J.T. and me

I met the musician James Taylor on a bitter cold winter Saturday in Santa Fe, New Mexico in the late 1980’s.   He lived in Santa Fe then, so I suppose it wasn’t out of the ordinary for the locals to see him on the slopes, but it was a surprise for me.

The morning started out very unusually. My college friend and I had driven over from Albuquerque that morning.  The elevation at the ski basin is 10,350 and the temperature was 5 degrees Fahrenheit.  I hadn’t eaten breakfast.  I was planning to eat as soon as I got to the ski area.  But just getting out of the car, and carrying my skis from the parking lot to the ski lodge had done a number on me.  I passed out in the bathroom.  I was putting water on my face when a woman called the ski patrol for me.

My friend Tim and I ended up eating breakfast with him. He was a great guy and hung around with us for 30 minutes or so until he was sure I was OK.  I was fine.  I just had to get used to the altitude and the cold and to get something in my stomach.  We set out for a fun day of skiing.

Later in the morning I was back in the lodge.   There were some benches in the hallway. Sitting on one of those benches was a lanky man wearing a blue-grey toboggan and a brown overall-type ski suit and a shirt.  He was talking on the phone.  I recognized him by his blue eyes, tussled brown hair, and sun-kissed skin.  It was  James Taylor.  I stared at him, and he stared back at me. I kept looking toward him and looking away.  He kept looking at me.  He seemed to be saying to me longingly, “Don’t out me; I’m enjoying a quiet day on the ski slopes.”

I really like J.T. I had no intention of going over and making a big scene of his being there.  J.T. is known to be a shy man, most comfortable expressing himself through his music.

Besides, it’s not what one does on the slopes anyway.  It’s not part of the ski culture.  It’s a quiet, private culture.  It’s a culture a respecting other people and letting other people be.  At least it used to be in the 70’s and 80’s anyway.  I haven’t been since then.

When I caught up with Tim, I told him I’d seen James Taylor. I’m not sure if he believed me.  Santa Fe ski area is not a big place, so later in the day I saw J.T. again in the line to get on the chair lift.  We were in one line and he was in another, but eventually we would be face-to-face blending into one line.  When we got close to each other, I said to him (J.T.) “Damn, this traffic jam,” (it’s a line from one of his more obscure songs, one only an ardent fan would know, off his album JT from 1977).  He looked at me and broke out in a huge smile.  My friend saw it too.  I elbowed Tim and said, “I TOLD you it was him.”  J.T. and his lady friend got on the chair lift just in front of me and were whisked up the mountain; the clear blue sky made a perfect background on which to watch him fly.

Tim and I were just behind them on the chair lift all the way up the mountain. I wanted to ski up to them when we got off the chairs and say something.  I wanted to affirm, “You are J.T., right? This whole thing is not a figment of my imagination, right?” But, then, I did not want to bother him when he was on his day off.  I wanted to let him enjoy a day of solitude on the mountain.

I don’t know if Tim remembers that day. He was a goofy undergraduate student then.  He’s a serious and successful engineer now.  I don’t know if he even remembers the incident.  We’ve never spoken of it since.

But, you’ll never convince me that I did not meet James Taylor on that chilly, sunny winter afternoon. He smiled at me, acknowledged me, and was very nice. I had my moment in the sun with J.T.   Can I prove it?  Nope. I don’t have a picture or an autograph.  But, I’m glad we met the way we did.



Damn this traffic jam
How I hate to be late
It hurts my motor to go so slow
Damn this traffic jam
Time I get home my supper’ll be cold
Damn this traffic jam

Read more: James Taylor – Traffic Jam Lyrics | MetroLyrics


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