Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

A Concert Ticket For Under $10?

I can no longer use risk exposure to Covid19 as a reason for avoiding super spreader concerts. Unless the concert is broadcast on a premium channel or streamed, there is no way I would be able to afford in person any more. It should not have taken Taylor Swift to become the poster child for a ticket sales monopoly and legalized scalping to bring this problem to light.

Growing up in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, we basically had two local venues to see concerts before making the farther drive to Philadelphia. We had the Allentown Fairgrounds and Lehigh University’s Stabler Arena. Both provided great seats and a great concert (depending on who the band was). The poster pictured above, was a few years before I started going to concerts. Needless to say, I am sure this was a great concert. Two things stand out on this poster. The first, there are two prices for tickets, $6.50 if you bought them in advance, $7.50 if you bought them at the gate, or as the poster warns, “if available.”

The second, “Ticketron, in a font demonstrative of computer language, was the ticketing agency for this concert. Ticketron was a computerized ticket purchasing company started in 1960 until 1990, when it was taken over by… wait for it, Ticketmaster. However, you did not have to buy the tickets through Ticketron. There were several ticket windows outside of the Fairgrounds that you could walk up to, and slap a $10 bill on the counter for a ticket, and avoid all the other fees.

A few years later, I would purchase my first concert tickets. I saw Def Leppard at the Allentown Fairgrounds, and Chicago at Stabler Arena. Being a teenager, I did not have a credit card, so using Ticketron was not an option for me. I had to buy my tickets at the box offices for each venue. If memory serves me correctly, I paid less than $15 for each ticket. Also worthy of note, I only paid the price of the ticket and the state sales tax.

In 1984, a new standard had been set for concerts, courtesy of Bruce Springsteen, one of the first artists to institute a “ticket purchase limit,” due to the popular release of Springsteen’s “Born In The USA” album. Fans would line up overnight for chances to purchase the limit, if I remember, six tickets, or call Ticketron. While purchasing the tickets over the phone had its conveniences, there was also a major inconvenience. You had no way of knowing the quality of the seats your were purchasing unless you were familiar with the venue. But if you purchased your tickets from the ticket window, you had a map layout of the entire venue, to see what you had to choose from. Today, you get offered whatever tickets Ticketmaster presents to you. Don’t like those tickets, back out, and try again, and again, and again. Eventually you might get good tickets, or maybe none at all. Sold out, and then onto…

The limit on purchasing tickets did not have as much to do with limiting anyone from buying tickets, but rather to prevent ticket “scalping.” Scalping is the act of re-selling the tickets at an increased value above the face value. There are no federal laws to prevent making a profit off of re-selling tickets. Left up to the states, some states, like New York, New Jersey, even Florida have laws against making one penny above the face value of the ticket. Some states, like Texas and Ohio, have no laws preventing scalping. And Alabama? Well, they have a scalping law, but it includes having to prove that the person scalping, had a history or reputation of being a scalper.

In the 1990’s, Ticketmaster gobbled up Ticketron, which combined had 90% of the computerized ticketing business. And from there, Ticketmaster cleaned up any other smaller ticketing agencies, until it had its monopoly. Government regulations allowed this to happen. We allowed this to happen. And that is one reason ticket prices have skyrocketed, no competition. But there is another reason.

Remember scalping? In the old days, as you arrived at the concert, you would have two types of people outside, those looking to buy a ticket (unable to before hand), and those willing to conveniently “sell” their tickets, at a higher “lack of convenience for you” price. Scalping. Today, it has been modernized, and seemingly, still legal, even in the states with laws prohibiting it. Just Google the word “scalping,” and the first three sites listed are not for “what is scalping,” but rather, three “re-selling” agencies, including the most popular of them, Stub Hub.

For the most part, no one has really paid attention to the prices on Stub Hub whether for a concert or professional sports. But now thanks to the Swift fiasco, Stub Hub is front and center with Swift concert tickets selling well into the thousands of dollars. Scalping. But as I said, scalping is another reason for ticket prices increasing. Because now the artists see the profits being made from scalping off of their performance, and feel, why shouldn’t they get to benefit from it, leading to increased ticket costs. No one can blame the artist. But I have no problem saying either, no one is worth thousands to see perform. And I do wonder, of these people shelling out these prices, are they also the ones complaining about the economy and inflation? Because this is the shit that contributes to it.

