I’m pretty psyched about next weekend, when my two best friends and I will reunite to see a Phish concert! (Sorry for shouting.) I haven’t seen one of them, a social worker turned state administrator, since I moved to (C)harm City. I’ve rarely seen the other, a journalist turned photographer turned teacher, since he moved to Princeton and then the Big Apple. And while I’ve been to roughly 15 Phish shows over the years, it’s been 12 years since my last one, 13 since I remember one. To top it all of, it’s the weekend of my ancestral people’s holiday (Bastille Day). I’ll try to keep my head, though.
Which is more than I say about one of the last shows I attended. I went overboard with the pregame festivities. For the price of two beers at such events, I can buy a bottle of Jack to drink in the parking lot. Of course, no non-suicidal person would actually try to drink an entire bottle in one staggering. But I sure gave it the old college try that night.
It was an indoor event, which frustrates my penchant for frenetic dance at such functions. (Then again, I’d probably try to dance in such manner at a Taylor Swift show—maybe she’d even write a pissed off song about it.) I’ll bet I burn off as many calories in so doing as I would playing vigorous racquetball for an hour or so.
The results of my refusal to pay for overpriced beer were predictable enough. I barely remember the concert. I do recall, as my friends corroborated, that on one of my trips to the bathroom, my descent down those steep arena steps was so precarious that people cheered when I actually made it to the landing without tumbling. I had become that guy, garnering attention as people laughed and rooted for me to make it.
At another show, silly-cybin mushrooms were the cause of being out of my head. When enough of us went, we had to travel in convoys of several cars. This was the largest contingent we had ever constituted. Even some of my straight-laced friends went, wanting to see what all the hubbub was about. Somehow, I was always tasked with transporting the youngest of the group, in one case someone six years my junior. That their parents would entrust their lives to me was telling of either their ignorance or their hatred of their kids. In those days, I drove like the bad kid on the Afternoon Special: insanely recklessly, often drunk or high.
What irked me about the arrangement was that the youngsters were all so infuriatingly quiet. What really frustrated me on this occasion was, fueled by ‘shrooms and excessive alcohol use, I started to “fall out” right as we were heading in. It was below freezing, and all the sudden I broke out in a sweat and needed to sit down. I just couldn’t go on. My true friends would have stopped to help me out with my predicament. The reaction of my young charges, whom I had inconvenienced myself for? They just kept going, following the crowd with the mentality of amoral lemmings.
After some strangers helped talk me down, I finally made my way in. I met up with the dozen or so who were awaiting my arrival. I announced proudly, “I’m so glad to be alive!” That would become an ongoing joke in successive years with one of my buddies, now working in criminal justice and surely looking at the occasion as evidence that “Drugs are bad, m’kay.”
When I recently flirted with the Occupy crowd, part of my motivation was to witness potential history in the making. Yet another reason was that I missed the kind of camaraderie of my hippie brethren. (Full disclosure: I’m only part hippie.) Next weekend, however, I will not be affected by people who take themselves too seriously and delude themselves into thinking that they’re making a difference. And if I encounter such people at this concert, I can “Run Like an Antelope” away from them. I’ll turn it into a dance.