THE ANGEL AND THE ROLLING STONES | 1010 Park Place
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THE ANGEL AND THE ROLLING STONES

All photographs ©Brenda Coffee, 2017
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Like an Italian Woodstock, people of all ages and nationalities, wearing Rolling Stones t-shirts, poured into the walled Renaissance city of Lucca, Italy, last Saturday to see what might be the last tour of the Rolling Stones. A reported 55 to 75,000 people made the pilgrimage for their #NoFilter European tour. I was one of them. It’s always a great day when I get to see the Rolling Stones. They’ve been part of my life since I was 12 and had a front row, center seat to their second U.S. performance in San Antonio, Texas.

It’s an even better day when I get to see the Stones and meet an angel.

When my train arrived early Saturday afternoon, Lucca was already a zoo. People were streaming through the gates into the old city, camping outside at the concert venue or partying in the cobblestone streets.

“Paint it Black” and “Satisfaction” was blaring from an outdoor speaker at a local bar. It was apparent many revelers would be “sleeping it off” well before the Stones came onstage.

I waited an hour for a taxi to drive me to my hotel outside of Lucca. The hotel restaurant was closed, so I checked in and waited for another taxi back into town. The desk clerk, and my first taxi driver, said it was doubtful I’d find a taxi after the concert until well after 2am. With nothing to eat but yogurt since 8am, finding food and my standing “seat” were my top priorities.

With a bottle of water and a prosciutto/mozzarella sandwich from a street vendor, I found my Preferred “Seating” entry gate on the other side of the city.

Three security checkpoints and a wristband later, I pushed my way through the crowd to about “fourth row center.” That was 4pm. Thousands of people unfolded behind me as far as I could see, and like everyone there, I stood for the next hour.

With four hours until showtime, I claimed a cramped little spot where my feet had been and sat down. For the next 90 minutes my view was nothing but legs.

Without warning the crowd surged in mass, pushing as close to the front barricades as possible. I scrambled to my feet. We were the proverbial sardines in a can. My fourth row center spot now consisted of 60 people ahead of me, a number that steadily increased. We stayed that way for the next three hours.

At last the stage lights flashed red. “Sympathy for the Devil” started up, and the Stones came on stage. The audience went wild. Within seconds, the crowd surged again.

I couldn’t see Keith, Ronnie or Charlie, and I only got a few glimpses of Mick as he strutted down the ramp in front of me. I was trapped in a cloud of cigarette smoke and marijuana, the tall guys in front of me and the guy behind me who was doing pelvic thrusts into my… back.

Thirty minutes into the concert, I couldn’t see the stage at all, except on ginormous screens, and I was feeling more and more lightheaded. No… I wasn’t stoned. I knew I couldn’t exit security and return, but I also knew I had to leave before I possibly passed out. I fought my way through the crowd, most of whom weren’t happy I was going against the flow.

Outside on the street four EMT techs passed me, each holding the corner of a blanket, bearing what looked like a dead woman. They carried her past a parked ambulance and put her in the trunk of a car.

I stopped at the ambulance and told the nurse I was lightheaded–maybe dehydrated–and my blood sugar was somewhere down around my knees. Did she have some apple juice or water? She handed me a bottle of water and ushered me into the ambulance to take my blood pressure.

Two guzzled bottles of water and a packet of sugar later, I asked where I could get a taxi. Since I couldn’t see the stage or reenter the venue, I might as well get a jump on finding a taxi. I was crushed, because more than anything, I’d wanted to see Keith and the guys “I’d grown up with.”

The train station–the best place to find a taxi–was further than I was up to walking. While the EMTs couldn’t drive me there, they could drive me to the ER… After much discussion in pidgin English/Italian, we settled on what the nurse referred to as “the chair.”

I was strapped—across my chest and lap—into a flimsy wheelchair that looked like it came from the Dollar Store.

While one EMT tilted me back on two tiny wheels and pushed me down a dark and bumpy Etruscan street, the other EMT used the flashlight on his phone to look for debris. I gathered the “chair’s” tiny wheels couldn’t handle anything bigger than a piece of salami. As we rolled further away from the concert, the Rolling Stones grew fainter, overridden by the rhythmic noise of the chair.

Neither EMT spoke English, but they seemed to be arguing about which one was going to push me through the line of armed soldiers ahead. With permission from the guys with the automatic weapons, the EMTs pushed me across the plaza to the train station… the same spot I’d waited an hour for a taxi earlier that day.

As if on cue, a taxi rounded the corner, and the three of us—me still strapped into the chair—waved our arms like crazy people.

The driver pulled along side of us and said, “Hello, Madame. It is me! Are you all right?” It was the same driver who’d taken me to my hotel.

“I will be,” I said. “I’m so glad you’re here. You’re my hero!”

Without missing a beat and in all seriousness he replied, “No Madame. I am an angel.”

