Friday, May 16, 2014

Laying Over Well

From the Times Union Arena, Albany, NY

The airline layover is more of an art form than a science. The definitive guide to laying over well was written by (now retired) Delta captain Kevin Garrison in his book The CEO of the Cockpit which I highly recommend as a humorous inside look at the piloting profession:

A great layover is made up of having an adventurous attitude, a good group of people and enough common sense to stay out of jail and appear for pick-up sober in the morning.

Most airline layovers consist of a short van ride to the hotel, signing in, taking a moment to unpack, unwind and decompress followed by a brief turn in the usually lame hotel gym followed by a chicken caesar salad and a beer for dinner with your flying partner. A candy bar makes a good dessert before the setting of two or more alarms and falling asleep reading the Kindle. That's generally about as good as it gets. Most of the time.

On occasion, though, the layover gods may smile and drop a good time into your lap. This happened last Tuesday in Albany, NY. 

After the usual sign in at the Albany Hilton, I ventured down to the bar to wait for my first officer to arrive. A commute day sleep deficit cancelled any gym plans. The bar was packed and a fellow next to me seeming to be in an expansive mood asked if I was in town for the concert. What concert? Oh, you don't know? It's the Boss. Yes, that Boss. Bruce Springsteen was playing at the Times Union arena that night starting at 7:30. The current time was 5:30. 

The gears started turning. I've never counted myself as a huge fan of Springsteen but I certainly didn't dislike his music. Growing up near Philly, Springsteen was on the radio dating back to the his debut Asbury Park album and has been more or less part of the American soundtrack for nearly forty years.

I never cared much for a lot of his political stuff, but his rockers were second to none and who knows how much longer he'll keep it up? Since I'd probably never consider going out of my way for a Springsteen concert, this was it. Now or never. So it was now. I figured I could scalp a ticket for less than a C note outside the arena.

Just after finishing some wings and my second IPA, a bartender who apparently overheard my conversation approached with several tickets for sale. After minimal haggling, I had in my possession a ticket to see Bruce Springsteen and the East Street Band, face value $118 for a reasonable $50. My first officer declined to join me even with the offer of a comped second ticket so I was off by myself.

The ticket turned out to be legit as the laser scanner gave an approving beep entering the arena. My seat was on the second level about halfway back. Not a bad seat at all. And I had an empty seat next to me. Perhaps the bartender had broken up with her boyfriend or something similar. Didn't matter at that point.

After about a half hour delay the house lights went down and the show was under way. Bruce looks pretty good for his mid-sixties and has no shortage of energy even if his voice has grown steadily raspier over the years. As I mentioned, not being a true fan, many of his more esoteric selections were foreign to me but he did several covers and many of his biggest hits.

I had to admire though the professionalism of his band which consisted of perhaps a dozen veteran performers to include two keyboard players, a fiddle player, three backup singers, a full horn section and Nils Lofgren and Tom Morello joining the Boss on guitar.

Springsteen is nothing if not a good showman and entertainer. He was good at working the crowd and brought several members of the audience up on the stage for a once in a lifetime dance with a rock god. I especially appreciated how the transition from the main set to the encore set only took a few seconds sparing both the band and the audience the obligatory five minutes of shouting and stomping to demand an encore.

The encore set included many of his largest hits resulting in the entire arena coming to their feet for the remainder of the evening. The encore setlist included Born in the USA, Tenth Avenue Freeze-out, Born to Run of course, and Thunder Road to close out. A very enjoyable three hours.

After making my way back to the Hilton, I spent a few moments setting my three alarms so as not to miss lobby time. My phone which conveniently shows the amount of time to pass before the alarm sounds reported a stout 6:18 hours and minutes available for blissful snoozing before go time. 

Considering I'd only gotten about four hours the night before due to a late commute flight into base, this would be like sleeping in. So of course I popped awake several hours early due to a too cold setting on the air conditioner only not to be able to get back to sleep. Well, sleep is overrated and I have a blog entry to write.

PS I do have a story to tell about the time my parents had dinner with Bruce Springsteen and his mother. As it turns out, my father graduated from Freehold Borough High School which he attended while my grandfather was employed at the NJ State Hospital in Marlboro, NJ.

Bruce Springsteen's mother also graduated from the same school (as did Bruce) and was attending a reunion along with her son. My parents had the good fortune to be seated next to the Boss and his mother and enjoyed an evening together. He was reported by my mother as delightful.

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Capt Rob