Sunday, August 15, 2021

a busy summer part 4: the make-up concert

I slept in on the Wednesday after driving home from Atlanta at 3:00 am.  I didn’t feel so much like a 49 year-old on the drive back, but I did feel like a person with very dry eyes and contacts that were hoping to jump out at the first chance.  This kept my eyes squinty the whole trip home and made me even more ready to sleep once I hit my pillow.  The last couple of weeks had piled up and at this point I felt like I could actually relax and rest.  I forget how late I slept the next morning, but the only thing that got me out of bed was knowing how terribly hot it was already getting outside.  I needed to run before the temperatures got into the 90s.  

When G got home from work, Violet and I recounted the major details of our concert adventure.  “You MISSED WEEZER???” was repeated a few times.  I held up my HellaMega Tour shirt to show the cool design and when I did, I found myself staring at the back of the shirt for the first time.  Each of the summer concert dates were listed there and my eyes fixed on “Jacksonville, Florida”.  I can admit I began concert scheming at that moment.

It was Wednesday evening and I had one more day to continue cleaning up from the studio sale and to begin preparing for our family vacation to Florida.  We had decided to leave on Friday to extend our fun and spend a night in Charleston, SC on the way.  This would break up our drive a little and give us a chance to get some good food as well.  My mind began to produce formulas and calculations you’d expect to see on a chalk board in Einstein’s office.  Sure it was crazy to consider going to another HellaMega Tour stop, but what did that have to do with anything?  I mean, if this was going to be a Seinfeld episode, I might as well play the part of Kramer, right?  We were driving right through Jacksonville to get to St. Augustine.  What if we found cheap tickets and everyone could just go see the concert?  I mentioned the idea out loud.  I felt the ridiculousness bounce off the walls.  Violet immediately embraced it and started begging to go.  Blue was against it but I could tell he could be negotiated down.  G did not shout “NO!”  This was a start.

Thursday I worked on getting all the art wrapped and put away or hung and stacked back in its proper storage place.  I packed for vacation.  I looked up ticket prices, you know, just in case.  Friday morning I ran, had coffee, and loaded everything in the car.  We drove to Charleston and I talked out loud about the possibilities on the way.  It didn’t seem very practical and I couldn’t quite work out how the timing would allow us to either get checked in at the rental early enough to drive back to Jacksonville and NOT MISS WEEZER AGAIN or arrive at the rental before midnight after the concert.  I pretty much dismissed the idea and moved on with thinking about what I was going to eat for dinner and for breakfast the next morning.  

Dinner was good and breakfast on Saturday was not great, but a good coffee made it better.  We started our drive south and the topic of the concert came up again but this time with a different plan.  What if we were able to be dropped off right outside the stadium this time?  No parking or traffic problems.  I remembered seeing passengers bailing out of the cars around us stuck in traffic in Atlanta.  What if Violet and I were dropped off at the gate, G and Blue found a cool place to do back-to-school shopping, and then picked us up after Weezer performed?  This was starting to sound more reasonable and actually, very possible.  The Florida state line was getting closer and Violet and I started to get excited.  It looked like we were going to the concert!

Violet had a few questions.  “Do we have tickets?”  Well, no.  We’ll buy them at the Box Office when we get there.  “What if they’re sold out?”  I don’t think they will be, but if so, we’ll see if we can buy some from a scalper.  “What will we eat?”  Hmmm, it’s a football stadium, so surely there are restaurants nearby where football hooligans get drunk on gameday.  “How will they know where to pick us up?”  We have phones.  We’ll figure something out.  Before long we saw the stadium growing on the horizon.  Without a lot of warning, we rolled up right outside of Gate 3 and Violet and I sort of collected ourselves before bailing out of the car.  It was around 1:30 pm.  We were determined to not be late this time!

Florida is hot.  Like, on a regular day under regular conditions, Florida is hot.  We were right at the tail end of a heat wave in the Southeast and it was a very bright, sunny day.  We were both sweating before we hit our walking stride to find the Box Office.  We were also not football fans and out-of-towners so we had no idea where we were or where we were going.  The gates were locked so we were relegated to the exterior perimeter of the grounds.  We walked along from Gate 3 in what we agreed was a logical direction toward Gate 1.  There were signs indicating the Box Office was beside Gate 1.  We had a plan and sweat running down our backs.  

