I am, by nature, a practical man, not prone to impulse or extravagance. And so when my friend T.J. recently offered that he had an extra ticket for the Bruce Springsteen show on Sunday, July 27 at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, I begged off, reasoning that I had exploited enough of my wife’s good will on my three-day excursion to Philadelphia a few weeks back.
Exploited, but apparently not exhausted, because when I recounted the story a day later, she said “Springsteen? In New Jersey? With T.J.? You said ‘NO’?”, incredulous that I had passed on the chance to see Him in the Holy Land on what may be the last big go-round for the E Street Band.
Given the green light, I made plans for a surgical strike on the Garden State. Leave Kansas City early Sunday, change planes in Minneapolis (you can’t go direct to anywhere from Kansas City; if you needed to go to Minneapolis, they’d route you through Anchorage), arrive at LaGuardia at 1:59 p.m., show at 7:30. Even if my flight was a couple of hours late, we’d have time to spare! Baby, we were born to run!
The alarm clanged at 5:15 a.m., and I sprang out of bed, caught a quick shower, hit the road and parked at the terminal at 6:02. Got through the gate, grabbed a cup of coffee, and we were airborne an hour later. We touched down in Minnesota (there really are 10,000 lakes; I counted them on the way in) a few minutes before our scheduled 8:26 arrival. Straight out of the jetway, I checked the screen with the day’s departures, found my flight to New York, and saw the two little words that lift the spirits of all travelers. “In Mpls,” I texted T.J., “On time to LAG.” Following LaGuardia info online, he shot back “You’re actually a little early.” This couldn’t be going any better! We’ll have time to drop my stuff off at the house and then stop in at the diner where Tony Soprano stopped believin’ before heading to the Meadowlands. No retreat, baby, no surrender!
A half-full Northwest Airlines flight leaves the gate on schedule, and we hit cruising altitude. I have a row to myself and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay in my hands. I don’t even care that they have Diet Pepsi and not Diet Coke on this plane. I believe in a promised land!
We’re well into a flawless flight, somewhere over Pennsylvania, when the captain comes on and says there’s some bad weather in New York and we may have to hold for a while. No problem, we’ll be a few minutes late. Oh-oh-oh thunder road, oh thunder road, oh thunder road! Then he says “if we hold too long we may have to make an emergency landing to pick up some fuel before heading on in to New York.” Oh. That sounds sort of ominous. Still, suppose we’re even three hours late. We skip the diner, head straight to the stadium, and proceed to rock out with the coolest AARP-eligible band on the planet. Let’s prove it all night!
Then, twenty minutes later, the blow I never saw coming. “Folks, it seems that the weather is such that the entire eastern seaboard is closed for business. The tower has advised us to turn around and head back to Minneapolis.” To . . . where? What? Minneapolis? You sure it wasn’t Annapolis? Really? Oh.
I did the math in my head. I knew. What can I do, what can I say, I don’t wanna fade away.
Two hours later, we hit the runway. I made the requisite vaguely despondent phone calls, and booked a flight that was scheduled to touch down in Kansas City just as Bruce hit the stage in New Jersey.
I called Trip, who is coming out here to see the Boss with me on August 24. “At least we’ll have the show in Kansas City,” he says. “Yeah,” I reply, “it better be one ******** great show.” Sometimes I feel like I’m a rider on a downbound train.