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Rabbi Daniel Freitag

Ok. I'm about to reveal my age, so hold your breath. Well, it's not so much my age that will strike you, it's the stuff that I was into as a teen that will surprise you, one way or the other. To some people it will seem a bit strange that the following story was (up until now at least) the lowest point of my life, especially since to some it will look like a regular Tuesday. My case is different, however, since I grew up in a devoutly religious town called Monsey, New York. It's the kind of place where even the pets wear black hats. Though I did grow up in a rather religious family, I did my share of teen rebelling -- by religious standards. You know, movies, hanging out, dressing funky (we're talking 80's here, nasty stuff!). Anyway, for my society this was baaaaaaaaaaad. At the time I did feel a bit of internal guilt, but I drowned it out with such all-time bands as Def Leppard (I even wore out 3 copies of Hysteria).

There comes a time however, where one gets to see things in quite a different light, and it gets them thinking about what is really right and wrong -- what is cool, and what is not. This time came for me in the summer of 1989 (I think). A bunch of my friends approached me and informed me that they were interested in going to an Aerosmith concert the following week up at Orange County speedway (about an hour from my home). I was a bit nervous because I hadn't ever been to a real live rock concert before, but I figured, my buds were going and Black Crowes were opening, so what the heck…Anyway, I borrowed my parents car and we drove on up. It was a really interesting experience. A lot of the crowd was middle-aged men still in their suits from work. It was actually kind of peaceful. Steven Tyler may have been a rebel back in his "Mama Kin" days, but now he was singing the songs of the balding, spare-tire crowd. All in all, it wasn't as scary as I thought it might have been, and I always regretted not getting that Black Crowes T-shirt so I could tell everyone that I had heard of them before they became big (for about 2 months).

Well, here comes the crazy part. The next week my buddies told me that Motley Crue was going to be playing up at the same venue and would I like to go? Well, I figured, (like a total idiot) the first concert wasn't so bad, so why not? Anyway, It was obvious pretty quickly once we arrived that things were gonna be reeeeeeally different. Before the first act (Tesla) got up to play, the manager of the concert ground got up to announce upcoming concerts. His luck that he had to announce Milli Vanilli, but I think only a few of the bottles actually hit him. Anyway, I was able to push my way forward to a pretty close spot (it was just an open field) but after a few of the big, area clearing, arms flailing brawls, I decided that I might be a bit safer up on the bleachers. Needless to say, it only took a minute to realize that there were more "pharmaceuticals" present than in the local Rite-Aid, and plenty of "Herbal Remedies" going around. I could barely watch the concert because I was busy passing along random joints from total strangers (I didn't toke though, I was a pretty clean kid). Well, all of the fights, drugs, and low-lifes were starting to get to me, but it didn't get any better.

My new seat in the bleachers had a great view of the medic tent. Guess what you see in a medic tent during a rock concert. Yep, OD'd folks. Seizures, convulsions, vomiting, screaming, hallucinating, not a pretty sight. This was compounded by some folks doing the same thing right next to me in the bleachers because their friends were too stoned to drag them down to the tent. I was about as freaked out as I could be by the time we left. But even so, my friends who had stayed behind on the field told me that they saw this crazy woman who had brought her ten year old son and gave him so much beer that he passed out vomiting right next to her, but she just kept on bopping to the music.

Well, I didn't change my life that day, nor was it the next week. But something stuck with me for a very long time. Sometimes things that you associate with coolness are just not. I realize that for some people this story is pretty lame and wouldn't faze them in the slightest, but the point is the same for every generation. There is always something that will stick in your mind as "just not right". Your job is not to ever let that feeling leave you. Every person has some internal sense of right and wrong. Some people just drown it out. Others keep it inside somewhere and let it grow until it leads them where they need to be. In my case I can still feel that weird conflict that I felt back then, and I know that it helped me be who I am today.

Copyright © 2000 by Rabbi Daniel Freitag and Project Genesis, Inc.



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