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Problem Child

problem childI’m hot
and when I’m not
I’m cold as ice
– Young, Young & Scott

Pervasive summer fog punctuates another longish San Francisco stay, and by trip’s end I find my condition mirroring the area’s meteorological state: low, even, and not letting up any time soon. The flight is always shorter west-east, and thankfully so. A late life first time father sitting across from me takes advantage of his infant son’s only non-screeching in-flight interval to pick the kid up and make raspberry sounds on his forehead. In seconds, Junior is again wailing and I’m about to deck a sexagenarian. But I restrain myself admirably, endure the rest of my air time, and am soon cabbing it home from Kennedy. My place is clean, left so by my landlord who was renting it back for a mid-summer stay. A warm, boxed slice awaits me, the air conditioning is on, and my eyes and brain readjust once more to the readjustment. Except this time the blur hangs a little longer and something in my brain feels funny – even funnier than usual. I chalk it up to geographical ambivalence, renter’s instability, barometric fluctuation, Eastern Daylight Time and thoughts of loved ones. Chalk it up to too many things to chalk it up to.

Wednesday rolls in – high eighties, sweaty and charcoal dark by mid afternoon. Foreboding skies eclipse threatening to the point of no return. An uneasy, day-long pressure builds inside of me and lodges in my chest with each held breath like a thumb over a cranked garden hose. A few large splatters of rain hit the window and a cold blue chunk of forked lighting touches down only blocks away, so close that I hear its throbbing, charged electric buzz a half second before a slam of punishing thunder sets off a half dozen car alarms. Soon the water is slashing down in vertical sheets, hard enough to pull leaves from branches and stinging the paved street on contact. As I observe, something inside of me adjusts accordingly and the thumb pops off the nozzle.

Friday night I’m waiting in an exceptionally long line at Penn Station, hundreds winding back from a ticket machine spitting passes for a new rail line to Jersey. There’s at least a dozen equally long lines twisting and stemming from identical machines, and I figure I’m screwed – won’t be getting to where I’m going ’til midnight. But things tend to move faster in this city, and people generally know what they’re doing when they get there. I make remarkable time to the front of the line and purchase a ticket to Secaucus where I and most of these folks will catch an adjunct rail to the Meadowlands and Giants Stadium. I’ve received birthday tickets for hard rocking, boogie-woogie madmen AC-DC, and seeing them here is akin to some sort of last chance rite of passage. Sure, I’m too old for this shit, but the irrelevance of this observation is staggering. I find myself shoulder to shoulder in a passenger car with an equal number of fans both twenty years my senior and junior. “Ladies and Gentleman,” the conductor’s voice cracks over speaker, tongue planted firmly in cheek, “welcome to the AC-DC rock ‘n’ roll train ..” Mayhem.

It’s ten pm, skies have parted and rain stopped, and there’s Angus Young, all fifty-four years and five foot one inches of him, selling it in his schoolboy uniform like there’s no tomorrow; jerking and kicking around the massive stage and hundred yard catwalk like an epileptic Red Bull pitchman on an especially jittery day. The young couple in front of me are ecstatic – he bolting for the aisle to join a Jersey muffler shop day worker, playing Beavis to the older dude’s Butthead with horned fingers thrust and heads thrashing in crazed syncopation to an anchored, driving backbeat. She hangs back above their seats, dancing purposefully and fluidly with her beautiful self, a pole-less untouchable stripper shattering the adage that youth is wasted on the young. And it occurs to me, the thing about this band – they’ve never taken themselves too seriously. The show rages on with relentless pace amid a stage decked with two huge, horned, inflatable schoolboy hats with capital “A’s” up front. A massive, wrecked, still-smoking locomotive protrudes above the drum kit, the numerals 666 across its nose. Hell has never been some serious, spooky metalhead stance for these dudes; just a metaphor for no tomorrow. Fireworks explode in rapid-fire succession after the midnight encore, spectacularly anticlimactic when held next to what Angus has left on stage: four gallons of sweat, two pints of blood, and every bit of himself. Rarely does one feel so compensated, putting down twenty-nine fifty on a ticket. House lights come on and a thick cloud of smoke hangs over the Jersey night. Another New York day ends.

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One Comment

  1. G Prince wrote:

    Good piece, Rick – you made me both feel and wish I’d been at an AC-DC concert … now that’s some powerful writing.

    Monday, August 24, 2009 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

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