I read a book once called How to Ditch Your Fairy about a world where everyone has a fairy that makes them exceptionally lucky at one thing. For example, if you have a parking fairy, you always get an amazing parking spot. One of my friends seems to have this fairy. It took me almost a decade to figure out which fairy I might have, but after this year, I know it is a concert fairy. Travel plans just so happen to magically align with the tours of various British musicians or occasionally acquiring tickets from generous friends who can no longer attend...yes, sounds like a concert fairy!
The first of the magical travel coincidences happened when I discovered that Bastille would be in Vancouver the same time as me. I tried to convince practically my entire hostel to attend as well. I had seen Bastille once before in Denver (December 2015), but they had released a new album since then. It was the perfect way to start what unintentionally became the "year of concerts." The next two months, I listened to practically nothing but Bastille and anyone in my car had to put up with that. As one friend said, "I don't think I've heard their new album yet...oh wait, actually I definitely have since you've been driving all weekend." My friends were all very happy when I went to a different concert, in hopes that I might change up my music selections.
I was already in Denver for the weekend and obviously accepted when a friend invited me to go watch British musicians. One of my flat mates from London has seen the 1975 many, many times and though I'm not trying to match her record, I had always heard great things about their live performances. Always looking for unsuspecting British musicians to marry, gain UK citizenship, and then travel the world, I quite liked the openers, a new band called Colouring and decided one of them might have potential. I said, "Watch he's probably 18." Sure enough, a simple Google search showed the year of birth as 1998...oh, so he is 18, lol, okay never mind, little hatchlings.
My concert fairy slacked off for a long time on seeing Coldplay, but finally delivered in a big way. After several failed attempts to attend a Coldplay concert, they happened to be in Dublin while I was in Ireland. Tickets for this July show supposedly sold out within minutes the prior October. Somehow though, I was able to find a normal (not re-sold) ticket when I searched "restricted view." A few other people I know tried to buy a ticket right after I did, but they were all sold out, so thank you, concert fairy, for whatever you did there. I had the worst seat in the house, but it didn't matter at all, it was definitely worth it! Their set included over 20 of their songs. As anyone who listens to Coldplay agrees, their last few albums are not nearly as good as their earlier ones and after a string of older songs, they started to sing "Everglow" and at least half of the lower levels filed out of the arena for a break...I found that amusing. I wrote in my Ireland blog post about how cool the bracelets that lit up were, and the special effects with fireworks and everything were top-notch. When I saw a high school friend recently for the first time all year, one of the first things she asked was whether finally seeing Coldplay in concert was everything I thought it would be and it definitely was!
I was much overdue for a trip to Red Rocks: the best concert venue on the planet. The Head and the Heart came on stage to John Denver's, "Rocky Mountain High" which was the perfect way to start a set at Red Rocks. I noticed one lady had the job of asking people to please move out of the stairs. That is definitely a job I could do. At this point, I decided to contemplate alternative options to just travel and watch concerts all the time, in the event that marrying a British musician does not work out. If you live in Colorado and have never been to a concert at Red Rocks, put that one your to-do list. If you don't live in Colorado but find yourself here for a visit, definitely check to see if there is a concert of interest while you are in town. The red rocks work as a natural amplifier so there are only speakers in the front and the sound carries naturally.
It's been a very exciting year musically, as my favourite red-headed British musician has been number one in the world on Spotify since the release of his new album. I attended with a friend of a friend who I had never met before. I told her, "I'm wearing a ridiculous elephant romper with feathers in the front and gladiator-like shoes so that you can recognize me." She replied, "Oh, I'm just wearing a white t-shirt and jeans lol." But she found me and we had a grand time.
No one understands why I like Jamestown Revival so much. My friends who like folk say their music is too country. My friends who like country, say their music is too folk. My friends who like neither just say, "this doesn't sound like your type of music at all" and my mom even said it sounded like "hillbilly music." Well, that's fine, I thought and went to their concert by myself. I should mention that they were actually the first of two openers and I've never gone to a concert for the first of two openers before. As you can see from this picture, no one else was paying attention and just trickling in to the stadium or talking quietly amongst themselves. Okay...I understand, I'm the only Jamestown Revival fan in the whole world! I met some members from a local band who complimented me of my sophisticated musical taste by going to a concert for the first of two openers. The other performers, The Record Company and Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue were great as well, I made some new friends, and it was an overall successful night.
