Any way I can mesh my love for Pearl Jam and the Chicago Cubs in blog, I’ll find a way.
Today, it’s the Eddie Vedder baseball collection, but my previous two blogs about Pearl Jam missed a story I would like to share, plus I’m on the flight back from Italy and “Let’s Play Two,” is one of the movies in flight, and I just had to.
Additionally, two new Pearl Jam items were purchased on the trip. The first, is a one-of-a-kind piece made by a Rome sidewalk spray paint artist – Vento Spray.
The artist did not speak English…and the only Italian I speak is a really bad version using Google Translate. There was a bit of a communication barrier.
When we approached his stand in a side alley, I saw The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, etc. Could he do Pearl Jam on command? He gave me his phone to search for album covers, and in broken English told me, “this complicated.” Then, he found the “Alive” cover, and went to work.
It turned out awesome, and it was only 10 euros. Afterward he said, “Grazie, my first. I love to be challenged.”
Several days later while roaming the alleys of Venice, we stumbled upon a small shop selling musical merchandise such as mini guitars, key chains, and shadow boxes of bands. Pearl Jam? You bet! Even better? The “Alive” design is on this guitar. The stars aligned.
Before my next Pearl Jam story, I must weave the Eddie Vedder baseball card collection into this story. After all, this is a Chicago Cubs baseball card blog. Vedder, a life long Cubs fan from Evanston, appeared in a Topps first pitch Insert card in 2015.
My favorite Vedder card was put out in 2016. It’s an official Pearl Jam trading card and each band member was featured in a Cubs jersey, and the cards were designed in the 1991 Topps format.
And in 2018, Pearl Jam returned to Wrigley Field and once again produced trading cards and again the band members appeared in Cubs jerseys. This time, in the design of 1991 NBA Hopps cards. It’s only fitting they used a basketball card designed. The band was initially known as Mookie Blaylock. Yeah, named after the former NBA player. The album “Ten?” Yes, an ode to Blaylock’s jersey number.
Now, to my final story. For about 18 months I felt deep regret for attending the 2016 Pearl Jam show at Wrigley Field. My dad had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer early in 2016. I tried to go back home and spend as much time with him as possible. To watch as many Cubs games together as possible. It was looking like it could be a magical season.
The summer had gotten away and I had not been able to get back home as much as I would have liked. Now I realize even if I did get back more…it wouldn’t have been enough. My plan was to go home the weekend of August 20 and 21. Days earlier a friend texted me he had Extra Pearl Jam tickets at Wrigley Field. Everyone around me said go, it’s been a tough year, have fun. I went.
It was a blast. I got tears in my eyes when they played “Someday We’ll Go All The Way.” Only four days later, at 1:15 a.m., Wednesday August 24, my fiancé (now wife) received a text from my mom. My dad was rushed to the hospital. We took off first thing in the morning and the news was bad. He passed away two days later.
I felt extremely guilty I skipped my trip home to see Pearl Jam. That I wasn’t there more. The first night he was in the hospital he was somewhat responsive, only nodding his head. August 24, 2016 was the last time my dad responded to me saying, “the Cubs won tonight.” Less than three months later the Cubs beat the Indians to win the World Series.
Pearl Jam released “Let’s Play Two,” and my wife and I went to the theater to watch it. There’s a scene in the film dedicated to a fan, John, who waited (no, started) in line for four days for general admission entry. He had lost his father and wanted to be in the front row to hear “Release.”
I watched that story, listened to the lyrics, and it hit me. Like a wave. My guilt had subsided a little by then, and now seeing this put me in a better place. The song means so much more to me now, and I look back fondly at the 2016 Pearl Jam concert.