Ray Charles – Concert in Rome

March 18th, 2016

The summer between my two years at Columbia University Graduate School of Business, I accompanied my mother to Italy for an international meeting to prevent alcohol and drug abuse.

Sitting at the pool of the hotel, we met some of the band for Ray Charles. They invited us to the outdoor concert that evening. I wouldn’t say my mother was a great Ray Charles fan, nor was her friend, but it was to be a grand adventure.

We set out in the car naively thinking we could just drive on up. The traffic was astonishing and there was no parking. My mother’s friend, Pauline, kept saying, “There’s a spot!” But I sensed we were still miles from the forum.

I kept creeping closer, now having to politely beep so the hoards of those walking in the street might kindly part for us to pass.

We got to a barrier. Pauline was sure we’d be stopped and turned around.

I spoke to the guard in my most charming broken Italian as to our goal was backstage and we were guests.  He looked at us, looked at me, and thought one elderly woman, one middle aged women and a cute young one driving them….speaking broken Italian. They don’t seem dangerous…..Okay.

And he let us through.

This happened a few times along the way. And each time Pauline was sure, we’d be taken into the police station. However, I had been to Italy a few times and if you are kind, polite and have a sense of humor, the Italians are delightful and  fun-loving. One barrier, there were two and they found our predicament and us quite amusing. We all laughed and they shook their heads and waved us on.

We got to the backstage and parked there. The band was glad to see us and escorted us to say hello to Ray Charles which we did. He was very gracious and about to go on.

So they took us up the makeshift stairs to backstage of the makeshift stage where we could see the whole show. And  by the whole show, I mean the entire football field size ancient Roman amphitheatre full of an energetic, enthusiastic audience as well as Ray Charles and the band on stage.

It was a clear night and the stars were out. Beautiful.

I marveled at how Ray Charles blindness didn’t stop him, perhaps enhanced his sense of hearing. I wondered what images a blind person has in his head.

From where we were standing, the music was extremely, painfully loud. And frankly the sound isn’t the best backstage – a little distorted.

My mother lasted about an hour and had to go. I wanted to stay, thinking it might be rude to leave mid-show. The good news is no one else wanted to go then so there was no traffic.

We got Pauline down the stairs; she had poor eyesight at night and moved slowly.

And into our car. We made our way out of the maze and eventually out a few miles past where the cars were parked.



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