Wednesday, July 29, 2009
[Photo borrowed from Allston Dave's New England Patriots Page. For purposes of this story, picture everyone in AC/DC t-shirts, extremely stoned, one fist raised in the air, index and pinkie fingers extended skyward.]
"I would rather have someone step on my balls than see another concert here."
Those were my exact words to Fast Freddy Goodman as we sat in his SUV on Route One in Foxborough. And I wasn't exaggerating, either. The pain in my testicles, from having them trod upon, would have been long gone by the time it took us to get home.
Fast Freddy and I had just seen AC/DC at Gillette Stadium.
(I think that "just seen" is far too nebulous a way of putting it, considering the concert had ended two-and-a-half hours before uttering the remark concerning my gonads. However, let it stand. I wasted three-and-a-half hours of my life getting home last night, and I don't feel like wasting more time searching for better terminology.)
Shall I start at the beginning?
No, I don't think that would be very useful. This is going to be a long damn story even if I leave out scads of detail. Then again, if I leave out the part where we stopped at McDonald's, on the way to the venue, it will make a later incident less meaningful. So, OK, we stopped at McDonald's on the way to Gillette Stadium. I had two cheeseburgers and some fries. Freddie had a chicken sandwich, a double quarter-pounder with cheese, a chocolate shake, and two apple pies. That's all you need to know for now.
Before the beginning, Fast Freddy had given me a phone call. Here, as best I can recall it in my current not-having-gotten-enough-sleep-because-Gillette-Stadium-stepped-on-my-cojones-even-though-I-had-attended-a-concert-there-and-the-contract-called-for-my-nuts-to-be-crushed-only-as-an-alternative-to-that-state-of-mind, was the conversation.
"Sully, you old saber-toothed warhound! We're going to AC/DC!"
"Do I have any choice in the matter, Fred?"
And I didn't, really. On average, I'd say Fred and I go to one concert a year. If any of the following acts comes to town, he gets the tickets and we go: Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, or AC/DC; basically, any heavy metal band that started playing when half of you weren't born. Since this was one of those bands, we were going.
(Note to Fred, for future reference: If any of those acts is coming to Gillette Stadium in the future, I'm not. For that matter, if Jimi Hendrix were to rise from the grave and his only appearance before going back under the dirt was at Gillette Stadium? Count me out. Even if he's sharing a bill with Janis Joplin, John Lennon, Jim Morrison, and Kurt Cobain. As a matter of fact, I'll gladly trade places with any one of them, right now, in exchange for not having to endure another night at Gillette.)
Fred bought the tickets - approximately a c-note each - and we circled July 28th on our respective calendars.
Yesterday was July 28th, of course, so after work I met Fast Freddy at his house. I parked Roddy The Wondercar in Fred's driveway. We would be taking his Mirano. That was at 5:15. The show, according to the tickets, began at 6:00. Any veteran of concert-going knows that means the main act wouldn't be on until perhaps 8:00 or 8:30, so we didn't have to hurry, since Fred lives a leisurely 20 or 25 minutes from Foxborough. We shot the breeze a bit, then left.
Oh, I need to mention that, when I first arrived at Fred's, he answered the door in his bathrobe and informed me that he needed to go take a shit. I guess I have that effect on people. Anyway, the important point to remember is that he seemed to have forgotten about it at some point, as he never did go to the bathroom before we left.
(Those of you with excellent reading comprehension skills, as well as a bent for detective work, will have started piecing together some salient clues as to what is in store, no doubt.)
So, after a while, we hit the road. We then both decided that we were hungry, so we hit the closest fast food joint, which was the previously-mentioned McDonald's. Then, back on the road again. We got to within two miles of Gillette Stadium and slowed to a crawl in pre-concert traffic. That was OK. We knew that AC/DC wouldn't be on for at least an hour. Anvil was slated to open for them, and I did want to see a bit of their act, but we were only two miles from the venue, so how long could it take to be in our seats and rocking out righteously?
(The answer is contained in that previous paragraph. Let's see if you can find it! Yes, the correct answer is "at least an hour". Very good. Go to the head of the class.)
We not only had to work through the two miles of snail's pace traffic, we also had to park. Fred pulls into what appears to be the best available stadium parking lot, which is to say the only one near where we were at the time. And, after crawling for about 500 yards, we get directed to the right, to the left, down a dirt road about a half-mile, to the left again, and then we come to the cashier. And a sign that says parking is $40.
