Thursday, 5.18.06, 4:15 p.m.--After two false starts (whoops, have to change my voice-mail message...whoops, and set up the out-of-office e-mail), I'm out of work and on the PATH train to Newark, where I'll catch the train to Trenton, which will connect with the SEPTA train to Philly, where I will see Marah for, I don't know, the 40-somethingth time. I think they're good. You oughta see them sometime.
Thursday, 5.18.06, 4:56 p.m.--The Northeast Corridor express train to Trenton pulls into Newark Penn Station and, surprisingly, I'm on it. Lately, I've been missing trains by about a minute, which is not so fun. And this is the last train I can get to Trenton and still have time to eat before the show. Eating dinner and ensuring that I don't pass out is an activity that I also enjoy, probably as much as I enjoy seeing Marah. So doing both things in one night would be a kick.
Thursday, 5.18.06, 6:42 p.m.--The SEPTA train pulls into 30th Street Station in Philly, and dinner at the World Cafe Live before the 7:30 show appears to be a definite possibility. I love it when a plan comes together.
Thursday 5.18.06, 6:55 p.m.--After waiting around for a little bit for friends, I decide to just go ahead and eat. Pulled pork sandwich. Pork is at its best when it's pulled, friends.
Thursday, 5.18.06, 7:40 p.m.--One friend has arrived, no sign of the other. Show has begun, with Adam and Dave's Bloodline (featuring the non-Bielanko guitarist and drummer from Marah) opening. No more time to wait.
Thursday, 5.18.06, 8:03 p.m.--Wayward friend calls my cell phone (no, you can't have the number; it's only for travel emergencies). She thinks she will get there by 9. She almost does.
Thursday, 5.18.06, 8:50 p.m. to 10:47 p.m.--Marah plays the rock and roll, I rest against a wall, move sporadically, yell along to "Baba O' Riley" and "Head On," and enjoy the show. Late-arriving, recent college graduate friend only misses three songs. Automotive problems kept her. We'll leave it at that, OK?
Thursday, 5.18.06, 11:32 to 2:something a.m.--After standing in a parking lot for about 20 minutes filling mind of recent college graduate friend with bleak wisdom with help of same-aged other friend, recent college graduate friend drives me back to Jersey City. We only get lost once. Actually, I didn't get lost at all. I just sat there. I can't be held responsible.
Friday, 5.19.06, sometime in the late morning--I wake up. Just in time for "The View." I'll miss Meredith. I wish she'd change her mind. Around noon, I make friend watch Richard Christy get a bikini wax on Howard Stern On Demand. Everybody should have to watch it at least once.
Friday, 5.19.06, 1:45 p.m.--Perfect time for breakfast. Cranberry and apple pancakes at the Brownstone Diner and Pancake Factory in Jersey City. The closest thing to the Pancake Pantry in Nashville, TN I will get this year. Friend leaves after breakfast, because she has a normal life. Not me.
Friday, 5.19.06, 3:08 p.m.--Get on line in the Port Authority Bus Terminal to buy a round-trip ticket to Atlantic City, where I will be going to see Elvis Costello and the Imposters at the Taj Mahal for a concert/taping of "Decades Rock Live." The special guests for the show, which will air on VH1 Classic, are Death Cab for Cutie, Fiona Apple, and Billie Joe Armstrong. I don't think they're all that special. But you know what is special? Getting $20 of the $31 price of a round-trip ticket back upon arrival at the Tropicana in AC.
Friday, 5.19.06, 3:30 p.m.-6:27 p.m.--Traffic is just bad enough on the way down that I may not make it to the Showboat Casino in time to play the version of "Family Feud" that runs every night (except Saturday) at 7. When the bus pulls in, I have about 30 minutes to walk the length of the boardwalk to get to Showboat in time. It won't be easy.
Friday, 5.19.06, 7:07 p.m.--I didn't make it in time. I don't want to talk about it.
Friday, 5.19.06, 9:20 p.m.--The Elvis Costello show starts, after a warm-up guy tells the audience in the about 2/3-filled arena that "Decades Rock Live" is the highest-rated show on VH1 Classic (are there any other shows on VH1 Classic?). The night gets off to a bad start when two guys decide that, among the approximately 500 empty seats in the arena, they'll be taking the two right in front of me, preventing me from stretching out my legs, something they were able to do with no problem. Just when I adjust to that, two South Jerseyans sit behind me and, during that magical moment when the stage manager asks for applause levels so they can set the mikes properly, the female South Jerseyan unleashes an ear-shattering whistle that sails right through me. Luckily, they eventually moved. The douches in front of me lounged about for the rest of the show. After trying to maintain my ground, I eventually accepted defeat and moved myself.
Anyway, Death Cab for Cutie proves to be uninteresting but not that bad, Fiona Apple is pretty good (particularly when singing "I Want You"), and Billie Joe Armstrong is fine. And the main-set finale of "Basket Case"/"Radio Radio"/"Pump It Up" is pretty damn cool. I was unaware how many girls worship Green Day. Every time Billie Joe's name was mentioned, high-pitched screaming followed. And when he came out, girls jumped out of their seats to get closer to the stage. It was at that point that the earlier announcement that people shouldn't rush the stage began to make sense. I didn't really think anybody was going to make a beeline to the stage to get closer to Elvis.
Saturday, 5.20.06, 12:20 p.m.--My second, slightly shorter mad boardwalk dash of the last six hours is more successful, as I get to Bally's in time to catch the 12:20 back to the Port Authority. That's key when the next one's at 1:15. After waiting in line for a few minutes, a man and what I assume was his lady friend queue up behind me. The woman is antsy and agitated, while the guy is trying to keep cool. It's obviously not been a good night at the tables. The conversation that ensued went something like this:
Lady Friend: I don't wanna take this bus back. Let's get a room. C'mon, you got a card--what else is it good for?
