It’s fitting the first blog entry deals with a story having to do with me and my brother Paul, as he’s the one most responsible for my achy knees and my aspirations of running 26.2 miles nonstop. He came to visit me in Jackson in March with his wife and beautiful daughter and practically made his visit contingent on me running a half marathon with him in Nashville. He’s three years my junior and has run 9 marathons, most recently the Boston Marathon, after which he filed this report.
In spite of the fact that the last race I ran was a 5k in 1991 as a member of my high school cross country team, the Nashville half marathon went off without a hitch. Paul beat me by more than 15 minutes and didn’t seem to break a sweat while doing it. I figured if 13 miles didn’t kill me, I could do 26. Math is not my strong suit.
Anyway, back to today’s song. Lately in Tennessee we’ve been experiencing, like much of the country, some oppressive heat, the kind that has my dog Lou panting the moment we step off the elevator and into the foyer of my building, knowing what awaits him.
How hot has it been? It’s 10:20 p.m. as I type this and it’s still 83 degrees with a heat index of 89. Yesterday was the first day of summer, but the lowest high temperature of the last 10 days was 90 and the rest have had highs of at least 93 and the humidity highs have been at least 93 percent each day as well. But still, it’s got a ways to go before it’s as sweltering as the summer of 1995 in Chicago, where 521 people died from heat-related causes during the month of July. I was interning at the newspaper in Joliet, Ill., that summer, writing stories and sweating in my 1985 Oldsmobile Firenza, a gem of a car whose inability to cool air was rivaled only by its inability to attract women. I still blame the hatchback.
That summer Pearl Jam was on their Five Horizons tour. I had attended their show at Summerfest in Milwaukee on July 11 with my friend Brandon. The lead singer for that show's opening band wore a green frog-like suit and gigantic wings. Other than the time we we spent pulled over on the Interstate 90/94 because the Firenza was overheating, it was a great night.
But one Pearl Jam show just wasn’t going to be enough that summer and my brother Paul and I vowed to get tickets to the show at Chicago’s Soldier Field a couple nights later. This was before the days of Stubhub, so we called around to ticket brokers in a desperate attempt to secure the tickets. We finally found one who said he could get us lawn seats for $120. This seemed like a great deal to both Paul, who was getting ready to go off to college in the fall and was working at my mom’s restaurant, and me, with my $8 an hour gig at the newspaper. Neither of us majored in business.
The ticket broker actually had a window in the back of a restaurant and when we arrived we weren’t handed the ducats, but rather told to have a seat and a drink.
“Don’t worry,” a rather harried gentleman told us as he took our $240, cash. “We’ve got the tickets.”
I immediately started to worry.
Eventually, several more people showed up and were told to join us. We all sat there, somewhat puzzled, awaiting instructions. We soon got them. We were all going to be hopping into a small bus and heading to Soldier Field. I was pretty sure that I’d seen a story on 20/20 that unfolded the same way and ended up with the bus riders ending up being sold into sex slavery. We ran to the bus.
My brother and I were trying to figure out what we’d gotten ourselves into and as we pulled into Soldier Field the answers weren’t forthcoming. Our leader hopped off the bus and left me, my brother and a handful of other really gullible people and told us he’d be right back. He wasn’t. And as the minutes passed, our attitudes worsened. One guy in particular was cursing the ticket broker. He was doing his best to organize an uprising on the bus, as if this were 1955 Montgomery. He successfully convinced at least one other person that rather than sit around and wait and be screwed out of money and a chance to see the most popular band in the world, that they'd demand their money back as soon as possible. When the broker returned they did just that.
“Just be patient,” he pleaded, but the angry dudes weren’t having it and walked off the bus, refunded cash in hand, hoping to find a ticket scalper with a bit more legitimacy.
My brother and I started discussing getting off the bus and trying to find another source for tickets. But we didn't have cell phones, hell, we didn't even have beepers, and for some reason we had faith our ticket broker, even though he had done nothing more than smile, take half my weekly paycheck and give us what amounted to a $120 bus ride to the stadium that would have cost us $1.50 on the CTA .
As hope was dwindling, a guy in a yellow security guard jacket pulled up on a golf cart and talk to our ticket broker friend. Two people were grabbed off the bus, hopped on the golf cart and disappeared toward the stadium. Who the hell was this guy? And where the hell was he taking them? And, most important, was he going to come back for us? At that point, I would have ridden anywhere with this security guy, especially if it meant I was getting off the damn bus and closer to the stadium.
A few minutes later, back he came. My brother and I positioned ourselves so we could be next for whatever next was. We hopped on the cart and headed toward the stadium, disappearing into the bowels of Soldier Field. Our escort started giving us instructions.
“Give me your hands,” he said, taping wristbands on us that he said we’d need to get onto the field. I still didn't believe that's where we were actually headed.
“We’re going to come up to a T up here and I’m going to go left and you’re going to go right,” he told us.
And then, like the 16-year-old in a floppy hat and bow tie taking tickets at the local cinema, his last words to us were "Enjoy the show.”
Sure enough, we made the right turn and walked about a hundred feet and suddenly, almost magically, we were on the Soldier Field turf. The entrance we emerged from seemed to close behind us.
We made our way toward the end zone and got about 20 feet or so from the stage and the opening band, Bad Religion. We did our best to avoid the mosh pits where sweaty, shirtless men were beating each other up while running around in circles. Ah, the '90s.
I’ve always wondered whether those angry guys who took off from the bus ever got in. If they didn’t, they missed a great show, a 155-minute masterpiece that still goes down as the best I’ve ever seen.
The story of the actual concert and the near-death experience Paul and I had there will have to wait for another post. The good news is there’s plenty of Pearl Jam on the iPod and about 16 more weeks worth of runs to hear their songs.
For now, here’s a pretty good rendition of Rearviewmirror, a great song about the emancipating feeling that can come from leaving behind a bad relationship. This footage isn’t from that Chicago concert, but judging by the sweat-soaked Eddie Vedder it may have been about the same temperature at this show as it was in Chicago back in July ‘95.
Oh, yeah. This blog is ostensibly about training for a marathon. Here's what I've been doing lately other than listening to music to help in that quest:
Sunday: 13 miles in 1:44:56
Today: 10 miles in 1:26:26
Tomorrow: 4 mile recovery run