His speech was proper and modulated with not a trace of an Italian accent. He reminded me of the actor, Ben Kingsley: bald, a bit shy and short in stature.

I climbed into the front seat and told him I needed food and water. He took me to the first pizzeria we found and went inside with me. When I’d last seen him, he hadn’t eaten either, so I bought us both pizza. Gobbling my pizza on the way to the hotel, I told him what had happened but kept coming back to, “What are the odds you were the one who pulled up to help me?”

“I am an angel, Madame,” he repeated. I asked his name. It was Brunello.

The fair to my hotel was €24. He opened my door, and I handed him two €20 bills and told him I didn’t need change.

“But Madame,” he said. “You’ve already bought me pizza.”

I smiled and said, “It’s what you do when you meet an angel.”

Love, Brenda

29 Comments

  • Reply Rose September 30, 2017 at 2:44 am

    Oh Brenda what a story! I thought you were quite brave to travel to a foreign country to attend a concert and was looking forward to reading all about it since The Stones are one of my favorite groups. As I was reading this post, I became anxious and found myself worried for your safety. What a blessing that the ” Angel” passed your path again. It’s unfortunate that the concert experience that you were so looking forward to, didn’t turn out like you thought it would. I’m just glad you’re safe and hopefully back in the States. Take care. . .

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace September 30, 2017 at 11:00 am

      Thank you, Rose! It wasn’t what I’d hoped for, but I would crawl across broken glass to see the Stones, just not pass out in a jam packed sardine can! I will never forget the angel. I do believe that’s what he was. Brenda

  • Reply Doreen McGettigan September 30, 2017 at 8:03 am

    Oh Brenda I Am so sorry you missed out on most of the concert and so glad you made it back to your hotel safely. God bless your angel. What a story.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace September 30, 2017 at 11:03 am

      As I stood there, initially I couldn’t believe I was considering leaving, but I also knew I needed to act in my own best interest and that wasn’t passing out in that crowd. No one would have helped me. Something about my taxi driver made me honestly believe he was an angel. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Barbara September 30, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Unbelievable story, Brenda! Don’t you love it when angels appear? I do, too. Glad you’re safe and sound.
    xob

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace September 30, 2017 at 11:05 am

      Several times I’ve been aware of God’s presence, but this was the first time an angel appeared. It was a profound moment when he pulled up and the way he spoke… He wasn’t just a cabdriver, that’s for sure. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Donna O'Klock September 30, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Wow! Sometimes you find… you get what you need. But, hand delivered by an angel?!?!
    What a wonderful adventure, Brenda!
    XO

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace September 30, 2017 at 11:07 am

      Donna!! You couldn’t have picked a better line!!! “You don’t always get what you want… ” Leaving the concert was the last thing on Earth I wanted, but I got what I needed, and I’ll never forget it. Literally, will never forget it. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Beckye September 30, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Isn’t God good?! And full of grace?! Amazing story, and I’m so thankful He intervened and Brunello was faithful and obedient – being right where he needed to be when he needed to be there. I’m sorry you didn’t see the concert you’d worked and planned to see, but so glad you got to see Immanuel – God with us! So thankful for your safety! I still think you are amazing for doing that alone. What guts! 🙂

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace September 30, 2017 at 11:15 am

      LOL! You’re kind, Beckye, but perhaps I’m stupid instead of brave. Yes, God is great, and I have no doubt He sent Brunello to help me, but for Brunello to know with such calm and certainty that he was an angel, makes me think he really was. He didn’t say “I am an angel,” in a flip manner at all, and he wasn’t an Italian cabdriver… There’s no way I can convey his presence… It was almost stately, although humble… I simply don’t know how to explain him other than I believe he was sent to help me. Now I’m the humble and grateful one. xoxox, Brenda

      • Reply Beckye September 30, 2017 at 2:31 pm

        I totally believe we encounter angels as Scripture tells us this! So thankful He sent His messenger to rescue you! XXOO

        • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 1, 2017 at 5:53 pm

          Beckye, I can’t stop thinking about him… I believe he was who he said he was. It was like no encounter I’ve ever had… I know you understand. xoxox, Btenda

  • Reply Marsha Scott September 30, 2017 at 11:14 am

    OMG , where in the world do you live? I must meet you !! I’m laughing out loud at this post and I think you’ve described the situation perfectly. My grandfather was from Lucca, so there is some part of me that loves Italians and Italy, I guess because I am one of them. I feel like I’m one of them when I’m there. Brilliant writing, witty and loads of fun to read. I know for certain I’ve been to my last concert, however, during the day I wouldn’t have missed ONE !!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace September 30, 2017 at 1:28 pm

