Sunday, April 16, 2017

gettin' down here with the people

It was a typical Saturday night, but it turned out to be anything but typical.

I picked my son up around 5 o'clock, just after he finished his on-air shift at the radio station where he works. We had plans to go to a concert in Delaware, just over the Pennsylvania border. We had plenty of time, so we hopped on the subway and headed to a new restaurant we had heard about to grab dinner. Pretty typical so far.

After dinner, we jumped back on the westbound subway to get my car and make our way down to the show. I punched the address of the venue into the GPS on my phone and we were off. After crossing the state boundary, I carefully followed the mechanical-voiced instructions though uncharted rural Delaware thoroughfares until we arrived at our destination, which, in this case, was the Arden Gild Hall. Again, pretty typical.

It was our first time at Arden Gild, a rustic looking compound comprised of several utility buildings and a large main structure that, once inside, my son observed that it looked like a "hunting lodge for rich weirdos." The room was slowly filling up and the weather had just turned to a more seasonal clime for our area. Actually, the temperature was inching towards the higher numbers on the scale. We spotted a few members of both the warm-up act (Scantron) and the headliner (Low Cut Connie), both of whom we've seen numerous times before. As a matter of fact, the bands actually share a few members. My son and I chatted with James and Larry, the Connie boys' guitarist and drummer respectively, and then moved closer to the stage as the lights dimmed and the first band played the opening notes of their first song. Still, nothing out of the ordinary.

After a brief intermission, my son and I moved even closer to the stage. Scantron burst onto the stage with the same high-energy, high-octane bravura they displayed a week ago on the tiny stage at Kung Fu Necktie. Performing this time as a trio (with a supplemental keyboardist), the band ripped through a raucous playlist that included garage rockers and odes to James' Delaware roots. Scantron concluded their set and crew began setting up for Low Cut Connie's show-closing set. I talked with my son and a photographer friend of his. Soon our conversation was joined by a lovely couple we have met at many a Connie show, who just happen to be the parents of Low Cut Connie's charismatic frontman Adam Weiner. So far, so typical.

Suddenly, a strange feeling fuzzed up my head and my vision. Things started to get atypical.

As the stage crew adjusted mic stands, arranged guitar stands and placed the venerable "Shondra" (Adam's trusty, road-worn piano) in her usual spot at the front of the stage, my peripheral vision began to close in creating the effect of standing in a darkened tunnel. My head began to swim. I removed my denim jacket and tied it around my waist. I leaned toward my son and asked him if he could get me a bottle of water. He took several steps towards the bar at the back of the venue, but stopped to grab a folding chair for me. He could tell I was a little "off." He didn't have time to unfold the chair as I fell unconscious into his arms. Adam's father jumped from his chair and rushed to my aid, helping my son to lower me to the floor. I don't remember any of this. I only remember opening my eyes to see a dozen or so faces peering down on me from my prone position. My shirt was drenched in my own perspiration. Two women, crouched on either side of me, identified themselves as nurses. One grasped my wrist as she searched for a pulse, while the other started in with a barrage of questions — "What's your name?," "How old are you?" (My son later informed me that I got that one wrong.) The one that momentarily jolted me back to my senses was "Who's the president?" I remember scowling and cautioning my interrogator not to get me started.

My son and Adam's dad hoisted me into a folding chair. Someone placed a wet towel on my neck. I felt better, but only for a few minutes because I passed out a second time. Meanwhile, the venue's announcer was backstage, informing the band that "some guy with bright orange hair passed out in front of the stage." Adam interrupted his pre-show rituals to exclaim, "I know that guy." When I came around the second time, Adam was kneeling on the floor in front of me, grasping my sweaty palms in his hands. The rest of the band was at the edge of the stage, gazing down on me, along with nearly everyone else in place. I looked up to see my son on his cellphone.

"Who are you calling?," I asked.

"911.," he replied. He was calm and in control.

Soon, the crowd parted for two EMTs who helped me on to a gurney and wheeled me out to a waiting ambulance. As they shoved me backwards into the vehicle, my head reeled. My son announced, "I guess this is a good time to call Mom." He punched in my home phone number and slowly, coolly and calmly explained the situation to my wife, who was an hour away in Philadelphia. As I was whisked off to the hospital, with my son in the ambulance's passenger seat and my wife frantically dressing then speeding south on I-95, I could imagine the chatter among the people at the concert venue.

"I wonder what that guy was on?"

"Wow! I think that guy died!"

"I never saw anyone with that color hair before!"

Within minutes, I was in a small room in the emergency department of Christiana Care Hospital in Wilmington. An attentive team of technicians, nurses and doctors dutifully poked and prodded me. They asked me the same questions several times over. They took my blood pressure a million times and extracted many vials of blood from my left arm. A bag of some magic rejuvenating fluid was attached to my right arm via a tube and I began to feel much better. A short time later, my wife arrived at the emergency room, blotting tears from her eyes. She made me promise that I wouldn't die.

I would find out later that Adam and his pals dedicated the evening's performance to me. (Appreciated, but how embarrassing!) The next day, my Twitter feed lit up with well wishes and concern from a sampling of people I met at the show. (Appreciated, but how embarrassing!) My son stated that, while we can never show our faces at Arden Gild again, I better not pull that shit in September, when Low Cut Connie makes a return trip to Union Transfer in Philadelphia. "I go to Union Transfer a lot," he explained, "I want to be able to go there again." (How very embarrassing!)

I'm just happy that this didn't turn out to be Low Cut Connie's "Gimme Shelter."


  1. Maybe you should blame all of this on your rejection of Ruby Tuesday blessings? Or dehydration? I hope you're feeling better!