It was Y2K, December 1999 and the world was supposed to explode. I was on my way to Dublin, Ireland on a free trip paid for by Miller Genuine Draft where MGD hosted a Blind Date concert for us. We did not know who was playing, it was a secret.
I was the traveling companion of a gal pal. A couple weeks prior, she and I were at a bar in Cleveland, Ohio when we were approached by two voluptuous women with the reddest matte lipstick I’d ever seen in my life. We were sitting at a sticky booth at a dive bar with peanut shells on the ground when they approached our table. They told us to enter the Miller Genuine Draft contest. They said the prize was an all-expenses paid trip to Dublin Ireland and that all we needed to do was drink MGD the rest of the night and fill out a form. We were young, poor and enthralled with these women, so, we did what they urged us to do. A day later, a local radio station, WMMS, called my gal pal to alert her that she had won and that she can bring a traveling companion. She picked me! And although we were very excited, we were also very skeptical. What was the hitch? Did we have to buy a time share? Were we sequestered into some MGD beer sphere for the rest of our lives? Would we be abducted by aliens? We went to the radio station to pick up our certificates. We were greeted by semi normal people, likely interns, our age. They explained we had won, told us to get passports and gave us a folder of information. We were told to get on an airplane two days after Christmas. I was honored my gal pal picked me to be her traveling companion. The furthest I had ever traveled at that point was Dallas, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina. I had only been on an airplane two other times in my life and now we were traveling overseas, to see a free concert and drink beer. It was too good to be true.
In the days leading up to the trip I got my passport and travel clothes. I had an over the shoulder satchel which I called my Euro-Bag. Several months later I drunkenly dropped it in the toilet after I peed, and we renamed it the Urine-Bag.
My mom was happy but concerned about the long flight over the pond.
She asked me:
"Do you have anything you'd like to leave to us in case something happens?"
I said, "Mom, I am 24 years old. I own nothing and have college debt. What do you think I would leave you?"
She said: "How about your thoughts honey? Just write down some thoughts and seal it in an envelope. I won't read it unless something happens."
I said: "Sure”
I dutifully wrote down my thoughts and gave it to my mom. I am sure she read it the minute she dropped us at the airport. Over the years I have looked for that letter. It would be unlike me NOT to keep it. I am hopeful to find it someday.
When we arrived in Dublin, Ireland there were signs all over the city marking the MGD trip. The signs read "BIG BAND. SMALL VENUE. BIG MYSTERY. MGD Blind Date Concert. " That was us! That was our concert. It felt like everyone in Dublin had been waiting for us. The 180 Americans had arrived, and the 500 Europeans would meet us soon. The gang was assembling, and the shenanigans were about to begin. I was vibrating with anticipation and excitement. We stayed at the Burlington Doyle Hotel. I don't think the hotel exists under this name anymore, but it was massive. It could have been that I was so young an inexperienced that everything seemed big and beautiful; it could have been a dump. To me, at that time, it was magical. The chandeliers were crystal and ornate. The drapes were deep red, gold, maroon, thick and satin. There was marble everywhere. The rooms were small and smelly but everything else was simply stunning. I seem to remember a picture we took with the housekeepers in their break room. It felt like a Laverne & Shirley factory moment. It was a small, dingy room with a very small bathroom, lots of lockers and smoke. I will find that and dig it up for a later post. I know I have that one for sure.
We learned when we arrived that if we wore the magic Miller Genuine Draft Blind Trip badge that everything we wanted to eat, and drink would be free. WHAT???? This is a dream come true for a poor 24-year-old. It just kept getting better.
I have been keeping journals since I was a little girl so of course I chronicled the entire trip from December 27, 1999 and on.
There are time stamped entries in that journal from other trip winners, local Dubliners, some cute British dudes, and people from around the world. The people were kind and generous. They were excellent conversationalists. Guest appearances in my journal shared thoughts about American Politics. We were in
the thick of the Monica Lewinsky/Clinton scandal at that time. Non-Americans had many questions and opinions about this topic, and they shared them in my journals. There was a peace sermon on Parnell Square symbolizing the calming of UK issues with Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Great Britain. There is talk of the Good Friday Agreement in the journals. I don't fully understand what was happening, but at Parnell Square on New Year’s Day, it felt powerful. There were thousands of people gathered, and an impactful moment of silence that felt like we
were all blessed by some higher power in that moment. We also traveled to a Fisherman's Town named Howth. We went to Dublin Castle and discovered "The Prisoner’s Table." This was a beautifully hand carved, hand painted table that an inmate in an Irish prison made. The tour guide equated it to the license plates American inmates made in prison.
Everywhere we went in Dublin seemed musical. People would bring their own musical instruments to the pubs and a jamboree would ensue. The pub chairs and tables were small, and people crowded around them three or four persons deep. My traveling companion fell in love with a drink called CLUB ORANGE. It was
basically orange cream soda. I fell in love with their club sandwiches. Every night we'd come back to the hotel and the lobby bar was still serving MGD, Guinness and triple decker mini club sandwiches, with egg. They were delightful. Each pub gave us free MGD & Guinness if we presented our Blind Date badge. I think MGD had some sort of co-promo thing going with Guinness because the Guinness people were around us, a lot. I even have a memory of being in a fancy suite at the hotel with 30 winners and some staff drinking champagne. One of the Guinness family members was in there holding court and telling funny stories. I have a full story of this guy in my book about how he taught me about value and selling value by holding up two different magnums of Guinness. It’s too long of a story to share here, but it will be in my book once it’s released in the chapter on VALUE. That business value lesson was another life changing moment for me.
