Whether you chase jams, a specific song, that butterfly feeling of anticipation that surges through your entire body as you here that two tone "bah-dup" of the ticket scanner; whether it is Page Side, rear of stage behind Fish, crammed to the rail and afraid to even think about anything remotely close to your bladder! All these things have one key ingredient: A ticket. This is what I didn't have.
      Couple all this with an extremely vulnerable feeling of running out of time, a google map estimate of 4 hours and 46 minutes (which does not take into consideration the northern bottle neck of the Gardent State, and the odds are not in my favor. But let's not get ahead of ourselves...
      Hartford's escapades, full on emersion into the greener pastures of GameHendge, planted the seed. What, on paper seemed very straightforward was certainly lacked the real world equivalents epic pace.
      Friday: Full day of work then Hartford Phish. CHECK.
      Saturday AM: Drive 5 perfect strangers to JFK. CHECK.
      Saturday AM: After JFK, Work 9-Noon. CHECK.
      Saturday PM: Drive to Merriweather, get Ticket to Phish. See Show. CHECK.
      Sunday AM: Wake up in DC, drive to Saratoga, find Ticket to Phish. CHECK (I think)
      Sunday PM: Drive Home for Monday AM Work 6:45.
      Total Trip Miles: 1,118 Approx. Travel Time: 22 hours!
      After waking up in McLean VA, late mind you, I double back past last nights debauchery, Merriweather, where nary a ticket could be scavenged, and olympic hurdling followed by a wardrobe change, found me mid lawn, camouflaging myself amongst other innocent concert-goers, and my only chance of scoring a ticket to the last night of tour is to call in a few karmic favors, dial in a hometown friend, purchase a 6 pack of Tecate Beer (that's pronounced Ticket, BTW) and pray that the (tires staying off the line) I might somehow finally, for the first time score myself a miracle...cause, guess what, I spent the last of the cash on a 6 pack of beer and 8.29 gallons of gas.
      Sean, my college buddy, Nyskayuna bred and familiar with the local scene, was my one and only chance to having a ticket waiting for me when I got to Saratoga. Having been to this venue many times, and each time getting lost in the labyrinth of pathways, trails, I never mastered the advanced military tactics of traversing what could be compared to the Vietnam-Cambodia Border.
      Alas, Sean answers his phone after five rings, a lifetime for me to rehearse my babbling incoherent about the necessity of getting into this event, the miles I would have to cover both mentally in recovery of marathon races to the home of the races, with horse power under the hood, equating to the inevitable finish line of the tour, of my life, the quarter horse, pushing past fatigue in the face of all that was holy about...All I hear on the other line is, "okay, I'll see what I can do."
      Now, that phone call was placed in southern Jersey, and between warm sips of my desperation, of bitter warm hope, last ditch effort of "luck juice", my Tecate Beer, my Tecate to the the last hurrah; my trifecta of a weekend, and Garden State traffic, I did everything I could not to think about calling Sean every five minutes and begging to know if he held the winning ticket to the winning horse, or possible the long shot to show!
      I did have a few moments, as it were, nestled in the cock pit of my X WING FIGHTER, sans R2 unit, to reflect upon my young Patowan ways. The medicloreans surging through my blood stream like the warm embrace of mildly bitter beer, warming my brow to a warm sweat, glistening in the high noon heat reflected off NJ Turnpike gray-black asphalt. I was sure that there was some cosmic connection between the hot bite of worn rubber giving way to hours of abuse upon the road way and the scorched brain cells and lost neurons and receptors losing ground as they made passage to numerous sectors of my brain. But this was Phish!
      Next in line, quelling my grimey and purely selfish urge to blow up Sean's phone with numerous text messages implying loosely about the goings-on of the lively Alcohol Free Zone that is SPAC (tee-he-he) and as my text savvy fingers trailed the keys and T9'd, cloaked in my nuance of formidable self-less question and fact finding, I would find a way to purge from him the true information I really wanted: Does he have my mother f'ing ticket! Oh yeah, what stopped me from doing that was the now, borderline, clinical psychological need to map out what songs were going to be played tonight that I was going to get to enjoy!
      LLAMA, for sure, because when we get Llama, first, we could get Gamehendge!
      HARPUA, Certainly a tour-ending Harpua, crouching behind some not-to-far off setlist, waiting to pounce!
      But the urge to look at my phone is too much and my list begins to pail in comparison to the one lingering question: is this going to be a Triple Crown Weekend, or is the luck of Ghost->Psycho Killer and a Plinko Funk, Catapult Icculus, follo, all that Colt has hidden under his Leather saddle! Was the prospect of getting into this show somehow limited due to the far off travels of The Gorge, Shoreline and Red Rocks! Had my streak of even filled concert goings, broken tents, lost in the foot hills of Northern Cali because of trusting a Mountain Pass, just to come out the other side, in Ukiah, hogged down all the fairy dust this Naive young lad had bought wholesale on Lot years ago!
      New York seemed a relief, though many miles still stood between myself and the prospect of parking, let alone figuring out the whole ticket mess. Empire State of mind ensues, and I am a hustler. My eyes dart from license plate to bumper, in hopes of trailing a rowdy bunch of misfits, wrangle them up at a gas station and begin to wax idiotic on the concepts of the fates, musical genius and its abilities to heal and the fact that this wounded soul needed, now more than ever, a band aid of sorts, on that with it's bar coded brilliance would bring about the only chord that really meant anything to me: God Damn It, the two tones that we all longed to hear, well before the opening licks to Carini, or Wilson, or Tweezer, or (insert defining opening lick song here): Bah-Dup!
