Metal Up Your Ass!

November 7, 2008 at 3:33 pm (The Easy Chair)

Last Saturday night was a first for me. I went on a blind date… with a guy. We had a head-banging good time.

I know, shocking, huh? Want all the juicy details? That’s what I’m here for.

Metallica played Portland last weekend, and it was quite a show. I wanted to go, but financial times are bleak, and I had bills that couldn’t be put off. Taking a cue from Grateful Dead fans, I put happy thoughts into the cyber-universe and received the ultimate payoff: A miracle! Someone I didn’t know offered me a ticket, no strings attached. Woohoo!

At first I was skeptical. Am I being trolled? Is this a cruel practical joke? I braced for that. I also braced for the fact that there might be, um, romantic expectations afterward. How would I deal with that? I’m a big boy, and despite (or because of) my bearish appearance I have learned to gracefully say no. I’ve been around, and I wasn’t getting that kind of vibe. As I told the girls in my life, “He’s not getting anything more than a handshake!”

I went to Clairissa’s for some hair maintenance. Halloween had left me with neon-green hair, and I wanted to reduce the shock, so I had her buzz-cut me with a #1 attachment, which leaves the equivalent of two or three days worth of beard stubble. Even at that length, my scalp looked radioactive. I wouldn’t be hard to pick out. My date? He was blonde and thirtyish, and would be wearing a rocker tee-shirt. It’s like owning a Volkswagen; you don’t realize how many there are until you own one. I made eye contact with a bunch of “wrong” dudes, and got some funny looks because of it.

I had some immoral support from Art East, who’d met me for work-related stuff before the 5 o’clock meetup time. Art stood with me, helping me deduce who was who. I was meeting my mystery date at a downtown bar. Art and I stood under the awning next to the bar, watching people come and go. Before long, a prospect came along.

He was wearing a leather long-rider overcoat, with a Bon Jovi tee shirt underneath. His hair was blonde, combed Donald Trump style. He had a pretty good case of heroin mouth. (No teeth, lips and tongue slithering.) I looked at Art. He grinned and shrugged. I made eye contact with Mr Jovi. He gave me a “What the fuck you lookin’ at?” expression, and my eyes diverted. Nope, not this one.

It was about the appointed meeting time, so I went into the bar. It has booths along the window with a great view of the avenue, perfect for people watching while getting a buzz on. I told the waitress what I was up to, and that I’d order when my friend arrived. Since I’d worked for years next to this bar, I was well known and got a hero’s welcome.

One of my co-workers, Swaggart, saw me enter the bar and followed. “How’s it going? Are you on lunch?” While it’s frowned upon, a lot of my co-workers take lunch at the bar. (We don’t work with heavy machinery, thank god.) Since we were both off work that day, we didn’t have to pretend we didn’t see each other.

“Nah, just killing time, waiting for someone.”

“I was just looking for a quiet place to have lunch. Can I buy you a whiskey?” Swaggart is always gracious when we meet away from the job.

“No, but thanks. I’m not drinking these days.” I didn’t feel the need to elaborate. Telling him that I’d already ate a fistfull of opiates,  and that a couple drinks would have me flopping around like a fish later in the evening, would do me no good in the work situation. TMI.

“What are you up to?”

“I’m going to Metallica tonight, and meeting someone for the first time.”

“Ooh, a blind date? Is she cute?” Swaggart’s eyes lit up.

“Uh, actually it’s a guy.”

“Oh.” All of a sudden you could cut the air with a knife. “I didn’t know if you were gay, straight, whatever. It’s cool…” He shifted uncomfortably, and all of a sudden this conversation became way more entertaining.

“It’s not like that, Swag. He just had an extra ticket, and is doing me a nicety.” I was starting to enjoy this.

“Well, I don’t want to blow your glow. I’l just sit over here.” He took the booth next to mine, ordered an Irish whiskey and pulled out a book.

I checked my watch. 5:07 PM. Crap. I’d give it until 6:30, then I’d give up and slink off in shame. (And Swaggart could tease me at work until the end of time.) Just as the first stages of disappointment began to appear, so did a blonde guy. He made eye contact as he passed the window, and came into the bar. Here we go…

“Are you Jack?” I extended a hand.

“Hey, how’s it going?” We shook hands, he took a seat, and Swaggart pretended not to eavesdrop.

