Saturday, August 6, 2011


Great American Ballpark
The last time Paul McCartney played Cincinnati was 18 years ago.  I was there.  I was 23 and dating a guy I wouldn't see again after 1994.  (I secretly hope he's fat and miserable -- not that I'm bitter.)  I went with Uncle Chester and a friend's preteen daughter.  Fast forward to 2011.  That preteen girl just had her second baby and I went to see Sir Paul with my own two kids and Uncle Chester, plus a husband I hadn't even met in 1993.  (Truth be told, The Vulcan was still married to his first wife at the time, so he would have been useless to me anyway.) 

Great American Ball Park was filled to capacity on August 4, somewhere in the neighborhood of 40,000 fans packing into the stadium.  We were in the nosebleed seats, which was fine since I knew from experience Paul would have huge video monitors.  Perhaps the worst part was actually getting to our seats.  We went up so many ramps I really expected to find St. Peter and the Pearly Gates at the top (and I was praying he'd have a Diet Coke on him).  The clincher was the huge, steep flight of stairs we had to climb to get to row U.  U, as in unbearably high up in the stands.  Twice I took Foghorn to the bathroom before the concert began, fearing her corn kernel-sized bladder wouldn't make it through the whole show.  On the other hand, Chester declared, while gasping for breath, "I'll let my bladder pop before I come up those stairs again."

The boats starting to gather for a free concert.

We've been in the midst of a heat wave, almost breaking a record with our 15 straight days of 90+ temperatures and Cincinnati's usual high humidity.  God must love Paul because the humidity broke just enough to make it hot but bearable by the scheduled 8 p.m. start time.  It was a beautiful night and we had a view of the river with boats parking close to the stadium to take in a free concert.  To keep us entertained while waiting, the two huge vertical screens on either side of the stage scrolled images while Paul's tunes blasted from the speakers.  Foghorn was content enough at the time, slurping an ice ball and munching from a giant bag of popcorn.  To kill time I got out my knitting, much to The Vulcan's dismay.  I probably would have left the needles in my tote, since I'm not much for yarn on my lap on a hot day, but The Vulcan made the mistake of telling me I'd look silly, so what could I do but torment him by making a big show of working on my dishcloth-in-progress.  (I kept telling him it was a "dick cozy" and threatening to make him stand so he could try it on for size.)

Foghorn and The Vulcan.

Uncle Chester and The Professor.

Foghorn and her popcorn.

Just before the concert's start time our nemesis arrived.  Actually, there were two of them.  They were in their 20s, dark haired and abnormally tan, even for summer.  The one in mint green sat right in front of Chester, the one in lavender stripes to her friend's right. Minutes after arriving, I smelled cigarette smoke.  A little note for those folks not from around here:  Ohio has a smoking ban.  You can't smoke in restaurants, bars, or within 30 feet of a business entrance (ensuring a pile of cig butts 30'1" from every door).  There were signs everywhere within the stadium that the joint was smoke-free and notices crawled along the lighted signs around the stadium, along with warnings against lewd behavior and sitting in someone else's seat.

Minty apparently didn't get the message.  Actually, I know she did get the message because she didn't smoke openly.  She had the cigarette hidden in her cupped hand and would bend over to take a pull, then blow it out in front of her so that it wafted back in my children's faces.  I was not happy.  More dangerously, neither was Chester.  For that matter, neither was a woman directly behind Chester who shouted, "There's no smoking!" and eventually went to tell security.  The woman returned but security did not.  Minty was soon seen wetting the end of her cigarette with a spit-dampened finger and sliding the rest of the cigarette back in her pack.  Chester said we'd let it go, since the concert was about to start.  "But," she added ominously, "once the show starts if she does it again I'm gonna shove that thing up her ass."

Sir Paul.
Tempers cooled while waiting for a concert that was 20 minutes late starting.  I don't blame Paul.  At 8:10, people were literally just taking their seats in front of us.  I suspect they were waiting until the last second so they could have one final cigarette.  Finally Paul appeared on stage, nattily dressed in a bright red blazer he said was in honor of the Cincinnati Reds and looking considerably younger than his 69 years.  I should be so well preserved.  As the concert progressed it was astonishing not just how young he looked but how young he acted.  He performed a full 2-1/2 hours with no breaks, with full energy and enthusiasm.  This was the last show on his summer tour and one might think he'd be dragging by this time, perhaps just going through the motions.  No way.  He gave 100% and is such an incredible showman.  He knows his stuff.  He's charming and witty and likable and still the "Cute Beatle" nearly 50 years after the British Invasion.  He can work a crowd like few others. 

The setlist had a wide range, from Beatles classics to Wings and into his later solo work.  The vertical screens ensured close up views of Paul and his band members.  (I'm particularly fond of the drummer, who's not only a great musician but a totally fun personality to watch.)  A horizontal screen behind the band added to the songs with visuals ranging from jets (for, obviously, "Jet") to scenes from A Hard Day's Night to a montage of famous and inspiring women for "Let 'Em In."  Paul paid homage to his departed band mates by performing "Here Today" in honor of John and George's "Something" on, of all things, ukelele.  (A touching note is that it was a ukelele George had given him.)  Of special interest to The Inmates was "Helter Skelter," which they frequently sing as "Pester Chester." 