Gate 3 led to Gate 4 and then there was another building in our way.  Walking around it seemed ridiculous and maybe impossible so we backtracked.  On the opposite end of the stadium we encountered literal roadblocks of cones, busses, and 18 wheelers.  There were even a few police officers.  We asked how to get around and when the policeman didn’t know, he just told us to ignore the barriers and walk through.  We appreciated that.  Maybe an hour after stepping out of the car, we were buying cheap tickets at the Box Office window.  We both felt a little relief after securing our tickets but we also felt our stomachs growling.  The hotel breakfast was a long time ago now so we opened the map on my phone and started looking for restaurants.  The few we found within a mile of the stadium were closed that day.  The sweat was soaking through my shirt and Violet was only in slightly better shape.  She said she didn’t want to walk a long way in the heat so we started looking for shade in a Florida parking lot.  You know what you don’t find much of in a Florida parking lot?  That’s right, shade.  There was a Charlie Brown tree a few hundred feet behind Gate 1 with a shade just large enough for us to stand under.  We took our position there and prepared to wait patiently for the gates to open at 5:30 pm.  

I’m not a patient person.  My default when I get a spare moment is to check my phone.  Oh hush, you do it too.  Violet sat on the shaded concrete, I stood and we both checked our phones.  I had not charged mine since waking up and I suddenly became aware of how important it was to save the battery.  I needed my phone for our digital tickets and to figure out how to find the car when the concert was over.  And let’s be honest, I was going to make some photos and videos of Weezer too.  I turned my phone off and rested it in my pocket.  We people watched for 2 hours and we were not disappointed.  Hair, outfits, age ranges, it was all so worth seeing.

This is a good time to take a side trip with me about proper concert attire.  I know you don’t come to me for fashion but hear me out as I think this is a well-thought-out and time-tested theory.  I have a rule about what to wear to a concert.  It’s simple.  Never wear a t-shirt of the band you’re going to see that night.  It’s uncouth.  Philistine.  You wear shorts or jeans and comfortable shoes and you pick a t-shirt of a band you think the concert band will appreciate.  Sure, you could be a person who wakes up and washes their Green Day shirt to wear to the Green Day concert.  Or, you could actually put some thought into it and consider Green Day’s influences.  Who inspires them?  What does their particular style of music make you want to listen to?  I mean, let’s say you’re the lucky one person who happens to walk past Billie Joe Armstrong in the wing joint next door.  Do you want him to see a commoner wearing a Green Day shirt or would you rather him see a dude in an Ella Fitzgerald shirt?  Maybe it’s a big leap to imagine him pointing to your Ella shirt and saying “Nice shirt, man” but it’s an even bigger leap to think you’re going to impress him with your Green Day shirt from Target.  Not judging, I love Target bargains too, I’m just saying maybe wear the Green Day shirt to the Avett Brothers concert.  Speaking of judging, I stood in that tiny shade with sweat pooling in my socks weeping at all the Green Day shirts walking around the parking lot.  In the words of Violet, "uncultured swine".

There was also the guy in the fancy kilt to enjoy.  The pot-bellied male in his freshly cut-off t-shirt showcasing the pot-belly and his friend in what appeared to be a bikini.  There was the woman who decided it was too hot for this crap and just walked around in shorts and a bra.  And the old guy in jeans and boots who wanted to tell me about all the Aerosmith concerts he went to back in his day.  We didn’t exactly get bored.  I don’t remember what Violet was wearing but since we didn’t know we were going to a concert when we got up that morning…or two days before when we packed, she was probably wearing the equivalent to my khaki shorts and white t-shirt.  I remembered to grab my straw hat out of the car to protect my head.  

