Handing over the keys to the Purple People Eater

It was the weekend before Memorial Day weekend in 2002. I had joined a beach house on Long Beach Island on the Jersey Shore, and it dawned upon me that I might need some sort of vehicle to transport me to LBI, among other things.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

The Purple People Eater, after one last car wash.

After what looked to be a fruitless day of car shopping, I stopped at one last lot and, buried behind cars that were way above and beyond my means (BMW, Audi, Mercedes), I spotted a 1997 Honda Accord.

The good news: The car was exactly what I was looking for. Hondas are reliable stalwarts, and I was looking for something 1997 or newer, because insurance was cheaper for cars of that age at the time. And it was within my price range, or, more accurately, at the very top of my price range. The bad news: It was purple (really dark purple, not Grape Ape purple, but still purple), with gold trim.

However, when shopping for used cars, you have to make sacrifices, so, despite the fact that the gold trim made me want to hurl all over the hood, I drove the 1997 Honda Accord home to Hoboken that day, and it remained with me until Martin Luther King Jr. Day of this year, when I finally traded it in.

All relationships have their highlights and lowlights, and my relationship with the Purple People Eater was no exception. So, without further ado:

The good:

  • The Accord got me down to LBI for several summers, where, among other things, I relaxed on the beach, drank until I forgot how much I hated the planet, met several people who are now close friends, and got to know the future Mrs. 9.
  • The Accord was also my primary mode of transportation to Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center, former home of the New Jersey Nets, during the glorious run with Jason Kidd that included consecutive trips to the NBA Finals.
  • And the Accord got myself and several teammates to many Bar None and Big Easy football games. We won the championship of our league in 1996, before the Accord was even born, but we had a successful and fun run, with multiple playoff victories, and the Purple People Eater carried many of us to Randall’s Island, or Grand Street and the FDR Drive, and to the bar afterward for wings and liquid refreshments (only two for me, thanks, I have to drive, and NO shots!).
  • The Accord was part of many a tailgate in the Giants Stadium parking lot prior to glorious shows by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and other shows at other venues, including my favorite band, Rush, at the PNC Bank Arts Center and Jones Beach (most uncomfortable, hottest show I’ve ever sat through).

The bad:

  • The brakes on the Accord always sucked, no matter how many times I had them adjusted, and how many different mechanics looked at them. Even though I drove the car for 11 years, I never got used to that nervous feeling whenever I had to stop quickly. And I feel bad for people who were passengers in other cars I drove, because years of having to push down as hard as humanly possible on the Accord’s brakes constantly caused me to slam on the brakes of other cars and send everything within those cars spiraling forward.
  • This was obviously not the fault of the car (or of the driver, I might add), but back in 2008, the Accord met Pothole-Zilla, and the Accord lost, badly, to the tune of two new tires, a new radiator, a new radiator cap, two new hoses, and more than $800 of hard-earned Benjamins.
  • The following year, my transmission died, and I have been driving on a rebuilt transmission since. It worked fine, for the most part, except that I was strongly advised to let the oil temperature rise for a few minutes before driving the car, and I have the same patience level as most native New Yorkers, which is basically zero.
  • The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    The gold H. Many have perished in pursuit of it.

    Around the same time, I noticed a spot on the roof where the paint had begun to wear away. Over the next few months, this spot began to spread like an STD through a Hoboken bar, to the point where I feared that the roof would rust over and cave in one day. While I love convertibles, this wasn’t quite what I had in mind. So, in the interest of selling or trading in the car somewhere down the line, I spent about $2,000 on a complete repainting and detailing. The only good thing to come out of it was that part of the process included removing the God-forsaken gold trim and replacing it with a traditional chrome trim that made the car much less of an eyesore. I kept the gold H from the grill as a souvenir, and I may mount it on a gold rope chain one day so I can sport my very own hip-hop necklace.

