Olivia Newton-John and the test of a friendship

olivia newton-john

Grammy Award winner Olivia Newton-John performing in Las Vegas.

By Maisha Maurant

I think true friendship means making room for each person to be themselves, even if it causes us sometimes to roll our eyes, bite our tongues, shake our heads or shake the other person. And it’s not always about the big things.

Chris is one of my best friends – supportive and generous. He gets me in a way few other people do. In fact, we call each other soul mates.

We’ve also learned along the way that even soul mates can sometimes be pains in the ass. Which leads me to Vegas, where this all started.

Chris was finishing up his dissertation in San Francisco. On the spur of the moment, we agreed to meet in Vegas. I was headed to a conference. With him in California and me in Michigan, it was a rare opportunity to spend time together. We had a great time.

Walking down the Strip one night, he stops in his tracks and says “She’s here!” I started looking in the crowd around us. “Who’s here?” Then I notice he’s pointing to a billboard.

“Olivia Newton-John?”

“Yes! I loved her when I was a kid. We have to go,” he says. He’s already on his phone checking for tickets.

“Seriously?” I ask. But he’s not even listening to me at this point. Unfortunately, she isn’t playing that week.

“I wouldn’t worry about it. This is Vegas. I’m sure she’ll be back,” I assure him. He looks devastated. If he was my 7-year-old nephew, I’d buy him ice cream. Instead, we go have a drink.

Fast-forward a few weeks. Because concerts are my thing, I get Ticketmaster alerts. Guess who’s coming to town? Olivia.

Well, she’s not coming to Detroit. She’s playing in Windsor, Ontario. It’s not far from Detroit. But you do have to cross the Canadian border.

I get tickets as a present to Chris for completing his doctorate. By this time, he’s relocated to Chicago. This is going to make getting to the concert a lot easier.

It should have made it easier.

Chris and I have one land mine area in our friendship – time management. From my perspective, Chris makes plans, but he sees them as flexible. Sort of “Let’s just see where the day takes us.”

My approach? Um, let’s not. Let’s be prepared. He knows this about me. This is not the first dustup we’ve had about this.

So when we started planning for the Olivia concert, I was explicit. Let me know if we’re hanging out the whole day, part of the day or just going to the concert. I was trying to figure if I’d need to take the day off.

He agreed to let me know – but no word from Chris. After our previous discussions about this, I decided I wasn’t going to chase him to firm up plans.

A couple days before the concert, he gets in touch. By this time, I’m irritated and stressed by work. I tell him that I’m not going. He can use the tickets and go with someone else. He’s got lots of friends in Detroit. Then he says, “But we’re supposed to do this together.”

Ugh. Now I’m feeling petty. I’m also thinking about how little time we’re going to spend together once he starts a new job. The next day I tell him I’ve decided to go. He hesitates and says, “Great. Are you sure?”

“Yeah, let’s do it.”

“Okay. There’s just one thing, though. I didn’t realize I would need my passport to go to Canada. It’s in Chicago. I’m trying to figure that part out.”

Are you kidding me?!

Later, as we’re walking to the car, he says, “Well, I didn’t know that Canada …”

I interrupt him with “Is a foreign country?!”

“No, that they require a passport. I mean, c’mon, Windsor is like Detroit’s playground.”

Cars at Border

At the border: Who would have guessed Canada is a foreign country?

I tell him that I don’t think the Border Patrol sees it that way. This is the part where you might be thinking, “Cut the guy some slack. He doesn’t know about traveling internationally.” Chris has lived in Haiti, France and Indonesia and traveled to Spain and Turkey among other places.

I ask Chris who he wants me to call if he gets detained. He laughs.

We head to the border. He has an “aha!” moment. He’s going to see if a friend in Chicago will send him a picture of his passport. He has his California driver’s license. He stopped by his mom’s house to get whatever documents she still had that identify him. We don’t think his baptismal record is going to help.

They let us into Canada. The concert is good and relatively uneventful. Except for a senior citizen asking Chris to stop screaming in her ear. And he’s that person at a concert. Like VH1’s Pop-Up Video, he offers fun facts throughout. Right out the gate, he leans over and whispers “The name of this song is ‘Magic’.” I whisper back “Yeah, I got that from the chorus.” He’s having such a great time that it’s infectious. Afterward, we get food and toast to him now being Dr. Chris.

We head back to the U.S. It’s late, and I’m worn out after a long week at work. I’m dreading the drawn out process this might turn into. But part of me wants him to learn a lesson.

Chris is still unbothered.

Patrol officerWhen we get to the border patrol officer, I give him my passport. Chris leans across me and gives him a handful of papers – every identifying document he could get his hands on.

The officer asks, “What is all of this?” And I think to myself, “Welcome to my world.”

Chris offers the photos of his passport. Many questions later, it turns out that the officer is able to look him up in some database. But just when I think it’s over, he asks how the concert was. And Chris launches into a detailed re-enactment.

Oh, no. We’re not doing that. Christopher, say goodnight to the nice border patrol officer.

As we head back through the tunnel, I give him a look. He shrugs and says, “What? He asked how it was.”

