Daily Operation

Gummy and the Jets

Took the Gummy Bear to its first official concert last night.

Now, it wasn’t quite what I had in mind for its first concert. I was thinking more like a reunited Tribe, George Clinton, the Lions melting my face off. Instead, we were sandwiched in between some toothless Cowboy fan who was busy yelling at his wife about what she wanted to eat and to “not make [him] get up during the middle of the performance” to go get her food (she was pregnant…hell, I’m daddy of the year) and some wino slugging small Dixie Cups of boxed wine while introducing everyone to the guy who tuned the piano like that, alone, would be unbuttoning blouses all night. Yeah! Come meet the piano tuner, baby!

There we sat on the fourth row in what turned out to be a complete circus of freaks. To my right, Nachoman and his pregnant wife (who looked to be turning 60 and I just took her for being overweight). Nachoman, before the show even started had polished off a bowl of nachos and, on a separate trip a jumbo dog quoting that he paid a painful $9.00 for. When you’re Nachoman, no money will stand between you and forcing two pounds of cheese and corn product down your gully. He washed it down with two Bud Lights while his pregnant wife looked on in both longing and sadness. We’ll call them the “Candle in the Wind” crowd.

Behind me, a middle-aged husband sits next to his wife who is dressed like she’s reliving high school. Smells like it too. Like a slightly sleazy prom date. Sometime before the beginning of the performance, she gets a text on her phone and reads it aloud.

“You paid a lot of money to see a queer.”


To my left, the piano tuner guy. He’s one of those guys who simply has no soft tone. His breathes in a holler. Like a death holler. Like he’s had a leg swiped by a kodiac bear and he’s spewing blood while screaming for help to the nearby mountaintops. That’s his level just before getting intimate. And it’s not enough that he talks in a scream, but, what’s worse is he’s the talkative type. And he’s been drinking. He whoops around to me who is sitting down like every other normal human being and asks, “Aren’t these great seats, man?!”

It’d be greater if you didn’t spit when you talked and could speak with a volume that didn’t rival an elephant dying. Or giving birth. And, dude, sit the hell down. No one cares that you know a stage hand. I know a guy working security. He’s an alcoholic and hits his wife. It doesn’t make me a hero for knowing him.

“Great,” I replied in my best dead-pan voice. I was ready to give him a throat jab if that didn’t work. Luckily for him, it seemed to work. Within minutes, his date was having him sit down. He shut up from there on in.

In front of me, I had a couple that were, in all reality, not much different than my lovely wife and I except that they had about twenty-five years on us. Polite. Ready to watch the show. Not necessarily over-excited, but definitely anticipating. He turns around and makes sure that my lovely wife and the Gummy Bear can see the show without obstruction. I nod at him in approval. While his gesture was polite and courteous, you couldn’t deny the power of Elton. Periodic moments of obstruction would occur as the couple were so taken by the moment that they’d spring to their feet and begin to sway like two hippies. Sometimes their open hands would extend themselves into the air and would wave like amber waves of grain. They meant well. My lovely wife thought they were cute and commented that, “That’ll be us one day.” She’s right. But I’ll likely be way more obnoxious. And I don’t sway. I col’ get down.

Just left of them and directly in our line of view of Sir Elton John was a girl, probably about mid-twenties completely wound up in Elton fanfare. She stood there in her atrocious tour shirt, her bedazzled glasses (that included a small “EJ” on the purple lenses) and for twenty minutes leading up to the show, she clutched around her date’s arm and wiggled like a little child sometimes giggling and spinning into nervous chatter like she was in the freaking Santa line. I wouldn’t have really noticed her really if it weren’t for the alcoholic next to us that, in his inability to avoid striking up conversation with random strangers, he began talking to her and, oblivious to the fact (actually, just my assessment) that he was mocking her, she proceeded to tell him she was not only seeing him in Lubbock, but she was also going to the Austin show, the Colorado show and then going to see him up in Wisconsin.


Not sick as in sweet. Sick as in ill. Not ill as in “licensed to,” but ill as in “not well.”

When Elton came out (on stage), (we’ll call her) Trisha (only because she kinda looked like one) came unglued and began to frantically search at her feet for some sort of important articles as Elton strolled around on the edge of the stage. When Elton was dead center in front of us, about twenty feet away (a perfect moment for, say, a quick shot with the camera), she lifted this huge impenetrable shield that cast a shadow over me and blocking my view of Elton. It was like an umbrella was deployed right in front of me. Stunned, I focused on dark void in my view and recognized it as the vinyl sleeve for Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. What the hell?

