The greatest trip of my life was not to an exotic foreign country, or some hidden grotto of locale color. The best trip I have ever taken involved a simple drive to see a concert, and it was a time I will never forget. For my best friend John’s birthday we were going to
It’s important to note that I knew the majority of our party only in passing. One of the major pieces that made the trip so special was getting to know these people I had only met briefly. The van ride was filled with the nonsense jokes and throwaway arguments that are a part of any great journey. Playing cheesy car games with people you barely know is a great way to break the ice. It’s hard to describe what goes on in a van filled to bursting with unsupervised teenagers, an enormous amount of junk food, loud music and a straight stretch of highway. A road trip with new friends is something everyone should experience at some point in their life. It doesn’t have to be particularly long, nor does it need some spectacularly grandiose destination; it’s the drive itself that makes a road trip. Along the way we stopped at a grocery store in the middle of nowhere to pick up a thank you gift for the family we would be staying with that night. I feel I should mention how nerve racking it is to know that you are going to be staying the night at the home of complete strangers. Scott, who was our contact with this family, had met one of their daughters at a religious camp. That was it, a few emails exchanged beyond that initial meeting, and we were suddenly going to be their guests. I imagine that they probably had the same reservations about us, inviting six strange teenagers over to their home. At any rate we stopped and bought them a candle and a picture frame, just a little something to let them know that we weren’t hooligans.
It just happened to work out that we did have a particularly spectacular destination in mind. Now, I wont dictate what kind of music you should listen to, music is subjective, you know what you like and I know what I like. You may not be a fan of Green Day. If there were some common ground we can share it would be that concerts are fun to go and see.
We arrived in Pittsburgh, emerging through a tunnel to see the city laid out before us. I’m not quite sure how Stevie managed to get us their in one piece. He’s a great driver, but the streets of Pittsburgh are a maze, and the traffic lights and intersections only serve to make things more confusing. We arrived at Mellon Arena, home of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the location of our concert, at about one in the afternoon. We had come prepared for a line, and with general admission tickets we were on the floor, and we wanted to get spots close to the stage. We camped on the ramp to the arena, playing cards, talking, joking, meeting our fellow line mates and trading stories.
We sent a few members of our party back to the van with our folding chairs, the line was moving and we weren’t sure how soon we would be inside the arena itself.
It was hard to listen to concert security when they told us not to run. Entering Mellon Arena for the first time we half walked, half ran, right up to the stage. Our camping out in line paid off in spades, and we found ourselves right on the rail. The stage was a large T, the stem being a catwalk out into the audience. We were right at the bottom of the T, not four feet away from the end of the catwalk. Waiting the remaining hours until the show started was a test of endurance. There was no way any of us would move from our spots, lest someone move in, so we stood there. For four hours. Many people might consider this excessive, hours in line, hours standing inside, all just to see a show. The atmosphere inside was electric, and time moved as quickly as it could for us. We ended up befriending the security guard stationed in front of us, we talked about the other performances he had experienced, the difference between fans at each one, and what really happened when a crowd server made it all the way to the stage (Apparently they get sent on their way, and some make the trip more than once).
When Green Day finally took the stage the roar of the crowd was deafening. You may not care one lick for Green Day’s music, but they can put on one amazing show. We were close enough to the stage to touch hands with the band members when they walked out onto the catwalk. The set list couldn’t have been better, a mixture of old and new. Our new friend Mike, the security guard, gave Kayleigh his set list, and both Stevie and Scott ended up catching guitar picks that were discarded onto the stage. All of this was great, but the real kicker was when John got pulled on stage to sing Dearly Beloved, then took a stage dive. The atmosphere at this point was pretty euphoric, the music was excellent, and aside from dodging the odd crowd surfer, the view couldn’t have been better. The concert ended with Good Riddance (Time of Your Life), which was the one song that I had really wanted to hear. That song was the first that I ever learned to play on the guitar, and hearing it right at the end of such a great concert made the night just that much more special.
The arena emptied in record time, we remained near the stage for a while, letting the crowd behind us dissipate. When we could move freely we walked back into Pittsburgh. It was pouring rain outside, but none of us really cared. We trekked back to the van and set off to find our hosts. I’m not sure exactly what they thought when a bunch of rain soaked teenagers showed up at their door at midnight carrying overnight bags. They were excellent hosts, treating us to homemade lemonade and popcorn while we played “speed scrabble” at their kitchen table. We were all tired from a long exciting day, but we stayed awake as long as etiquette demanded before slipping off to our respective sleeping quarters. We were sent on our way in the morning after a breakfast of pancakes and juice. We gave the family the small gift we had purchased on our way to Pennsylvania, but it somehow seemed inadequate after all they had given us.
We ended the trip with a whirlwind tour of Pittsburgh, driving through the city before ending up at the Duquesne Incline. The Incline is a massive cliff overlooking the city, with cable cars that take travelers to the top. At the summit there were concrete overhangs that made for a great photo opportunity. We, of course, chose the overhang that had a road crew working right next to it. There was something particularly thrilling about standing on a concrete platform several hundred feet in the air while a man uses a jackhammer unnervingly nearby. We spent a bit longer exploring the cliff top, taking in some local color. It was Sunday, so everything was closed, but we still got to see a side of Pittsburgh most people probably don’t bother seeing.
Satisfied that our sightseeing was complete, and more than a little eager to return home, we descended in the cable car and began the long drive back. It is difficult to impress upon you the different emotions that the trip brought out in us. The shared experience that we all had brought us all closer together, especially for myself as the outsider of the group. I wouldn’t trade my memories of the trip for anything in the world.
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