Altitude Sickness

Lows and highs: A pulled groin and Paul McCartney

By Brady Crain

Paul McCartney’s concert at Fenway park last week was a show that once again (for the fourth time ) brought tears to Crain’s eyes creating a memory not soon to be forgotten.

I did something this week that I haven’t done since I was 14. I pulled a groin. And not in a good way. It was a remarkably civilized injury . I stepped out to catch a throw to first. It was a close play and a good throw, not the sort of play that I miss, but the ball just bounced of my glove. I scrambled, overthrew to second, and then noticed that my right hip felt funny. Like, really funny.

I got up to bat and tried to leg-out a single and fell down when trying to stop running. It hurt really badly, and I walked back to the bench looking like I was recovering from a kick to the groin. I layed on the ground for a while—luckily the game was over at that point—and I limped home.

Injury recovery is my wheelhouse, so I have been walking and cycling every day, taking lots of arnica, and getting rest. I think I will be ready for the playoffs (which will happen before this goes to press).

On the guinea pig training front, Pip “The Impaler” is exhibiting some interesting progress; I am starting to get to know his cues. I have sugar-trained him well enough that he has stopped biting for the most partnothing like the fusillade of snaps that used to occur. Now when I approach him, I am able to see the kind of touch that used to hurt for him, and the places that were hurt on him.

If I approach him with the backs of my fingers, he is fine, and if I am rubbing his chin he is fine, but if I turn my hand around and present him my fingertips I can literally watch him stiffen and coil. I can see him trying not to snap, because he wants a treat. Now I give him a treat no matter if he snaps or not, because I want him to see that there are no consequences for him (he also clearly expects retaliation when he bites). At this point I have given up on having any sort of truly affectionate relationship with him. I just want him to be happy and feel safe.

The best part of the last week for me, however, was not Pip, softball or any other athletic endeavor—it happened at Fenway Park. I did not go there for a game (the Sox have led to enough disappointment in my life that I can’t bring myself to do anything but talk to the person next to me during a game), but rather for my fourth experience seeing Paul McCartney.

During the 90s I worked for nearly every act that toured the United States. In an average month I got to stand near (and ignore) more famous people than most get to see in person in their entire lifetimes. I was verbally assaulted by Marilyn Manson for no reason. I personally and very publicly (in front of 60,000-plus people) pissed off Jerry Garcia (he had good reason to be pissed). I ate dinner with Meat Loaf (the person, not the dish—coolest guy in the entertainment industry). I sipped outrageously good aged single malt Scotch from Mikhail Baryshnikhov’s glass. I spent so much time backstage at Phish concerts, I still get nods from the band when I see them in public, mostly because they recognize me but have no idea why.

When I turned eight years old, my father put on a Beatles record. I sat transfixed in front of the stereo the whole time this record was on. For the next six years, I listened to three records (the “White Album,” “Hey Jude,” and “Abbey Road”) on repeat every day (until my parents finally tired of this and bought me a tape player with a new tapes: Beatles, a Paul McCartney, Pipes of Peace, Thriller, and Billy Joel).

When I turned 22, my mother (Victoria Crain, who writes the art beat for the Rutland Herald) wrote me a wonderful letter telling me why I was a Beatles fan. Apparently when I was a small baby, my father worked three jobs and my mother stayed home with me. After a while she got tired of making baby talk with me, and for a series of months she would just put the Beatles on the stereo, crank it up, and dance around the house with me for hours. I apparently laughed the entire time, nonstop.

In 1994, I was at the Halloween Phish show in Glens Falls working as a rigger (if you have a bootleg of this show, you can hear me yell “FREEBIRD” about 20 seconds before they launched into “Sweet Adeline”), which is the show where their Halloween costume was the Beatles’ “White Album.” Having not listened to the Beatles for years, I cried for the entire set.

In 2009, my soon-to-be fiance/wife/ex-wife bought us tickets to see an artist for whom I had never worked. Sir Paul McCartney. I never pay to see live music. I’m too much of a snob about it. I used to be paid well to see live music. I have trouble bringing myself to pay for it unless it is the band Cake, whom I saw first at the Outback on Killington Road in 1995 (phenomenal show), but my response when she bought the tickets was to say “Wait … you can just go see Paul McCartney?”

It had never occurred to me to look to see if he was on tour. She (not a Beatles fan, but for all her weaknesses the best gift-giver I have met) just looked at a website and got tickets.

When we went to the show I was expecting to be not that impressed. He was 67 years old—how good could it be? I’ll tell you how good. His band, at that point, had been together for longer than the Beatles were, and his musicians are the cream of the performing crowd. His drummer, Abe Laboriel, Jr., is not only spectacular, but is clearly having the best time that anyone ever had in the world. All of the musicians are clearly playing their dream gig, and they all do it amazingly.

The show we went to at Citifield was on the 44th anniversary of the first Beatles’ Shea Stadium performance (the first arena rock concert ever), and was the opening show at the new Shea Stadium. They were making a DVD and an album, and the show was like being beaten with a bag full of mega-hits. Beatles, Wings, Solo, Beatles, Wings, Solo, rinse and repeat.

I cried. I screamed like a 12-year-old girl. I watched my soon-to-be fiance (at that time) rapidly become a Beatles fan. We openly wept for the entire show, as did she, who had no idea how much Paul McCartney had been in her life, nor how much she had loved it. We drove home from the show, got home at 4 a.m., and immediately bought tickets for the Fenway show two weeks later. I didn’t sleep for two days. We loved that show, too.

The show at Fenway was different. It was slower, had deeper cuts, and had some really strong new material (“My Valentine,” “Four Five Seconds”—recorded with Rihanna, Kanye and many others), and for an hour they brought the band down to the “Love Me Do” era setup size. The show, of course, finished with all sorts of epic anthems, Paul’s love song to John (“Here Today,” he has cried every single time I have seen him play it), “Yesterday,” “Blackbird,” and a gorgeous version of “Something” that started on a ukelele that George gave him.

If you are any sort of a Beatles or McCartney fan, go see him. Now. Fly wherever you have to, pay whatever. There is a reason that Paul McCartney is Paul McCartney, and the Beatles were the Beatles. In all my years of working for live bands, I have never seen anything like his performance, and at the age of 73, he still brings it to the stage like no one else. His encore, after three hours of playing, was “Helter Skelter”; Bob Weir joined him playing guitar; and Ron Gronkowski joined, a full head taller than Paul, playing air guitar with the best.

The show is incredible, and you will see thousands of people, half of them grown men, crying and singing their hearts out, arms around each other. If only for the four or five minutes of “na-na-na-na”in “Hey Jude,” it is special to be able to say that you have actually sung harmony with Paul McCartney. I have never experienced anything like it, and I am thinking I am going to need to see another show before the summer is over, because “cathartic” doesn’t even begin to cover the experience. In a country so divided, to have 30,000 people facing the same direction, singing the same song, peacefully, together, is a rare thing. A special thing. An important thing.

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