Somehow, it has become possible for my “baby” to go to concerts in the city. With his friends. Late at night. With no adult supervision.
The “ask” took place months ago, when the reality was somewhere in the far-off future. Chris and I gave Malcolm permission to go to a Pinback concert in Philadelphia, and bought the tickets for him and a handful of friends on line.
Then came the fun part – making sure Malcolm collected money from those friends so as to pay us back. This seemed to take an eternity.
Last Saturday afternoon, Chris took Malcolm to the train station, where he and his gang rode into the city to roam around, killing a number of hours before the show began. They feasted in Chinatown, and walked en masse (six of them) after dark to the Starlight Ballroom for the concert.
Do not be fooled by the Doris Day-ish name. As I discovered when I drove in to the city at midnight to fetch the boys, the Starlight Ballroom is a gritty place completely lacking in glamor. It’s located in a hipster-ish neighborhood, which means cyclone fencing and abandoned warehouses. The only starlight was that glinting off broken glass.
Berating myself for being a terrible, neglectful mother who had sent her baby into the belly of the beast, I envisioned horrible occurrences. A flash fire like that nightclub disaster in Rhode Island. A stampede. A knife fight. Headlines would scream “Unchaperoned 14 Year Olds Hospitalized After Melee.” I would be skewered on The View and on Oprah. Malcolm would enter the foster care system and not search for me when he aged out.
There was one small silver lining: I got a parking spot right across from the band’s bus. No way would the boys have trouble finding me when they emerged.
I thought how difficult making the pick-up would have been in the old days, before cell phones, and found myself enormously grateful for the invention of texting. Malcolm and I could communicate effectively and instantly, even though he was in a hall full of ear-splitting music, and I was in a car outside. The clock ticked. I checked my email. My dad was recommending an article by Joe Queenan in the current Time magazine. Within seconds, I was reading the article, happy for the suggestion and the diversion. And thank you, Apple, for inventing the iPhone. I know you did it to be charitable.
After perhaps a 10 minute wait, during which I saw that the people spilling out from the concert hall were overwhelmingly young guys in their 20s (same as it ever was, only now they are all tattooed) Malcolm and his gang finally emerged. One sat up front with me, three squished in the back seat, and two had to ride without seat belts in the way back. Praying that no cop would pull me over, I turned the wheel toward home.
The boys were giddy with excitement about the show. I began to feel better about letting them run free in the city. They explained to me how it was that a bunch of teenagers could share a venue where everyone over 21 was drinking. “We had to show our IDs, and then they put us in an alcohol-free corral, right at the stage.” Ironically, this put them directly into the fumes of a very drunk musician.
Several of the kids had grabbed set lists from their ring-side positions. Malcolm noticed a spelling error. The boys were thrilled that one of the musicians, after giving them his autograph, had demanded THEIR signatures as well. The guys had new shirts and new memories and new stuff to post on FB.
As I chugged carefully along the highway, listening but not listening creepily hard, I found myself deciding that perhaps this example of bad parenting had, in fact, not been so bad after all. All’s well that ends well.
And thank heavens for texting.