RichardDaub.com, February 2021
“So, let me get this straight,” said Carl’s mother, raspy voice, seated at the kitchen table, bags under her eyes, wearing an uncomfortably short pink silk robe, lighting a Kent cigarette, sipping a Bartles & Jaymes peach-raspberry wine cooler. “I’m supposed to pick up two fifteen-year-old boys on Hempstead Turnpike in Uniondale at eleven o’clock at night—”
“Eleven-thirtyish, maybe midnight,” Carl said.
“After seeing this ‘Pink Floyd’—”
“They’re from your generation—”
“I’ll have to think about it,” she said, exhaling, sipping—
“No! It will sell out! We have to call Ticketron now!”
“Maybe I should ask Rick—”
“Ask Rick what?” asked Rick—Carl’s stepfather, “The Dick”—materializing from behind the short hallway leading from their first-floor bedroom suite, empty rock glass in hand, freshly lit Kent dangling beneath his Burt Reynolds mustache, wearing only a pair of tight white terry cloth shorts, headed towards the cabinet for a refill of Johnnie Walker Red—
“He wants to see this Pink Floyd concert at Nassau Coliseum.”
“Pink Floyd? Never heard of him.”
Rick listened to country music, his favorites being Kenny Rogers, the Oak Ridge Boys, and Eddie Rabbitt “The Brooklyn Cowboy”, and his all-time favorite song was Shelly West’s “Jose Cuervo”, a ditty about getting drunk, kissing cowboys, and shooting out lights, which he would sing along to and think he was being funny—
“As long as he’s paying for it, then it’s fine with me,” he said, pouring his Scotch.
“Yep. As long as he’s paying for it.”
“I am,” Carl said.
“Then it’s fine with me,” Rick said, taking his refilled glass back towards their bedroom. “Come on, babe.”
“I don’t really feel comfortable with it, but alright,” she said, then followed her husband back into the bedroom with a fresh wine cooler and a pack of Kents from the carton stashed in the kitchen cabinet next to the five-pound bag of peanut M&M’s—
* * *
It was a beautiful late-summer’s eve. Eric’s mother dropped them off in the shoulder of Hempstead Turnpike in front of the Coliseum. The parking lot was alight with tailgaters, many openly passing joints, which irritated Eric. Their old health teacher, Mr. Gambaro, had showed a black & white anti-reefer film reel depicting marijuana as a dangerous, highly addictive narcotic, and that one reefer cigarette did as much damage to your lungs as 40 tobacco cigarettes, and killed as many brain cells as a dozen bottles of whiskey, and that long-term use was a one-way ticket to the sanitarium, or, at the very least, prison. In one part of the film, there was footage showing beatniks being clubbed with nightsticks by police officers outside Café Wha? for sparking a jay on MacDougal Street. Eric must have really bought into this film because he was adamantly opposed to marijuana and Greenwich Village—
There were signs everywhere alerting ticketholders that the concert was being filmed and recorded, the contents to be packaged as a double-live LP CD and feature-length concert film titled Delicate Sound of Thunder. This was the first time the Floyd had played the Coliseum in eight years, the last time being their famous performances of The Wall in 1980, except now they were without bassist and lyricist Roger Waters, who’d left the band in 1982. Guitarist David Gilmour and drummer Nick Mason were now calling the shots and had brought back, as a hired hand, keyboardist Richard Wright, who’d been fired during the recording of The Wall. They recorded a new album, A Momentary Lapse of Reason, which was still being debated by the different camps as to whether it was a “real” Pink Floyd album, or just a glorified David Gilmour solo project with an army of session players.
After passing through the turnstiles, Eric insisted they first walk the concourse to look at the t-shirts at every different vendor. Carl bought the first one he saw, a black one depicting the signature Pink Floyd circular film screen surrounded by laser beams, and, above the graphic, PINK FLOYD in tall red letters, and the tour dates on the back, which, according to Eric, was a must. Finally, after visiting every t-shirt stand in the arena and finding the same exact merchandise at each one, Eric picked a black one with a giant pink pig on it shooting rainbow prism dispersions from its diamond eyes, one that Carl thought looked kind of gay, but he didn’t say anything.
Finally, passing through the tunnel, they entered the arena fogged with marijuana and cigarette smoke, Eric mock-coughing to show his displeasure—
“Don’t breathe,” he said.
Carl took a deep breath and held it—
“Fucking loser,” Eric said.
Their seats were in the very last row of the floor, towards the back of the hockey rink, in front of the band’s control booth. High in the rafters were hung the Islanders’ four Stanley Cup banners, and also a banner in the team’s orange and blue colors for Billy Joel, the King of Long Island, who’d sold out a thousand concerts here, yet the locals still couldn’t get enough.
Shortly after sitting down, Carl saw, in the aisle at the end of the row, a man with long unkempt hair and a long ratty beard, in his 40s or so, wearing soiled jeans with holes and a t-shirt from the 1977 Animals/In the Flesh tour, also with holes, spinning in the aisle, and nearly falling several times. Then he stopped, and, quite casually, picked up a nearby folding chair and struck a man in the back of the head with it who did nothing more than walk past him. Carl expected a fight to break out, but the guy who got hit just kept walking and didn’t even turn around—
“Holy shit!” Carl exclaimed. “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Eric asked.
“That guy just hit some other guy in the head with a chair!”
“Right there, at the end of the row!”
“What the fuck are you talking about?”
Carl turned back around, but neither the bearded guy, nor his victim, were anywhere in sight. Then he felt lightheaded—
“Never mind,” he heard himself say, then wasn’t sure if he’d actually said it—
“I told you not to breathe, dumbass,” Eric said.