I’m looking at a person I love with all my heart. Maybe I should have lightened up. Maybe I should have had more patience.

Then he says, “I told you it would be fine.”

It gets me thinking. We haven’t crossed the border yet. There’s still time to let him be Canada’s problem.

Lead photograph: lasvegas.showtickets.com



Maisha Maurant

Maisha Maurant manages a team of strategists, writers and designers at a health care insurance company in Michigan. She is also the chief corporate editor. She and Chris are planning their next adventure.

Editor’s note: It hardly seems possible, but the calendar confirms that it was 1995 when I met Maisha at a job fair in Detroit and recruited her to The Oregonian for a summer internship. She came out to Portland last year for a conference and we happily reconnected in person.

Tomorrow: Jacob Quinn Sanders, A writer writes. Always.

19 thoughts on “Olivia Newton-John and the test of a friendship

  1. Oh my word! That stressed me out!
    I have some Chris types in my life that I don’t even make plans with anymore unless the plans are to be at my home. That way, their unpredictably doesn’t matter.
    And Olivia Newton John is not the “one that I want” for a concert. You are a good friend.
    From one planner to another, God help you with Chris. I’m tempted to say God help us lighten up — but I don’t think you needed to in this case. At all!
    I love your last graph, btw.

    • Lol! The funny thing is that the concert turned out to be great – the best part of the whole thing! Thank you for being on my side. When I asked him if he was okay with me writing this blog, he said “if that’s how you experienced it.” Ha! It’s admittedly one side of the story. But I absolutely stand behind it. Just the things we do for the people we love. I do appreciate that he puts up with me, too. And thank you so much for the compliment on the ending. I really did think about leaving him in Canada. 🙂

  2. You are a wonderfully funny writer! Hang on to the Chris types of the world. They are magical thinkers and their guru is J.K. Rowling – just think how a simple children’s book became a 15 billion dollar industry.
    I had my own Aha moment just yesterday at 10.17 to be precise. A few months ago, friends bragged about how they got the last campground in Madras. Someone else was going to a friend’s farm. Soon the hype started about how all hotels were booked and Airbnbs were $700 a night and that their would be gas lines and total chaos.. Two weeks ago I did a search and found the only hotel room left was in a Super 8 in Albany for $1008 dollars. Meanwhile, people in California were rushing around like chickens shouting “Oregon is all closed. Oregon is all closed” At that point I put an intention out that I wanted to see a total eclipse but had no idea how to get there.
    Suddenly we get a call from my husband’s cousin that he plans to come and stay with us in our home in Portland. for the eclipse and he has a parking spot in a golf course in a little town called Aumsville for $75.
    We are not sure at this point if we are going to make it, so we leave extra ealry – 3am. Thanks to Murphy’s laws, we get there by 4 and the kids groaned. But the golf course people are amazing hospitable – they give us glasses (by now it’s sold out in Oregon and California) and tells us a Pancake breakfast will be served at 7.30. We sleep under the stars in a magnificent setting planned for a perfect viewing position. Until that moment I had kept wringing my hands and saying – why didn’t I plan this, how come I didn’t know about this, life always passes me by and by golly, as an Oregonian I have the right to totality.
    The sun rises and the eclipse starts – 25, 50. 90. 97, 98, 99, 10.000.
    Turns out Aumsville was on the centerline of the pathway of the eclipse half-way between Salem and Albany.
    Sometimes the best plans are the ones you don’t make, but the ones that make you.

    • Without a doubt, this is my favorite anecdote related to the eclipse. Who would have thought I’d read about it in a comment relating to Olivia Newton-John and a well-intentioned but poorly organized friend of a friend in the Motor City! Now you’re going to think you can get away with this again, LJ. 🙂

      • Another synchronicity – I used to be a huge fan of Olivia Newton John ever since my brother gave me the album “Have you never been mellow” and I’m going to Canada tomorrow. Keeping my fingers Chris-crossed.

    • Hi LJ!

      That is such an awesome story. I agree with George – this is best eclipse experience I’ve heard!

      I’m going to share it with Chris. He is going to love it. And he’ll forever point to it as proof that his way his best. 🙂

      And thank you so much for the compliment on my writing. Chris gives me plenty to work with. Lol

  3. I love my Chrises and am completely stressed out by them as well. Bless you for loving them and planning more adventures. I enjoyed your memory immensely as it was so relatable for me. You are a gifted storyteller.

    • It’s nice to meet a kindred spirit! 🙂 My Chris is so awesome. He definitely makes the wrangling – and frayed nerves – worth it. Lol.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it. That is the greatest compliment. Thank you!

  4. My head literally would have exploded! I am one of those deliberate planners who must have everything organized and in order. I can be friends with folks like Chris and accept them for who they are, but I generally don’t have friends like that because my need for plans drives them nuts! I’m glad you both found each other and are compatibly incompatible. It works for you both and that is evidenced by your story. Thanks for sharing, and thanks to Chris for the sense of humor.

  5. Thanks, Lynn. I love “compatibly incompatible.” 🙂 I’m also glad we found each other. With Chris, there is never a shortage of humor.

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