Lucy Jensen

It had been a long time coming. Our newsie friend moved from California a few decades back and had been asking us to come and visit for the longest time. There was always a reason we couldn’t make it. Why couldn’t we make it? Time whizzes past us, doesn’t she; positively gallops, the older you get.

“Elton John is coming to Arkansas!” she tells us. “It’s his farewell tour. You need to come!” Well, now we had no reason to find a reason we couldn’t go. I jumped on the site to try and buy tickets. The tickets were a little high, but what’s high when a legend is doing his final trip around the world. We booked our airline tickets and began to mark the calendars and look forward to the new adventure. “You always need dates in the diary,” my friends and I often remind each other.

Then along came our uninvited guest Madame Covid and everything got pushed down to the dark ditches of living. Flights and concerts were all postponed. We were not going to see the legend, we were not going anywhere; 2020 sat heavy on the hearts and shoulders of all of us, like a complete fun sucker.

Then The Legend needed a surgery, and we collectively held our breath all over again. Oh no, not another cancellation! We had already pushed our plan into the next year and tomorrow is never guaranteed, is it. I want to do everything I ever wanted in my life, until I can no more. Can’t fester any regrets when I’m an old lady in my chair.

We went ahead and booked our travel for the rescheduled dates and penciled it — only pencil, mind — into our calendars for early the following year. “Heal well, old friend!” we said quietly to the interiors of our own walls. I love to see legends. There is something so grounding and marvelous about the planned and gracious exit of a fabulous and impressive career. (Though I did see the Rolling Stones in Leeds in 1982 and wondered, at the time, if that was going to be their last tour. Ha!)

Then the third triangle of our party was not going to be able to make it. Though our uninvited guest Madame Covid seemed to be now moderately cooperating with the travel plans of the world, we were losing a corner of our triangle. Life had got in the way, and she wasn’t going to be able to make the party. We were gutted. Dang, if it wasn’t one thing it was another. I hate it when that happens. Were we going to make it? Was the party ever going to happen? Was the writing on the proverbial wall that we finally had to dump the whole brilliant idea down the drain of blank-blank happens?

I didn’t even want to tell anyone what the plan was and had been for two years now. That might make the scheme somehow permanently evaporate, as have so many along the road of annihilated plans in recent times. “Will he be there, will he not?” There were whispers along the corridors of the adventurous that he wasn’t feeling well. Heck. I get a text. “He has Covid!” No!!! “He has canceled Dallas!” Well, now. I wasn’t canceling my flight or my plans this time. I was just going to go and enjoy regardless. My friend had taken days off and we would have fun. “You’re leaving again?” my daughter seemed surprised. I didn’t have the energy to explain the whole story to her.

Right up until the day of, we did not know for sure if we would be attending the “Farewell Yellow Brick Road” grand finale concert of Sir Elton John in Little Rock. Apparently, the Dallas concert — the previous stop on the tour — had been canceled just a few hours before showtime, so we kept nervously checking our messages and email.

At about 4 p.m., we decided the show would be going on and we primped a little and headed out for the concert hall — via the Irish Pub, as you do. Gotta get a little sauced up for a mega event such as this. To our surprise and delight, glam rock came out that day in downtown Little Rock. From the feathers and sequins to the white platform boots and gold sparkly trousers, we were back in the 1970s and there was going to be a show. And boy did he show up!

At 74 years old, he absolutely killed it. There were young and old at the party, the able-bodied and the infirm. He sang through many of his considerable repertoire over the course of two-plus hours, pausing only to chat to the crowd or sip on his water. It seemed as if he enjoyed it as much as we did, also acknowledging exactly how many days it had been since we were supposed to have been together; and now we were. I felt quite teary at times, finally getting to see The Legend, against the odds, live on stage.

He might not be dancing on the piano in his platforms anymore, but he performed like an absolute king and boasted a lovely, sweet humbleness that sang through his performance. As he was elevated up and into the scenery after the last encore, in his robe and slippers no less, we all had such a good laugh at this marvelous man who had given so much not only to the world of music, but also to humanity at large. His work with the AIDS foundation and his ongoing efforts to push for acceptance of gays and gay marriage in the world have pushed him up to the levels of way beyond a composer and musician, but to a historic level of complete hero.

For those of you who couldn’t make the final concert tour, I urge you to read his incredible biography, “Rocket Man,” and also see the film. You’ll be glad you did.

Not only did we finally accomplish our goals that had seemed lost in the large slice of life spent with Madame Covid, but I got to know a whole new state and I love that. We toured the Clinton Library — remarkable — visited the school of the Arkansas 9 — sobering — and soaked in the cuisine and the ambiance of the deep south everywhere we went — from the Cotton Shed to the Cracker Barrel and beyond.

Thanks must go out to Susan, my hostess and friend of 30-plus years. What a fabulous time we had; most certainly opening the gateway to many more epic times and laughs galore.

And thank you, Rocket Man, for all the music and all the years. Go raise those beautiful children with your beautiful husband. Be happy. I think you finally are.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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