As 5:30 approached, the lines at the Gates grew longer.  I had a better understanding of the concert timeline this time around and I was in no hurry to get out of my shade.  With a little patience, the line at our gate grew until we were technically in line without having to leave our tree sanctuary.  The gates opened and we were through security and inside pretty fast.  We made our way immediately up to the upper level of food vendors and a nice lady beckoned us to come eat at her station.  We snagged a couple of stadium dogs and waters and basically inhaled them.  We agreed these were the best dogs we’d ever had and laughed, probably half from heat exposure.  We saw some lady drop out from the heat on the way up the ramp but here, almost alone in the stadium shade, we enjoyed the breeze blowing out from one of the tunnels.  It was nice.  Our complete lack of a plan was working out perfectly.

After “dinner” we found our seats and still had plenty of time to bake in the full sun of the upper deck.  When we sat down, I noted on our makeshift sundial where my head created a shadow on the row in front of us.  A little later it had moved a couple of rows down.  Soon a group came in and sat behind us and provided some shade.  My shadow moved another row and the opening act hit the stage.  The band was called the Interrupters and though we missed them at the first concert, Violet had looked them up on Apple Music and we sorta liked them.  We were excited to see them and Violet even sang along with some of the songs.  We took a short break in the tunnel to cool down and get a fresh bottle of water, and then we were back in our seats, jamming to the music. 

The stage was reset for Weezer and as they were converting the stage I realized how lucky we were to be guessing correctly.  This half baked "plan" was all based on the tour following the same set schedule as Atlanta.  If Weezer had not played first on this night, I would have been in big trouble with my vacationing family.  When the teal lightning bolts and huge drum kit was moved into place, I smiled, relaxed a little more, and texted our ride that Weezer was about to start.

The next hour was bliss.  Weezer took the stage with their 80s era guitars and Rivers in his costume that looked like it was from a John Hughes film.  They tore into every single song I ever wanted to hear.  “Island In The Sun”, “Beverly Hills”, “My Name Is Jonas”, even “Surf Wax America”.  It was a perfect sampling of every great Weezer album.  I got to hear “El Scorcho” and when “Undone: The Sweater Song” came on, Violet and I sang so loud together!  She had maybe heard the song twice before but she learned fast.  The dude beside me even joined us and we shared smiles and laughs.  With only a buffer seat beside Violet, we were packed a little tighter but everyone was well behaved.  There were not even secret vapers this time.  Strangers sang harmony, danced and swayed together, and when the confetti cannons blasted at the end of Weezer’s final song and the wind brought some of it up to our level, the nice lady near Violet grabbed a piece of purple paper and handed it to Violet.  

That was our cue to leave.  I know it was confusing to our neighbors, but we grabbed our trash and headed out.  We were so stoked about the concert we’d just experienced that we didn’t even worry much about not knowing where we were going.  The exits were not even opened yet and when we asked the police officer near the gate how to get out, he said “You’re leaving?”  Yeah, it was too long of a story to tell, but we were only there to see Weezer.  We had a vacation to get on with now.  The ticket lady told us we could just go out the entry gate and she too, questioned us before letting us out.  

Blue dropped a pin and sent me the location of the car.  The distance from the gate to the waiting car was shorter than the line to get merch in the Atlanta concert.  Some nice parking attendant let the car inside the paid parking area for free since they were just picking someone up.  We were on the highway before the next band was on stage.  It worked.  It actually worked!

I guess this one went a little more smoothly than a regular episode of Seinfeld.  However, Violet and I were still hungry after our stadium dogs a few hours earlier.  We drove for 45 minutes to St. Augustine and stumbled past a few fast food restaurants in indecision before directing the car into the parking lot of a beach restaurant.  The map said it was open and we decided we’d just run in and order to-go food.  The lettering on the door indicated they were open until “9:00pm ISH”.  It was 8:33 pm.  We waited at the host stand after the hostess said she’d be right with us.  We waited more.  When she finally came back she said “Oh I’m sorry guys, we closed 3 minutes ago”.  There were a lot of things I wanted to say, but I had just sung several songs with Weezer and my daughter so my mood was almost untouchable.  I chose to be Jerry instead of George Constanza.  We walked next door to the Dollar General and loaded up on junk food.  We unpacked the car at the rental and happily ate garbage food before falling asleep and officially starting the relaxing part of our vacation.  

*** stay tuned for part 5:  the vacation, finally...

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