  • The motor that drives the power windows needed replacing. The windows would go down, but I would have to jiggle the switch hundreds of times until something connected and the windows would roll back up.
  • The controls for the air conditioning/heating and defroster only worked if you punched the console Arthur Fonzarelli-style, and even then, only about one-half of the time.
  • And just in case I had any lingering doubts as to whether I was making the right move, when I started the Accord for the final time to drive it to the dealership and turn it in, I noticed that only one headlight was working due to a short.

While it was definitely time to part ways with the Purple People Eater, I had a lot of good memories with the car, and I will definitely miss it. I am now driving a dark grey 2010 Nissan Rogue, and I am sure I will grow to love this car, too. It’s in great condition, and it’s a lot of fun to drive, and I hope the memories I will create with the Rogue match up with those from the Accord, although that’s a pretty tall task.

Farewell, Purple People Eater, and thank you for the companionship and a job well done (for the most part).

Not the farewell I expected

I saw the last concert ever at Giants Stadium by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band last night, and I was a little disappointed. It was far from a bad show. I’ve never left a Springsteen show feeling cheated or unsatisfied. I just didn’t love the set list and thought many very necessary songs were left unplayed. I guess I was spoiled by my favorite concert of all-time, by the very same band in the very same location, last summer.

Even Backstreets, the fan site for Bruce junkies, pretty much agrees with me: “Closing night seemed to break very little new ground, however. The set list was a near carbon copy of the previous Saturday’s show, including the reprise performance of the Born in the USA album. The crowd certainly brought the noise, as exhorted by Bruce to do so, and the band’s performance was excellent, but as a whole, the show seemed to fall short of the heights that closing night in Jersey has brought in the past.”

The July 31, 2008, show was absolutely unreal, and there will never be another one like it. But last night’s didn’t even come close. If you would have told me that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band would play their final show at Giants Stadium and not play Rosalita, Jungleland, Thunder Road, Candy’s Room, Backstreets, Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Prove It All Night or Two Hearts, I’d have probably laughed at you. I didn’t expect all of those songs, but I certainly didn’t expect none of those songs.

And while music is certainly a matter of opinion and there is no right and wrong, I’ve never been a fan of some of the songs that were played last night. Seven Nights to Rock does nothing for me. American Land is a great song, but it’s run its course. Kitty’s Back is a fantastic classic, but I would have gladly sacrificed it for one of the songs mentioned above, or two, since Kitty’s Back is well over 10 minutes long. And while I’m not a huge Rolling Stones fan and the theme of the song was appropriate for the evening, I could have done without The Last Time.

And in the, “If It’s on the Internet, It MUST Be True” department, none of the rumors being bandied about came to fruition. I read in various places that the band applied for a special permit to extend the show to 1 a.m., yet I was actually sitting on my couch watching the end of the Red Sox-Angels game minutes after midnight. And I read about special guests including Jon Bon Jovi, Mick Jagger, Elton John and Bono, yet the closest thing to a special guest was Max Weinberg’s son, Jay, playing the drums during Born to Run (and doing a stellar job, much as he did when he played the entire show at the IZOD Center a few months ago).

On a more positive note, seeing Jersey Girl live is always special, although I think 70,000 people were shocked to find out it was the last song. I love Wrecking Ball, the tribute to Giants Stadium, and sincerely hope they release a recording of it so I don’t have to rely on a bootleg. Spirit in the Night was awesome, and Tougher than the Rest was a nice surprise.

Don’t get me wrong: I am NOT bashing the band. As I said earlier, the effort and the performance last night were still fantastic, and I still believe they are, by far, the best live band around. And while I will probably not to go either of the November shows at Madison Square Garden for various reasons, many of them involving my dwindling bank account, I will definitely see them the next time they come around, although they are allegedly taking a two-year hiatus from touring. I just expected to close Giants Stadium out with an all-time epic classic show, and not an “average” Springsteen show, even though an average Springsteen show is still better than most other artists’ best shows.

