It was February 1999. I was visiting my cousins in Glennallen, Alaska during mid-winter break of my senior year. They competed in the State Final for hockey that week, and I got to see the defense duo of S. and S. Givens (numbers 1 and 11) help take the Panthers to a win. I learned how to play Myst. I was introduced to Mr. Bean, and the hymn “All Creatures of Our God and King” was forever changed to something that sometimes induces chuckling during worship services. I told my 12-year-old cousin that someday he’d be able to look over his brothers’ heads when he stood behind them in front of the bathroom mirror and they’d stop teasing him then (I was right).
And we went to a concert at the high school of a band from Palmer/Wasilla called Foreign. I LOVED them. Their music had alternative rock influences with the fun of ska, and it was all delightful. I bought an album that night and it became the soundtrack of my year.
I took it to college and started introducing people to it–I played it at nearly every open dorm. I used a snippet of the hidden track that was a singing answering machine message as my voicemail recording for much of my freshman year. I took it with me that summer to the Bible Conference where I worked and shared it around there–trying to explain to people that when I said I loved the band Foreign, I was not talking about Foreigner. My sophomore year, a girl from Alaska came as a freshman. I asked her if she’d ever heard of Foreign and she was a fan. We geeked out together for a bit, and then listened to the music.
Fast forward seventeen and a half years to this morning in Nashville.I was going to do breakfast with some friends still around after Hutchmoot. We were debating our restaurant choice, and as we stood on the sidewalk in front of our choices, another guy from Hutchmoot, Casey, came walking up the street. He was looking for a quiet morning and so didn’t plan to join us, but he stopped to chat for a few minutes. I’d met Casey the first day, but hadn’t talked long. Later, I ran into Pete, who I’d met in previous years, but never really had a long conversation with. This year, we remedied that lack and got to know each other a little. He said he’d grown up in Alaska, and I mentioned I’d lived there. We found a few commonalities, and Pete also mentioned that Casey was a friend he grew up with.
I didn’t see Casey again all weekend until this morning, so as we chatted I mentioned that Pete had told me they grew up in Alaska. I said I’d lived in Glennallen and Casey recalled he knew the place.
“I was in a band when I was in high school, and we played out there.”
I blinked at him a moment, the gears of memory clicking into place. He looked about my age.
“What band?” I asked.
With a little hesitation in his voice, Casey answered, “Foreign.”
My friend Jason was standing nearby, and he stated later that my squeal was supersonic. I’m going to blame the sudden loss of noise as I expressed myself to the fact that my voice is a bit hoarse from all the talking this weekend.
I’m typically pretty chill when it comes to meeting minor celebrities (I’ve never met any major ones, so I have no data there). Just a few hours after this encounter I practically ignored Danny Gokey next to me in a coffee shop.
But I actually asked Casey if I could hug him. I was so excited. I told him all about it.
“I haven’t felt this famous since high school,” he said. Then he asked which album I got. I said it was the one with the globe on the front. And he said this: “So you don’t even have the second one.”
SECOND ONE. They came out with two albums. I only have one. And now I know guys from the band who can hook me up with the one I didn’t know about.
And yeah, I said “guys.” Because after he told me about the second album, Casey said that they made it right before they broke up. I asked if he’d kept in touch with them. “Yeah, definitely,” he said. He mentioned one of the guys is still a close friend who now lives overseas, and another still lives in Alaska. “And Pete, of course,” he said.
“Wait, what?! Pete was in the band, too?” I asked.
Oh, yes. He was.
I got home a couple of hours ago and pulled out the album again. I haven’t listened to it in years, but I still know all the words. I was singing aloud to the cats just a few moments ago. It’s still a good album, and I still love it. And Casey tells me the second one was way better.