THE LAST THING I REMEMBER (Part 1)
The last thing I remember was walking the streets of Manhattan, down 8th Avenue to the corner of 35th Street, being seated with my two friends at a restaurant when Fausto the greatest waiter in NYC formerly of CAFE 31 served me a double Grey Goose on the rocks without me even saying a word. The place was strangely empty. My usual order of fried calamari was placed on our table followed by veal parm over pasta. Fausto brings over a bottle of red wine to help us celebrate our meal. We pay the tab leaving a generous tip and proceed to THE WORLD’S MOST FAMOUS ARENA, strangely finding the surrounding streets and area almost completely void of humans. This is unusual, it is Midtown Manhattan for Christ’s sake. A few hours earlier my bride told me about a virus that was making lives difficult. Could this be related to that? Before I left home she loaded my jacket pocket with a pack of tissues and a small vial of hand sanitizer while informing me to be careful, to wash my hands with the gel regularly and avoid crowds. “Impossible”, I told her. It’s March 10, 2020 and what is left of the Allman Brothers Band AKA THE BROTHERS @ 50 are playing THE GARDEN to a sold out crowd.This after many, many years starting back in March of 1971is/was an annual event for me and my friends.
But, this night March 10,2020 proved to be the last time I traveled by train or had contact with non-family members for a long, long time. The ride in was not as populated as the 4:08 PM Express out of Babylon usually is. The conductor, the regular on that train, the same train I take to NY RANGERS games, is usually chatty but tonight he said, “Tickets please” and that was it.I should have sensed something was amiss in the universe when Jim didn’t ask about THE RANGERS or “Where you going tonight,Mike?”
In THE GARDEN there was extra security in the entrance atrium. Lines mode quickly. All escalators were working, the lines for food and drink appeared to have normal wait times, Marvin, the bartender from our hockey section was in fine form flirting with the very few young girls in this male dominated crowd. The pre-show discussions overheard though out the sold out house included, “Why just THE BROTHERS? Who owns “the name ALLMAN’s?”, “What will they play?”, “Who will do the vocals?”, “Where’s Dickey?’”,“Who will sing “Blue Sky” and s strange one, “Will we catch this Corona thing?”
The lights dim precisely at a very professional 7:30 PM with a slight moment or two to plug in, tune up and then they hit the opener of THE ALLMAN BROTHERS BAND debut album, the SPENCER DAVIS tune “Don’t Want You No More” which tonight just like on the album morphed into “It’s Not My Cross To Bear” complete with a portrait of Gregg on the large screen in the background AND his (recorded) lead vocals looped in with guitarist/vocalist WARREN HAYNES. The applause at the end of the selection(s) was deafening, but not as loud as the whoops and yells when we heard Warren say, “ 1,2,3” the intro to the BLIND WILLIE MCTELL song “Statesboro Blues”,a signature tune for the original band.
A fellow next to me is smoking “a Marley”, that is, a blunt that Rasta Bob would have been proud of. He taps my shoulder and offers the brown concoction to me. In my brain I quickly evaluate the situation as explained to me before leaving home, my wife said something about a virus, something about Corona. Now the moment of truth, Do I get high or risk Corona? Corona or high? High or Corona? I pass, shaking my head politely but smile accordingly. What the hell is going on???, I thought.
Just about Midnight we exit the hall exhausted but truly satisfied. The show was amazing. We descend down to the train depot, await our track announcement and proceed accordingly to an almost vacant, empty passenger platform. We enter the train, listening to the never ending proclamation “WATCH THE GAP” which should actual be “AVOID THE GAP”. We three grab a six seater and the train has about 7 to 10 others in our car. A mother and daughter are talking about Corona this, Corona that, Corona, Corona. We are sipping bottles of water, quietly, until an unseen gentleman about four seats behind us makes a horrible noise. He is either dying or violently vomiting. Our conductor who was in the process of collecting tickets sees this and yells, “Every body move to the car in front of us, NOW”. We gather our belongings and do as we are told. A few stops later our express reaches its destination. We wonder if the guy died or was just sick. The lady from our car said ,“I hope he didn’t have Corona and it didn’t spread to us.” What is she talking about?
After a great night of sleep I woke up late to the news that New York City was cancelling the annual ST. Paddy’s Day Parade, NYC was shutting down. From that moment on the news of Corona got worse and scary.
To be continued…