"Al, we have a photo shoot to do in Boston tomorrow, make sure you bring a few changes of clothes."
This information, which Steve imparted to me on a dreary May afternoon in 1999, came as both a letdown, and thrill.
"But that's my birthday."
"Yeah, I know it's your birthday, but it was the only day we could get the photographer, and he's giving us a deal."
Oh boy, a deal. Everybody gives us deals. We must be special--or likeable and broke. That was more likely.
And so, on the morning of May 9th, 1999, I gathered my things. I picked out a couple of suit jackets, a couple of cowboy shirts, my nicest pants, some boots and my leather cowboy hat.
"Don't forget to bring your Red Sox hat," yelled Terry, as we were loading up the van.
"Just bring it! We all are."
So, I grabbed my stuff and headed out to the van. I opened up the back door to see Steve and Scott pouring a bag of ice over what must have been 2 cases of beer.
That was the first thing that seemed weird.
"Whoa!" I said, "That looks like a good time."
"Correction, my friend," Steve said, "That looks like a great time."
Hmm ... we're going to do a photo shoot. Why would we need so much beer? My problem then had been the same as ever: I drank too much, all the time.
I did, on occasion, learn a few things back in those days. One of them was to not ask too many questions. We had beer ... lots of beer ... and it was 9 in the morning.
"Got your hat?" Terry asked.
"No man. I couldn't find it. I looked all over."
"Hmm ... well ... I guess you're shit out of luck then."
Soon it was time to leave, and every one packed into the big, white, van.
It was then that I realized that I was the only one who brought a change of clothes.
That was the second thing that seemed weird.
Once again, best not to ask too many questions.
"Sucks having to do this on your birthday, don't it Fred?" said Steve from the driver's seat.
"I've had worse ones."
And that was quite true.
We rode on down the Pike to Boston, drinking, smoking, and generally having a great time for ourselves. We had gotten good at a few things as a band over the years. Having fun was certainly one of them.
Flash forward about an hour and a half.
"Anybody know where this photography studio is?" asked Steve from the front.
"No, but take this exit," said Terry.
It was the Fenway Park exit.
That was the third thing that I thought was weird.
"Well, if we can't find any parking near his studio," Steve said, "we'll just have to suck it up and park in one of these lots for $20."
And my hands started to tingle from the inside out like they do when I'm anticipating something that couldn't possibly be happening. It had crossed my mind on the ride down there, but no, we had a photo shoot to do, they couldn't possibly have planned something like that. Just thinking it was a maybe, made me consider that I was being self-centered.
And then it happened.
Terry, who had been sitting in the passenger seat looked back at me and smiled. He reached under the seat below him, and produced my hat.
My Boston Red Sox hat.
"Here ya go, Fred. I think, where we're going, you'll be needing this. Happy Birthday!"
And I looked at Steve, and Bow, and Scott, and then back at Terry.
"But ... my hat ... how did you ... ?"
"I took it off of your mantle when you were searching under the couch," Terry said. "you'd make an awful security guard."
And I just smiled and smiled and smiled. I looked out the window of the van, at all the people milling about around their cars, in their reds and whites, drinking, smoking, and laughing. There was a special magic in the air that day. I wondered how many other people had been taken for a ride like me, by their best friends, on their birthday, to one of the greatest places in the world.
I took off my hat, dusted off the big red "B," shook it by the brim until it looked right, put it on my head and pulled down on the brim until it felt secure.
And then I went to the game with my friends.
Life doesn't get much better than that.
Thanks for reading.