When the wheels of the plane touched down in Tulsa this evening, it wasn’t just my physical body that was returning to earth. At that same moment my mind — my entire consciousness — fell out of the Land of Beatles and back into the real world with an audible thud.
The reentry into reality has, as of the time of this writing, been a bit bumpy. I have just spent the better part of five days surrounded by nothing but the Beatles. As soon as I set foot off the plane in Oklahoma, and then the entire drive home, I felt as one who has been startled awake, suddenly, from a deep sleep — a bit confused and foggy-headed, wondering what happened, where I was, and if there was any possible way to crawl back into the dream I’d been having.
It was a lovely weekend and I enjoyed myself very much (obviously). I just didn’t realize that transition from Beatle-world to real world would be such a considerable one. But I honestly feel as though I’ve just returned from another planet.
I suppose that the nexus of this sensation has its basis in the extent to which I was immersed in all things Beatle. It all started Thursday night, the day I arrived in Louisville, when I walked to the downtown area where one of the tribute groups was giving a free sneak preview of the weekend’s upcoming festivities. That night, also, the other fans began converging on the hotel. Everywhere I turned there were people wearing Beatles t-shirts and talking about — what else — the Beatles.
The festival officially started Friday at noon. There were three outdoor stages and two indoor, all featuring some manner of Beatles tribute group, whether full-on impersonators or simply regular bands who played Beatles tunes. As I walked from one side of the festival to the other a constant barrage of Beatlesongs followed me — and I sang along to every one. When in my room, 20 floors above (and around the corner from) the festival grounds, I could still hear the music from one of the stages — usually well enough that I could make out which song they were playing. Of course, in case one should tire of listening to music, there were guest speakers giving talks on the Beatles, vendors hawking Beatle merchandise and a film festival, where I viewed, “A Hard Day’s Night” for probably the hundredth time. I spoke to George Harrison’s sister, Louise, and had my picture taken with her. I participated in a late night, impromptu singalong in the lounge area inside the hotel, which, at one point, involved upwards of 150 people. (I wussed out at 1:30 a.m. and went up to bed; I later found out it had continued until 5:30) And, just to make sure I was utterly saturated, I listened to Beatles CDs on my headphones when I was resting in my room, rather than watching television.
Yes, it’s no wonder that, upon waking each morning, I had the vague sensation like I’d just spent the previous day with the actual Beatles. It was, essentially, nothing but Beatles from the time I woke up till the time I went to sleep, for nearly five full days. That would give anyone the feeling they’d been hanging out with the boys themselves. Everywhere I turned I saw their faces, heard their words and saw the indelible mark they have left on the world.
I was a bit sad this morning when it came time for me to pack up and leave Louisville. I looked out the 20th floor window and saw that the entire festival grounds had been summarily packed up. Almost no trace of the festival remained. But then I remembered that the lads aren’t just there at the festival. They are everywhere. I can commune with them, in spirit, just as much in my own home as at the festival. So, perhaps, my return to real life doesn’t have to be so complete and absolute. Maybe I can keep one foot in the door to the Beatle dimension. After all, no one has ever accused me of having a firm grip on reality.