Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 1990

I was very young.  There was a special 20th anniversary concert being held in New York City at Central Park.  My friends all decided to go.  And we decided to go because we were all very young, and though we didn’t care a whit about liberal leftist environmental politics, we wanted to see a free concert in an altered state of mind.  Oh, and we were all very young, and the concert was free.
Now I have long since accepted and embraced my fear – no, my intense distaste and dislike – of crowds.  Of being crowded in.  Claustrophobia by sheer volume of bodies.  But back then I succumbed easily to peer pressure.  So I knew going in it would be crowded.  Messy.  Sweaty.  Extremely close-quartered and stinky.  And not having too great a love affair with New York City, I knew it would be stressful.  As in, always-be-aware-of-your-wallet stressful.
Which is why, paradoxically, the altered state of mind was imperative.
The problem was, once we got in to the city (a friend’s older sister drove us in and dropped us off), once we got into the park, there was nothing altering to be found.  Nada.  Finally, we split into groups and left the park and walked for an hour or two on the streets and avenues surrounding the event.  Every single deli and liquor store was sold out of beer.  Every one.  Not kidding.  Never saw anything like it.
Finally, in some beaten-down grocery store in what might have been Spanish Harlem, we stumbled across a case of beer.  Not Budweiser, but it was something along those lines.  Maybe it was Michelob.  We paid for it and hauled it back in to Central Park, one guy holding the front and the other the back.  Random people offered us as much as $10 for a single bottle, but we declined.
By this point the crowd in the Park had grew eight- or ten-fold.  We were roped off, with actual rope, into little sardinelike squares.  The heat was stifling – and, truth be told, my black pants and dress shirt were terribly inappropriate – and I don’t think I ever relished a cold beer more than I did that day.  Problem was that the beers were now all lukewarm at best.  And splitting a case of warm beer among eight or ten people doesn’t translate into a mind-altering experience, unless that mind-altering experience is one of misery.
I honestly don’t remember any of the acts.  Was Paul Simon playing?  Dunno.  Who was big in 1990?  I had gone into the city for other concerts and had quite memorable experiences (Neil Young on the pier, the Ramones at CBGBs I think it was, King’s X in some other club, Henry Rollins at the Limelight).  But of Earth Day 1990, the big gala 20th anniversary event, I have no musical memory.
I did scratch my name on some Save the Panda thing or another (probably right after finishing my 2.5 beers), and for five or six years afterward I got stickers and solications from the World Wildlife Fund.  I put the stickers on the wall in my apartment closet and threw out the solicitations.
We did eventually have a good time, after we got out of the park.  The whole group grabbed some food at some forgotten tavern, and then the pitchers flowed.  We had to foot it home, or at least to New Jersey soil, and it’s the only time I ever walked across the George Washington Bridge.  That same friend’s sister picked us up and dropped us all off, one by one.

And that’s the way it was for Hopper, twenty-five years ago on Earth Day!

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