The Umbrella


Posted on October 18th, by James McAllen in Uncategorized. 10 comments

My ol’ man was an eternal optimist. No matter how bad the situation, he always thought that things would work out in the end. Whenever we lost a game or a girlfriend, or some other teenage disaster, he always said the same thing, “I guarantee you, the sun will come up tomorrow.” And it always did. Even as it was becoming evident that his journey was coming to an end far too soon, he never complained or cried “why me“. The last thing that he said to me was “I’m only responsible for the effort, not the result.

Mother was a fatalist. No matter how good things were going, she always expected it to turn out sour. She was always waiting for the other shoe to drop and when it did, she was right there to say… “I told you.

Guess which gene I got…

I never heard my mother curse until she was in her 50’s. After that she sounded like a longshoreman. Some of it was pretty hysterical. One time, speaking about the injustice in life, she said, “Not only do they shove the umbrella up there, then then open it.” After that, whenever she went to the racetrack, or AC, we would ask her how it went, and she would respond by saying,

“I got the umbrella.” And then we knew.

A few weeks ago, despite my protestations against getting me a gift for my birthday, Valarie surprised me by letting me know that she got us two tickets for tonight’s Pearl Jam show at the Barclay Center. For me, this is probably the most enjoyable present anyone can get me. After I stopped my stream of heart-felt thank you’s, I asked the fatal question.

Where are the seats?” This was my downfall. I should have just kept my mouth shut and went to the show. But being the big wheel that I think I am, I thought we could use the tickets and a couple of dollars to trade up. I’m too dignified to sit in the upper upper deck. That’s for peasants.

For the next few weeks I’m scouring Stubhub, but the prices were ridiculous. $1200 bucks a ticket in some places. Then I started to look at Craigslist. The prices were much more reasonable, and with some decent seats too. I thought that if I waited til the last few days, I’d have a good shot of getting a better pair of seats. I thought I had a line on a pair last week, but the seller flaked out. Of course, somewhere along the way, I decided that I couldn’t leave my brother out, so now quest was for 4 tickets.

On Wednesday, I traded e-mails with a guy who said he had 4 tix in section 25 for $160 apiece. This was basically double the face value, but it still wasn’t anywhere near what they were asking for on Stubhub. I made the decision to take a shot and agreed to meet him. As we rode into the city, Val and I started to get excited and we let the moment get the best of us. I said that if it didn’t pan out, we could just go to the show in Philly on Tuesday night.

Valarie replied, “Let’s go to both.” After a minute of contemplation, I agreed wholeheartedly. Why not? It’s only money. It’s not like I’ll be going to the World Series this year, and god knows I’d rather go to see PJ than fly to some 3rd world island and spend a week at a resort. This was going to be my vacation; on the road with Pearl Jam. I almost felt like a Deadhead, except without the dirty feet.

By this time I was in text contact with my new friend, Ethan. Ethan had a New jersey phone number. I pictured some unshaven hipster in Birkenstock’s. I was psyched.

He asked us to meet him uptown, on 105th and Broadway. We were already on 36th street, so it was a quick train ride uptown. We exit the train and head over to Broadway and wait at a bench on the traffic island.  A few minutes later, a short Spanish kid shows up. Clean cut, maybe 22, 23. He’s 5’6″ and a buck-fifty, tops. He’s got the timbo’s and the saggy pants, but other than that he’s not giving off any vibe. We talk for a few minutes and I examine the tickets as best as I could, and they look spot on. He’s got the proof of purchase with the AMEX number on it, so I’m feeling pretty good.  I give him the envelope with 32 $20 dollar bills in it, we shake hands and I watch him leave. He walks away slow and cool, and never looks back. That was big. He never worried that we might be following him.

DSC02517 This is what a $640 dollar lesson looks like.

We head to a cafe to have lunch and after we order, I look at the tickets. Section 25. Row 4. I’m feeling good. Then she sees my face drop. Wassamatta, she says.

He never counted the money.” I say. He put the envelope in his pocket. “So what, he trusted you. You have a trustworthy face.” She tries to reassure me. “You’re just being paranoid.” I try to calm down, but my stomach is in knots. I scan the tickets again. They look perfect. We finish lunch and head home. I’m still paranoid. I decide to play detective. I send the guy an email using a different e-mail address and ask if he still has the tickets. I get no response. This makes me feel a little better, but not much.

Later than evening, I check Craigslist again. I see another ad for tickets. I send an e-mail asking about the seat location. I get a response 5 minutes later.

Section 25. Row 4.

I nearly puke. It’s 1:30 am. I call Valarie. I call my Keith. Both reassure me that it’s a coincidence. An ASTRONOMICAL coincidence.