Let me put that in a way which explains the situation in more detail. FORTY FUCKING DOLLARS TO PARK IN A GRASS FIELD AND STILL HAVE A GOOD MILE WALK TO THE STADIUM BECAUSE THEY KNOW IT'S TOO LATE TO TURN AROUND AND FIND SOMEPLACE ELSE AND EVEN IF YOU COULD, YOU CAN'T, BECAUSE THE TRAFFIC IS ALL ONE WAY AND THEY WON'T LET YOU TURN AROUND, SO FORK OVER THE CASH, SUCKER.
After giving the cashier a year's wages in Somalia, we drove another 500 yards, got sent to the right, down another dirt road, then to the left, and finally we got directed into a parking spot in a valley somewhere near Providence, Rhode Island, from which we could make out the top tier of the stadium if we squinted and there weren't too many clouds. We then got out of Fred's car and began the Bataan Death March. Along with hordes of other unhappy campers - and, considering the time we ended up spending in that parking lot later, camping would have been a decent option - we trudged resolutely in the direction of the stadium. We knew we were headed the right way not because we could see where we needed to go, but because there were signs saying "Pedestrian Pathway To Stadium". We basically walked back the way we had come while driving into Hell's Parking Lot, with some added mileage thrown in for shits and giggles by designers who knew that the path would, on some evenings, be taken by stoned middle-aged rockers, so why not give them some aerobic exercise before the show? Just the thing when you're nursing a buzz.
So, we finally get inside the stadium and up to our seats, just in time to hear Anvil say "Thank you! Good night!" OK, things could have been worse. We could have gotten there in time to hear them say "Hello! Are you ready to rock?" and then had to actually listen to them.
(That's just a cheap joke. I hear they're pretty good. I would have preferred being able to make that judgment via actual experience of having listened to them, but you can't expect everything for just a $100 ticket and a $40 parking fee.)
And then we waited, and waited, and waited some more. The stage appeared to be set after about ten minutes, but apparently they hadn't sold enough merchandise or something, so we sat for about 45 minutes. Finally, around 9pm, the lights go down, the yahoos - myself included - cheer mightily, and AC/DC hits the stage.
I like AC/DC. If I didn't, why would I have been there? But, I've got to tell you, as much as they sweat buckets and work hard, it was just OK. Angus runs around and loses ten pounds in water weight, Brian Johnson puts a strain on his vocal chords that no 61-year-old should ever do, and the rest of the guys rock steady. I really do appreciate the effort. But, I've seen it all before. Aside from the addition of four songs from the new "Black Ice" album, it was the same basic set they played when I last saw them. Angus does his little strip-tease, they play pretty much everything you expect with not much variance in the arrangements, and... eh. I suppose if you've never seen them live, it's all very exciting, but by the fourth or fifth time, not so much. Of course, my enjoyment of the show is probably being colored, in the breech, by the events from after the show, so...
Show over, Freddy and I do the Bataan Death March for a second time, in reverse, except this time everybody is falling-down drunk and deaf, except for me. First off, I always wear hearing protection at these concerts because without my ears I can't do my job. Second, I decided that I didn't want to be tired and hung over at work, so I limited myself to two beers for the evening. Had I known what was about to transpire, I would have been sucking down brew all night. At least then I would have had the entertainment of yakking up the burgers from earlier in the evening.
Fred is exhausted. He's stumbling along the pathway, leaning against traffic cones and almost falling into a ditch on the side of the path. We're joking a bit, and it is fun being with Fred, so this is not the worst thing in the world (I know, because that came later.) Fred asks me if I'd mind if he took a short nap once we get back to his car.
I say, "Geez, Fred, I'd really like to get home. I've got work in the morning."
He says, "Sully, we won't be out of here for a good half-hour, anyway. It's going to be a parking lot."
Since it actually was a parking lot, that was pretty funny.
When we got back to the car, I saw that the traffic was, indeed, not moving at all. I told Fred to take his nap and I'd wake him when the cars in line in our lot started to make some headway.