Guy: I told you, it's Friday night. The card don't do me no good on Friday nights.
Lady Friend: Well, then why don't we book a room for tomorrow?
Guy: Saturdays are even worse. I told you, the card's only good for Sunday to Thursday nights. We'd have to pay full price for a room tonight or Saturday and you know what that costs. I'm telling you, this place is poison.
Lady Friend: Well, how about we book a room for Saturday morning?
Guy: No. It's the same thing. I'm telling you...
Lady Friend: Well, what if I sell this? (points to a piece of jewelry, I assume...I was trying to be surreptitious)
Guy: Nah, they don't want that. The guy said it's no good.
Lady Friend: But it's diamond.
Guy: No. He said he wouldn't buy it
Lady Friend: Where is this bus?
Guy: Ah, you know how they are. They never leave on time.
Lady Friend: I really don't wanna take this bus back. What about the watch?
Guy: Nah. It's junk. They're not interested in it. It's not a good name?
Lady Friend: Not a good what?
Guy: You know, like the maker. It's not a good maker.
Lady Friend: I bet I could sell it to one of these people.
Guy: You think these people have money? They're just like you. Broke.
It went on like that til the bus came. And if overhearing conversations like that doesn't convince you to take a late-night bus back from Atlantic City at least once in your life, you can't be helped.
Saturday, 5.20.06, 3:45 a.m.--Home sweet apartment.
Saturday, 5.20.06, 9:03 a.m.--Rise and shine. Time to go to Baltimore. Mom's driving, so at least there are no more trains or buses involved for the weekend. And the weekend ends with the Avett Brothers at a wine festival in Columbia, MD. So, that's good.
Saturday, 5.20.06, 10:45 a.m.--Mom arrives and it's off to Baltimore.
Saturday, 5.20.06, 1:54 p.m.--We arrive at the Red Roof Inn in scenic Jessup, MD, a ball and chain's throw from the correctional facility. Jessup is also the home of Blob's Park, a premier polka facility that I had hoped we would hit later in the night, but a two-hour nap from 7 to 9 for Mom cancelled that plan.
We have to wait for our room because a housekeeper called in sick, they're overbooked, and, well, everything seems to be going wrong, at least according to the woman at the front desk. But she handles everything well, and we eventually get our room.
Saturday, 5.20.06, 3:08 p.m. to 6:12 p.m.--A sunny afternoon at the Inner Harbor and some sweet crab cake sliders and pretzels at J. Paul's, which offset some not-so-good pulled pork. Surprisingly, I'm not that tired. My body has adjusted itself to being abused. At least until Monday.
Saturday, 5.20.06, 6:39 p.m.--When we get back to the Red Roof, there's a bunch of guys who seem to be having a tailgate party in the parking lot. Wicked.
Saturday, 5.20.06, night--You'd be surprised how little there is to do in Jessup when you don't drive. And there is also nothing on TV. The best options are literally an NCAA softball game and Merv Griffin on "Larry King Live." I'm not sure which would make me seem less heterosexual. So I flip back and forth between both. When my mom wakes up, she puts on "10.5" on NBC. I'm so upset we didn't get home in time to see the sequel on Sunday night. I also stayed up to watch "Saturday Night Live," which, I can confirm, is still not funny. Don't let anybody tell you different.
Sunday, 5.21.06, 11:30 a.m.--Church time. The service is enlivened when a guy falls or something, creating a groundshaking thud in the middle of the Lord's Prayer. Later on, he mumbles something about cholesterol levels.
Sunday, 5.21.06, 1:04 p.m.--Arrive at Symphony Woods in Columbia for the Wine in the Woods festival, where the Avetts will take the main stage at 2:15. I get my designated driver bracelet, mom gets her drink tickets. I head toward the music area, mom shops for jewelry and knickknacks. A little while later, I find my friends and their offspring, also known as The First Child Whose Likeness Appeared on Tinsel and Rot (or TFCWLAoTaR, for short). TFCWLAoTaR, like most females, often demonstrates a strong indifference to me, occasionally runs away in fear, and desperately waves goodbye to me for the better part of our time together.
Sunday, 5.21.06, 2:23 p.m.--The Avett Brothers begin another kick-ass set, slightly subdued for the festival crowd and the Red Hat Society contingent parked near a tree. They do another new song that already sounds pretty good, indicating that they don't have any plans to start sucking soon. Which is good. And they don't break too many strings (about 5 or 6 total), though Bob has some trouble with his bass, which is a new twist on their perpetual struggle to keep their instruments in check. There are some little kids singing along and enjoying the show, including a young boy to my left who wants to hear "Swept Away," but is too shy to ask. Luckily, his mom and several of her increasingly inebriated friends are there to urge him on. Eventually, there are about six adults in wine glasses hovering over him insisting that he yell out "Swept Away." He never does yell it out, but they play it anyway, and he's happy.
My mom hugs the band when the show's over.
Sunday, 5.21.06, 5:28 p.m.--It's farewell to my friends and then we're out of the Merriweather Post Pavilion parking lot and on to Jersey City.
Sunday, 5.21.06, 7:03 p.m.--My first visit to a Waffle House, somewhere in Maryland. It was a big moment. And those were good waffles and hash browns. And as if that weren't enough, they had Bocephus on the jukebox ("Born to Boogie"). Thank you, Waffle House. Hope to see you soon, friend.
Sunday, 5.21.06, 10:18 p.m.--After the usual bad Turnpike traffic, I finally arrive home in Jersey City, late for "The Sopranos" but still glad to be home. For now.