Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Bruceday

For our birthdays (fourteen years apart in life but two weeks apart on the calendar), my sister Cathy and I celebrated by going to see Bruce and the E Street Band play their first concert in the new MetLife Stadium here in New Jersey.  My daughter sweetened the deal by hiring a car to take us and my power wheelchair to the concert!  Woo hoo! 

It proved to be a…let’s see, how can I put this?  It proved to be an eventful evening.

My mobility is extremely limited, so it is really hard for me to get ready to go out.  Taking a shower and getting dressed exhausts me.   And since I rarely do go out, I was very anxious, nervous about getting around ok and worried about the level of pain I am struggling with.  Waiting for the car to pick us up, I was a neurotic mess.  My sister was talking me down, standing in the kitchen looking out the window when she says “Did you order a white stretch limo?”  And I start laughing because I think she is making a joke and she says “No, really, that’s what’s out there.”

So I pop up like a demented jack-in-the-box and to my horror I see that is exactly what is out there – a vehicle that we could never fit my power wheelchair into no matter how hard we tried.  I lurch out to the driveway, freaking out.  “What happened to the car I reserved?!?”  I cried.  The driver was like “What car?”  I told him we had to transport a power wheelchair and he said, oh no one told him that, but don’t worry, we’ll fit it in.

Then he saw it.

Acknowledging there was no way to fit the wheelchair, he started calling his office.  After forty five minutes of hemming and hawing, it was finally determined that I would have to go with my manual wheelchair, which meant I would be uncomfortable all night and my sister would have to push me everywhere.  By that time I had calmed down [somewhat] and was just grateful I was going to the concert.

On our way:

Cathy, innocently thinking the worst was behind us.

The rest of the limo.  We sat on the back seat giggling like mad.

Once on the road, he drove like a maniac.  We were plastered onto the back seat by the speed of the car.  Cathy kept murmuring “We’re gonna die.  I know it, we’re gonna die.”  And she’s the calm one.  I was actually relieved at first when we hit traffic, because it meant he had to slow down.  Or so I thought.  He would speed up to the car in front of us and then slam on the brakes, speed and slam, speed and slam, lurching the car repeatedly until I was so car sick I thought I was going to throw up.

At the stadium, which he had never been to before, he had no idea where he was going or where he was allowed to drop us off.  He finally unloaded us about a half a mile from the entrance we had to use and my sister had to push me all that distance, over uneven asphalt with few curb cuts.  Then I realized in the rush to get out of the car, as he had been blocking traffic, I had left my camera behind.  I was TICKED.

But we were here!!  We let all the car stuff go and were determined to have a blast!  We had floor tickets for Bruce!  It didn’t get better than that.  We gave in our tickets, went through security and got to the wheelchair section of the General Admission floor.  A staffer snapped “Where are your wristbands?!?”  Wristbands?  What wristbands?  “You need to get your wristbands at the white tent outside.”  Cathy goes, “I am not pushing my sister all the way back outside and then back again!”  He eyeballs me and replies, “Ok, you can leave her here, just take both tickets, they’ll give you her wristband.”  So Cathy goes and spends 15 minutes looking for the white tent.  But it actually was YELLOW.  He had told her the wrong color.  Then they wouldn’t give her two wristbands even though she explained the circumstances and she had two tickets.  Finally she got a hold of a manager who gave her two wristbands and initialed the tickets.  Inside, they stopped her and examined the initialed tickets as if they were classified government documents related to national security.  They would not let us sit until they verified the initials were valid!!  Finally we got situated on the platform, with strict instructions as to how we were to stay positioned.  We were exhausted, and the concert hadn’t even started yet!!

But what a concert it was!!  Phenomenal!  Bruce, 63 years old on September 23, played almost four straight hours.  He rocked, he mugged, he goofed around, but he was somber too.  He played a few more ballads than usual and gave some introspective intros.  He talked about the family ritual of going to Jersey Freeze for ice cream after dinner in the summer.  We did that too.  I often wonder if we were ever there at the same time on a hot summer night as children.  He told of his memories of his late father taking them to the cemetery to put flowers on his aunt’s graves.  My husband is buried in that same cemetery, not too far from Mr. Springsteen.  There are so many connections.  Bruce talked about how the older we get, the more ghosts walk with us.  As children we are afraid of ghost stories.  As we age, it is a comfort to have the company of the spirits of those we love.  That truly resonated when they showed a slide show of Clarence during Tenth Avenue Freeze Out.  At the line “…and the Big Man joined the band…” everything stopped and all those memories of Clarence flashed across the screen.  In some pictures they were so young!  It was really moving.  Then they started up again, clearly missing him but happy to have had him in the band.  Clarence’s nephew Jake is playing sax with the E Street Band now and he is fantastic.  And just so cute.