And, during the evening, you could tell when Trish was getting emotional because that stupid record would come out and she’d lift it as an offering to Elton. It was odd. Elton would finish a song in fireworks, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road would come out. Elton smiled at the crowd, out came Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Elton says, “Hello, Lubbock,” and then it’d be Goodbye Yellow Brick Road-time. Trish, I really wish you were the CD type. I could at least see past your Elton offering. Never thought I’d look at a copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road with such disdain. I felt like just snagging it from the clutches of her clammy hands and ripping it into a thousand tabs of acid making it impossible for her to use it to block my view unless she made it rain with the confetti of her shredded copy of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

She probably would’ve exploded and pulled me apart like a hyena. That would’ve been not only bad news for me, but something that I wouldn’t want my lovely wife to see along with the unborn kiddo she’s carrying. Instead, I opted for screaming, “DUDE, PUT IT DOWN!” through my clinched teeth under the banshee screams of “Crocodile Rock.”

It was truly bizarre. During portions of the concert where I would sit down and enjoy Elton from a seated position, I would look at Trish the superfan and kinda wonder to myself where this sort of fascination that transcends almost everything else in her life begins and why it goes unchecked. I mean, she had parents right? Did they not intervene and say, “You know, maybe you should take up an hobby other than singing ‘I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues’ in your pajamas.” It begins with parenting right?

I’ve never been around someone so completely wrapped up with someone. Like, I didn’t know anyone that was a psycho Michael Jackson fan except for McCaulay Caulkin and Corey Feldman. I didn’t know anyone that wore the glove and defended himself in the public forum. Seeing Trish completely owned by Elton John left me a little awestruck.

Why and how does such idolatry go unchecked for a young girl like Trish? Wouldn’t you see that as possibly an issue at an earlier stage in life? You see kids who dress like Marilyn Manson (they still dress like him right?) or trying to battle rap in the playground like Eminem. Hell, I tried to be Daniel Laruso growing up until my brother squashed my dreams in front of Tami Campbell from across the street. I was wearing my father’s velour bathrobe belt like it was my black belt (and, if memory serves me correctly, it was really navy blue). I was out punching a tree and I told Tami I was preparing for a karate tournament. She totally fell for it (I think) until Todd came out and declared that Dad was looking for his bathrobe belt. I ran in crying and my dreams of being Daniel were gone in a dash. That’s all it took though. A sibling to set me straight. Someone to say that you ain’t that. Funniest part is that Todd knew Dad wasn’t really looking for his velour bathrobe belt. He just wanted to son me in front of that fine girl down the street. For a girl like Trish, maybe someone needs to say,”It’s alright to be a fan, but to let someone completely overtake you in that freakish fandom might be a little detrimental.” Sure they probably thought, “Hell, there’s worse people that she could look up to.” Yeah, but there’s much better too. I mean, I like some musicians who outside of their music, were complete degenerates. Drug addicts. Social deviants. Wife beaters. But I never idolized them. You build a sorta fabric of people that you drew influence from which might included civil servants, parents, siblings, superheroes, sports figures and every day folk. That’s why I never found myself at an Elton John show wearing bedazzled glasses screaming like a speared animal.

Not saying that I’m necessarily any healthier than anyone else and I’m probably not better in passing judgment on young Trish. I don’t know what her situation is. She might have had a terribly traumatic childhood and Elton’s music was her refuge. It might have been something way beyond her control. There could be something that I’m not seeing. Probably is. Guess my job is to make sure this kiddo can objectively look at the world without distortion and exaggerations. Can take things for what they are. See beyond the curtain to see the truth in people. To see that no human can safely steer another human’s life path. We’re built to fail. We’re constructed in a way that we will always fall short and disappoint. We’re mortal. We’re fallible. Heroes can be harmless. Mentors are sometimes a necessity. Idols, though? It’s like that episode of “Saved by the Bell” when Johnny Dakota sweeps into Bayside to film his new anti-drug campaign. Lisa is overcome by him. Kelly swoons in his presence. Zack wants to be him. Screech is parties like a rockstar. Slater, well, Slater looked up to no one because he had them Latino jheri curls. Dude’s like that don’t have any heroes because they crush everything in sight. They’re at a party and find out that (gasp) Dakota’s a freaking pothead. Devastation.

What we can learn from “Saved by the Bell.”

Elton will fail her. That’s what heroes do. That’s real talk.

What’s else is Elton’s 80s stuff was the truth. Don’t front.


One thought on “Gummy and the Jets

  1. Blake Collier says:

    I just saw that episode of Saved By The Bell not too long ago. Man, those were the days. This piece had an excellent intersection of descriptive people-watching and celebrity idolatry. Very true words. I think Ellison is gonna be in good hands. By the way, Elton didn’t happen to play “My Father’s Gun” did he? That’s my favorite song of his.

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