JT and Me
By Kimberly "SisKim" Pifer

Sometimes life hands you a serious dose of providence and you've just got to say, "Um, okay."

I'll get back to that, but first, let's get this newbie thing out of the way. As I write this in late June of 1998, I've been hanging with the good folk of James Taylor Online for a little over two months, lurking for a few weeks and finally braving first the chat room and then the Forum. I've received nothing but warm welcomes and for that I am grateful. Fitting into a well-established group of friends -- in real life or on the Net -- can be daunting, but everyone at JTO has been remarkably friendly and giving.

But I'm a mere babe in more than my newfound JTO-er status. If you had told me a year and a half ago that I'd be beside myself with excitement over a live James Taylor concert on PBS or communing on a nearly daily basis with a passel of enthusiastic jacked-in JT fans, I would have most likely given you a polite but dubious, "Uh-huh. Whatever you say." We're talking about a gal who never gave much thought to James Taylor or his music beyond two LP's pilfered long ago from her father's collection and seldom listened to. ("Sweet Baby James" and "JT" for the curious amongst you.)

Oh sure, I knew all the standards. You would have had to be living in a hut in the rainforest to make it through the 70s without at least a passing knowledge of the man's greatest hits. Heck, even that might not have been remote enough. And, as demonstrated by those aforementioned LPs, my father was a minor fan. But to comprehend why no one is more surprised than I at this personal musical epiphany, you've got to understand that for the first 25 years of my life, James Taylor was a tiny blip on the radar screen of my life. He existed. I existed. He wrote some nice tunes, and I wouldn't switch the radio station on them if I was in the right mood. Are you with me here?

So now we get to that providence thing. And it's a funny, funny thing that zany providence. Who knows why my mother -- previously no great James Taylor fan herself -- should read a favorable Time magazine review of "Hourglass" and, having heard nary a song, decide on a whim to buy it. Who can say why she would be so captivated as to play it seemingly non-stop, ensuring that I could not help but hear it every time I was over at her house. And who knows why, after an adolescence and young adulthood of listening to primarily "progressive/alternative/punk/whatever the heck they're calling it these days" music (the exception being The Beatles, whom I adore to this day), I should find myself thinking, "Wow, this is pretty good. This is James Taylor?!" I don't know the answers.

But there are some things I do know ...

I know that I went out and bought "Hourglass" myself, listened to it until even my mother was sick of it and then bought the "James Taylor (Live)" CD and did the same. I know that Sunday, August 24, 1997 was the date of the best concert I had ever been to -- and I've been to a lot -- and that in the space of little more than two hours, I knew I'd found a new source of comfort, joy and enthusiasm. I can't recall a time when my immediate reaction to a concert was to wonder where the artist was playing next and calculate if there was any way I could get to that show because once just wasn't enough. The June 10, 1998 concert at the Nissan Pavillion confirmed that this experience was not hallucinatory.

I know that I let out a little yelp of amazement and glee when JT won his much-deserved but little-expected Grammy in March. And I know that the last year and a half has been one of exuberant discovery as I've begun to work my way through the 30-year catalog of JT albums, stumbling upon old gems that most of you reading this have probably treasured for years.

And most importantly, I know how I feel when I listen to James Taylor's steady, pure voice. It's a feeling so dear to me, and one that I know I share with scores of other fans -- life-long, newbies like myself, and everyone in between. And while I envy in some measure those JTO-ers who have had the very good fortune to meet and even converse with the object of our affection and admiration, I'm not sure just what I could possibly hope to say to the man that would ever make the impact in his life that, in only 18 short months, he has made in mine. I know that's not what he expects, but it's what I'd like to give.

So do I really think divine intervention brought me to JT? Nah, not really. Though sometimes I do like to entertain the thought that coincidences aren't always just coincidences. In the end, it doesn't really matter why it happened, just that it did. And that's more than enough for me.

SisKim is a technical writer living in the Washington, D.C. area, where she is currently attempting to convince everyone she meets that maturity is over-rated. So far, it ain't working. She likes peanut butter and anything with pumpkin in it, but try to make her eat a brussel sprout and you'll be sorry. She's not quite sure how James Taylor snuck in with all her other musical tastes and hit her over the head with a blunt, devotion-inducing object, but she's glad he did.

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