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for September 3, 2003

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Under The Boardwalk's Sinister Influence
by Your Diva, Robin Pastorio-Newman

The whole thing was perplexing.
Did you know the Meadowlands sometimes builds an outdoor boardwalk and hires bands to play before big shows? Your Darling, Your Diva, Your One True Love learned these odd facts when her brother announced that he was recruiting musicians to play on the boardwalk at the Meadowlands before a Bruce Springsteen show, and we had better all keep Sunday, August 31st free, because we were all going. That sounds pushy, but in real life it wasn't. In real life the request sounded more like, "I'll be coming in from Los Angeles, Troy's coming in from Pennsylvania, and the bass player you never met's from Kentucky so can you find me cabinets and a head?"
If there is anything you can find easily, it's musicians who aren't playing tonight. Pick a night, any night, and musicians aren't playing. Well, some are, but most aren't, because the number of places hiring musicians in New Jersey's dwindled to a competitive few. Thus, it was no problem calling up friends who weren't playing and finding equipment no one was using. After three people double-parked in Newark and carried Marshalls down a flight of stairs goats shouldn't scale, the expedition was in business. All that was left for Your Sicilian Eggplant to do was turn up Sunday afternoon.
Mr. Springsteen is an interesting character, no doubt about it, but Your Tangerine cannot call herself a fan of the man's music. Springsteen fans are a scary breed, and scary-looking, and what they could possibly have in common social scientists should really investigate. Springsteen fans arrive in limos and Chevettes, they are perfectly groomed and haven't bathed in a week, they appear tanned and healthy and tow oxygen tanks. Your Kiwi's 91 year old grandfather was not out of place in the crowd, and neither was her 12 year old sister. Springsteen fans bring their kids to concerts where the ticket price was like $90 [Ticketmaster fees included] and parking was $15 more. If you tell the orange-vested attendants you're just there for the boardwalk show, they stare, then apologetically say you have to pay for parking anyhow.
It happened that as we drove north on the Turnpike, a huge black cloud loomed over the horizon. The cloud rose and leveled off at the level of other clouds, and because there was no wind, the black cloud resembled a giant still image of a tornado. For the first fifteen minutes we could see the cloud, 1010 WINS was eerily silent about its cause, leaving us with the terrible fear that New York was once again under attack. When the traffic reporter did mention the station had heard a rumor about a huge smoke cloud, occupants of the car traveling up the Turnpike simultaneously asked one another, "What, he can't stick his head out a window and SEE IT?" It turned out a pier in Kearny was on fire, like really a lot on fire. Nobody took this as an omen. When we arrived at the Meadowlands, the crowds tailgating in the parking lots proved that nobody panicked, nobody turned back and even if people didn't know what was burning, most of them were going to see the Boss.
Bruce, bass amps and burning things aside, we find ourselves in a parking lot, and there's an entry gate, and a DROWN THE CLOWN booth, and Bruce Karaoke, and tents over picnic tables and hot dog vendors and someone hands you a numbered boardwalk pin and believe me when I tell you the Meadowlands staffers are not given to offering lengthy instructions. Or any instructions. Or directions. Everyone acted as if we were supposed to know exactly what to do, where, and why. A deafeningly loud band composed entirely of teenagers played on the boardwalk stage as we approached, and we approached because the kids with horns drowned out the shamelessly awful karaoke rendition of Piece of My Heart, which as you know has nothing whatsoever to do with Bruce. Finally we located many waders in Your Prickly Pear's gene pool, assorted friends, children of friends, friends of friends, and everyone's in-laws. What a relief! Now at least we knew the people we were shouting at. Three out of Your Casaba Melon's four statuesque sisters ran in every direction, various husbands smoked cigars and joked with their biological brothers. The drummer's sisters hadn't changed since high school which is embarrassing since we could barely tell them apart then, either. Our fathers took pictures and chatted and talked to our brother's friends, and their brothers, and their friends. When the band finally started to play, Grandpa smiled patiently while seated in a lawn chair in the parking lot-turned-dance floor. We suspect he turned off his hearing aid.
The band played cover tunes they'd learned the day before, but they're all decent musicians and it'd be bad family politics on Your Pomegranate's part to say it was anything but strange and silly fun. Just as strange was the way thousands of people on their way into the Springsteen show stopped to sing along and dance. We took pictures of the crazy dancing people. We took pictures of the security guards. We took pictures of one another. Mom climbed up on a pillar to get better video. The smirking security guard approached Your Florida Orange and said, "She has to get down from there."
"She does?"
"We have to get her down from there." Your Canteloupe made a broad be-my-guest gesture and the security guard asked Mom very nicely to get down. There it is: the only security risk at this show was posed by an intrepid, barefoot, videotaping grandmother of six. During the show, one of the singers proposed to his staggeringly beautiful girlfriend, who accepted. The crowd went a little berserk. Our sisters burst into tears.
Then everyone else saw Springsteen and a few of us went home but not before our pre-teen sister was given two tickets to the show. She materialized as we were saying goodnight to Dad. It was exactly what you'd expect, with all the leaping and pleading and can-we-can-we-can-we? And Dad's "I'm going to hate this, aren't I?" and eventual "Oh, okay" like he was being stuck willy-nilly with salad forks. Your Refreshing Lemon, who remembers Dad's folk singer friends crashing on the couch and building snowmen on the front lawn, laughed maniacally as history repeated itself once more, with feelin'.
So, the whole thing was perplexing, and confusing, and some of it was scary, but as antics go, it was hilarious on a grand scale. Maybe you had to be there, but from the size of the crowd we suppose you almost certainly were.

©2003 Robin Pastorio-Newman

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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