On a personal note I will say I hope Paul doesn't stop performing.  He obviously loves to do it.  And he's so damn good at it.  By the same token, it's not lost on me that the youngest living Beatle is almost a septuagenarian and touring is grueling for the youngest of men.  It was important to me to be there for this concert, just in case it was his last in Cincinnati.  I even sprung for the $30 program, just in case...

"Live and Let Die"

Now back to the bitches.  A couple songs into the show, Lavender Zebra decided to light up.  I see Chester lean down to her and say something.  The girl immediately snarls, "Do you mind?", to which Chester responded, "The whole damn section minds."  The man next to her gave an enthusiastic nod of his head.  Chester then informed her that they had already been reported once, to which she snapped, "Fine, I've already put the f*cking thing out."  Chester came back with, "Well, f*ck you."  Lavender Zebra then made the mistake of turning around several times and giving Chester a glare.  About the fourth time I saw the girl literally do a triple take.  I then realized Chester was sitting there with her middle finger pressed against her nose and looking right at the Zebra. 

Things calmed down...briefly.  Then Minty decided to light up again.  It was then that I passed the remains of Foghorn's popcorn down to Chester and she spent the next several songs quietly flicking oily bits of popcorn into the ladies' heavily gelled hair.  It's amazing pigeons didn't swoop down for a snack.  Chester's work was made easier by the fact that Minty frequently tilted her head back to chug her beer, practically putting her hair in my sister's lap. 

In John's honor, Paul went into his rendition of "Give Peace a Chance" following "A Day in the Life."  The whole crowd got into the act, singing along, "All we are give peace a chance."  Chester said, "Aw, f*ck that," and began tossing little pieces of my chewing gum into the bimbos' hair with great delight.

All might have died down if Minty had not chosen to flick her Bic that third time.  I was loudly saying to Chester, "I don't believe it!  That b*tch is smoking again," for Minty's benefit, when suddenly a big piece of something came flying down over our heads and hit her on the shoulder.  I turned to see the ladies behind Chester yelling about the girl's smoking.  I gave them a thumb's up and another piece of garbage flew down on Minty.  "Quite throwing sh*t at me!" she bellowed.  "Put your damn cigarette out!", came the reply from behind us.  A verbal tennis match went back and forth and a little more garbage was thrown at the smoker before one lady had enough and headed off for security.  On her way she informed me that she was a smoker herself, but she knew she couldn't smoke here and this girl was just disrespectful.  Figuring I had allies around me, I threw a large piece of popcorn that smacked Minty right in the temple.  She whirled around, saying "who did that?", but I put on my best poker face and watched Sir Paul.  Soon the lady returned with a policeman and I gleefully motioned to the chimneys in front of us.  The cop came down our row and I said to him, "It's that one in green and that one in lavender."  He got them by the shoulders and gave them a firm talking to.  As he turned to leave he stepped on Chester's foot and she nearly let out a howl, but caught herself for fear the gum would fly out of her mouth and land on him.

The ladies were fairly pissed by now and decided to stand through the next couple songs and shake their butts and block the view of everybody behind them.  By this time the main part of the concert was nearly at an end (with two encores still to come) and Foghorn was in tears because she claimed she had to go to the bathroom.  Chester wanted to see "Live and Let Die," complete with fireworks, but once that song ended, she took Foghorn to the bathroom and said they'd just stay down there rather than fight those stairs again.  That allowed The Professor and me to slide down a couple seats and we didn't have the bimbos' shaking behinds blocking The Professor's view.  I had been sitting with a glob of my homemade lip balm in my hand, looking for an opportunity to smear it on one of the ladies.  As we were changing seats I managed to fling a big dollop of it on Minty's back, where it stuck and looked like someone had sneezed on her.

The rest of the concert was thoroughly pleasant, even more so when the bimbos left before the last encore and I didn't even have to have their skinny butts in my peripheral vision.  Paul finished the evening with "Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End".  I looked over to see The Professor completely in tears.  He tends to be sensitive, with certain songs being completely banned in his presence, but I wasn't aware that these were on the list.  When I asked what was wrong he wailed, "I don't even know!"  I prayed a cop didn't come and ask what was wrong.  One of The Professor's defining characteristics is total honesty.  Honesty to a fault.  I truly thought if he were asked by law enforcement why he was crying he'd blurt out, "Because my mother and aunt put gum and food in some ladies' hair!"  Thankfully, nobody asked him.  Then again, at one point he saw the gum in Chester's hand and asked what she was doing.  I whispered, "We're up to mischief.  I'll tell you in the car," to which he waved his hand at me and said, "No, please don't."  I think he wanted what politicians are so fond of -- plausible deniability. 



Anonymous said...

I think I'd have been with the Professor - sentimental about the songs and not wanting to know some of the other details.

Kathie said...

I love it! And what was Bill doing all this time you and Nancy were acting up, lol?

Amy said...

Such a great account. It was nice to relive it. We were on the floor where no one sat all night and that breeze you mentioned did not penetrate the thousands of people packed in like a subway at quitting time. But Sir Paul was amazing and cute and I knew all the words to every song. And the only smoke we smelled was an occasional whiff of marijuana which took me back to my younger days. Such a great night, thanks for posting.