The Lumineers played three nights in a row at their hometown show. Having a hometown show always brings a new energy and makes the concerts even more exciting. Their shows sold out right away, but they added some extra seats the week of the event, which I was able to get, thanks concert fairy. I've been listening to The Lumineers practically since they released their first single and seeing them live certainly didn't disappoint!
Somehow Bastille's tour path and my travel plans managed to mesh again, this time when I was visiting family near Pittsburgh. I also appreciated that in the background of one of their songs, they had a skyscraper labeled "Crystal Tower." This show was on the one-year anniversary of the release of their newest album. It was actually a festival show with four other bands, and the first opener, Frenship, was my second-favourite of the night. Overall, I think Vancouver was a slightly better show, since the stage here was smaller and a festival show means a slightly shorter set, but I was much closer to the stage this time and they played the just-released a few days prior cover of Green Day's "Basket Case." So both shows were worth going to. Sorry friends, still playing Bastille music at least 75% of the time in my car. If you can quote every single word of their song "Glory," you have me to thank.
If you happen to go to Stage AE in Pittsburgh, be prepared to only bring a teeny tiny bag unless your bag is full of diabetes supplies, as mine was. When they almost didn't let me in with the bag, I explained that it was full of medical supplies and they let me in, much to the annoyance of another lady who was turned away. Sorry, lady, it's better to not be allowed to have your bag at a concert than having type 1 diabetes.
I continued with my get-a-job-touring-with-a-band theme when I noticed there was someone whose sole job seemed to be to turn on a flashlight at one point for Dan Smith, Bastille's singer to go down the stairs. I later mentioned to a friend, "I could be the person who turns on the flashlight for him and since he's British, I'll even call it a torch instead." She said, "Okay, Crystal, we've reached a new low, haven't we? Trying to get a career as someone who turns on a flashlight? And you definitely don't have a technology fairy, so the flashlight probably would malfunction every show and he'd fall down the dark stairwell." Okay, point taken.
Yet another unexpected, impulsive concert attended was Iceland's Kaleo. Obviously quite popular in their native country, they now live in Texas and I was surprised that they were sold out two nights in Denver, as they only have one album out. I had the opportunity to try out my terrible Icelandic again and I think this has to be in the top 5 best concerts. They have a video on Youtube of them playing their most well-known song "Way Down We Go" in a volcano, because...Iceland.
When I found out Vance Joy was coming to Denver, my internal dialogue went something like this, "You really don't need to go to any more concerts. Yeah but, he's from Australia so who knows when he'll get back to Denver again. You have another concert planned that week. Yeah, but he's probably one of your top ten favourite musicians and it is in a venue that you've never been to before. Okay, fine." My flat mate and I have very different musical tastes and I am always trying to convert her to my (obviously way better) music. After trying to get her to attend a concert with me all summer, I finally persuaded her to come watch Vance Joy with me (I think she knew three of his songs) and she had so much fun that afterwards she suggested we do this more often. I said, "I told you you'd enjoy my music!" After watching this concert, I kept telling people that I was going to move to Australia...and then we found a black widow spider at work and I said, "Just kidding, they have even worse spiders there."
You know you've gone to way too many concerts when this is the second time you've seen both openers in the last two months...both times accidentally! K Flay was also one of the openers for the Bastille concert in Pittsburgh and Grouplove opened for the Head and the Heart at Red Rocks. This was actually the concert with the most advance planning, as my friend and I got our tickets way back in the spring time! It was a really well-done show, Imagine Dragons have had so many songs that have gone beyond the alternative circle and into mainstream music as well and for good reason. Plus, since we got the tickets during a pre-sale, we actually had really good seats, which was a welcome change!
During my first trip to Rome, I spent one evening walking around the bridges by The Vatican. At midnight, as I wandered back to my hostel, I stopped to look at the ruins. It was eerie, an echo of what was once the world’s greatest empires (of the 18 countries I visited during my year studying abroad in London, there were Roman ruins in 16 of them!) but now reduced to ruins. It felt like there was still an echo of their civilizations, some hidden story tucked around the corners.
