Friday, October 16, 2009

This past August 23, I saw Pearl Jam in concert at the United Center, and as I was impersonally guided to my parking place in one of the venue’s sanctioned lots, I was reminded of one of the great lost heroes of my childhood: “Wally Green.” While I have a lived the past six years in Kalamazoo, Michigan, I grew up in the city of Chicago. My family lived in West Rogers Park and my dad owned drugstores on the Southside. Thus, I attended a lot of shows at the old Chicago Stadium. Pearl Jam is one of the only acts who I still see in an arena—the other is Bob Dylan—and being back in the vicinity of the razed Stadium brought old “Wally” to mind.

I was probably fourteen or so when I first started attending shows at the Chicago Stadium. And for whatever reason, before I understood entirely the role money plays in these sorts of things, my dad was able to get me ridiculously great concert tickets to the Stadium because of what seemed this extraordinary connection he had there. I mean, this was when my dad was still driving me to shows. The source seemed the most unlikely guy: His name-tag said “Wally” and he waved the flags that directed us into the parking lot at the Stadium. And thanks to “Wally” (and my dad), for a couple of years, before I became obsessed with punk rock and wouldn’t step foot into an arena if Wally had paid me (except to see Dylan), when my father pulled into that lot, I could be assured that I would be sitting on the floor, in the center, right by the stage.

One particularly memorable show paired Eric Clapton with Muddy Waters. I had become a huge blues fan because of my dad’s store on the Southside, and the chance to see Muddy teach Slowhand the blues promised to be an incredible treat. My dad pulled into the parking lot; Wally called my dad, “Mr. Gordon” (his first name); and my Dad called him “Wally Green.” They exchanged money, and my dad drove around to the front to let me out. I asked my Dad how he knew that his last name was Green, and my dad, who passed away twenty years ago now, said one of those things that I can still hear him say: “You give Wally--green--and he gives you concert tickets.”

I got my tickets to the Pearl Jam concert from Ten Club, the Pearl Jam Fan Club. It was a real good show. My seats were pretty good. There were based on my seniority in the club and that seems fair. It's quite easy and convenient. But during those years, Wally Green and my dad sure seemed to make some magic happen in that parking lot outside the "Madhouse on Madison."

-- Steve Feffer

Steve Feffer's play "My Brother, the School Shooter" is a short play inspired by Pearl Jam's "Jeremy".

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