Old Man Lying by the Side of the Stage

An aging rock fan sticks around for the encore

| May-June 2011

Outside the 9:30 Club it’s almost 9:45 and I’m still more than 20 Phishheads from the doors—and more than 30 years too late. The only thing adolescent about me now is that I feel excruciatingly exposed standing in the long line of college students waiting in a freezing drizzle in a dreary D.C. neighborhood to see what I had assumed was an obscure jazz band called Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Apparently I’m not the only one unprepared for the cold and the crowd; the guy behind me, who seems to be working on a here’s-what-Bob-Marley-would-look-like-if-he-were-a-young-middle-class-white-kid-from-Fairfax-Virginia look, seems to be losing his groove.

“What is the friggin’ hang-up, man? I mean, shit, how long could it take to grab someone’s money and stamp someone’s friggin’ hand?”

I’m wondering the same thing along with wondering what my teenage line mates must think of me, a guy clearly old enough to be their father, even if I feel like I’m doing a fairly convincing version of here’s-what-Cat-Stevens-might-look-like-if-he-had-not-turned-into-Yusuf-Islam-but-instead-were-a-Jewish-guy-in-his-early-50s-who-had-gained-some-weight-and-lost-some-hair. The way some of these kids are staring at me makes me worry that they think I’m a narc, which is odd, since I’m feeling more like an addict in search of a fix. How else to explain why I’m shivering on this street corner, rocking back and forth, checking my watch, rather than enjoying the thermostat-controlled heat of my hotel room where I could have ordered room service, taken a bath, and then watched TV before going to sleep at a reasonable hour so that I’d be ready for my 9 a.m. breakfast meeting?

Fifteen minutes later, we find out what’s been taking so long: In between the ticket-taking and hand-stamping, the bouncer is doing some serious ID-studying. And, I now realize, with good reason: The show is 21 and over and, even if we take my 50-plus years into account, the average age is still decidedly 20 and under. Just as I finally get to the front of the line, a bouncer comes out of the club, walks a few steps past me, cups his hands around his mouth and yells, “This show is sold out!” The little white suburban Bob Marley groans and starts to flip out: “Sold out? What the . . . !” The bouncer turns to the ticket seller, holds up four fingers, and says: “Just let in four more and that’s it.”



Given that I appear to be one of the only people in line without a fake ID, I expect to be waved right in. But out of some sense of fairness or protocol, the ticket seller asks to see my license. As he scans it, I squirm from the awkwardness of being carded by a guy who is probably not much older than my daughters. When I look up, I can see from his frown that I’ve pushed him to a new territory or at least into New Math, and I’m certain I can read his thoughts: “2009 minus 1953. Damn, this guy is old!