      I day-dreamt about this, taking it well beyond the simple act of getting a ticket. I imagined one of the people in that group might become a close friend, that (being in the Catskills) we might one day learn to fly fish together; joke about the irony of our meeting in upstate NY, on the eve of the last "Phish" show of the summer, and now here we are...
      Anyway, just above Albany and everyone on this road, in my mind is racing to get to the lot, to seek out my ticket. Yes, now maniacal, tantalized by the prospects of what I now conceived was the Ring of Saron, my precious. And what better place to reclaim my prize but the middle earth of my Formative Years, Upstate New York. Each person around me is my foe, is a possible diversion to the only goal; that Ticket. Wait...wait wait, wait wait wait wwwwwait! "Matt!" I say aloud to myself, "Matt, there is no karmic way possible that hating is going to bring about a positive result to all of this seeming tom-foolery, liquid oozing swimming of my brain, eyes, arms, armpits, elbows, triceps, biceps, quads, all fatigued, all sore and bilking me of the last throws of Energy being brought into my self via my life drink, Tecate Beer!"
      I regroup, and am literally baptized, thrust to reality, and alerted to the torrent of rain that appears as a blanket, or sheet, that I enter into; brake lights and flashers screaming from the rear ends of every car that I can see, as visibility decreased to a mere car length! In this baptism, quiet calm of ethereal bliss filled IT moment, I calmed myself for a moment to understand that the mere act of getting in would be so eternally bitter sweet (oh, add that to the set list) and anti-climatic. I95 to NJ Turnpike to I87 from the hellish freeways (I missed that cue) of the Northeast corridor, to the last Sunday of tour, to make penance with my church one last time, amidst a crowd of sinners, a sinner amongst other mortals, we were all here for the same baked down, purest reasons! To see the band we love! Even if we have to listen as the notes trail through the trees to the other side of that god awful fence!
      I park somewhere near a pool, and after collecting my items; license, $5 Bill found stuck to the bottom of the inside of my bag, two Tecate beers, I seek out Sean. Service was very poor and each clearing brought only more comical re-creations of Verizon commercials with that Glass wearing spokesperson! I crossed the bridge over to Shakedown, aware that somewhere in this sea of people was Sean, and the prospects of my Golden Ticket.
      Sean's friend, who did not believe in motorized transportation was pedaling in from miles outside of town, this person, "Mary" would have an additional ticket for me. Her price was unknown, and at this point I began to take a mental inventory of my possessions, including myself, what ever, how ever I had to sell, in order to procure this thin card stock bar coded modern marvel; oh how a simple piece of paper, worthless tomorrow, yesterday, and holding value for a mere wrinkle in time, only tonight, at this particular place in existence could it cause such heartache and misery. But the sojourn was not over. My saving "Grace" was en route, maybe?! She was heading to the venue, possibly!? She was on a bike, definitely! She was only connected to the grid via cell phone, and here, that is about as accesible as being able to "wire" someone but not knowing Morse Code!
      I took a second mental recap, this time of my successes so far; Uneventful (for all intensive purposes) car ride; mental stability (one could argue this either way); the clothing on my back (still up for debate, not sure how much this ticket will be); car keys; license; $5 Bill (wow, I am way ahead). I find a spot, near the reflection pond, a sweet spot, and from here I make "the call!" "Sweet Caroline" as she is now being referred is on a bicycle, with a basket, and riding through the parking lot! There is a ticket, nestled in her basket, and the ticket is mine. I just need to find her.
      I appear as a mad man, scavenging through the parking lot, as if looking for a girl named Molly, and screaming it aloud: and not realizing the laughs I am getting, or why everyone thinks this is so funny! I double back to the far side of the venue, past that very narrow stretch along the fence, that brings one to the handicap and VIP parking. I am half jogging, half walking, half floating. As I reach the end of the line, and spill out to the parking lot, a glow of light peaks from behind a cloud, and with Lyres playing in the soundtrack sector of my mind, "Suzy" is here with her basket, and bicycle, and what could be, in just a few minutes (cause I am not that good) my ticket. As she swings her legs over the side of the bike and comes careening off the bike seat, hands still firmly grasping the handle bars, I pray she doesn't meet with some untimely accident that incapacitates this transaction from taking place. The mail order ticket is easily viewed at the bottom of the wicker basket adorning her Old School Schwin. "Sally" sneaks a glance down, then at me, then before she dips away to the fenced lined alley, she hands my the ticket and says, "here you go!"
      A hug, she just wanted a hug, and to know that I would enjoy myself tonight. As I began to cry, exhaustion, fatigue, cosmic spanking of sorts, I reach out my arms for the best hug, up until that point in my life, that I had extended another human being. As quickly as she came into my life, "Reba" spun off and left me wondering what, at final last, to do!
      The miracle of the day, it's energy pent up, was at epic proportions, and as the "bah-dup" sung from that ticket scanner, and my feet crossed the threshold, the sky finally gave in, and lightning strikes and rumbling thunder cracks, riddled the state park, everyone who was on the lawn, scattered for cover as torrential rain fell for about ten minutes. I was soaked, I was smiling, and I was inside my sunday church, about to embark on one last mass, channeling the energy of the weekend, of the summer, of my existence. As the frenetic energy of Llama set in, the show crescendoed at a very poignant, "look, the Storms gone!" line from Harpua. But as the boys came out for the encore, I promise you, no one felt more in the moment, as they absolutely destroyed HIghway to Hell. It wasn't irony, it was art imitating life, it was my life, and it all felt encapsulated in this brief moment where I could stand in between the music, and lost in it's sound waves, be transformed to oblivion, afloat over the crowd, to be dispersed in the quiet of the night, cast home, smiling!
      (Post Note: I get to my car, turn the radio on, and playing over some local radio is Hold Your Head Up! No lie)

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