The desire to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in concert last summer outweighed the urge to remain at home and not drive 45 minutes north to Baltimore, Maryland on a hot and steamy, Sunday afternoon.
Arriving at the arena with my wife and good friends, and meeting a couple of other friends shortly thereafter, we were underwhelmed by the venue. There were stairwells that led nowhere and for a moment we thought we were in an M.C. Escher painting.
Once we found our seats, they were so high that we inquired about hiring Sherpas to carry our beer and hot dogs for us as we navigated the thinner air of Baltimore’s version of Mount Everest.
The cushioned seats were stuffed with a combination of hard foam, regret, and rogue springs that enjoyed poking your nether regions whenever the mood struck.
If my male friend is reading this, I’d like to apologize for resting my right knee on your left knee the entire time. There was simply no other place to put it in the cramped quarters.
The opening act was decent, but you got the sense that he was a tad past his sell-by date, much like the beer my wife and friends were consuming. As the driver, I refrained from consuming alcoholic beverages. It’s a good thing too, as you’ll find out later.
As we awaited the arrival of the main act to the stage, (Petty’s “The Waiting,” came to mind), we were entertained by an inebriated female, wearing green tights and sitting on her boyfriend’s lap a few rows above us and to our left. He had one hand on her and the other on his beer.
Proper rodeo make-out safety techniques state that the one being ridden should always have two hands on the one riding. As they continued accosting one another, my wife warned us that “green tights” was going to fall backwards if their rodeo impersonation continued.
The arena was clearly built before the advent of electricity and there were no railings to be found anywhere, which certainly didn’t help what happened next.
Within minutes, my wife screamed out “She’s falling!” As if in slow motion, the green tights-wearing female was flailing down upon the individuals in the rows in front of her, like a contestant playing Plinko on the Price is Right. (Petty’s song “Free Fallin,’” came to mind.)
She bounded down the unforgiving concrete steps, legs and arms thrashing about like the branches of a weeping willow tree in a hurricane. She finally came to rest in front of us, where she remained, still. Her boyfriend sat in his seat above, flabbergasted, but maintaining a strong hold on his beer.
My friend rushed to her aid and instructed the gathering crowd not to touch her. My wife was still screaming. There was no blood, which was surprising. She awoke suddenly, seemingly unfazed. (Petty’s “You got Lucky,” came to mind). In my non-medical opinion, alcohol undoubtedly caused her to relax far more than falling down concrete steps, sober, would have. As the paramedics arrived, she immediately became belligerent when they informed her that she needed to go to the hospital.
Apparently, even the smallest chances of internal bleeding was not to be taken lightly.
When she began spouting out the worst kind of expletives towards us, the very people who were just trying to help her, we began serenading her with boos, (Petty’s “Don’t come around here no more,” came to mind). At that exact moment, The Heartbreaker’s were coming onto the stage, 1.2 miles below us.
In her defense, no one wants to miss a Tom Petty concert!
It’s a strange thing; thinking that someone died, being relieved that person did not die, growing angry at that person for being rude and then being excited to hear live music, all in the span of sixty seconds.
Her boyfriend didn’t seem interested in accompanying her to the hospital but relented due to the peer pressure of sections 210, 211, and 212. (Petty’s “Even the Losers,” came to mind).
The concert was fantastic. Petty played all his hits and was on stage for hours with the energy and fervor not seen in musician’s half his age.
When Plinko lady’s boyfriend returned halfway through Petty’s set list, wearing a disguise (a new Tom Petty shirt), I shook my head at him in disapproval. (Petty’s “Yer so bad,” came to mind).
The show ended and we eventually located the one stairwell out of the 236 that actually led to an exit. (Petty’s “Jammin’ Me,” came to mind). We were outside and heading to our car for the ride home.
Driving home in a thunderstorm/monsoon after the show was not an enjoyable experience. (Petty’s “Straight into Darkness,” came to mind). In fact, these storms became a tornado an hour after we drove through them. It was like driving through Vietnam.
“Can you see the road?” asked my friend.
“He’s got this,” my wife assured everyone. “He’s a real man.”
No, I’m not, I thought to myself.
Truth be told, I couldn’t see a damn thing but my ability to act cool on the outside while my insides were screaming in fear, was impressive. (Petty’s “I won’t back down,” came to mind).
We arrived home safely. (Petty’s “Alright for now,” came to mind). Everyone agreed that it was an amazing experience, monsoon and Plinko lady notwithstanding.
If you are reading this Plinko lady, we truly hope you are okay.
A few months later, Tom Petty died suddenly, and the memories of that concert became something more than just a superficial experience for us. (Petty’s “Wildflowers,” came to mind.) (It still does.)