I’m not exactly sure why, but in the pre-existence I chose November as the month that I would attend U2 concerts. I’ve now seen U2 five times, and each time has been in this blessed autumn month.
The first time I attended a U2 concert was November 1987 at the L.A. Coliseum. The Joshua Tree tour. A friend of mine, we’ll call him Kyle Binns (names have not been changed), had two tickets for this show of shows. Kyle was two years older than me, and to be perfectly honest, I think he knew me mostly as the guy who hung around his younger sister. Kyle and a friend were going to the concert the next Tuesday, and I remember on that Sunday prior, in the halls at church, I joked with him that if either he or his friend didn’t feel like going, I would be happy to take one of the tickets. I pretty much thought that was the end of it. Why would anybody not go to the concert? If my leg were accidentally amputated on the way to the concert, I would still go. I would buy one of the overpriced t-shirts and bandage my leg with it. And I’m sure I wouldn’t notice the pain until the final encore.
Well, Tuesday evening, no earlier than 5:30 p.m., the phone rings. I’m going potty. My sister, Marlise, answers the phone and yells, “Keeeeeeennnnnn, the phone’s for yoooouuuu.” “I’m not heeeeere,” I yell back, wondering if there will ever be a time in my adult life that I will be able to go potty in peace. There’s a pause, and then she yells, “It’s Kyle Biiiiiinns.” I drop the newspaper and look straight ahead. If I had been in a movie, I would have looked directly at the wall where a calendar would be hanging, looked directly at the date, and on the date would have been the words “U2 Concert” written in red and circled. To this day, I love Kyle Binns for sensing that I was probably home, probably occupied, and just needed to know he was the one on the phone, and that he was holding two tickets in his hand.
"Say it, Kyle. Say the words.”
“Do you want to go to a U2 concert?”
“Aaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh!” I answered.
“I’m leaving right now. Can you be ready to go in 5 minutes.”
“I was born ready, Kyle. See, when I was in the pre-existence, I…Hello? Kyle?”
All that was left was approval from my dad. Normally, I would be a little nervous to ask my dad if it would be okay to drive into downtown Los Angles on a school night, never to return until sometime after midnight. But on this particular evening, I wasn’t nervous. I was wet-my-pants terrified. Did I have seminary the next morning at 5:45 a.m.? Yes, yes I did. Had I done all my homework for school the next day? No, no I hadn’t. Had I been treating my mom with utmost kindness as of late? No, no I hadn’t. And that would be the final nail in my coffin. Or my forehead, depending on my dad’s mood.
In one of his most loving gestures to date, he allowed me to go. My dad was just getting home, stepping out of the car, and I met him there in the driveway. I pleaded. And maybe it was the season, maybe it was the excitement exuding off of me…but when I begged him to be able to go, he just sort of looked at me with a half-crooked smile and said, “Fine.” No sooner did he answer then Kyle came around the corner to pick me up. I mean, literally, the next second. I jumped in the car and we took off. I wanted to get out of there before my dad realized that he had just given me permission to do something for which I had already given myself permission.
Man, what a concert. We had seats on the floor and it was an incredible show. For me, The Joshua Tree is hands-down one of the greatest albums of all time. And this was one of the greatest shows of all time. At that time in their career, the energy behind everything they did was spectacular.
Fast forward to November 1992. I had returned home from my LDS mission that August and was up at BYU in Provo, Utah. Achtung Baby had been released a year earlier, in November 1991, and the Zoo TV tour was still around, but quickly winding down. The tour wasn't stoping in Utah, and the closest venue was Las Vegas. Myself and three of my good friends – Jim, Greg, and Justin – all bought tickets. We drove down that Friday, the night of the concert – had some dinner, toured around Las Vegas a bit, and went to the concert. Then we drove home that very same night, arriving in time for some of us to head straight to class. I don’t know how we didn’t die that night. My hat is still off to Greg, who has miraculous powers. (Powers that are based on a caffeine buzz, I’m sure.)
If you didn’t see the Zoo TV tour, you missed out on a musical spectacle that will most likely never be repeated by any rock group ever.
Fast forward to November 2001. The Elevation Tour. I was living in Las Vegas now, but my friend Eric Snider (names haven’t been changed) wrote for a newspaper in Utah and had press tickets to the concert. He invited me to me the recipient of one of those press tickets. So even though I would have to drive up, I knew the amazing seats would be worth it. But I had no idea beforehand how much I would be willing to sacrifice to make it to the show.
Eric called Wednesday and said he had the extra ticket for Friday’s concert. Katie had two different meetings she needed to be in Las Vegas for over Friday and Saturday, so she decided to stay home and gave me the go-ahead to run up for the concert without her. We only had our minivan, so I borrowed a car from a friend of mine, Matt. (And by "friend" I mean "people with whom I never discuss this incident.")
I left around 10 a.m. (11 a.m. Utah time). I was on the road exactly an hour, when the car up and died. I could not get it started. The concert didn't start until 7:30 p.m., so I knew I still had some time. I was looking at a 4.5-hour drive to Provo, where Eric lived, and then another hour to Salt Lake. I was feeling optimistic.
