Letters Home From Camp: Boyz II Men

jumbotron with boyz ii men singing outdoors in deer valley
jumbotron with boyz ii men singing outdoors in deer valley

We went to see Boyz II Men.

All day last Saturday (or for like an hour) we prepped by blasting our favorite numbers: “MotownPhilly,” “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” “End of the Road” etc. The Boyz were playing with the Utah Symphony outdoors at the bottom of Deer Mountain, a 15 minute walk from our little summer spot. 

As we walked I got excited; I’d never seen them live before and it was throwing me back to college when they (and I) were new. “I hope they play all the songs from CooleyHighHarmony,” I said. “I doubt that’s possible with the Utah Symphony,” Denise said.

In August of 1991 I was still 18. I was fresh off a long cold summer in Alaska on the boat with my parents. I was yearning to get back to college for my sophomore year. My friend Kristin had just gotten a car and was driving it cross country. Would I like to drive with her? I would.

I flew to San Francisco to meet her. Got my luggage, went to the parking lot, loaded the car. 

“You know how to drive stick, right?” she said. 


So that day Kristin drove first. Out of the steep winding-ness that is San Francisco. Somewhere near Sacramento she handed me the keys and I took over. By that I mean that for the next five days when it was my turn to drive I would shamefully grind my way from 1st to 3rd gear; once I got through 4th I was okay. Interstates were a breeze. God help us if there was traffic. (There was always traffic.) Kristin and her little Toyota Camry were very patient with me. So I learned. Herky jerky. But I learned.

And through it all, we had the new Boyz II Men tape! They had burst on the scene that spring with their debut album, CooleyHighHarmony, produced by Michael Bivins from Bel Biv DeVoe (now you know). So smooth. So hype. We practiced our harmonies with them: “MotownPhilly” over and over and over. Windows down, through the Rockies, through the plains, through Ohio, Pennsylvania, all the way to Connecticut and a stop to get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, it was Boyz II Men. And we were one of them. 

My memory of that drive is a little scattered. I remember feeling insecure about everything: figuring out my major, figuring out a hidden crush, figuring out if I could sing, figuring out how to drive stick. I remember how flat Kansas was. I remember we got stopped somewhere in Colorado (maybe Glenwood Springs) and got out and chatted with the guys in the car in front of us, who took our picture. I remember the picture. I wish I could find it. We were wearing bicycle shorts (why?). We looked really young. We were.

I remember finding a Shaky’s Pizza next to the motel where we were staying for $35.99 one night, and drinking an entire pitcher of root beer and staying up late laughing on a sugar high.

Last Saturday they didn’t play “MotownPhilly”. Denise was right. It would’ve been tough with the symphony. But they sure did sing their slow stuff smooth. We stood and danced and smiled and looked around and felt good. Middle-aged. Married. Content. The sunset was beautiful.

Boyz II Men in 2022 feels really good.

I hope time is a burrito. (See “Peggy Sue Got Married”) I hope last Saturday went back and hit me in August of 1991 so I could feel how very good it gets.

Hang in there, Sarah. You’ll be just fine.


  1. I can accept most of your version of our road trip story…but my version has us talking a lot about spending the mad money we had been given by Daddy’s Daddy on tattoos! I’m not so sure about the bit about “figuring out if I could sing”. WTF? I remember us driving out of SFO and getting out into open country and you singing along to…Stevie Wonder? And me thinking: holy crap. I’m never going to sing again because I want to sing like THAT and I know I can’t and never will. Thank you for letting me harmonize (this is the way we…harmonize). MAYBE you meant “figuring out if you could sing PROFESSIONALLY”. OK. Well. Of course you could. With THAT voice?! Speaking of time-as-burrito, have you seen “Everything Everywhere All At Once”? I bet you and I are dancing along to Boys II Men RIGHT NOW somewhere in the multiverse! xoxox

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