Hey ho, this is Marianne’s pal Dena, filling in for Mari while she zips around the great Pacific Northwest this weekend, being camera of rockstar. Marianne returns on Monday, hopefully with lots of photos and tales of crabwalks. Until then, you are at my mercy.

Since Marianne is off seeing and photographing Ray Davies, this weekend, I thought I would launch my blogidency with a story of my special place. I’m speaking of the O’Hare Hilton, mind you, so get your mind out of the gutter.

I’m sure you must have your own special places, locations that are inherently mundane, but that are imbued with some deep personal significance because they are permanently attached to a memorable experience. The emotions aroused by these experiences may run the gamut, which is why I’ll never eat another meal at Bally’s in Las Vegas. On the other end of the pleasure spectrum, every time I get dropped off at O’Hare airport and spot the imposing curve of the O'Hare Hilton, I find myself floating on air as I did the night I met Ray Davies in the lobby.

It was June 11, 1978 by my reckoning, but I’m sure someone will correct me if I have the date wrong. I had just seen my second Kinks show with my ex and we had a tip that they were at the Hilton, so we drove out to O’Hare. Still high on the show, I would have been delighted with a mere sighting. I had discovered the Kinks while I was still living in Peoria and spent the previous few years listening to their music intensively, even starting a fanzine, “Autumn Almanac,” with my ex. I was all of eighteen years old at the time and utterly infatuated with Ray Davies, whose lilting voice and flamboyant stage presence had drawn me to the Kinks in the first place. Never in my life had I come face to face with someone who was that important to me, nor had I imagined such a portentous encounter would happen in the lobby of a generically furnished chain hotel.

My memories of that night are not as sharp as they used to be, but I do remember I was wearing a man’s hat and a black t-shirt with white printed letters that said “Ramona.” I had originally had the shirt printed up for a Ramones show that I wound up missing because the club arbitrarily raised the minimum age for one night, but it was also an obscure Kinks reference having to do with a glove. I can’t even remember if I walked up to Ray or he walked up to me, but of course it must have been the former. I can’t remember what Ray was wearing, if he was talking to someone else, or even what I said when I started talking to him. It seems likely that I babbled something about the show I had just seen, or perhaps I was speaking in tongues, but I’m not sure Ray even heard my words. I think he simply took one look at me and could see I was starstruck, baby, completely overwhelmed to be in his presence. He must have found it endearing, because he abruptly bent down and kissed me on the cheek.

I met Ray quite a few times after that and he was always gracious, sometimes astoundingly so. But he never made my heart stop again the way he did that night, simply because his gesture was so completely unexpected and so completely kind. Ray didn’t owe me a thing, but he went out of his way to acknowledge me because he could see the stars in my eyes. It felt like he was thanking me for being there, but I’m the grateful one. I may not be the rabid Kinks fan I once was, but Ray and I will always have Village Green Preservation Society and the O’Hare Hilton. And if I repeat this story a few more times before I kiss this increasingly scorched earth goodbye, it’s only because it means that much to me.