Sunday, 19 June 2016


Laugh? I Nearly Died

When Ann and I bandy about ideas or suggestions of future plans she always says, ‘Put that in your hopper.’ We both ruminate and let things percolate. Then we talk things through. Sometimes we act. Sometimes we don’t. The only life lesson I’ve learned is that you only live once and it never sticks so I need constant remedial reminders. So I thought it might be a kick to take Ann to Las Vegas to see the Rolling Stones next October. Reckless, impulsive, that’s me.

Ann has never been to the throbbing heart of American grotesque, Donald Trump’s hair manifested in a red crater in a desert; Mars colonized by the Syndicate, and Disney: pyramids, medieval castles and pirate ships, New York, New York with an Eiffel tower. A spray tanned and spatula pancake foundation fake Elvis on a purple-costumed jag mumbling like a Wal-Mart greeter in a blue-rinse hotel the Sinatra-led ‘Ocean’s 11’ cast couldn’t be bothered to rob. Collectible, full colour, hooker cards wedged into every public nook and cranny along the Strip. A bloated and doughy Pete Rose scribbling apologies on baseballs beneath the vault of a painted sky. Fabulous: there’s a reason why what happens in Vegas stays there, troublesome infections notwithstanding.

I love the Rolling Stones as much as I love the Montreal Canadiens, which is to say more than my mother but not as much as I love Ann or our cats. I know rock is dead; I know the Rolling Stones do not matter anymore, the sex and danger along with the riffs and topical words withered long ago. Now they intrigue me as an incredibly successful brand, one I still buy into because, remarkably, they’ve remained one of life’s constants even if their set list hasn’t changed that much since 1989; I wish Guy Lafleur still scored 50 goals each winter for the Habs.

The only other time Ann and I travelled to catch a show was in 2012, Bob Dylan was playing Lethbridge, AB of all places, a small hockey rink. The prospect was so strange to contemplate that it had to be seen to be believed. I was also under the delusion that we’d meet him in the Ramada Inn hotel bar after the show and talk baseball and Neil Young. Those tickets cost $90 each. The framed show bill hangs in the kitchen: Don’t You Dare Miss It! The portrait is lit such that he seems ageless, indefinable yet distinctly accented with a dash of black eyeliner.

Vegas being Vegas, I set a loose limit on how much we were prepared to pay for decent Stones seats, mindful of the inherent risk involved committing financially to senior citizens appearing in a foreign and increasingly strange country some five months in advance. I calculated that about $200 a seat ought to turn the trick even if it seemed a tad extravagant with the exchange and taxes on top, but you only live once.

Last Wednesday there was an advance sale for middle-aged sad sacks such as myself who have downloaded the official Rolling Stones app. I secured two VIP tickets worth $550 each, included were souvenir lithographs and a lanyard complete with a laminated tag which was not to be confused with a backstage pass. The transaction timer ticked down. I thought, If Christ Himself were to return and mount an Elvis tribute show at the T-Mobile Arena, the future home of a future NHL franchise, I would not pay that amount of money. I said to Ann, ‘We’ll wait until Friday when tickets for the little people go on sale.’

Friday morning I logged on to the ticket sales site and was provided a place in the digital waiting room. Thirty-seven minutes later I was presented with a single option, two tickets at $450 each, lanyard included. I thought, If the Rolling Stones were to perform an acoustic set of blues and country in our backyard I might pay that much provided they played ‘Loving Cup’ and ‘Coming Down Again.’

Following the psychodrama and the cursing, Ann said, ‘If we want a true musically themed trip we should go to Nashville and Memphis, and spend four or five days in each city exploring.’ I was in Nashville once on business, in and out, just 24 hours or so. I spent most of my work day chatting hockey with the general manager of a printing company. I was there to press check a print run of seven million digests, but this fellow ran a great shop and so I had nothing to complain about. I attended a Pacific Coast League AAA baseball game. I drank cold beer. I ate catfish po’ boys. Swimming in my own sweat I stared at the green directional signs pointing the way to Memphis, the Sun and Stax studios, blues clubs, barbecue and the Jungle Room, and wished I had more time. Ann added, ‘Put that in your hopper.’

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