Dear Donnie, Jordan, Jonathan, Danny and Joe:
First, I apologize for the length of this. Second, I feel very awkward writing this thank-you letter. I feel a bit too old at 38 to be sending fan mail, but oh well. As any Blockhead knows, New Kids love isn’t fandom, it’s a lifestyle.
I am just coming down off the high of purchasing VIP tickets to The Main Event (Grand Rapids, MI). I have no clue how many News Kids concerts and events I have been to. Considering that my best friend Susan and I have also followed your solo careers, I’m sure that number is likely in the triple digits. Yet it always feels like the first show. Since I was 12 years-old, that feeling hasn’t changed one bit.
I often think about the impact New Kids has had on my life. I know that for every fan, there is a powerful story behind their relationship with the group. I think that is part of what makes New Kids so unique, and why the following is still so strong, because we never left your side. Through thick and thin, we had your backs, because in our minds, you always had ours, whether you knew it or not.
When the call went out for fans to submit their stories for Rock This Boat, I did consider sharing mine. I was already booked for the cruise with Susan, (as she is my partner in all my NK crimes), but I’m not one to air my personal life to the public. However, I want to say thank you to all of you, even though “thank you” isn’t really adequate for what you have done for me.
I have been asked, many times in my life, why I love New Kids on the Block so much. Why, after 26 years, I still go to concerts, and why I will still break a desk chair over the head of anyone that talks trash about the group. (Ok, not really, I just consider it.) This is why…
I met my best friend because of the group. When I was 12, I answered an ad for a babysitter. During my “interview” I met the 12 year-old sister of the woman who posted the ad. She was shy at first, as was I. Her mother suggested that she show me her room. She opened her door and every, single, square centimeter of her room was covered in New Kids on the Block posters, cardboard cut-outs, etc. It looked like Bop magazine exploded on her walls. I looked at her and said, “You like New Kids! I like New Kids!” Conversation went from shy to rapid, machine-gun-fire New Kids love in .02 seconds. From that point on, all New Kids events were done as a team. We have so many fond memories, great stories, and a “few” embarrassing ones I won’t share here lest I receive a restraining order in response to this letter.
My childhood was “challenging.” I had an alcoholic father who frequently skipped town, a bipolar, drug-addicted, abusive mother, was poor… quintessential Lifetime Movie fodder. When my parents were together, they spent 99.9% of their time killing each other. The only way I was even able to sleep at night was listening to music on my Walkman. Yup, it was New Kids. Hangin’ Tough may have been a catchy tune for some, for me it was a fight song. It was my “make it to 18, get the fuck out of here and never look back” anthem.
Because of my home life, I grew up fast. Being poor and socially awkward made me a perfect target for bullies. I couldn’t relate to any of my classmates. They worried about whether or not they would get those new Guess jeans or Z Cavarrici pants, I worried about where we were going to live as we were getting evicted again. I worried about whether or not I was going to get my ass kicked again for no reason when I got home. Growing up around my mother was like walking through a mine field. I never knew what was going to set her off. But when New Kids were popular, it was a brief equalizer. Finally, I had something in common and could talk to people. For a brief time, I fit in.
Being a New Kids fan definitely dictated the type of friends I had. Given the environment I grew up in, it would have been incredibly easy for me to follow the “drugs, booze, get knocked up at 15” path. I wanted none of that, that combination is what made my mother who she is and I did not want to end up like her. Fortunately, those types of people typically didn’t like New Kids, and I gravitated towards people who were more like me. Those were the friends that kept me together so I was able to make it to 18, pack what I could carry, and get out for good.
The group disbanded while I was in high school, but the music wasn’t packed away and forgotten. Susan and I went to one of the final concerts, Face the Music tour, Riviera Theater in Chicago. We vowed then that it didn’t matter where it was, if New Kids ever got back together, we were going to be there. The first concert could be in North Korea and we were going to be at that bitch, front row center. Our senior year, Susan moved away, and I didn’t see her often. After I moved out at 18, we completely lost touch. My junior year of college, I received a phone call around 10 pm. The second I heard her voice, I knew it was Susan, she had tracked me down. We spent the next 10 hours on the phone catching up. A few hours after we hung up, she was at my front door. A good chunk of that time was spent talking about Jordan and Joe’s new solo careers. Within 48 hours, we were on a plane to Baltimore to see Jordan. Two weeks later we were at Mall of America to see Joe.
Our friendship picked up right where we left off, and the solo careers came at the perfect time for me. I was struggling hard emotionally. I was on my own completely. When I couldn’t stay on campus during breaks, I was homeless and would stay with family or friends, crashing on their couch and living out of a suitcase, until I could go back to school. It was depressing to say the least. Those solo tours were a much-needed escape, something to look forward to. Having Susan back in my life was also a huge blessing. I had pretty much grown up at her house, and her family was a second family to me.
Those years following Joe, Jordan and Danny’s solo careers were an absolute blast. We were at the New Kids Fan Reunion in Framingham (Danny, Patty, Danny’s dad, Alma, Jordan & John’s sister, and nephew and Joe’s dad showed up for that.) We were at Tick Tick Boom in New York. We danced on stage with Danny during his tour. We hung out with Joe and Eman at hotels and got kicked out of one with them. Countless meet and greets. We froze our asses off and got incinerated at concerts and didn’t care. New Kids money was like another utility bill for us. Some of the best memories of my life happened during those years.