And so I waited, and smoked a cigarette, while Fred snored in the seat next to me. He had thrown in an Allman Brothers CD and it was playing the most hideously overlong version of "Bo Diddley" I have ever had the displeasure of hearing. 26 freakin' minutes that song went on with nothing of value to show for the effort afterward. It was the very definition of pointless noodling. And all the while FFG is snoring and the cars aren't moving an inch. I sit there alternately smoking, listening to more Allman Brothers, watching the couple in front of me groping each other on the flatbed of their pick-up, and silently consigning the designer of the parking lot to the same corner of hell occupied by the guy who came up with CD packaging
To make this tedious story move along a bit faster - it is, in it's own way, much like the Allman Brothers version of "Bo Diddley" - at 12:45 (that is 45 MINUTES AFTER MIDNIGHT, AND AT LEAST AN HOUR-AND-A-HALF AFTER THE CONCERT ENDED) I see some cars finally begin to move. I poke Freddy in the side and he wakes up. He starts the car, we edge into line, we get out onto Route One, southbound.
We need northbound.
But the lot empties in a southbound direction only. In order to reverse direction, we have to go up to Route 140, two miles or so up the road and then turn around. After ten minutes, we get there and Fred can't get into the lane we need, so we go sailing past it (if 10mph counts as 'sailing'.)
Fred keeps driving - what else could he do? - and then gets a chance to slip across the northbound lane and pull a u-turn. He does. We are now about three miles south of the stadium, heading north, behind a line of traffic about FIVE miles long moving at 5mph.
At this point, Fred remembers that he has to take a shit.
"Ooh, Sully, I've got a stomachache."
"Sorry to hear that, Fred."
"No, I mean I have a really bad stomachache. What am I going to do?"
"I don't know, Fred. It doesn't appear there's really much you can do at this point."
Fred replied, "Oooooooohhhhhhhh..."
I felt for him, but there was no place anywhere near where we were at for him to take care of his business. There wasn't even anywhere to pull over. We had now edged about a mile closer to the stadium after ten minutes.
Fred said, "Sully, I've got to get someplace to... Oooooooohhhhhhh... What am I going to do? I've got to pull a u-turn again and get us onto Route 140. I've got to find someplace."
And so Fred looked for an opening to pull another u-turn, to head us southbound again, away from where we needed to go to get home. He did so, and then he maneuvered through traffic to Route 140, all the while with his gut twisting. When we got onto Route 140, we were at least moving at a reasonable pace, but there was still nothing much to be seen in the way of facilities for Fred.
"Sully, look in my glove compartment. Are there any napkins in there?"
I popped the glovie and found some.
"Yeah, Fred, I've got some."
"I might have to pull over and take a shit in the woods. Ooooooohhhhhhh..."
"Whatever you have to do, Fred."
He drove on, though, and we passed a small strip mall. I spotted some light on in one of the establishments.
"Fred, I don't know what that is, but maybe it's someplace you can go."
He saw where I was directing him and pulled in. There was an "Irish" pub. It was about 1:15am, now. Fred jerked the car into a parking space, flung open the door, and rushed, halfway bent over, into the pub. I waited outside.
After ten minutes, the place began to empty out rapidly, people staggering out to their cars. No sign of Fred, though. Perhaps he was the reason they were leaving? Maybe he had literally, rather than the usual figuratively, died in the mens room. However, just as I was ready to go in and see if I could find what was left of him, he came bouncing out. He was in a much lighter mood.
"Sully, that was... Could you imagine if I wasn't able to find someplace? What on earth is more embarrassing than shitting yourself? And you! You'd have to be sitting next to me! The foul stench..."
He went on in a similar vein for a minute or so, laughing. Me, too, of course. Nothing quite so funny as the idea of pooping yourself and someone else being captive to dealing with the odor. Well, nothing funnier to two very tired, half-awake, AC/DC fans, anyway.
We now reversed our direction and once again hit Route One. It was still a nightmare. This was at 1:35am, a full two-and-a-half hours after the concert let out. It was at this point that I made my statement concerning my preference for testicular torture over attending Gillette Stadium. We spent another 20 minutes in traffic getting to the Route 95 split, and then, mercifully, we could move at a reasonable speed again, back to Fred's house.
Reached Fred's place at 2:10 - drove to my place by 2:30 - said "Hi, I'm home, Gillette Stadium sucks!" to MY WIFE - enjoyed a bit of leftover fried rice by 2:45 - finally hit the sack at 3:15 - got up for work at 7am - and here I am, bleary and rusty, typing up this shit about shitty concert venues and a friend who was literally full of shit.
Fred, I love you. I truly do. And I hope I haven't embarrassed you too much here. All in all, you were a trooper. And any evening with you is more fun than not. But, if you ever again suggest going to a concert at Gillette Stadium, I will rip out your heart and sell it on E-Bay.
Soon, with more better stuff.