs and security, I reassure her (and myself) once again. We take each others hands and find our seats. As we touch down in Austin, the pilot announces that it's 100 degrees. When we get home, our grass is dead and something in the refrigerator has died, too. We've got 36 hours before heading to the airport again.

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