I first “met” Rhonda online back in early 2004 on an old message board, DuranDuranFans. She clearly was one of the “in” crowd there as there was an obvious group of friends that she was a part of. As I first lurked on the site, I had only hoped to one day be part of a group like that. Slowly, I came out of my shell to post and this group seemed open to new people. Rhonda didn’t stick out to me, necessarily. I knew what everyone on that board knew. She lived in California, had small children and liked Roger. Honestly, I figured that we would have nothing in common, if we were to ever meet in person. No, initially, I looked towards a couple of people on the board who were located in the Midwest. Then, the Friends of Mine convention happened in New Orleans. I don’t remember much about her until the Saturday night when the group went bar hopping on Bourbon Street. Suddenly, we found ourselves singing to Duran at a Howl at the Moon (wait…is this a theme in our world?!), drinking and laughing. My thoughts about her were simple. While we still not might have much in common (on paper), we could have fun together.
Fast forward to that December of 2004 with the announcement of tour dates. This little group of posters on that message board seemed to now include me as we all were super excited to figure out which show(s) to do. Somehow, it was decided that we would all do Chicago in March of 2005. We would even all go VIP! (This was a super big thing then for us!!!) I volunteered to buy the tickets for Rhonda, myself and another friend. I remember calling Rhonda up on the day of the presale to tell her that I successfully nabbed these three VIP tickets. Clearly, this kind of phone call is one that has been repeated over and over again since then. I remember thinking, at the time, how brave this was. VIP tickets weren’t cheap. I could have been completely screwed, financially. I put a lot of faith in people who were relative strangers. Of course, as you all know, it worked out just fine. The concert was great and was part of a fabulous weekend. This is the weekend I knew that Rhonda and I would be real friends. To cut a long story short, we found ourselves at this pretty gross diner in the middle of downtown Chicago at like 4 in the morning along with two other friends. These other friends were clearly fighting to stay awake. What did Rhonda and I do? We laughed our heads off. I don’t even know what the heck was so funny but we started laughing and couldn’t stop!!! Right there and then, we knew that this kind of thing must be repeated over and over again. We did something very similar just a few weekends ago at Durandemonium. One morning, we started to list everything that we have done in the last 10 years, that when put together makes us sound kind of crazy (MANY, MANY shows, blogging daily, planning a convention, writing a book, going to the UK twice in one year, etc…). Again, we started laughing. Heck, even last night, while we were on the phone for almost three hours, there were many laughs.
To me, laughter has been at the center of our friendship. She makes me laugh like no other person and vice versa. Now, of course, we have had a ton of shared experiences together that give us plenty of things to make us laugh. Speaking of those shared experiences, how absolutely lucky were we to have met each other along this fandom journey? Not only did we get along well, we have been able to travel together for long periods seamlessly. It is almost like we had been doing this touring together for decades rather than years and it has ALWAYS been like that. We have similar fandom philosophies and see things related to our fandom and our fan community in much the same way. More than that, we have taken our fandom to a new level together. We decided to write a book and a blog. We decided to plan and hold a convention together. When we started this, we didn’t really know if we would work together as well we toured together. Yet, again, we were super lucky. There hasn’t been a lot of fight to reach a good working situation with each other. It was easy for us. It came naturally. Even at the convention, one of our friends commented about how well we work together. On one hand, we have a lot of the same skills–the ability to research, to write, to think critically, and to express our ideas clearly (we hope!). We can get things done and get them done well. Beyond that, though, we compliment each other. Where I have weakness, she has strength. Much strength. More strength than she knows. During convention planning, I was constantly amazed that she could see the details to things that even I, as an organizer, didn’t see or know. She also knew when, where and how to advocate for ourselves when it came to the businesses we were working with. Her confidence in that never wavered while I was indecisive and nervous much of the time. More than that, she pushed and pushes me, without even trying, to do the best work I can. She questions me when it is needed, kicks my ass when that is needed and offers support throughout it all. I have a very hard time thinking about doing anything, fandom wise, without her. It wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t be the same.
Yet, of course, Rhonda doesn’t just do this with our work. She does it, personally, too. She questions me when I need it, kicks my ass when I need it and offers support constantly. On top of that, she also leads by example. I still get amazed at how she is able to reach out to others with her friendliness, with her openness. She isn’t afraid to share herself and her joys, fears and worries. It is no surprise then, when she does, that people are moved and many express appreciation. While she might not see it, she is the kind of person that others want to be around. This is very clear, if you have or ever are lucky enough to see her with her children. The truth is that her kids don’t just love her, which they do, but they LIKE her. They enjoy themselves with her and she with them. While she does what she must do as a parent, she is also able to enjoy her kids. Almost every time I am on the phone with her or there at her house, I hear that laughter again being shared with the kids. Those kiddos are lucky to have her! Then, again, I think we are all lucky. I know that I am. I’m super fortunate that I found someone that I enjoy working with and who pushes me to be the best I can be. I’m also beyond grateful that I found my best friend…all because of some stupid band!
Happy Birthday, Rhonda!!!!