The first concert I ever went to

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I generally like rock’n’roll books.  And I’ve read almost all of them.  I always wanted to put out this rock’n’roll book where I did a survey, asking people three questions:  1.) The First concert you went to, 2.) The Best concert you went to, and 3.) The Worst concert you went to.

The first concert I ever went to was a free Carole King concert in Central Park in New York City.  1973, age 16.  It was one of those seminal events in my life, in a lot of ways.  For one thing, it was the first time I had ever went off to the big bad city by myself. Without parental guidance, just me and two of my high school buddies.  It was also the first time I got stoned on pot.  And I mean really stoned.  Like where you’re hallucinating.

The concert took place on this big green field.  And there were hundreds of thousands of people flopped out, milling about, and enjoying the show under the bright blue skies.  Somebody passed around a pipe full of pot. And without really thinking, I took my turns as it went around.  After that, all bets were off.  When I looked up, it seemed like every weirdo and street freak in New York city was dancing before me.  Hare Krishnas with shaved heads and wispy ponytails and orange dresses, dancing and chanting out weird incantations on their finger cymbols.  Greenwich Village  hippies looking like crazed pirates with golden rings in their noses.  Street chicks with frizzed-out afros and no bras under their halter-tops, dancing joyously to the sun god . . .

Carole King was way off in the distance, bleating out her songs from a tinny speaker a million miles away, seemingly.  It was like looking into binoculars from the wrong end.  Thus began my 40 year experiment with “altered states of consciousness.”

But it was more than just that. It was like when you take that first — and sometimes fatal — step into a whole new world.  And there’s no turning back.  Dancing before me was this siren’s call.  Filled with allure and danger.   The “streets.”  The counterculture.  The underground.  “Sex and drugs and rock’n’roll.”  All the things our parents had warned us against.  And you take the first baby-steps in that direction.  And the next thing you know, years have gone by.  And you’ve walked so many miles, that when you look back, you can’t even see that fork-in-the-road . . . or barely even remember . . . .where you decided to go this way, as opposed to that way.

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The second time I got drunk

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I remember the second time I got drunk.  1973, age 16, a junior in high school.  And, as usual, my pal  Red was the instigator.

Red and Chuck used to play golf at this ritzy golf course in a nearby town.  The golf course was closed for the winter because, well, you can’t play golf when the greens are covered with snow.  But, according to Red, there was a bar in the middle of the course that was boarded up for the winter and was loaded with booze.  And Red had discovered there was a window in the back of the building that was unlocked (Red was always on the lookout for opportunities for mischief like this one).  So Red suggested that we sneak into the golf course in the middle of the night and steal as much of the booze as we could carry.   Chuck and I both agreed that this was a magnificent idea.

So later that night we drove to the golf course.  Chuck parked his car on the outskirts of the course and we walked up the snow-covered greens to the bar.  The back window was indeed unlocked so we climbed in and jumped down into the room.  It was pitch dark in there and our eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the darkness, when this shadowy figure suddenly darted towards us.  It was a dog, a big German Shephard.  “Holy shit its a guard dog!” hissed Red.  We all froze in the spot as our sphincters clenched up our throats.  For a second we thought the dog was going to rip our throats out.   But the dog just quietly trotted by us and cowered harmlessly in the corner.   Some guard dog.

We grabbed as many of the bottles of hard liquor behind the bar as we could carry, plus three big kegs of beer.  Then we climbed back out the window with our haul and  hauled ass down the snow-covered greens.  The kegs were too heavy to carry so we were rolling them down the snow-covered greens.  I will never forget that surreal image as long as I live, its permanently imprinted in the mind’s eye of my memory.  Those kegs rolling down the snow-covered greens, and me, Chuck and Red joyously chasing after them.

We jumped into Chuck’s car and made our getaway.   We were euphoric at having pulled off the crime of the century.  We couldn’t believe that we had actually pulled it off!

But now we had to figure out what to DO with all that booze.  We certainly couldn’t take it home.   We decided to drop it off at the local “hippie house” on the outskirts of town.   My 19-year-old older sister lived there with her hippie boyfriend and about 7 or 8 other hippies,  Deadheads, stoners, and greaseballs that rented out the rooms in this funky old house. That hippie house was often party central for many of the local high school kids.  It was considered scandalous by the local townspeople, this bizarre “hippie commune,” and it was the source of constant speculation, gossip and outrage as to the goings-on at this notorious “hippie house.”  Drug parties and orgies and satanic rituals?  God only knew.  Mostly it was just a bunch of bored potheads lazing around on the sofas watching TV.

Anyways, we were greeted as conquering heroes when we showed up with all that booze.   The problem was, we had forgotten to also steal some taps for the kegs so we had no way to get the beer out of the kegs.  Finally, some genius suggested that we just drive a big stake into the keg.   Which seemed like a magnificent idea, so thats what we did.   A geyser of beer exploded out of the keg all the way to the ceiling, I guess because of the air pressure in the keg.  So everybody grabbed pots and pans from the kitchen to catch the fountains of beer flowing down from the heavens.  It was an incredible moment.  Like winning the World Series and dousing eachother with champagne.   There are some great photos of us all toasting eachother with pots and pans full of beer.

In retrospect, I certainly don’t condone stealing, or being a reckless 16-year-old idiot.   But that was a triumphant moment for me.   And I didn’t have too many of those during my high school career.  So what the hell.

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