Last Tuesday I got off work, drove to Portland, watched a Patti Smith concert and drove home; I had to work the next morning.
And, sure, fine, OK, that’s a stupid thing to do. But Patti and I have a history. For one thing, I’ve been a huge fan for nearly 20 years. Her records were played at every one of my college parties. (And, more importantly, were blasted at full volume during my bouts of self-absorbed melancholy; she got me through some stuff, you know.) For another thing, I had never seen her perform because I lost the tickets last time.
Yeah, that’s right. Lost them. This was back in 2004 when you still paid old-school cash for old-school tickets at old-school TicketMaster, so I couldn’t just reprint the damn things. And I didn’t have enough money to buy a second pair after I lost the first. So Tuesday’s concert trip was nearly a decade in the making. It should also be noted that, as a quickly aging guy who wants desperately to hang on to at least some speck of his young-hellraiser self-image, the idea of blasting down the highway to a concert in a city three hours away only to turn around and drive home the same night sounded pretty good. (In other words, I felt cool telling people about this stupid thing I was doing, and feeling cool is more important to me than it probably should be.)
All of that aside, the trip turned out to be worth it on the merits of her performance alone. The doors of the Crystal Ballroom opened at 7 p.m., and Alana and I got there about 7:20. It was a general-admission show with no chairs, and about 70 percent of the crowd was 50 or older. They very politely left a lot of space for us to (somewhat impolitely) worm our way to the front of the stage.
“There’s a lot of old people here,” Alana said.
This was retroactively made much funnier when, 15 minutes later, a woman in front of us turned to her husband and said. “There’s a lot of young people here.”
The other young people and some of the oldsters were as impolite as we were, and by 8 o’clock all of the gaps left in the crowd had been filled. It was packed tight when the lights went down, and then ... some opening act that sounded terrible played for 40 minutes. It was past 9 when Patti and her band finally took the stage, and I was already fading. But, despite her increasing resemblance to Joey Ramone, she sounded fantastic, just like she does in those grainy videos from the ’70s. She was funny and charismatic and, when she wanted to be, absolutely vicious behind the microphone. She played till just after 11 p.m., which inspired within me an epic war of emotions: I wanted the show to go on forever, but I knew I still had a three-hour drive ahead of me and I was already more tired than I cared to admit.
The drive there had been a shot of adrenaline, you know, the whole about-to-see-Patti-Smith energy carrying us down Highway 97, then west on I-84. The return trip, with Alana sleeping in the passenger seat, was decidedly more of a slog. I never came close to falling asleep behind the wheel or anything, but my whole body ached with fatigue by the time we got back to Yakima.
Then suddenly I was home, standing over my sink with my second pair of drive-thru tacos. (I’d stopped at the taco joint right after getting back to Yakima, and I’d polished off the others in the three minutes it took to get from there to my house). I paused for a minute and thought about how tired I was and how I had to be back at work in just a few hours. And then, realizing what a great night I’d just had, I thought to myself, “Yeah, dude. But you’re so cool.”
Then I shoved the last taco into my mouth and went immediately to bed.
— The Indoorsman