And then it happened. NKOTB.com went live. My phone started blowing up and I knew it was Susan. I had seen it too and was about to call her. THEY. ARE. BACK! Yes, we screamed like 13 year-old girls. We freaked out like 13 year-old girls. We. Could. Not. Wait. That first concert was magic. The first few beats… Dun. Dun. Dun. Dun, the bass reverberated through my entire body. I had chills. I looked at Susan and we were both crying. Seeing all of those arms go up, the screaming, we looked around and we were in awe. We felt like we were in a time warp. You walked out on stage and the response was deafening. The outside world was gone and nothing else mattered.
Again, I don’t know how many concerts I’ve been to. Your music has been the back beat of my life. Whenever I am down, it is the best upper. I hate flying, so when I do, I listen to Joe as his voice has always been calming, soothing to me. New Kids was played at my wedding. It was played for my unborn son, and played for him as he grew. He is a big fan of Remix and Crash. I have some great video of him dancing/singing to Crash. He knows all the words to all the songs on 10. He’s 3.
Susan went on four of the cruises. I was dying to go but never had the money. Finally, for the 2014 cruise it was financially possible for me to go and Susan and I booked our trip. I was so excited to go, and to spend time with Susan. The last few years we haven’t seen very much of each other and our friendship was really starting to wane. I moved to Michigan in 2008, had a baby… we hardly saw each other, except for New Kids events.
2013 had been a very rough year as my son (then 1.5) became seriously ill with a mysterious illness and was in the hospital for more than a month. He had multiple surgeries to drain his lymph nodes. We never learned what made him so sick. The fear and uncertainty of that time had really done a number on me and my husband was determined to make the cruise happen for me as I desperately needed to get away from it all.
On December 17, 2013, five months after our son’s mysterious illness we were back in the hospital with him. This time we received a diagnosis, and it was our biggest fear. Our beautiful, perfect 2 year-old was diagnosed with Leukemia. My whole world came crashing down. Time stopped. Everything else I had faced in my life was nothing in comparison to this. I could take anything happening to me. But my baby boy? I couldn’t stop it, I couldn’t protect him, I couldn’t make it go away. His life was in the hands of oncologists and hematologists and all I could do was stand by, hold him and pray.
During that time, a lot of decisions were made. I didn’t know what this was going to do to us financially and I told my husband, “I will cancel the cruise.” He said, “Absolutely not.” The following months were a hell I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Fortunately my son’s prognosis is good and he is responding well to treatment. We met so many families during this journey that weren’t so lucky. We lost so many children in 2014, it was beyond devastating. Nothing is worse than attending the funeral of a child.
Despite this, it looked like the cruise was still a go for me, and I could not wait. I needed that break – mentally, physically, and emotionally. I needed to leave behind Farrell, Cancer Mom, and escape to my happy place. I needed my best friend. I needed my boys. Now, more than any other time in my life, I needed New Kids on the Block.
The weekend before the cruise, my son had a severe reaction to one of his chemo meds. It was a series of shots I had to give him myself. He lost control of his body, it was far worse than a seizure. Unlike anything I had ever seen. My husband and I rushed him to the ER and I sat in the backseat, holding his head with everything I had because he was violently throwing himself in his car seat, smashing his head into the sides of it. He was screaming. I have never been so scared in my entire life. His primary hematologist/oncologist met us and got us admitted immediately. My son had another six episodes in front of her. She ordered MRIs, EKG, blood tests. The words “brain tumor” were spoken and I felt the floor drop out from under my feet. No. NO!
We stayed in the hospital overnight and waited for test results to come in. Neither one of us slept. No brain tumor. Normal EKG. It was determined that it was a very severe reaction to the cytarabine shot. A shot I gave him. Even though it was not my fault, chemo is dangerous and kids can have reactions, the guilt was overwhelming. It was Wednesday before our son was discharged to go home. My flight to New York was the next morning. Again, I said, “I have to cancel the cruise.” My husband said, “Absolutely NOT. You are getting on that damn boat. I don’t care what I have to do; you are getting on that fucking boat.” Knowing that my mother-in-law was going to stay with my husband while I was gone to help, helped make the decision to go, and leave my son, a bit easier.
After a scare like that, I needed nothing more than to get away from it all. So when I recited the Cruise Oath, “I will leave everything behind. I will leave behind my fears… because I deserve this shit. I earned this shit, now let me enjoy this shit, on this hot damn ship!” I screamed every, single, word because I was leaving all that shit at the port in New York. For the next few days, none of that shit existed. That cruise was better than any therapy, group session or pill. Once again, in the darkest time of my life, New Kids on the Block came through for me.
I know no one else, except of course another Blockhead, understands the love I have for you guys. And that is ok. No one needs to.
So thank you for taking the time to read this. And from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU for all that you do, all that you are. What you are is truly magic. What you do for your fans is unmatched in the industry. Each of you as individuals, and as a group is a unique gift. I know of no other group that has had as much impact on so many lives as New Kids on the Block. I am honored and grateful to have been along for the ride. See you in Grand Rapids, MI on May 30th.
Blockhead & Braveheart 4eva – Farrell