Rarely do we possess the prescience to recognize the import of events unfolding. Life comes in bursts of epiphanies. You can mentally prepare for lifestyle-shaking events, but you never really know how you react until you do. For all of the sage advice and cockamamie counsel you may receive, there is nothing to prepare you for the death of a parent, the birth of a child or the deterioration of your favorite band.
This all came to me, as an epiphany, when I was sitting inside the Cannon Center in Memphis listening to and looking at the Raconteurs. Yes, sitting.
The epiphany was this: I’m the old guy sitting in the balcony. Yes, sitting.
This is not a new recognition necessarily. Years ago, my brother and I were at a String Cheese show at Mud Island. The Cheese always seemed to draw a bit younger crowd, aided immensely I’m sure by their dedication to making their shows “all ages” from very early on. But this night seemed to skew even further down the age curve. Neither of us were as intimately familiar with that band’s repertoire as we are with others, so we grabbed a couple of giant draft beers and found a good spot dead center, up toward the top. At one point, I caught my brother surveying the crowd of dancers and hoopers.
He turned to me and said, “You know when we used to see those old guys drinking giant draft beers at Dead shows?”
“Yes,” I laughed.
“We’re those guys.”
The muggy Memphis air parted, and a bright beam of knowledge smacked me in the forehead. An epiphany. He was right. That particular revalation landed me square in my thirties. In chronology, I was almost halfway through.
The night at the Raconteurs landed me in some other place. The epiphany was fueled, in part, by … babysitters. They exist as an entire subset of humans, an entire economy that I didn’t even know existed. I feel like I’ve infiltrated a secret society of some sort, except that it’s costing me ten bucks an hour to peek through the keyhole.
My son Jack has been around long enough that we feel pretty comfortable leaving him with a trusted sitter while we go out for a rock show. Of course, the meter is ticking when we do and I’d be lying if its rolling numbers didn’t pop into my head from time to time during a show. Whereas the younger Tom used to revel in marathon shows that lasted until daylight, today’s Tom occasionally just wants the band to get on with it so I can stop the bleeding.
That’s easy here in Oxford. Getting on with it is mandated by the Board of Baptists…I mean, Board of Alderman. The clubs shut down at midnight on weekdays (except for Thursday, which is ceded to the weekend and becomes one o’clock since Saturday reverts to midnight because at midnight it becomes the “Lord’s Day” unless there’s a Ole Miss home football game in which case it’s one a.m. because if there’s anything that takes precedence over baby Jesus in the South, it’s college football. But that’s a different subject for a different time).
There exists a sense of urgency when you have a defined ending point. It’s an urgency that serves rock ‘n roll well. It also helps my pocketbook. I know how much time and money to budget. For an out-of-town show, I know how much to budget too. It’s just a bigger budget.
So, there I was.
Thinking about money.
Thinking about secret societies of baby sitters.
Thinking about things other than what was going on onstage.
Thinking about thinking.
It’s the greatest skill you can posses to be mindful enough to dig it while it’s happening. But sometimes digging it requires the suspension of thought. And those damn epiphanies are insistent.
So next time out, I’m going to dig on digging it instead of waiting around for one of those pesky revelations to slap me in the forehead, unless it looks like a laser beam spider.