Headed into a city in an old Pontiac
Nothing but someone else's misguided dream to guide us
Ended up on television
We used to have a friend named Matt. He was a strange lad with poor manners and a lack of concern for social graces. Originally he was a school chum of my younger brother, but he decided to start following me around instead.
At first he was interested in us because he knew we were trying to put together some kind of a band. None of us really intended on becoming rock and roll stars. We were just having some fun with it. On the other hand, Matt was quite serious, and although he had absolutely no musical talent, he moved to Seattle in the early 1990s with the intention of becoming a "studio musician."
A couple of years before his migration to the west coast, Matt somehow managed to convince my friend Martin and me to help with a very silly operation. He had become a pseudo-roadie for a local Worcester, Massachusetts band. The truth was that he loved their music and always hung around where they rehearsed and would work for free. That was when they took advantage of Matt and convinced him to lug their equipment around.
The band was fairly well known around the Worcester area, but nothing ever really happens in Worcester. Ever. They were constantly trying to book themselves into the Boston music scene and rarely got any breaks. Then, during a particularly cruel summer, they were asked to open for John Cale, who was going to be performing in a couple of weeks at a Boston club. They were quite elated, and Matt was thrilled beyond reason.
Matt convinced Martin and me to join him as roadies for the band. He said it would look better for them if they had three guys working for them. We didn't really care so much about that. It was more about getting the chance to meet John Cale and get to take in a show for free.
A week later, the band was contacted by a designated representative of John Cale, who said Cale decided he did not want an opening act for that date. The representative apologized for any inconvenience. The band argued that they had already cancelled a regularly scheduled gig that night and wanted to be compensated or allowed to perform. There was no compensation. There was no signed deal. The opportunity was cancelled.
The band decided they did not want to accept this cruel twist of fate. They decided to drive all their equipment and themselves into Boston and begin setting up. Their reasoning was that if they were already in town and already setting up their equipment, John Cale would change his mind and say, "Okay, I'm sorry, you guys can play." Matt told Martin and me what had happened and we decided we would tag along. We figured this could turn out to be fairly interesting.
We loaded their equipment into the beat-up white van the band travelled around in. Matt, Martin and I followed in his car, a rebuilt Pontiac Grand Prix. Matt confounded us with his usual outbursts of idiocy during the trip and was almost killed twice by Martin. We are talking about a person who once stopped by after we had ordered a pizza. When we told him he couldn't have any because there wasn't enough, he put his hands all over the cheese on the pizza and said, "Can I have some now?" As I recall, he was thrown down a flight of stairs as punishment for that charade.
The plan was to arrive very early so that the band could slip into the club and begin setting up before anyone realized they weren't scheduled to perform. They would pretend they never received a message telling them the gig was off. We helped them unload their equipment from the van, but the back door to the club was locked and no one was home. Matt stayed with them. Martin and I went off in search of some fast food. After some hamburgers and fries, we went back to the club. The band was still locked out and waiting.
We told them we were going to get a couple of beers and come back. We found a nice little bar around the corner and hung out there for an hour. While watching the television in the bar we realized there was a Red Sox game that evening at Fenway Park. It was a seven-thirty game and it was now almost seven. We finished our beers and went back to the club. The band was arguing with some large men in black t-shirts and they were losing the argument fairly badly. We kept walking. It was only about ten blocks to Fenway. We figured the game would be over by eleven and we could then double back to the club and pick up Matt.
The truth was that we actually didn't care about Matt.
He was kind of amusing to keep around and laugh at.
It wasn't too hard to forget all about him.
There were no tickets available at the gate. It was sold out. Martin and I were not phased. We began walking around the area. There was always someone around looking to sell tickets, usually at inflated prices. I looked at my watch and checked the time. It was 7:25. I took all but twenty dollars out of my wallet and put my wallet back in my pants. I stashed the rest of my cash in my front pocket.
"You guys looking for tickets?"
I nodded and asked the gentleman how much he wanted for them. They were ten dollar tickets in a fairly crappy section of the park. He said he wanted forty dollars for the pair. I shook my head and said we didn't have that much on us. He offered them to us for thirty. I told him I didn't have thirty dollars. The gentleman walked away. Less than a minute later, another gentleman walked up to us and pulled out two tickets. They were upper level seats behind home plate. They were much better than the tickets the other gentleman was offering. How much?