I went to the bar, scoring Jack a pint of Dead Guy Ale and a glass of h20 for myself. (Severe cotton-mouth onset. Hydrate!) I tipped the bartender heavy, real heavy. The last time I fell off the wagon, this was one of my ‘spots’. My after work, pre-bus ride shot of whiskey was served in an on-the-rocks glass, and averaged about half a pint. I’d chug that and a pounder of beer, and be rather animated by the time I got home. But I digress…

A couple of beers and an hour later, it was time to migrate to the show. Swaggart seemed a little disappointed that all we discussed were rock shows, jobs and girls. No juicy gossip from this camp!

As we approached the Rose Garden, a sea of humanity was pouring out of the Memorial Coliseum. I saw a pamphlet for a motivational speaker. Man, they saw the wrong show. James Hetfield may well be the best motivational speaker of our time, as he would soon demonstrate.

But first, we had a couple of opening bands to get through.

I had never heard The Sword, but was suitably impressed. They had a prog-rock sound, sort of a Rush-Triumph thing with a bit of Dio for atmosphere. They weren’t annoying, which is usually how I find opening bands I haven’t heard before.

Down brought the noise. Phil Anselmo is no Celine Dion, (now there’s a mash-up for KNRK to try!) but his growly mutterings and belligerent caterwauling were enthusiastically accepted and approved. Sludgy, chunky guitar riffs filled the air, and the pump was primed for Metallica.

The stage was set toward the middle, not quite an in-the-round set-up. The band could face all directions, and the drummer’s kit was slowly rotating, so we didn’t have to stare at Lars’ ass the whole show. The lights went down, smoke (all kinds, ahem) filled the arena and a large blast of flame exploded from the stage. Time for lift-off! The bell tolls for thee!

For the next two hours, we were lambasted by the sweet and sweaty ballistics of Metallica’s sonic missiles. They played old and new, with both appreciated by the crowd. As Jack pointed out, “There are a lot of girls here tonight! Normally a Metallica show is a sausage fest.”

We were fairly high up in the stands, but had a great view. (Their stage isn’t exactly minuscule.) Some observations: James is looking pretty healthy for a forty-something with a hard-drinking past. Vocals, while one could never refer to them as sweet, were consistent with live stuff recorded 15-20 years ago. He didn’t need a blast of Chloraseptic between songs like Phil Anselmo did.

And Lars Ulrich. He must have a bad back, or has spent too much time on bar stools when not playing drums. His question-mark posture gave me cause for concern, but he had no problem leaping about the stage. Yes, the drummer leapt across the stage, and played drums standing up on some of the songs. I’m sure it had nothing to do with the numerous trips under the stage between songs. He sure was energetic! Watching him gave me sniffles.

Robert Trujillo, the newest bass-player, was fun for me to watch for another reason. Dressed in cargo shorts and sleeveless vest, his long black hair flying about all crazy-like, reminded me of my ex-wife. (I’m sure this wouldn’t have been the case, had we been close enough to see actual facial detail.) She was a wild thing, a Native American with a passion for whiskey and rowdiness, and his stagger and swagger resembled her on a drunk. His whirly-birding gave me the spins; I’d have been clutching the stage, trying not to fall off the face of the earth…

Kirk was the quiet one, except for his guitar. They played one mellow song, Nothing Else Matters. Everything else was full tilt boogie; loud, clear and energetic.

After a few hundred black Metallica beach balls were dropped on the crowd’s head, the lights came up and the show was over. The band came out, tossed guitar picks and drumsticks into the crowd, and shook hands with the rowdies in the mosh pits.

It was done.

Jack’s fiancee picked us up at a predetermined spot. As luck would have it, they live a mile or so from me, so I got a ride home as well. As they dropped me off, I thanked Jack again for a fantastic time.

As promised, all he got was a handshake. Much to the dismay of Swaggart, who will have to find his gossip-fodder elsewhere.

It was a wonderful evening, and the happy-pills left me sleepy and relaxed.

“Exit light, enter night.
Take my hand.
We’re off to Never-Neverland…”

Thanks Jack, for a rockin’ good time. It was the best first blind date with a boy a guy could ask for.



  1. jack said,

    Awesome write up!
    You know, it was a total trip to find out that you and I not only went to the same Sabbath show 25 + years ago, but we were probably within feet of each other during the pre-show police riot.
    I loved the Calico Cat stories too.
    Now that’s a PDX landmark to be missed.

  2. g-uber said,

    Very well written!

    This post rivals anything written in Rolling Stone Mag.

    Nice job.


  3. metalface said,

    found your blog looking for metallica infomation i wnet to the concert here in new mexico last month and Iam trying to find ot how to geth the dowload cuz i need the code for it. but I lost my ticket wiht the code number on it. did yu happae to get a concert downlaod?
    i realy realy want to get the download cuz it was a awsome show and i want somthing to remember it for when i get older.

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