Bring on your wrecking ball.

Last night’s set list:
Wrecking Ball (with Curt Ramm)
Badlands
Spirit in the Night
Outlaw Pete
Hungry Heart
Working on a Dream
Born in the USA
Cover Me
Darlington County
Working on the Highway
Downbound Train
I’m on Fire
No Surrender
Bobby Jean
I’m Goin’ Down
Glory Days
Dancing in the Dark
My Hometown
Tougher Than the Rest
The Promised Land
Last to Die (with Curt Ramm)
Long Walk Home
The Rising
Born to Run (with Jay Weinberg)
* * *
Raise Your Hand
The Last Time
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
Seven Nights to Rock
Kitty’s Back (with Curt Ramm)
American Land
Jersey Girl

Image from Backstreets

Image from Backstreets

Another Springsteen fix

I blame my Hebrew-school tutor for all of this. As a reward for successfully making it through the Torah portion of my Bar Mitzvah without puking on the sacred parchment or tripping up over the Hebrew words and accidentally telling the congregation to go sodomize sheep, he bought me the album — yes, the actual 12-inch, vinyl record album — of Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band.

Born to Run

Born to Run

At the time — the time being 1981 — I knew a few Springsteen songs, but I wouldn’t have called myself a fan. I knew “Hungry Heart” because it was all over the radio, and I knew the title track from Born to Run, but that was about it.

Then, I brought the record home and put on the first track, “Thunder Road.” I was an instant Springsteen junkie about three minutes into the song, and it’s only gotten worse.

Thank you, Mark Elber, wherever you are.

I went to see the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, nerve-breaking, Viagra-taking history-making, legendary … E-STREET BAND at the debacle of a facility currently known as the IZOD Center last night. Between how bland the home of my beloved New Jersey Nets is and how pathetic the half-finished Xanadu God-knows-what project looks, they really should drop a nuclear bomb on that part of the Meadowlands (the two football stadiums and the track can be spared).

Anyway, for whatever reason, I wasn’t as fired up as I usually am to see The Boss. I was excited, but I didn’t have that all-day adrenalin surge. I guess part of it is that I know I always like the end-of-summer Giants Stadium shows better — speaking of which, the final concerts at Giants Stadium will be performed by none other than Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, with three shows wrapping up Oct. 3. And part of it is that things have been crazy in my life, but in a good way — working part-time, tons of visits to the new Yankee Stadium, lots of softball games and, most important, my girlfriend moving in soon.

Photo by A.M. Saddler, from Backstreets.com

Photo by A.M. Saddler, from Backstreets.com

But as usual, the boys didn’t disappoint. This was yet another fantastic show, with some songs that I hadn’t seen played live since the Born in the USA tour in 1985. Pleasant surprises included “Seeds,” “Johnny 99” and “The Ghost of Tom Joad” — it seemed like a mini-set tribute to the unemployed — and always welcome classics included “Thunder Road,” “Jungleland” and “Rosalita.” And I saw the band play one of my personal favorites, “I’m Goin’ Down,” for the first time since the previously mentioned Born in the USA tour.

I am exhausted and drained, but I will be sure to get my energy back by June 1, when tickets for the next assault on New Jersey go on sale. What a fucking great show.

The set list (thank you, Badlands.com):
Badlands
Adam Raised a Cain
Outlaw Pete
Radio Nowhere
She’s the One
Working on a Dream
Seeds
Johnny 99
The Ghost of Tom Joad
Raise Your Hand
Growin’ Up
I’m Goin’ Down
Prove It All Night
Waitin’ on a Sunny Day
The Promised Land
The Wrestler
Kingdom of Days
Lonesome Day
The Rising
Born to Run
* * *
Hard Times
Thunder Road
Jungleland
Land of Hope and Dreams
American Land
Rosalita

The Legendary E Street Band

Thursday, July 31, 2008: Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band at Giants Stadium. It didn’t start out promising.