I don’t recall how much I paid for my last concert tickets, though I know it was under $100. And that was in the 2000’s. But back in 1994, the band the Eagles reunited after they swore Hell would have to freeze over before they would perform together again, and just like that, Hell dropped to 32 degrees, and the dawn of $100 tickets was born. A 3-day ticket to the original Woodstock was $18 in 1969. In 1994, tickets to the 2-day Woodstock festival went for $120.

I have seen my share of concerts in my life. As a parent, I was prepared to have to attend concerts with my daughters and bands that I really could not stand such as One Direction, Justin Bieber, and BTS, and yes, Taylor Swift. But my daughters, having been exposed to all genres of music, are drawn more to the older acts, at this point, appearing to be nothing more than tribute bands, barely holding on to any remaining original members, most now in their 70’s. Don’t get me wrong, bands like Foreigner, Styx, and Journey still put on a great show. I would just say not worth all the fees that Ticketmaster adds onto the price of a ticket.

I am happy for those that have been fortunate enough to find the goose with the golden eggs. Have a good time. But for me, I must relegate to concert DVD’s, streaming, and rockumentaries. And I am okay with that.

How Ya Been?

I stopped into a convenience store the other day. As I was entering the door, a customer was walking out. He had just bought himself some PowerBall tickets (he lost I am sure). Just as we passed each other, we realized suddenly, we knew each other. But it had actually been awhile, nearly three years in fact, yes, since the Covid pandemic broke out. Prior to that, we might have seen each other pretty much weekly. He had also aged some. My hair had grown quite a bit longer as well. So we both had changed over time. I was also wearing a mask, something I have done indoors most of the time, and occasionally outdoors depending on how dense the crowd may be.

We actually stood there and caught up with each other. Of course, Covid was part of the conversation. He had his experience with it at one time, I to this day, as of this post, have still avoided the virus (knock on wood). My friend was glad to hear that I had gotten to spend time with my daughters, and happy to hear of their future education plans. And finally, we both mentioned that hopefully, some day, better mitigation and control would be in place to prevent the continued infection of Covid. For me, my life is going to depend on it.

I am one of only three people that I am in personal contact with, who have not had Covid. The three of us, all realize the vulnerabilities that I have, which make me more susceptible to not only infection of, but complications from Covid. I am fully vaccinated, up to my fifth dose, the new bivalent booster which covers many strains of the Omicron variant. And with the current strain, called “Deltacron,” named after the strains of Omicron and Delta being combined, now having the serious effects on the lungs that the highly fatal Delta strain was known for, with the easy spreading capacity of Omicron, it is beginning to look like another rough year dealing with Covid.

The good news for most, is the newer booster, covers most of the Omicron strains along with Delta. Unfortunately for me, as I have written in the past, my body does not hold immunity very well, especially when it comes to the Covid vaccine. That has been proven. I received my 5th dose, of the bivalent booster back in October. As blood tests showed with the other doses that I got, my immunity levels last roughly four months. And currently there is not any protocol for any future boosters, which means come January, all I can do is prevent getting Covid on my own. But as I said, decisions I have made have worked so far.

Besides wearing the mask, avoiding crowds, and the obvious, washing my hands, I have made smart choices. I have given up nothing. I do what I want, but I have made sure, that if there was an increased risk of Covid, I dealt with two criteria, how important was the situation that I was going to be in, and how comfortable did I feel that my efforts to protect myself would work.

Throughout the pandemic, there were three things that mattered to me; seeing my daughters, my older daughter’s high school graduation, and my health. If I wanted to be able to deal with all three, I needed to avoid Covid. It was not hard to do. But those three things, would also put me at my greatest risk of exposure. I would have to fly for my daughter’s graduation, so there was the over crowded airports. I say over crowded because for the life of me, I do not remember airports being that packed prior to the pandemic. Maybe one percent of the people besides myself wore masks. And at the graduation itself? See for yourself.

