Summertime in Nor-Cal means concert time. It means loading up the car with friends when you are 18 and having that first concert rite of passage. Or just you and an old crony that has long since moved away, meeting in a random town half way between your current life’s grind, in order to catch your favorite bands “One Last Show”. Half the fun is getting there. Mixing and mingling in the parking lot with people of the same ilk and musical tastes is what it is all about. The summertime concert is about life affirmation. It’s about creating a perfect memory. One that you and those you attend with share as a pack – but one you and the 1,500 other attendees will share as a tribe.
But as many of you know, depending upon what band you listen to, what concert you are attending, and how much trouble you are willing to find, a concert can be a scary place. And if you have read this column in the past, you can be certain that me and my merry band of idiots have found our fair share of sticky concert situations.
It was the summer of 92’. The biggest band in the world was Metallica. And for those of you over 60 thumbing your nose at that statement – no, they were not The Beatles or The Stones – but they did have the #1 album and pretty much ruled the earth in my click’s opinion. And we were 19, so guess what? That was the only opinion that counted. So please save your arguments until the column ends.
I was working at New Deal Market Saturday evening. The job I took just after “leaving” high school. Best friend Vic Morito came by the store. (You remember Vic right? We had made some wonderful tattoo purchasing decisions a few months back.)
“Aww man this stinks, everybody is at the Metallica concert, and we’re stuck here” he said. We had a tendency to never plan things out. Just seat-of-the-pants kinda dudes. And that’s why many a night the seats of our pants were driving around bored in the country, while our friends were out living their plans.
My late break was about to happen, and we met in the Bank of America parking lot. “Dude we should just go to it, see what happens,” he mumbled. I reminded him that not only did I have to work until 9, but that the concert was sold out. He threw out those magic words – “We could always get scalper tickets” and 5 minutes later I was back in New Deal begging buddy James Rogers to cover the rest of my shift. He did – but made me give him $40. Funny thing back in those days, we didn’t have ATMs, or at least I didn’t. Back then you’d write a check at the grocery store, and ask “Can I write this for a little over, for some cash?” We all knew the trick. Your account could be completely broke on a Friday, but if you covered the account by Monday afternoon – you were golden. The kids these days don’t know about those tricks. Yet I digress...
We had about 2 hours until show time at Arco Arena in Sacramento. Enough time to grab a few concert necessities before heading out. First stop Rainwater Carwash where our friend Derek Stocker worked. White Wolf and Keystone were on the menu. After all, White Wolf had lead us to the wonderful tattoos we both had – what could go wrong? On our way out of town we made one last stop at our buddy Tim’s house. He sold “Metallica T-shirts”. Best in town for the price — and homemade to boot. We picked out the one we liked and were on our way…
Arco Arena has a Plaza Parkway surrounding the venue – a giant traffic circle – loaded with guys hollering “Tickets man, I got tickets”. We pulled our money together.. Only $82?!...Oh that’s right, I had to give James $40 to cover my shift.
“Tickets man – 2 for $150!” a fine gentleman barked. We kept driving. Surely we’d find the area that catered to our price range. But to no avail. It seemed $75 was the going rate. Then the worst thing happened.
We could hear a large roar. Yes, even through those old Arco Arena cement walls. The concert had started! Bad thing: We are missing our favorite band.
Good thing: Prices are about to go down.
We moved in. “Look man we only have $82?” What an absurd move on our part! That is all we have! And it was all he took. But we didn’t care as we were headed in to see the boys of Metallica. Just one little problem.
Parking is $10.
We began circling the outer thoroughfare looking for somewhere to park. But there is nowhere. So we made the decision to park on the side of the Plaza Parkway road. What could happen? It’s a big wide road. Nobody will notice Vic’s little blue Honda Civic parked on it. I left the White Wolf and the “Metallica T-shirt” under my seat. We headed in.
Concert Details: It Rocked!..If you’ve seen Metallica live – you already know this. Money well spent. Until…
“Dude where’s my car?!” Vic said this phrase long before Ashton Kutcher ever thought to make it a movie. The car was just gone. It didn’t take long for one of us to notice the “No Parking Tow Away Zone” signs, as me made our way back towards Arco Arena. Penniless and “tired.”
It was near midnight when we finally reached the underground security area. Finding out that the car had been towed was no surprise. They informed us the placed opened at 6 a.m. No problem if you are a real adult. But we are two penniless 19-year-old idiots. And our families had no clue where we were – and Vic’s parents were gonna’ kill him for sure. His parents were conservative Christian people. I loved them dearly but these moves me and Vic made quite often, were predicated upon one thing: His parents cannot find out!
