Of Machismo & Men

OK, here’s a story that’ll blow the doors off the “¿Quien es mas macho?” myth.

Men & machismo.

And it’s pretty embarrassing to me & my buddy, Carmine, from back in my ol’ Brooklyn days.

I’ve been a huge Bruce Springsteen fan since the late ’70s when I got introduced to him & his E Street Band by a great friend & fellow Citibanker, John Hibel (RIP).

Not physically introduced as in “Bruce, this is Mike!”, but rather, exposed to his music, especially his early work.

He was big back then, but not nearly as big & as famous as he was at his peak.

His fans were pretty rabid & his concerts…usually, a good 4 solid hours of roaring music with no intermission or opening act…were truly an experience to behold.

I attended several at Madison Square Garden in NYC as well as a few at the new Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands In NJ. (The arena was once home to the NJ Nets of basketball & the NJ Devils of hockey, and later became the Continental Airlines Arena, then the IZOD Center before it finally closed in 2015.)

I attended the very first concert (actually, the very first event) ever held there on July 2, 1981 for a Springsteen gig!

Anyway, my buddy Carmine was also a huge fan of Springsteen.

Bruce’s sax player, Clarence Clemons (“The Big Man”), also had a band of his own on the side…Clarence Clemons & the Red Bank Rockers.

Whenever the E Street Band wasn’t on tour, Clarence would play some side gigs with his own group.

Well, this one year (probably ~1982/3), NYC were putting on these small concerts around the 57th Street Pier on the West Side of Manhattan. They were quite inexpensive (free?) and we noticed that Clarence’s band was scheduled to play one summer Saturday evening. Carmine & I figured, “What the hell? Let’s go!”

So we head up to Manhattan (left the ladies at home as they weren’t Springsteen fans & didn’t even know who Clarence Clemons was) to get ourselves a good seat.

It was obvious that the city sponsored these free concerts as it was an undeveloped area right off the West Side Highway (which was really just a street at this part of Manhattan), with a bunch of old wooden grandstands, similar to what you would find at a small high school or Pee-Wee football league.

Rickety old benches.

So we climb to the very top row (not that high, maybe 20 rows in all) to get as far away as possible from people.

We had brought some “recreational materials” with us as was pretty much standard fare at most concerts I’ve ever attended…except for Luciano Pavarotti at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio & a few (B.B. King, Sting, etc.) that I attended at the historic Majestic Theater in downtown SA.

But since this Clarence Clemons & the Red Bank Rockers concert was outdoors, we figured we’d go pretty much unnoticed.

As it turned out, everything was perfect.

The band was good, the wind was blowin’ in the right direction (in our face, with nothing/no one behind us) & we kept to our ourselves in the upper corner of these old stands.

Yep, everything was perfect…until it was time to leave.

We were glued to our seats. Not literally, but we may have well been Super Glued to the wood for all it mattered.

We were frozen.

Scared shit to move, to climb down the stands.

Apparently, these twenty-something young men (Carmine lifted weights & I was in excellent shape), filled with testosterone, beaming with machismo, were deadly afraid of heights!

But we weren’t even that far up! All I kept visualizing was forgetting how my legs worked & then somehow slipping between the benches & the walkway onto the ground below.

Every time that we thought, “Man, this is so stupid!” & started to get up, we’d freak out & sit right back down.

Macho Man 1 & Macho Man 2 just trapped like rats in our own mentally-manufactured prison atop the old bleachers!

We were up there for over an hour after the concert ended & everyone else left.

Seems we were more concerned about a policeman strolling by & seeing us up there than anything else!

Finally, we started the perilous journey back down Everest – – and without the use of safety ropes or a knowledgeable guide! Each step felt as if we were risking our lives as we clutched the benches as we moved our feet a few precious inches at a time.

We made it down safely & when we looked back up, we felt even more embarrassed & humiliated, despite the facts that there were no witnesses to our cowardice.

My God, it wasn’t that high & we had no issues whatsoever going up!

And the drive home was quite interesting as well as I not only have a fear of heights, but also one of water, bridges & tunnels. And I hated driving on highways in this state.

What’s making my arms move? Who’s controlling my legs? What happens if (when?) this bridge collapses into the water? How the heck is this tunnel holding back all that water without leaking?

Remember, Manhattan is an island and in order to get back to Brooklyn, you gotta…

Never was I so glad to be back on solid ground in good ol’ Brooklyn!

Oh, before I go, just a few things…

You don’t like Springsteen, heh?

Pls listen to just one song…Jungleland…and then reconsider.

If you’ve ever watched the movie “Eddie & the Cruisers”, it was based on Springsteen.

There are too many “similarities” between fact & fiction for everything to be just a coincidence. In addition, the entire soundtrack (written & performed by John Cafferty & the Beaver Brown Band) can easily be traced back to specific Springsteen songs.

If you watched The Sopranos, surely you’re familiar with the character, Silvio Dante, one on Tony’s boys with the slicked-back hair.

Well, in real life, he’s Steve Van Zandt (Little Steven), the lead guitarist in the E Street Band.

If you’re u look at photos of the two (see Google), you’ll never believe that they’re the same person.

Springsteen’s drummer, Mighty Max Weinberg, doubled as the drummer & band-leader for The Tonight Show With Conan O’Brien & The Conan O’Brien Show.

That’s it for this one.

Thank you so much for listening!

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