A couple thousand people, shoulder to shoulder, indoors, with as rising case number of new infections. As the picture shows, besides the camera person, there were two people a couple rows in front of me, that were wearing masks besides myself. Needless to say, my anxiety was high, but this was one of those moments I was not going to miss. And then of course there were the flights back and forth, and dealing with crowded airports, again, most other passengers not wearing masks. Fortunately, and again, because I followed the prevention recommendations, I did not get Covid.

But there was another opportunity, that put me at a high risk, and I had no choice in the matter. Through the course of the pandemic, I needed three surgeries, two for my heart, and one for my carotid artery. Of course, where were you more likely than not to run into Covid, than in a hospital. But fortunately, hospitals were following the protocols to protect patients as well as themselves. Again, I managed to get through all three surgeries, without getting infected by Covid.

If I received any ridicule, it was from a minority of friends, who I feel had other agendas with their position on Covid, in spite of knowing what an infection could do to me. With those friends, I simply ignored the false “pity” of having given up my “freedom.” To be honest, I am not sure what I gave up, but rather that I had either lost interest, or could not really afford any longer. I do my own grocery shopping, pump my own gas. I even took my daughters on vacations. Clearly I travel. I very rarely eat in at restaurants, depending on the crowded conditions and if booth seating is available. I do not really consider this a “loss” as I will take the food to go. My server still gets a tip. I do not get Covid. There are really only two things that I can say are 100% not happening currently, and though a small part of it is Covid risk, cost is definitely a final factor. I can wait for movies to come out on Netflix, Redbox, or any other streaming service. I do not need to pay the value of a quarter tank of gas to see a movie, and that is without snacks. And of course, concerts. While I have seen most acts that I have ever wanted to see, some multiple times, and some that I at one time, had hoped to see again, with the rising costs of tickets, it is not Covid that made me give up concerts.

While the circle of people I know of, who have not had Covid yet is getting smaller, I do not think I have suffered at all by choosing to take precautions. My personal doctors have given me sound advice, and over all the years in their care, they have always been honest with me, and I know have always cared. The holidays are coming up again, and that means spending time with my daughters again. And then soon, it is going to be another high school graduation I will have to look forward to.

No, I have not given up or sacrificed anything for Covid. I have simply recognized and prioritized what is important to me. And that is the only time I want to be positive when it comes to Covid.

Always Remember Them Young

As an uber-music-nerd, there are a lot of moments in my life, that memories are triggered when I hear certain songs. And the catalogue in my mind is not only large, but diverse, when it comes to the genre of music.

I told my daughters that I would get better at accepting the fact that they have grown up. Our family impacted by divorce, I do not have the benefit of seeing my daughters every day as when I lived in the house with them. So, the days that I did not see them, either by visitation or by video chats, I would go through the thousands and thousands of files of photos I have taken of my daughters over the years. They have long gotten to the point of perfecting the “eye roll” when I ask for another picture. But as an adult child of divorce, I do not have many photos of my younger years, especially with either of my parents. The example that I have set for my daughters, these photos matter and will always help me to remember.

So, I am sitting in my car, stopped for a school bus stopped with its red lights blinking, loading what appeared to be elementary school age children. There was a gaggle of parents standing at the bus stop to make sure that their children were off and safe. Up until that moment, I did not have any other thought on my mind. And then… my Ipod began to play Thomas Rhett’s “Remember You Young.”

That is all it took. The time it takes to load the amount of kids onto a school bus, I got through half of the song. My mind had taken me back to the time pictured above, a time that I remember so well. With one away at college, and another soon to be, these memories will be all that I have. As I said, I have many of them to reflect on.

But this was not the only time in recent weeks that this flipped switch had occurred.

A friend and fellow Hodgkin’s survivor recently visited the “house of the mouse”, Disney with her young son. Like any doting parent, it took no time for her to share the beautiful and fun photos of the pure enjoyment that her son was getting to experience. Again, looking at the beaming photos of her son, I remembered what it was like for me, when I took my daughters, close to the same age, to Disney for the first time.

But I digress. I told my daughters that I would do all that I can, to let them grow up, and be grown ups. They each have an exciting pathway in life ahead of them. And hopefully many of the experiences they have had, their memories, will help them to be great parents someday as well. As they grown however, I will always remember them young.

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