Motionless, they stared at the stage, where dozens of people were working. There was no sign of Gilmour, Mason, or Wright. Neither said a word for fifteen minutes.
Finally, the house lights dimmed, as Richard Wright fingered a prolonged G minor on his organ, the opening to “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”. Seated to Carl’s left, with an empty seat between, was a group of older people about his parents’ age, who lit a joint. Carl heard Eric say, “Assholes,” but he sounded far away. Carl, who’d never smoked pot before, observed them inhaling and then holding it for as long as they could before exhaling, then practiced it himself, breathing in slow and deep, holding it, and exhaling slowly, thinking he could probably do it without embarrassing himself, should the opportunity arise—
After the guy nearest him took a hit, he looked at Carl, then offered it across the vacant seat. Carl accepted, pinching it tight, raising it to his lips but not touching them with it, inhaling slowly, gently, canoeing it slightly, but the guy didn’t seem to care when he passed it back. He held the smoke in his lungs as long as he could, then exhaled an impressive plume towards the rafters—
“Fucking loser,” he heard Eric say, now sounding even further away—
Every couple of minutes the guy passed it again, and eventually Carl abandoned Eric and slid to the seat closer to them. One of the women in their group kept pulling joints from her handbag and lighting them, and soon there were several going at once and Carl couldn’t keep up.
After twelve minutes of “Shine On You Crazy Diamond”, the rest of the first set was stuff from the new album, closing with “On the Turning Away”, a song protesting societal apathy towards the pale and downtrodden, but featuring a signature David Gilmour guitar solo that energized the crowd before intermission—
They broke out the old stuff in the second set, opening with 1971’s “One of These Days (I’m going to cut you into little pieces)”, followed by “Time”, “On the Run”, and “The Great Gig in the Sky”, from 1973’s Dark Side of the Moon. Then, from 1975’s Wish You Were Here, they played “Wish You Were Here” and “Welcome to the Machine”, then went back to Dark Side with “Us and Them” and “Money”—the latter being both Carl and Eric’s least favorite song on that album, prompting Carl to suggest they look for better seats, like he and his father used to do at the end of Met games at Shea after sitting up in the nosebleeds for seven innings.
The main concourse was quiet, the only signs of life being the people working the concession and souvenir stands. They headed in the general direction of the stage, eventually cutting into one of the tunnels and winding up at a spot overlooking the side of it, much closer than they were at the back of the floor. Just below, the sexy backup singers were “oohing” and “aaahing” at the end of the extended “Money” jam, followed by “Another Brick in the Wall (Part II)”, then the finale, “Comfortably Numb”, featuring Gilmour’s majestic guitar solo, accompanied by indoor fireworks, during which, Carl, in the light of the explosions, spied, about ten feet away, the bearded guy from earlier, and he was still spinning, only now he had a syringe with a long needle pointed towards the rafters. He looked at Carl and gave him a big toothless smile, then pressed the plunger just as the lights started strobing. Frame-by-frame, Carl saw a string of fluid arcing towards him against the backdrop of Stanley Cup banners, slowly getting closer, until it struck him in the right eye—
“Argh!” he exclaimed.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” Eric shouted over the music.
“He got me in the eye!”
“That guy with the beard over there!”
The guy was gone. Carl felt the area around his right eye and there was no sign of moisture, and his vision was normal—
“Never mind,” he said.
“What the hell is wrong with you, loser?”
At the end of the song, the house lights came on, and the crowd gave a standing ovation. The band waved and left the stage. Carl was ready to go, but Eric said they had to stay for the encore—
“My mother might be waiting out there,” Carl said.
“Who the fuck cares.”
They spent the next five minutes not looking at each other. Finally, the house went dark again, and the band came back out. Carl stared at Nick Mason taking a seat behind the drum kit. They played “One Slip” from the new album, then “Run Like Hell” from The Wall.
Because they were next to the tunnel, they had a step on the crowd when the house lights were turned back on. Carl established a quick pace across the concourse and out of the building, then over the expanse of the quiet parking lot, well ahead of Eric. Just beyond the fence, a long line of running cars waited for concertgoers on the shoulder of Hempstead Turnpike, while hustlers were selling unlicensed t-shirts for five bucks each, or 3-for-$10, some looking cooler than the official $20 shirts inside, but none having the tour dates on the back, which is what Eric kept checking for—
“Hold on,” Eric said, looking at the shirts.
“Let’s go!” Carl yelled.
“What the hell is your problem, loser?”
“My mother’s waiting!”
Finally, Carl spotted her car way down the line and started walking swiftly towards it, not looking back at Eric.
“How was the concert, boys?” she asked when they were climbing in, a Kent between her fingers and the cabin filled with smoke, Eric again fake-coughing to show his displeasure—
“Why do you have to smoke in the car?” Carl barked.
“Sorry,” she said. “I know your friend doesn’t like it.”
“Neither do I!”
As they pulled away, Carl tuned the radio to WBAB, Long Island’s rock station, which was playing back the songs that the Floyd had just played at the show. Not a word was spoken, nor Kent smoked, the rest of the way back to Massapequa, until Carl’s mother pulled into the driveway at Eric’s house and said good-night to him as he was getting out of the car. Eric, though, did not respond, no good-bye, no thank you—
Carl heard the power-window motor, but did not look—
“You’re welcome,” she called out the open window, her voice echoing against the garage door. Eric flinched, but did not stop or look back on his way into the house—
Neither Carl nor his mother said a word the rest of the way home.
In the kitchen, The Dick, shirtless, sitting at the table smoking a Kent, bottle of Johnnie Walker Red and an empty rock glass in front of him, asked, “How was the concert?”
Carl continued past the table without answering or looking at him— ▪