We aren’t just up S**t Creek without a paddle – we are swimming upstream with our mouths open. We bummed some change and Vic bit the bullet…
“Now dad before you start yelling.....” was about all he got out. and before I knew it, he’d hung up the pay phone – (remember pay phones?) Well it’s 92’, there are no cell phones...”He isn’t coming” Vic said. He gave me that look, the one that said “It’s your turn to call your dad.”
If I’d had a Time Machine at that moment, I would’ve traveled to today, and told Vic “Have you read my last eight columns? Are you nuts? We can’t call my dad in the year 92!”
We knew what we had to do. Call Brian.
Remember Brian everyone? (Compromising position by the dairy ditch, my dad pulls up...) anyway, I’ve mentioned him. He lived at home with his parents. Vic made the call only to have his dad answer, “Hi Mr. ‘R’, sorry it’s so late, can I speak to Brian?” He wasn’t home, but I watched as Vic worked his magic on Brian’s dad – explaining that he’d already been shot down by his own dad...and Vic hung up the phone…
“Mr. R will be here in an hour and a half.”
It was poetry to my ears. I had to feed cows early that morn. Not to mention pull another New Deal shift the next day.
And this is where it should end — it does not.
We had an hour and a half to kill, and at this point Arco was all but empty, and nobody seemed to care that we were roaming around. So we asked the most logical of question to a custodian, “Which way is the Metallica dressing room area?”. He not only told us – he escorted us, but it unfortunately ended at the chest of two very large men guarding a door. It was still pretty cool to be that close and then our “idiots’ luck” paid off in spades.
Metallica bass player Jason Newsted was walking down the corridor we’d just been on. I’m certain Vic and myself were mouths agape as he stopped, “How’s it going guys?” We managed to tell him our current predicament – while we fawned at him like school girls - and then my life forever changed – as he invited us in.
I wish I had some glorious tale of meeting all the members, and partying like rock stars with gorgeous women. That didn’t come close to happening by then it was an empty mess off a dressing room...but Jason Newsted was the youngest member of Metallica, and only a few years older than us.
“You guys want some food? Not much left unless you like rice cakes and peanut butter” he said
We proceeded to have a short session with him. All while eating rice cake and peanut butter sandwiches – it was really all that was left. I remember him empathizing with Vic’s towed car and he talked about him and his buddies when they were young spending every penny they had to see the band UFO. It was a short but awesome encounter. One burned in my mind as we headed to the parking lot for our ride to arrive which it did shortly.
We hopped in Mr. R’s car, he had just started to leave parking lot – when the unthinkable happened. There was a lonely single car pulling into the lot. It was the car of Vic’s dad. Noooooo!
The two dads met outside and chatted for a bit. We’d grown up together, so a dad’s meeting just outside our ears was terrifying. And quite justified. Vic’s dad approached Mr. R’s car and opened the door, “Let’s go Vic” and he exited.
But I remained motionless. Like a scared turtle. Mr. R got in the car, and turned to the back seat, “Chris, are you really gonna’ leave Vic hanging right now?” Oh man, nothing worse than someone else’s dad giving you guilt. I switched cars.
We were soon headed in the wrong direction according to my calculations. It was near 4 in the morning.We were headed to the tow yard, to get Vic’s car right then and there – his old man was insistent. We arrived and waited an hour until it opened. We took a tongue lashing of epic proportions during that wait but Vic and myself kept locking eyes. We had only one thing on our mind.
When we got to impounded car his dad was for sure gonna find the White Wolf vodka and the “Metallica T-shirt”!
We only had a brief moment to hatch a plan while his dad paid the impound fee. If we could just make it to the car before his dad, however possible, But old man Morito was no fool, and had keys in hand as we walked death row. He opened the door and hopped in – knowing immediately to search for contraband.
A tow truck driver made his way up to Vic and myself, “You boys the ones driving that tonight?” We nodded somberly, knowing our demise was at hand. And with a curiously wry smile he added “Don’t worry I found it.”
Vic’s dad rose from the car, “It sure does smell funny in there...What is that?”. And without missing a beat, a man we’d never met said “Tow Truck Driver sir..I’m the one that hauled the boy’s car in.”
It was an hour and a half later – the sun coming up in front of New Deal – as Vic dropped me off at my truck. He knew he was still dead meat but I reminded him , “At least you got that autograph”. He stared quizzically at me forgetting that Jason Newsted had signed the bill of his new Yankees hat. He wore that thing every day for the next 5 years and I’m sure he can tell you what old drawer it sits in today. Memories.
“It’s not Where ya do, It’s What ya do”