So there we sat. Sweaty. Hunched over. Tired. Sick of each other. It was midnight and it was the last night of a very long family vacation that had started 10 days before.
That night was supposed to be the grand finale of the trip: tickets to U2 in Louisville. It is one of William’s favorite bands and I was shocked to see that they were playing so close to us and on a day that William was already on vacation.
So I had given him the tickets for his birthday back in April and we’d anticipated the night ever since.
The night, however, had taken off in the same way that a very badly constructed paper airplane does. First off, 17-year-old Gabrielle was hot, had a headache and kind of hated her bickering parents, so the evening had started with her offering to stay in the hotel rather than attend the (expensive) concert.
This had resulted in us conducting a conversation with her about pluck and gratitude.
In turn, this established an attitude of reluctance and resentment in our lovely teen, the profundity of which was almost impressive.
So, with the mood already cranky and temperamental, we decided to take an Uber to the concert. I’d planned for this, since our hotel was about 10 miles away from the stadium. Little did I know, though, that Uber has absolutely no qualms in sucking you dry when they have you over a barrel. We arrived at the concert with $67 less in our pockets.
By then, I’m not going to lie, dear readers, I was ready for a beer or, frankly, any type of beverage that could take the edge off. But this was my first experience at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, and I was not prepared for the huge mass of humanity that was now surrounding me.
While guilty of committing 147,000 fashion, tattoo and dye job transgressions, apparently these people were still quite a bit smarter than us. Many were already deep in their cups, not because they’d opted to spring for the $9 Bud Lights on sale, but because they had brought coolers and tailgated for the past several hours in the cars that I was quickly beginning to wish we had brought.
But I got in line. I waited a long time. I spent the money. I reconfirmed that I hate Bud Light.
So we found our seats. And it still wasn’t good, we still weren’t that happy to be together, but the concert was going to be great, wasn’t it? The music was going to bring harmony to our trio. Bono was going to talk to us about peace and love and issues a lot larger than ours and we would be fixed.
Except Gabrielle didn’t want to stand to watch the concert. I was dancing but couldn’t enjoy it because I know I looked how my mom looked when she danced when I was 17. I started looking for other families that looked like they were also having a bad time, to make myself feel better, to remind myself that we weren’t the only ones in the world that are dysfunctional. Except there were no families. There were no teenagers.
So the concert ended. Except now we were faced with exiting along with thousands and thousands of people, who also wanted to get home. We started trudging toward the exit, looking exactly-precisely like extras from “The Walking Dead.”
More than an hour later, our Uber arrived in the parking lot of a random Cracker Barrel whose rocking chairs I was beginning to think would be our beds for the night. The car was an HHR. Our driver was Asrif. He charged us $127.
So finally, finally, we got back to our hotel. The entire (expensive) night had been a complete bust. Gabrielle immediately took a shower and zonked out. I was wound like a top. With what, exactly? Resentment. Over tiredness. Anger. Relief.
And then William went to the Speedway next door and bought a six-pack of West Sixth. We realized there was a glowing pool outside and a picnic table at our very clean, very neat Residence Inn.
We sat at the picnic table and cracked open a beer. It tasted cold and good. I looked up and stars were twinkling so enthusiastically it seemed on purpose. The night was warm and quiet and bug free. Beside us were geraniums and petunias in pots, neat little paths leading to everyone’s suites.
We sat there for an hour and talked about the concert and the trip and about nothing. And about how our carefully planned getaway had turned into National Lampoon’s Vacation minus Christie Brinkley.
It wasn’t perfect. Most times, it wasn’t even nice. But I’ll never forget that night.