Pompeii was even stranger. I visited their pool and exercise area, complete with a surprisingly recognizable locker rooms. As our tour guide said, “There is nothing new under the sun!” Separated only by time. Despite the 2000 year difference, there were so many similar cultural aspects. Ironic, isn't it, that the destruction of their city, led to it being one of the best preserved ancient cities? Maybe my type 1 diabetes diagnosis would do the same for me. I hoped that maybe the damage to my body would be worth it, because I could touch other lives. Throughout the millennia, there have been so many lost stories, entire civilizations summed up in a single paragraph in a high school history textbook. But some works of literature have survived the test of time, read in English classes across the centuries and civilizations. I always wanted to contribute to this. When I was diagnosed and I felt like I would die within days, the first thing I thought of was that I hadn't left my literary mark on the world yet.
Upon my diagnosis, I was hyperaware of the fact that had I been born a century prior, this would have been a death sentence by now, exactly one year out of my diagnosis. All because my body suddenly started to attack itself. A phrase from the TS Eliot poem “The Hollow Men” echoed around my mind these first few days, “This is how the world will end, not with a bang but with a whimper.” I reminded myself that I lived in prior centuries, I probably would not have survived childhood anyway due to frequent bouts of strep throat that were incurable before modern medicine. But that’s different, you can recover from strep throat and forget you ever had it. Type 1 diabetes, 95 years on the right side of history, means you have it for life. The words, “Health is the best wealth” also bounced around my mind. I had been the epitome of healthy, but it was taken from me. I saw an inspirational quotes calendar recently that said, “Wellness is the natural state of my body.” At one point that was true for me, but is no longer accurate. I might be functioning as any healthy human would, but when my body is destroying a hormone necessary to life, I cannot consider that well.
A type 1 diabetes diagnosis and still likely a death sentence, just over a longer frame of time. The statistics for type 1 diabetics are devastating. Life expectancy drops an average of eleven-thirteen years. Two of out of every three diabetics die of heart disease. 1/20 diabetics will die in their sleep from a low blood sugar. DKA, long periods of extremely high blood sugar causes our blood to turn to poison and kill us. With a strict insulin regime, the risk of this lowers, but we are never safe from it. Flu, having to go without insulin, or other illnesses can cause this. Other complications range from other autoimmune diseases, kidney failure, amputations, blindness, a higher risk of cancer, a harder time fighting off infections, and the list goes on and on. Luckily, with good control, the risk of all of these goes way down. But still, I beat the odds to get this disease in the first place...I find no comfort in statistics.
At one point, I got tired of caring around a massive needle deposit box and got the clever idea to put my used needles in an old test strip container. At the end of the day, I emptied my test strip containers into the needle deposit boxes. It was during this routine, that I thought of Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock” and the line “I have numbered my days with coffee spoons” and remarked to my mother (after explaining the literary reference), “I have numbered my days with needles.”
I would hear people complain about arguments at work or issues with their dating life and I had a hard time relating to their struggles. I wished that all I had to worry about were disagreements like those, that suddenly seemed so juvenile and irrelevant. I just wanted to stay alive, there was still so much of the world to see and I hadn’t published a book yet. In the following months, I learned that there was a positive side to feeling like you’re living on borrowed time. I am now more productive. No more “someday.” The time is now. I no longer waste my energy worrying about little dramas that don’t really matter on the grand scale of my life. I find myself finding more enjoyment in little areas that I’ve always enjoyed, from reading more, constantly listening to my favorite music, and even walking into a coffee shop and just being grateful that I can still do something as trivial as ordering a latte. There is still so much of the world to see, so you can bet I will do all I can to go out and see as much of it as I can. It's kind of liberating to have a carpe diem mentality. This is true for all of us, even the 99.7% of the population that isn't type 1 diabetic. Anything can happen, even if you're young and healthy. Don't put anything off. If you are young and healthy, appreciate it. Your health could be taken from you, just as easily and unexpectedly as it was taken from me. I spent so much of my life striving for success and always wanted to be someone extremely successful (like someone who made it the elite level of skating, made it to Miss America, or was a best-selling author) and now I just long to once again be "normal," without one of the world's oldest, deadliest, and most misunderstood diseases.
If you'd like to celebrate my one-year diaversary, I've launched an apparel campaign featuring the amazing Gliding on Insulin illustrations by Gretchen Pfabe. All proceeds will go toward my team's fundraising goal for the Colorado Springs One Walk, by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, trying to make type one, type none. Shop Gliding on Insulin merchandise here:
Gliding on Insulin is available here : https://www.createspace.com/6902198
Hi, I’m Crystal! Just like you, I love to travel. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 24 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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