MGD did such an excellent job with the logistics and arrangements. We ate at the hotel for breakfast and lunch on our own. They hosted buffet dinners for us in the ballroom each night and had a video rolling. I believe I was filmed while eating tortellini saying "Thank You MGD" for one of the promo videos. I am trying to get my hands on it and have contacted MGD but have not heard back, yet. Their team was so in tune with security. I had dropped my ID somewhere in the hotel or on the street. The MGD security detail tracked me down, gave me my ID back and a quick scolding. I am sure it just fell out of my Euro-Bag as I was doing a jig and slugging beers. I was thankful they found it and gave it back to me or getting home would have been a real trick.
The day came for the actual Blind Date Concert. We all had been making predictions on would be performing. We guessed many bands but most of us thought it was U2 since we were in their home country. They blind folded us and put us on busses to head to the "Small Venue, Big Mystery" for the concert. When we got there, it was, indeed a small venue. It was gorgeous. I think it was Vicar Street venue. My journal indicates we were somewhere that started with a “V”. When we arrived, the blind folds were removed. We looked up to the seats in the balcony and there sat Kate Moss, Dave Grohl and Bono. This is where my memory is not great. I think they were there. I don't think I would make it up. I remember many of us were bummed seeing Bono as a spectator because that meant U2 wouldn’t be performing. The journal notes indicate other people had the same visions on that balcony. The mystery of the concert performer
remained a secret for another hour while we drank MGD and milled about. Eventually, the big thick curtains dropped, and the secret band was revealed. It was SMASHING PUMPKINS!!! It was so live, loud and rockin. I felt so lucky to be there. Smashing Pumpkins was the first CD I ever bought, and I loved them so much. The only bummer
about this part of the story is that some dick threw a beer bottle at the stage and hit the rad red headed lady guitarist. The band finished the song and the concert ended early. I blamed it on the euros, and we carried on. Smashing Pumpkins had already played so many great songs at that point, so I felt satisfied.
On my way out I had asked a security guard what he was excited about and he said "to go home to his wife and clear the venue."
A couple days later was New Year's Eve. I had decided since I was so lucky to have won this trip that I would make a new year's resolution that was big and that mattered. In Dublin Ireland on December 31, 1999, while the world was supposed to explode because of Y2K, I decided I would move out of Ohio. I gave myself until my 25th birthday to make it happen. Since my birthday was August 9th, I had eight months to figure it out. When I got back to Ohio after that life changing Miller Genuine Draft Blind Date Concert Trip, I began sending resumes all over the country. I was young, with little experience but I was persistent. I sent resumes to San Diego, Seattle, Charlotte, Miami, Chicago, and Philadelphia. No one would call me back. The only place that seemed mildly interested in me was San Diego. In June (2 months before my goal departure date of my birthday) I flew to San Diego to scope out the scene. That same gal pal who won the Dublin trip had given me a buddy pass for $50.00. Her brother in-law worked for the airlines and he gave her a friend and family voucher. If I flew stand by, I could inch my way to San Diego and then back to Cleveland.
I arrived in San Diego in June 2000. I had interviews at various hotels and fell in love with the city. At one point I drove over to Harbor Island which is across from the airport and overlooks San Diego bay and the city skyline. I breathed in the fresh sea air and at
that moment, said out loud, “This is where I want to live.” I buddy passed my way back to Ohio. I had a layover Dulles airport which turned into an overnight stay waiting for the next available flight. I remember sleeping on my bag and being very cold. When I got back to Ohio, I declared to anyone that would listen, “I am moving to San Diego.” My family and friends thought I was crazy. No one leaves Ohio. I did not have a job. I just had a gut instinct that I would get a job and it would all work out. I kept envisioning that San Diego skyline view. On August 8th I packed up by twenty give foot moving truck, hitched my Volkswagen Jetta to the back, and away I went. My dad was so nervous for me to drive that big truck. At five foot two I could barely see over the steering wheel. He kicked the tires of the truck and triple checked my chain hitch work for my car. He gave me a pillow to sit on so I could see over my steering wheel and wished me luck. My grandpa told me to bring a kite and fly it at some point and whatever I do, “do not stop in South Kansas City.” I don’t know what that meant, but I didn’t stop there. I did, however, fly a kite in the middle of the country at some point while watching the sunset. That was a nice homage to Grandpa Eddie.
I celebrated my 25th birthday on the balcony of a hotel in Independence Missouri and got to San Diego on August 13th. We made some stops along the way in Denver, Vail and Las Vegas. My gal pal that won the trip drove with me across country for the experience and booked a one-way flight back to Ohio. What an experience it was driving across country from Cleveland to San Diego chasing the sunset. I couldn’t believe United States was so pretty and each state and part of the country was so different from each other. I was in awe and in love with my home country. The day after I got to San Diego, I had a final interview at Sheraton San Diego, and I got the job. I’ve been in San Diego ever since. My hotel and business career launched from there. I’ve made some of the best friends that I call family in my life in San Diego. I met my husband in San Diego. Twenty one years later I am still here and am so happy I made that New Year’s Resolution in Dublin Ireland in 1999.
The details of the stories of the cross-country journey, broken trailer hitches, failed drug tests, co-workers that hated me, stalkers and the following 21 years are for another day. Ho