By 12 p.m. I was not feeling optimistic. And I think we all know what the landscape between Las Vegas and St. George looks like. No services for miles. I had tried calling Katie several times – about ever half-hour – but she was out. I called my friend Matt to let him know the situation. He reported, "That’s strange – that car has never given me trouble before. Of course it's been sitting in our driveway for a year and a half."
Hmm. Now, I know relatively nothing about cars. But I am pretty sure that taking a car on a 11-hour car trip after it has been sitting in a driveway for 18 months is...how you say?…BAD.
At that point, I surrendered to the fact I was not going to make it in time. And on top of that, I felt guilty for taking my friend's car, and driving out into the middle of the desert to die. I hadn't done anything to the car, but still, I was driving it when something happened, and that made me feel bad.
A police officer stopped by to tell me I couldn’t park my car on the side of the road. Thanks for that, Mr. Law Enforcement Genius. Some Good Samaritan also stopped by and tried to help. Used to work for Ford, he did. Knew a lot about cars, he said. Couldn't see what was wrong, he admitted.
I kept trying to call Katie. I kept trying to start the car. I kept trying to fight the urge to jump in front of a moving vehicle, so frustrated was I. The hours passed by, and nothing was changing. It was 2:30 p.m. I had finally accepted, for the second time, that I wasn't going to make it. I was a little sad, but that's all. It's not like the concert was going to change my life or I couldn't live without it. It wasn't like I was a 16 year-old high school girl who HAD to see Bono.
Or was I?
I called Matt at 3:00 p.m. and admitted defeat. "I would have to be in a moving car THIS INSTANT if I was going to make it to the concert." "Well," he said, "My in-laws live in Mesquite. Get a ride into Mesquite and have the car towed to my in-laws house; then rent a car. My insurance will cover the towing, and I will pay for half the rental car." That was very kind of him. A good friend, to be sure. But still…"No. I'm not going to have you pay for half the car, and I'm out of time, anyway, and..."
Just then, a pickup with this chubby Mexican pulled up beside me and asked if I wanted to ride in the back of his truck to Mesquite. He stopped at a Texaco, and I ran in, demanding control of the establishment, as if I were holding the place up.
"I need a towing company, and I need a car rental agency – STAT!" I ordered. (I actually didn't say STAT. That's just too nerdy. Even for Mesquite.) The ladies behind the counter grabbed the phone book as if their lives depended on it. Because in a very real way, it did. I first called a car rental place, but all they had was a full-size car, and it was $48 a day, plus it only gave me 200 miles. I needed about 775 miles. I told them "never mind" and for the third time, gave up on the idea of making it.
I called Eric to let him know. I wanted to give him the option of finding someone else to take. I knew he would appreciate early notice so he would have time to invite somebody else. Imagine my surprise when he said, "Wow. Oh my gosh. Well...you'll just have to figure out another way to get up here."
I couldn't believe it. Eric hadn't given up yet. Well, if he hadn't, who was I to give up?
Out of the blue, my chubby Mexican friend that gave me a ride into Mesquite walked into the Texaco. He hadn't left yet. I asked him how far he was going. Wyoming. I asked for a ride in his truck to Salt Lake. He said sure, but he was going to spend some time gambling first. By all means. This is a free country, with a soft, chewy center. Knock yourself out. Actually, I thought this was perfect, as it gave me the chance to find a towing company and get the car towed to Matt’s in-laws in Mesquite.
I called the towing place, but they had a policy. And that poopy policy was that I would have to ride with them to pick up the car. I explained why I couldn't, but they wouldn't budge. I can't believe anybody living in Mesquite would have a policy about ANYTHING. If you don't have a policy about where you live (which you obviously don't if you are living in Mesquite), HOW can you be taken seriously about anything else?
Suddenly, the lady’s voice dropped low, and she whispered into the phone that there was a local towing place that would pick up the car, and I wouldn't have to go with them. She gave me the phone number. I called the number and talked to the guy, and he apparently does this business out of his house. I deduced this by the way he answered the phone: “Yep.” “Uh, hi. Do you tow cars?” “Yep.” “Legally?”
I told him where the car was, where I needed it to go, and that I had the key with me at the Texaco. He told me he didn’t need a credit card number. Didn’t need a phone number to reach me at. Didn’t need to know my name. But then he said the magic words – I didn't have to ride with him to pick it up. Whether or not I would ever see this car again, I was on my way to Salt Lake. I told my new tow-trucking friend that I would leave the key with one of the cashiers at the Texaco.
I ran outside to find my Chubby Mexican. He was gone. So was his truck. He wasn't coming back. It was 3:30 p.m., and I had to literally be in a car bound for Provo if I wanted to make it to Provo by 7:30 p.m., and the concert by 8:30. (No Doubt was opening at 7:30, so U2 wouldn't be going on before 8:30...possibly 9:00 p.m.)
I began looking around for cars with Utah license plates. Each and every one was heading the other direction – to Vegas. I finally found this small, red pickup truck.
