Monday, March 27, 2006

"...oh, and did I mention that you have zits and I don't?"

I knew that if I kept blogging long enough, I'd eventually get some cool shit for free.

When Emily, a reader of mine, offered me free tickets to a concert, it excited me to realize that my online networking, or whatever it's called, had actually netted me something valuable.

Of course, I am still a few thousand miles behind Ari, who apparently is going to need her own post office if she gets any more gifts from readers. Then again, with the double D's she's packing, I'm sure she's never been a stranger to such innocent generosity.

"Tim, can you come to the concert with me?"

"Where did you get the tickets?"

"My, um, friend gave them to me."


"No one you know."

"Someone from work?"

"Nope. So can you come?"

"Gotta work Friday night."

For Tim, "work" means driving a 15-year-old van--complete with body rot and missing hubcaps--to some bar mitzvah or wedding reception, and serving food to drunk people for four hours, then collecting $300 or $400 for her trouble. If she's lucky, after she has paid for the food, paid her employees, and filled her gas-swilling mechanical dinosaur with fuel, she will return home after midnight with $1.38 in spare change, a headache, and an overwhelming urge to throw inanimate objects at me.

I keep telling Tim that she should take on corporate gigs; she could work during the day, for more money, and she could actually get steady work. She's working on it, but it's going slowly. Believe it or not, I can't even get her a job at my office, because we have a long-term agreement with someone else.

"Since when do you like the All-American Rejects anyway, Steve?"

"I like them!"

"Can you name three songs by them?"

"Dirty Little Secret! I have it on my iPod!"

"Mm-hm... name another one...and don't look it up online! That's cheating!"

"'11:11', 'Move Along', 'Swing Swing'," I say, quickly.

"Oh my God. You like them!"

"Is it so hard to believe that I like music that happens to be made by guys a little younger than me?"




I call Lila. "You like AAR right?"

"I love them!"

"I got free tickets to the show. Good seats!"

"Who gave them to you?"

"Well, I--"

"His umfriend gave them to him," Tim yells.

"Tim is so funny," Lila laughs.

"Why don't you take Lila?" Tim asks.

"Maybe I'll ask Stephanie," I say. Tim scowls.

"Yeah, like Stephanie would really care about the All-American Rejects," Lila says.

"So you coming, Lila?"

"I already have tickets. I was going to go with Sophie, but I guess she can take her boyfriend or something. It sounds like your seats are better!"


Friday, March 17, 7:30pm

Our seats are on the floor. Actually, we don't have seats at all; our tickets entitled us to pink wristbands that give us access to an open area on the floor where we can roam freely, like cattle. In between bands, we grab some food.

A 16-year-old boy approaches Lila and me as we eat our hot pretzels. "Dude," he says.

"Dude," I say back.

"Are you her father?" he asks, pointing to Lila.

"Am I her what?" I snap back.

"You're older!"

"She's my g-... she works for me."

"Nice catch," Lila smiles.

"Are you her boyfriend?" the kid says, wide-eyed.

No, but I used to be. I used to nail her good and hard. Nailed her five times in one day once. You do know what 'nailing' means, don't you, sonny?

"What can I do for you, my friend?"

"Well, how about if you give me your bracelet and I'll give you my ticket, so I can go down on the floor?"

"I doubt it."

"Come on. There's no way you like this music!"

"I think it's time for you to go now," I say.

I was not prepared for the raw energy of these bands. Sure, I saw Rush and Kiss back in the day, and I've seen Aerosmith four or five times. The last show I went to was Bon Jovi, about a year ago. But those dudes are all way older than me. Sure, the amplifiers are still loud, but they don't rock nearly as hard as they used to.

As soon as the All-American Rejects hit the stage, I realize they are no REO Speedwagon. Chris, the drummer, lays down fast beats, almost thrash- or punk-like at times; Tyson spits his lyrics rapid-fire, almost unintelligibly. And Nick flits wildly around the stage with his guitar throughout the entire set, as if someone had wound him up like a kid's toy and turned him loose just as the curtain went up.

People say Mick Jagger has youthful energy. That's bullshit. Mick Jagger has a lot of pep for his age, but he hasn't had this kind of fire inside him for 35 years. These guys, all of them, play and sing as if this is their last day on Earth. They're not thinking about how tired they'll be tomorrow, or the 10-hour bus ride that lay ahead of them; every molecule in their bodies is focused on right now.

When I was in school, I had friends like these guys, people who could scarf down 8,000 calories worth of pizza and Mountain Dew, and then burn 8,500. I could never decide if I should envy them, or take bets on when they were going to wind up in a box.

I remember 22. No matter what I do, my body will never be in that shape again, and I'll never be able to throw caution to the wind the way I used to. It's fun watching guys who aren't so jaded yet. It's also depressing.

Lila and I sing along with most every song. Two teenage girls make out in front of us the entire time--one heavy-set, with a shirt tight enough to show her muffin top, the other with nerd glasses, so stop whacking. Fall Out Boy follows with their own set, and then we head home.

"I'm seeing this guy Nate now," says Lila. "The four of us should get together. I love Tim. She's so cool!"

"She likes you too."

"G'night! Love ya," she says, and walks to her door as my ears ring.