It was a stressful day at work, even though I worked from home. Unlike some people’s definition of working from home — sitting by the pool and sipping on a tropical drink while their dog answers their e-mail — I do a ton of work when I’m at home. You have to love people who e-mail you stuff to do at 5:44 and 5:45 when you expressly state that you need to be in your car at 5:45.

Bruce Springsteen and Little Stevie, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

Bruce Springsteen and Little Stevie, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

While scrambling to get everything done, the phone didn’t stop ringing. “What time should I be there?” “What’s the weather going to be like?” “Should I pick up food?” “Did you get beer?” “What do you want on your sandwich?” All legitimate questions, but constantly being on the phone wasn’t helping the stress level.

And for the record, asking me if I got beer is among the silliest possible questions. If I could get away with it, I’d pick up a 40 for the walk to the PATH every morning.

Then an e-mail came in from TicketBastard warning me that a truck overturned on the exit from the New Jersey Turnpike to the Meadowlands. I guess it’s TicketBastard’s way of justifying the $18 “service charge” they tack on to every ticket. So the thought of every possible approach to Giants Stadium becoming a vehicular clusterfuck wasn’t helping the stress level, either.

Getting there and parking actually wasn’t as bad as I feared, and I thought things were going really well when I got a call from my friend and his wife that they were parked, too. The problem is that they were “parked” on Route 17, which wasn’t moving at all.

But everyone finally got there and, despite our abbreviated tailgating time, sandwiches and beer were consumed (several beers by yours truly) and we were in our seats well before 8:45, which is when the first two shows on Sunday and Monday nights began. (Yes, I went to all three. Yes, I am aware that I have a problem. No, I don’t give a shit. Yes, I’d do it again.)

Well, the first two shows started around 8:45. Thursday’s third and final concert, however, did not. I guess Springsteen and company were waiting for people to get through the traffic. Rather than cooling off as the minutes ticked away, the temperature inside the stadium continued to rise, as did the impatience level. I sweat completely through two layers (Under Armour and my Rosalita T-shirt).

Sounds like a completely awful, stressful, grueling experience, doesn’t it?

WRONG!

Jersey Girl, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

Jersey Girl, Giants Stadium, 7/31/08

That was, by far, the best Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band show I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen many and several (probably around 15, but senility and beer-murdered brain cells prevent an exact count). They played from 9:30 until 12:45 a.m. and emptied the old-school Springsteen playbook. The energy level was incredible, both by the band and the crowd. This show even topped the 10th and final show of the 2003 run at Giants Stadium, and that was no easy task, trust me.

I mean, seriously: Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Prove It All Night, Two Hearts, The Promised Land, Spirit in the Night, Blinded by the Light, Cadillac Ranch, Candy’s Room, Night, Because the Night, She’s the One, Incident on 57th Street, Badlands (I know, he always plays it, but still), Jungleland, Born to Run (see Badlands), Jersey Girl and Rosalita in the same show? Are you kidding me? Wow. The last two songs alone were worth the $95 (plus TicketBastard charges).

Ladies and gentlemen, I was just rocked by the heart-stopping, pants-dropping, hard-rocking, booty-shaking, earth-quaking, nerve-breaking, Viagra-taking history-making, legendary … E-STREET BAND!

The set list, courtesy of Backstreets.com (http://www.backstreets.com/setlists.html):

Summertime Blues

Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out

Radio Nowhere

Prove It All Night

Two Hearts

The Promised Land

Spirit in the Night

Light of Day

Brilliant Disguise

Pretty Flamingo

Blinded by the Light

Cadillac Ranch

Candy’s Room

Night

Because the Night

She’s the One

Livin’ in the Future

Mary’s Place

Incident on 57th Street

The Rising

Last to Die

Long Walk Home

Badlands

* * *

Jungleland

Born to Run

Bobby Jean

Dancing in the Dark

American Land

Jersey Girl

Rosalita