"Are you heading to Salt Lake?" "Yep." as he opens his car door. "Can I ride in your truck?" "Yep," as he gets in and spits out his chew. He leans out the window to explain how I can't sit up front because they have some equipment up there. I looked. It was true. They also had some in the back, up against the cab. I threw my bag in the back, and climbed aboard.
Propped myself up against my bag, and called all the necessary people. Katie, Matt, and Eric. Katie was finally home, and relieved I was going to make it to the concert, even though I admitted to her that I really had no concrete plan for how to get back to Las Vegas. Matt was happy for me, and reassured me that all would be fine with the car. Eric asked me if I was riding with a truck full of pigs or some other form of livestock.
We hit the highway, and these guys were making no exception to the fact they had a human being in the back of their truck. 85 to 90 mph. This was fine with me, as I needed to get there as soon as I could.
The drive up to St. George was fantastic. Beautiful. Especially through the canyon. I was relaxed, I was going to make it to the concert, and I was a little impressed with the hippy in me who just bummed a 400-mile ride off a stranger. I decided that I would one day hitchhike all the way across the U.S., and for sure I would start commuting to work this way every morning. I looked up at the sky as I rode, and for the first time, I really got what John Denver and Willy Nelson were singing about.
We reached St. George and I thought to myself, "Man, I really love this crisp fall air. Even at 90 mph."
Somewhere between St. George and Cedar City, the sun had set, the wind had picked up, and the altitude was amazingly higher. I was freezing. I put my jacket on, but it was paper-thin, and made of paper, and had the wind resistance of paper. I wanted to put my sweater on as well, but was too cold to move. I finally bit the bullet and ripped my sweater out of my bag, threw it on, and put my jacket on over it. Surprisingly, I was not any warmer.
I tried to crawl up as close as I could to the cab, and tried to curl up in a fetal position. I tried to fall asleep, but was just too cold. And I sat there chattering and dieing until we reached Fillmore 2 hours later, where we stopped for gas.
I was a bit nervous to get out of the truck, still stung with the memory of the last time somebody with a truck offered to give me a ride, and then disappeared…Yes, a mere 3 hours before, in Mesquite.
But I needed to make sure I could still move. I bought a hot chocolate and drank it like Gatorade. Then I took some maternity clothes out of my bag. These were clothes Katie had wanted me to drop off to her sister, Jill, in Provo. I took the clothes and crammed them up my pants, under my sweater, and sleeves, and everywhere I could fit them. I was trying to bulk up and do "layers."
Layers are for CRAP! After we got on the freeway, I realized nothing was going to help at this point. I was ice cold, and was going to be so for the next hour and a half.
About a half an hour south of Provo, I tried to call Eric to tell him I was getting close. I had lost feeling and coordination of my fingers and was shaking so violently, I couldn't push the numbers on my cell phone. Ten minutes and several misdialed numbers later, I got a hold of Eric and told him I was almost there.
We got to the exit, and I tapped on the window to let the drivers know that I was ready to get out. They dropped me off at the Exxon just down from Eric’s condo, and just up from the on-ramp to the freeway.
I stood up in the back of the truck, but noticed I didn't have a real strong sense of my legs. They were numb-ish. So I sort of slithered out of the back of the truck. I called Eric and told him to come save my life, and that I was ready to see U2.
I ran over to the on-ramp and waited for him. The wind wasn't whipping me anymore, but my core temperature was so low, I couldn't stop shaking. Eric picked me up and cranked the heater. By the time we got to Salt Lake, I was feeling better. The concert was spectacular, and we had a great time.
I called my sister the next morning. She lives there in Provo. I invited her and her husband to come visit me in Vegas, and to pick me up on the way. I offered to pay for gas, and buy them dinner, etc. They agreed to it, and I had a warmer ride home.
Later that month we traveled up to Lake Tahoe for Thanksgiving. But we went up a day early. Why? Because U2 was performing in Sacramento, and my youngest brother, Dehn, who had become a U2 fan due to the efforts of his oldest brother, me, wanted us to go to the concert together. A sweeter gesture, I could not fathom. And we had a great time. Several of my siblings also attended, as well as my 58-year old father, who at first was offended that he hadn’t been invited to attend.
And fast forward to November 2005, last Saturday night. The Vertigo tour, right here in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the MGM Grand Arena. For some reason, all the Johnyy-Come-Lately’s have made U2 tickets impossible to seize unless you are a millionaire or married to The Edge’s sister. But I had one ace up my sleeve. I knew a vice president at the MGM. I made the call. He said he couldn’t get me a break on the cost of the tickets, but he could ensure I got fantastic seats. All I would have to do is fork over one of my children. I gave him two of them, and wham-bam – I had two fantastic seats at the concert.
I really enjoyed myself. I was watching these guys perform and realized I have been a faithful fan for more than half my life. And I just appreciated the memories I have associated with their music. But what I took away most from this concert was how cute my eight-and-half-month pregnant wife looked all dressed up in her hot outfit, dancing to Mysterious Ways, and supporting her husband in his mania that is U2.