Saturday, April 19, 2014

No. 47 – Lines on My Face

Performer: Peter Frampton
Songwriter: Peter Frampton
Original Release: Frampton’s Camel
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: Frampton Comes Alive!, 1976.

I always loved this song in that it seemed to be a perfect set-up song to the grand finale of Do You Feel Like We Do—particularly Frampton’s final heart-rending solo. So you can imagine my surprise when I found out recently that at the shows where Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded, Lines on My Face actually was the third song out of the box, before Show Me the Way.

Fine. Don’t care. I still love this song, and it has an important place in my biography, aside from being No. 47 on the charts (and in my heart).

When I moved back to Columbus and began to make plans with Debbie to do stuff—strictly as friends, of course—the first thing we did together, aside from meals, was a Reds game in Cincinnati. Debbie was a huge Reds fan, so now she had someone she could drag to Riverfront Stadium to see a game. Apparently, I was an easy mark.

Actually, I was plenty excited to go on my own. I hadn’t been to a Reds game in person since 1977, for a variety of reasons—mostly relating to cost and the fact that throughout college, I dated someone who hated baseball. Then I moved away. I didn’t even see the Reds play on the road during that time.

I was ready to get tickets, but Debbie wasn’t as hard-core as I was. If the weather wasn’t great, she said, she wouldn’t want to go, and she didn’t want to be on the hook for tickets. She just wanted to buy them there. Uh … OK.

Well, I didn’t think Riverfront would be like Tiger Stadium, where you could just walk up the day of the game and sit pretty much wherever you wanted. Also, because Riverfront was an ashtray, if you didn’t get good seats, you were a mile away from the field. So I came up with a genius idea, which I sprung on Debbie on the way down on a glorious July Sunday: We’ll scalp.

Scalp?! Debbie had never scalped tickets before—neither had I. But … how hard can it be? You just negotiate the price, make sure the tickets are as advertised and make the purchase. We’ll get much better seats than we would if we bought red seats—the upper deck—from the ticket counter, like Debbie wanted. She looked a bit askance but decided to trust me.

We parked in a garage on Third Street across I-71 from Riverfront. Almost right away, we were hit with a barrage of streetfolk barking “Who needs tickets?”

The first guy we came to had a bunch, but it was about an hour till game time, so he wasn’t quite ready to part with his booty. He said $20 each, which was what I wanted to pay, but they were for green seats—second deck—and right-field corner. No. I want good seats. For those, he charged $35 each. Too much. But these green seats, man …

Now, if you never scalped tickets before, you have to remember two things: First, it’s basic supply and demand. If there’s a lot of supply and not much demand—like, say, for a game against a nondescript opponent during a year when strike talk threatens to cancel the season in weeks—prices will come down.

Second, and more important: Scalpers want money, not tickets. So, the closer you get to game time, the further the price will drop. Patience and the word “no” can be your best friends when you scalp.

I gave the guy a final “no thanks,” and we walked on. Debbie thought we should buy those tickets. She wasn’t sure we’d find more scalpers, but I could see a bunch more guys standing around. Time was on our side.

We approached the next group of guys, asking the basic questions: What do you have? Where are they? Let me see the tickets (to make sure the seats are together and what they claim to be).

The first guy had blue seats—field level—good ones, behind first base, about halfway up. Let me see the tickets. They were what he said they were and together. How much? $25 each. Still too high. No, I said and turned away. $20, he said.

Face value was $15. If we had bought through Ticketbastard, we would’ve spent almost $20 per ticket anyway thanks to Ticketbastard’s take-it-up-the-keister service charge. Heck, it wasn’t even that close to game time. As soon as I heard the price drop, I said, “sold.” I crossed his palm with $40, and we hiked to the stadium.

After we had our tickets torn and hiked down the ramp to the blue seats, Debbie hugged me giddily. Wow. I can’t believe I’m going to be sitting in blue seats. I would’ve settled for those green-seat tickets. Yeah, well, stick with me, babe …

The seats were great, and the game was interesting. The Reds blew a six-run lead and lost in extra innings to the Pirates, and I saw something I’d never seen before, at least at the big-league level: Jacob Brumfield stole home on a straight steal in the first inning.

Debbie remarked afterward how much I talked during the game. She had expected that, because I was such a big fan, I’d want to just be quiet and watch the action. Nah. This is baseball. You have plenty of time to gab, it’s more fun—Dave and I would talk a mile a minute at Tigers games—and, besides, I don’t miss anything anyway.

After the game, Debbie took me to a place of her choosing for dinner. It was The Montgomery Inn, which was her favorite place for ribs. I was a Damon’s guy, but I loved ribs, so I was willing to give it a try. We went to the east side location (now gone), and I had to admit, the ribs were phenomenal. I’ve been dozens of times since, and up until I tried L Wood’s dry rub ribs a few years ago, I always said Montgomery Inn’s ribs were the best in the world.

Finally, we were driving home. The whole day had been great, and I was surprised by how much we seemed to have in common: baseball, food and music. I already knew we were somewhat sympatico about music, but the clincher came on that drive.

The conversation turned to Peter Frampton, and Debbie said her favorite Frampton song was Lines on My Face. As soon as she did, I said, “Thank you. That’s his best song, and all you ever hear on the radio is Show Me the Way or Baby I Love Your Way.” As soon as I finished my oration, Debbie just said, “This is scary.”

I let the comment drop, but I knew what she meant: We already were feeling that we had a lot in common. Heck, not only do we share a love of Frampton, but we also even love the same obscure song the best.

Most of the rest of the drive home was quieter than before. It was like we crossed some line that neither of us wanted to acknowledge. However, two weeks later, we tested that line further on our trip to Cedar Point.

Of course, you know what happened from there. After we hooked up romantically, Debbie and I always looked back at that drive home from Cincinnati, and Lines on My Face, as the moment when we started to think that maybe, just maybe, something was happening that went beyond friendship.

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