"You can have 'em at face value. The game has already started, I'll never get nothin' for 'em now."
They call these gentlemen scalpers. I know because we had been in the scalping business some years earlier. Our specialty was buying tickets for concerts at the window and then selling them to people at an inflated price after telling them the show was sold out. No one ever beat us up for it. Of course we tended to do this at shows where the fans weren't especially angry or mean. We did quite well at a Phil Collins show and at a Debbie Gibson show.
We missed most of the first inning, but that was okay. There is nothing better than an unplanned trip to the ball park. It is much better than a scheduled trip. Something about the impromptu nature of the event makes the hot dogs taste better, the crack of the bat crisper and the sights and smells so much more alive.
The Red Sox were playing the Texas Rangers. I suppose if I were interested I could find the date of the game, but I'm fairly sure it was 1990. The Sox hit back to back home runs over the Green Monster. Ellis Burks hit the first home run. Dwight Evans hit the second one. Or, at least I think that was what happened.
The Red Sox were up by two runs at the end of the fourth inning. It was at this point that the skies opened and it began to rain. It wasn't just raining. It was coming down in sheets. Anyone who lives in Boston knows that, in those days anyway, when it rained in Boston and the Sox were in town, you could turn to channel 38 and watch Hogan's Heroes.
Someone told me later it was the longest rain delay in Rex Sox history. It went on for more than five hours. Martin and I took the opportunity to explore and observe every nook and cranny of Fenway Park. Most of the other fans had left. When the game resumed, sometime around one o'clock in the morning, it was as if we were at a little league game. Less than five hundred people were left in the stands, and in a major league stadium it feels like there are about twelve people in attendance.
We abandoned our assigned seats and moved up to the second row behind the on-deck circle. The players were laughing and having a good time. It was quite surreal. Players were talking to us as they walked towards the on-deck circle, almost in slow motion. We could hear every word they said. Sound carries alarmingly well in an empty stadium. Tony Pena, the catcher, smiled at us and started yelping out jokes in a exagerrated Hispanic accent. It was as if they had all gone insane as a result of sitting in the clubhouse for five hours waiting for the game to resume. On the other hand, the Texas Rangers looked pissed off. There was much argument about resuming the game, we found out later. Games are supposed to be called after a certain time and this game had been delayed past the cut-off point.
The game finished well after two o'clock in the morning. The Red Sox lost. It didn't much matter. We were dancing and laughing and jumping about in the stands have a grand time.
By the time we got back to the club, it had closed. The band we had come with to play roadies for had left not long after their argument with the black shirted men. Matt had stayed. He ended up having a half-hour long conversation with John Cale after wandering into the building and walking in on Cale, who was sitting behind a piano not expecting the interruption. John Cale arranged for him to get into the show for free.
When things wrapped up, Matt began a frantic search for Martin and myself. We were, after all, his ride back to Worcester. He waited for an hour and then took a cab home. Since he never had any money, we don't know how Matt managed to afford the cab ride, but we tried not to ask him too many questions. He didn't talk to us for months after that. Eventually, though, he needed something.
A lot of people can say they've been to Fenway Park
I've been to Fenway Park
Through all of this, Robin, Martin's girlfriend at the time, was having trouble sleeping. She turned on the television and flipped the channels restlessly. For some reason she decided to start watching Hogan's Heroes. The episode she was watching was interrupted as channel 38 went back to the Red Sox game.
The announcer was talking about the sparse crowd and the fact that the game had experienced a five hour rain delay. They began panning the crowd, most of whom had moved up to the really good seats. As she sat there watching they closed in on three people's faces. Martin and myself, as well as this strange older fellow we had been sitting next to, were singing and dancing and laughing and high-fiving each other. A trio of overtired morons. They stayed on us for a little while and then went back to the game. Yet they kept coming back to check on us. She taped the later portions. Watching the tape was a strange experience, especially when the announcer started making remarks like, "How much do you think these fellas have had to drink tonight?" We were actually alarmingly sober.
"I thought you guys were going to a concert or something."