Bruce plucked a little girl from the audience to join him on Waiting on a Sunny Day.  She was absolutely adorable, he was hilarious, being a big ham, and it turns out she was the daughter of a friend of my sister’s.  Here is the video her dad took:

My sister went to get a drink and on the way back spoke to one of the staff about being able to get our car closer to the stadium to pick us up.  At first they said no, but she pushed the issue.  While the concert was going full blast, one of the staff came and screamed in my ear that they would get a cart to drive us to the car.  So I screamed back in her ear that was impossible, there was no way I could get in and out of a cart.  She got her team leader and he came over to me and screamed the same thing.  I was getting really upset.  I screamed back at him that I had paid a lot of money for these tickets and I wanted to enjoy the concert.  I added there was no way I could do the cart thing and I would discuss it after the concert was over.  I was close to tears and I was shaking with frustration and embarrassment.  He threw up his hands in an exaggerated gesture as if to say “This woman is impossible!” and that truly distressed me.  Bruce was about to start an encore, but this dispute had really taken a lot of the fun out of it for me.  Ironically, the band played something like six songs for an encore, so it was almost another hour before the concert was over.

By that time the team leader guy was gone and the staff member who oversaw the handicapped area of the General Admission section said to us, I will take you to your car and then said something else that made it sound as though they were going to let the car pull up.  But that was not the case.  She pushed me as far as the stadium border and then Cathy had to push me the rest of the way, a total of a half a mile again.  I gave the girl my card and I advised her that I was going to pursue this, as it appeared they were not complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Not to mention, with very few exceptions, their customer service was appalling. 

It took a while to coordinate with the driver of our car in the parking lot, but finally we were on our way home.  There had been elements of the absurd and the stressful and the stadium fascists staff worked hard to make things as difficult as humanly possible.  But nothing could take away the pleasure I got from the great company of my beloved sister and an amazing concert by Bruce and the E Street Band.  

9/19/12  Saed Hindash/The Star Ledger

Next: The Limo Company and the Stadium Have Some Splainin’ to Do


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Sunday, September 9, 2012

Gotta Love Anderson

Here is yet another good reason to love Anderson Cooper!  Besides the obvious.  Ok, so I’m not  So what.  He is smart.  And funny.  And self-deprecating.  And gorgeous.  (See his very funny report on being on Celebrity Jeopardy.

So adorable.)

My friends Albert and Jackie and their two lovely daughters are a terrific family.  I went to high school with Albert and he and Jackie have been married for over 32 years.  To the outside world, their life is picture perfect.  They are close, affectionate and always smiling. They do not advertise the struggles they have endured over the years, although they have been significant.  When Albert’s father developed Alzheimer’s Disease, it was Albert and Jackie who took care of him until the end.  They are matter of fact about these things.  They have strong faith in God and they are still crazy about each other.   In a nutshell: these are good people who have had some hard times but they saw each other through it.  

So back to their girls.  The eldest, Shea, was scheduled to get married last August.  A big wedding was planned here on the beach at the Jersey Shore.  But an uninvited guest was barreling up the coast.  Hurricane Irene was predicted to make landfall the day of Shea’s wedding and all the big plans had to be cancelled, a tiny little celebration is hurredly organized instead.  But Shea’s priorities are straight because of the way she is raised and she is just grateful to be marrying the man she loves.

Fast forward to this spring.  Shea and hubby Matt end up on the Anderson Cooper Show talking about wedding disasters and how important wedding insurance is.  The whole family is excited.  Jackie and Albert are whisked into the city by limo, courtesy of the show.  Albert is like a little kid taking it all in, the Green Room, the set, and finally, Anderson himself.  “He’s the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.” Albert says solemnly.  And apparently one of the nicest, welcoming him and Jackie personally, shaking their hands, thanking them for coming, congratulating them on their lovely daughter.

Gloria, you did a good job raising him.

So the show starts, Shea and Matt tell their story and Anderson springs it on them: they have actually invited them on the show to give them the wedding of their dreams, in the Bahamas.  And a great big wedding party up here in Jersey to make up for the one they didn’t get to have.  So everyone is crying and happy and in love with Anderson.

You can watch the clip here (and see Albert surreptitiously wiping his eyes, right over Anderson’s left shoulder.)

Yes, in the scheme of things a wedding is not life or death.  Shea knows that.  But it is good to see something nice happen to really, really good people.  And this time it did.

Thanks, Anderson.


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