"Okay, now that's the part that freaks me out," said Mom. "The two of you alone on the streets of New York. Anything could've happened, I'm surprised you didn't end up wandering around Times Square."
"No, no, we were never actually out on the street," I said. In spite of how it may seem, our venture into the big city wasn't as dangerous as you might think, although if either of my teenagers tried it at age fifteen I'd have killed them. Penn Station is located directly underneath Madison Square Garden, so to get from the train platform to the arena is just a matter of a few escalator rides. I explained that to Mom, but it didn't really put her mind at ease.
"Oh, right, because a crowded New York train station is completely safe," said Mom. She cut a generous slice of pie and handed it to me. You can keep your damn pumpkin, my mom's lemon cheese pie (using Grandma Ruth's legendary recipe) should be enshrined in the Pastry Hall of Fame.
"Are we talking about the subways?" asked Katy. "Because I've heard stories . . . "
"Subway system's different," said my father. "If they tried that, it would've been a whole different situation, especially in the 80's before Giuliani cleaned up the city. The trains were much safer although I'm with your mother, you guys were pretty dumb."
"Okay, granted, but it's not like we were asking directions from the hookers on 42nd Street."'
"Hey, what did I say about the hookers?" asked Bobby. "Ix-nay."
"So anyway, we got off the train and . . . "
We got off the train and headed to the escalators, which took us directly up into the lobby of Madison Square Garden. We were a little early so we bought a couple hot pretzels and browsed the merchandise kiosks.
You know, like every other concert shirt you've ever seen.
"Yeah, that's pretty cool," I said, "but twelve bucks? That's insane, how do they get off charging that much for one t-shirt?"
"I know, but think about how jealous everyone's gonna be at school when they see us . . . "
He stopped mid-sentence, as the obvious smacked him in the forehead. "Wait a minute," he said. "What are we thinking? We can't get t-shirts, or a program, or anything. How would we explain it to our parents?"
I pondered that for a minute, trying to figure out if we could maybe tell our folks that someone else got them for us, or try to keep them hidden for a while. Nothing really made sense, though, if we took physical evidence home with us we'd just be asking to get busted. It sucked, but I realized Brian was right.
"Yeah, you're right," I said. "Damn, those are cool shirts though."
We headed to the doors so we could get to our seats before it got too crazy.
"You have the tickets, right?" I asked.
"Shit, no! I thought you had them! What the hell are we gonna . . ."
"Relax, Bri, I'm just messin' with ya again." I couldn't help myself, he was so gullible. Like at school when he couldn't remember someone's name (which was often). He'd see a girl that he wanted to hit on, and he'd ask me what her name was. I'd always -- ALWAYS -- give him the wrong name so when he went over and said Hi, Stacy! the reply would be something like Yeah, thanks a lot, Brian. My name's Amy. Jeez! He fell for it every single time.
"Okay, where are we sitting?" he asked.
I took the tickets out of my wallet. "Looks like we're in section 402, row E." We entered the arena, and headed to up to our seats. And when I say up, I mean an "we need two oxygen tanks and a sherpa" up. I think we were actually closer to the stage when we were waiting for the train in Newark. The opening band, The Now, was about halfway through their collection of terrible New Wave-influenced crap when I noticed a funky smell wafting its way up in the rafters which is to say, our seats.
"You smell that?" I asked.
"What, the marijuana?" said Brian.
"Is that what it is?"
My father interrupted the story, a suspicious look on his face. "Okay, you said this didn't involve drugs."
"Yeah, I forgot about this part because we weren't actually doing drugs, we just smelled the pot. We didn't see anyone who was smoking it, but the smell was everywhere." Having polished off my lemon cheese pie, I handed Mom the empty plate.
"Another piece?" she asked.
"Of course," I said.
Eric and Bobby signed up for seconds while Dad and Katy groaned their refusals. Mom served me and my brothers and then rejoined us at the table.
"Okay," I said, "so Brian told me that it was marijuana that we were smelling. I don't think he'd ever smoked it himself, but he recognized it right away . . . "
As far as I knew, Brian's experience with marijuana was minimal at best. He'd never talked about it, and given our friendship, I'm sure it would've come up at some point. However, he did have his older sister Jennifer and a 22-year old brother so I guess he'd been exposed to it, at least indirectly.
The Now wandered their way thorough their last song, and the crowd went mild. Even by opening act standards, these guys sucked. They were a lot like The Police, if Sting suffered a mild stroke, drummer Stewart Copeland lost the feeling in his left hand, and guitarist Andy Summers was replaced by the top three finishers in an Elvis Costello look-alike contest, all playing keyboards. Badly.
"Man, I'm getting hungry again," said Brian, as the house lights came up for intermission.
"Me too," I said. We had never heard the term "contact high" before, but in retrospect we were probably suffering from second-hand munchies. We headed out to the concession stand and got in a very long line. After what seemed like forever, we ordered a couple burgers and sodas and took them back to our seats. When we arrived back in section 402, row E, however, Brian had a Goldilocks and the Three Bears moment.
"Dude, look. Someone's sleeping in my seat."
Passed out, to be precise. Our intruder had an enormous belly peeking out from underneath a faded Queen t-shirt, and a face cratered with acne scars. He was snoring.
"What are we gonna do with this guy?" I asked.
"I'm gonna wake him up," said Brian. "HEY! FAT GUY! WAKE UP AND MOVE YOUR ASS, THIS IS MY SEAT!"
Fat Guy didn't stir, if anything his snoring got louder.
"Screw it," I said. "Just leave him alone, the row's not full anyway. Besides, when Styx comes out everyone's gonna be standing."
Just as I said that, the lights went down, the crowd went nuts, and a voice boomed over the loudspeakers . . .
"HELLO NEW YORK CITY! PLEASE WELCOME . . . STYX!"
They led off with "Renegade".
TO BE CONTINUED . . .