      Hi Marsha, I’m a Texas girl who loves the Rolling Stones enough to make this crazy trek to Lucca to see them for the umpteenth time. I can’t tell you how disappointing it was not to be able to see them from such close proximity. It wasn’t like the “front row, center seat” tickets I’ve bought to see them before where even though I never sat down, I had my space; my neighbors had their space, and I didn’t have to worry about visibility or getting trampled to death. The people of Italy are charming, and I had a great experience… just not the one I’d hoped for. Thanks so much for your sweet compliments, Brenda

  • Reply C. September 30, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    My husband and I returned from Florence /Lucca in mid -June. When I read your post about your plans to see the Stones in the city I had a pause—- going to that walled city with all those people in such a small area? I thought wow…
    She is my hero. We got so lost ( with I- maps)… all those round abouts! Ha! Glad to hear you are ok– Angel on your wings… and writing about your experience. I enjoy the blog…. and am a canine parent to 3, ( 2 litter mates 5 years ago)…. take care…. turn up the Stones on your I-pod and smile.

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace September 30, 2017 at 8:35 pm

      Hi C, Before I went to Lucca I had a hunch the concert venue would not be ideal. Even so, my love for the Stones won out. As an explorer, digging for Mayan artifacts in Mexico for 10 years put me in many tight spots. I’ve survived things you can’t image and have a tendency to believe I’m still “Ramborella!” That said, I think you’re right: I need to turn up the volume on my playlist. You’re sweet to write and tell me that! Thank you for reading my blog. I loved hearing from you! You understand my littermates problem, too, and you’re still standing! I take comfort from that. xox, Brenda

  • Reply Laura Lee Carter October 1, 2017 at 9:05 am

    OMG! What a nightmare Brenda! So glad you survived! Love reading about your adventures. Please consider a trip up to southern Colorado sometime, I’d love to meet you!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 1, 2017 at 6:43 pm

      Hi Laura Lee, I’ve enjoyed your blog so much. It makes me think of what might have been because James and I had looked at lots of places right where you are! I know that beautiful country! Thank you for the invitation! That would be awesome! Brenda

  • Reply Esther Zimmer October 2, 2017 at 8:51 am

    Brenda, I’m sorry to read you had to leave the concert, as I know how much you love The Stones. But what a story! Essie xx

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 4, 2017 at 8:18 pm

      Essie… I know! I hesitated for about five minutes before I left because I’d gone to a lot of trouble and expense just to be there! I also knew if I passed out, no one in the crowd would have helped me, and I might have been trampled to death… literally! It was an experience though, and I got to meet an angel. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply LA CONTESSA October 2, 2017 at 8:54 am

    GLAD YOU MADE IT!
    THIS STORY was worth the price of the TICKET!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Hope you slept well and enjoyed LUCCA the next day!
    XX

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 4, 2017 at 8:22 pm

      It was a hoot, wasn’t it? I’m glad I went though. Yes, I slept well… Couldn’t stop thinking about the angel, but with 55-75,000 people leaving Lucca the next morning–and I was meeting someone at the Florence train station at noon–I was up at 6am and out on the first train! The Italians were freaked out about so many people in such a tiny city, so I took that to heart. I’ve explored Lucca before, during their monthly antique flea market! LOVED THAT!!! Want to go again! I left my number for you! Call me! Would love to talk with you! xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Sandra Sallin October 3, 2017 at 1:05 am

    La Contessa is staying at my house for a few adventures. Nothing like yours I hope. She mentioned that you never saw the Stones. I was so shocked I had to come here and check out what happened. I’ve been busy with house guests so I missed this post. I did not realize you would be in Lucca with thousands of people. How naive of me. Nor did it really dawn on me you would travel the world to see them in this kind of venue. You got guts lady. I’m glad there was an angel looking out for you. I also think you had the good sense to realize you needed to get out of there. So bravo to your instincts and if I were your mother I would never have let you go. Glad you survived! A story for the ages. Gutsy Gal!

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 4, 2017 at 8:27 pm

      Hi Sandra! Since my 20’s, my nick name has been “Ramborella!” Part Rambo, part Barbarella! I used to dig for Mayan artifacts in three-canopy jungles of the Yucatan, dive for buried treasure in the Caribbean and as a journalist, was the first to drive and fire the Army’s M-1 tank,….. blah, blah, blah, raced cars for nine years… THIS WASN’T THE FIRST TIME I’D SEEN THE ROLLING STONES! They’ve been part of my life since I was 12! Some people say I’m gutsy, while others probably think I’m crazy! So happy to see you here! xoxo, Brenda /Users/brenda/Desktop/Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 8.25.56 PM.png

  • Reply Hilda Smith October 4, 2017 at 8:19 am

    You are one wonderful lady..fearless and brave. Have loved all your instagram posts of your travels too x

    • Reply 1010ParkPlace October 4, 2017 at 8:30 pm

      Hi Sweet Lady! Thank you for following my travels on Instagram! I’m happy we’ve met and to be following you as well! Thanks, Hilda. xoxox, Brenda

  • Reply Lisa Froman October 7, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Love this!

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