Johnson Family

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Thank You Voice Message

Dear Heidi,

I don’t know where to start. I was trying to formulate a letter to you from the first day of our wonderful trip! Let me first tell you that my husband works two jobs to keep our health insurance. His partner just had major cancer surgery and has been out for 2 months, one of the few remaining customers they have tripled their work load for this month, and they had to relocate their office this month as well. The timing for our WOW Weekend could not have worked out better, because he was ready to collapse.

When we arrived late in the evening at the W Seattle after a full day of traveling, we were warmly welcomed – “Oh, THE JOHNSONS are here!”, Tom and his staff had been waiting and we had just missed them, but they had set up a lovely welcome snack of fresh fruit (including fabulous Rainier Cherries) and juice in our room with a personal note from Tom. We felt like special guests from the first minute we walked in.

Where do I even start about the room? We were given a huge corner suite with a separate room for Hannah. Our suite alone could have seated 20 people – furnished super-modern but still comfortable, it had a giant plasma TV that swiveled from the living to the bedroom area, a gorgeous bathroom with jacuzzi tub, stereos in both rooms as well as a place to dock your ipod. A large vase of fresh pink flowers. VIEWS out of every window. And there were some BIG windows. Including one over the jacuzzi tub.

it was a level of luxury we are entirely unaccustomed to.

Then Hannah spotted the gifts.

On her bed, cuddled up to a “W” Teddy bear, An I-TOUCH.
She says;
“Hello…Are you kidding??? Is this for me? Seriously??? Noooooo Way!! Seriously?? NOOOOO WAAAAAYYYY? Are you kidding? They are giving me this??? WHO? HOW? OH MY GOD I can’t believe this, can we LIVE here???”

I am not exaggerating.

Also, wrapped in “W” purple metallic gift bags; candles, “W” baseball caps, “W” logo snowglobe (that lights up), bath products, and among other things, Seattle City Passes and tickets to the Seattle Ducks tour!

Hannah was bouncing off the walls with happiness. You have teenagers, so you know that this can be a rare moment for these usually cranky and unimpressed humans. The trip could have ended right there and I would have been content.

This hotel made us feel special at every contact with any employee. I don’t know what Tom said to them, but they were all looking out for us. “Oh, THE JOHNSONS, right this way, you’re THE JOHNSONS!” Everyone was just so nice & solicitous! We met Tom and his assisants. They THANKED US for coming!

We had one dinner in the restaurant that was so gourmet I was not sure Hannah would eat anything. She’s a picky vegetarian teenager who doesn’t like vegetables. She ate everything! Said it was an adventure and she would feel bad if she didn’t try it all. We liked our waiter Leicia so much we wanted him to join us (of course he wouldn’t). We were stuffed after the main course and tried to decline dessert, but they had already prepared a special platter of ALL of their desserts for us, all showpieces of culinary art. Special, for THE JOHNSONS. We left dinner feeling special. Like the most important guests in the hotel.

And by the way, the bed there was the most comfortable either my husband or I have ever slept on. I don’t know if it was simple exhaustion or the amazing pillows, but we both slept great! He even peeked under the sheet to see what brand mattress it was. “W”! Custom made, of course.

The hotel arranged for a car (adorable Stephanie driving) to take us the few blocks to the Ducks. We really enjoyed the tour. Honestly, I thought it would be a little too wacky for us, I mean, come on, it’s a Duck-Truck-Boat thing driven by a cartoon character, but I have to say it was informative as well as entertaining. We got to see all the parts of the city that we would have missed otherwise. The driver whipped that truck-boat behemoth around so fast, talking the whole time, I was sure he would scrape something. He didn’t. Everybody on the street waves to you on that thing. We just figured they were waving because WE ARE THE JOHNSONS! Hannah actually wanted to tip the driver with her own money (and she did)!

We spent the rest of that day with the regular tourists in the Experience Music Museum and in the Space Needle with our City Passes. Nobody recognized us as THE JOHNSONS. We were surprised.

The next day we spent about an hour at Pike’s Place shopping before we had to return to the hotel to catch our Town Car and Driver(!!) (Dan, another super-nice guy) to take us to meet Deathcab for Cutie. My daughter has loved them for their music and lyrics – she writes songs herself, and she has introduced my husband and I to Deathcab over the last two years or so. It took us a while to get past the name.

We called their manager, Mark Duston when we arrived, and he brought the band out. This was the most thrilling, WOW-ish, surreal, words-fail-me thing! Ben, Chris, Nick and Jason; all so friendly and sweet and REAL – I mean they seemed GENUINE, not rock-star-where-are-the-groupies, just NICE. They all signed the Deathcab t-shirt and CD case we brought and let us take a couple of pictures, they made 5 minutes of small talk, and I KNOW this must be a pain to them, so many people trying to meet them, but I want them to know how important this was. For me to watch my daughter be so happy, in the midst of being dragged through so much – the fear and uncertainty of my illness, for her to just be happy.

Hannah was unable to form a sentence when they asked if there was a song she particularly wanted to hear. She says she just got stuck because everything she thought of, she thought, oh, well, they would play that anyway. So after watching her struggle to get a title out I mentioned MY favorite song.

After our meeting, I called my cousin, who although I was close to growing up, I haven’t seen in 14 years. He and his wife live 10 minutes from the park where the concert was. They came over and brought us chairs and blankets, and my husband and Hannah went in and got settled while I got to visit with them. Hannah waited right up in front of the stage and got friendly with other obsessed fans while waiting for the show to start. It was important to her to get that spot.

The show was nothing short of magical – a cool breeze, the sun setting over the mountains in the distance, pine trees in the sky behind the band. My husband and I had our blankets and Hannah had her spot in front of the stage, and near the end of the show they played my song as their first encore, the one I had asked for. I felt like they were playing it for us. Maybe they weren’t; maybe it’s their standard set list for every show. But it didn’t feel that way. I cried through the whole thing. It’s about dying. It’s something I think about every day. But at that moment I felt more sharply connected to the world, to my husband, to my beautiful daughter who writes songs.

Thank you.

to you, your foundation, to Southwest Airlines, Tom and The W Hotel, Mark, and the four gentlemen of Deathcab, and everyone else who made this impossible trip a reality for us.

Linda Johnson and family George & Hannah