I don’t sleep very well that night. In the morning, I call Ticketmaster, but they can’t really help me. They suggest that I go to the arena early on the day of the show. I can’t wait. I take the train down to Barclays. I nervously hand the ticket over to the man at the box office. He looks at it. “It looks good.” He runs some numbers. He shakes his head. No good. He shows me the serial number and tries to explain something, but I don’t hear him. I take the tickets and head out into the October sun. It’s hot. I’m steaming. It feels like blood is dripping from my ears. I start walking. I don’t look up for about 25 blocks. I’m at Prospect Ave before I realize it. I call my brother.

“I got the umbrella.” He knows what I mean.

I shut my phone off and head home. When I get there, I call Valarie and I call my brother again. They both want me to set up a sting with a different e-mail account and grab the kid and stab him a few times and then shoot him and stuff him into the trunk of a car and then drive upstate, but first stop and have some pasta… well, you get my drift.

I try to be the calm one. I try to think like my old man. “Hey. You got beat. It’s not the end of the world. You learned a hard, painful lesson, and you move forward. If you hunt this kid down, you’ll be the one that ends up in jail or a hospital.”

They both agree with me.

Kinda.

I’m angry about the money, but I’m really pissed that I don’t have the tickets. I feel like I’ve let them down, but they both assure me that it’s not my fault that the world is filled with scumbags. I second guess myself a hundred different ways. Mostly I’m embarrassed that I got beat. I make sure to tell them not to tell anybody. I don’t want it getting out. I try to lay down and unwind, but I’m anxious as a virgin on prom night. I think about calling one of my AA friends to help me calm down, but I’m too embarrassed. I’m worried that it will get out and I’ll be a laughingstock. But then it hits me.

Fuck That!

I’m telling everybody! Or at least the 172 people that read my blog. This is gonna be the best blog ever. I start writing it in my head. I think about my mom and the umbrella. I’m definitely going to include that in the story. Before I leave for work, I post a note of Craigslist warning people to beware of anyone offering tickets in Section 25.  Beware of a 609 area code. Beware anyone named Ethan.

I’m super busy at work, so I forget about the tickets and the blog for a while. Around midnite I get a break. I log onto Craigslist and behold what I see.

Ethan

 

Well, hello there Ethan. My, don’t you look good in bracelets. Stainless steel is definitely your color. By the way, how does that umbrella feel? Here, let me open it for you.

I’m giddy by now. I send the pic to Valarie and I call Keith at work. We’re not totally satisfied, but we’re pretty happy.

In the morning, I head over to the precinct to tell my tale. They take my info and they say they will try to run it down, but there is no way to know where he was arrested and you probably won’t get your money back and blah, blah, blah… I’m tired by now. I stop listening. The desk sergeant takes a look at the tickets.

Wow. These are good. I’d be fooled too.”

I head home with a little satisfaction. I learned a $640 lesson-

I’m going to sit in the 2nd to last row of the Barclay’s Center and watch Pearl Jam.

Ethan’s umbrella hurt a lot worse than mine.

And I got a great blog topic out of it.

Oh yeah, and we’re going to Philly on Tuesday. Have a great Friday folks!





10 thoughts on “The Umbrella

  1. that’s infuriating man. i’ve been scouring CL all week thinking I’m too smart to get scammed but those tix looked mighty legit. i’ve already dealt with one shady character. when i asked for ticket details he vanished. oh well, fingers crossed.

  2. Good tale…l always pride myself at being too Brooklyn to ever get stung. Sadly, l paid 18 thousand dollars in advance for a failed spine surgery…makes your 600 look like child’s play, amigo . I’m still in same agony as before the op but my bank account took a giant hit, as did my emotions. Consider yourself lucky that you’re able to walk to the subway in the morning. I can’t.
    Don

  3. Love the umbrella! Great story! Would love to have you come to our school and read or outline a story. Only thing you would have to leave out the colorful words.

  4. James, I enjoyed your story about the dilemma you went through. You were too trusting because you wouldn’t do anything dishonest to others. I felt you were heading into disaster from the moment you wanted to get a better deal. I felt sorry for your disappointment and learning the hard way not to trust strangers. I traveled with you through the tale, good work. Maria Acquista Manobianco

  5. So wanted the tickets to be real. Glad the sun remained with you guys and you saw Pearl Jam; I think the fans fans are always in the nosebleed seats anyway, mostly people from the music business are in the front rows.

  6. Another ray of sunshine: you may have gotten screwed but u made a shitload of people laugh. Hope u enjoy the show u deserve it.

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