My Turn: My Life in Tickets

Some of my most prized possessions line the top of my bedroom dresser. There's the silver-framed graduation photo of my husband, André, and I taken the day he received his master's degree. In the middle, rests a tray of perfume, including my coveted half-full bottle of Venezia by Laura Biagiotti, long discontinued. And on the left lies my jewelry box, although truthfully at least 98 percent of my baubles are costume. But it's the small rectangular black leather case, with contrasting white stitching, that has the most value—to me at least. I doubt many people, or the common cat burglar, would find it of any value. Slide open the tabbed closure and you won't find diamonds, pearls or even spare change. Nope. Inside my treasure chest, nestled atop a lining of black velvet, is nearly two decades worth of ticket stubs.

It is said that one person's trash is another's treasure. Being an avid collector of something most people readily toss after a night on the town, along with their gum wrappers and pocket lint, offers more proof of that adage. After all, what good is detailed event information after the event is long over? Been there, done that, right? Not so. In my world, the who, what, where, when and how much printed on the pieces of ripped cardstock holds both important social and emotional significance. My collection of stubs, neatly organized in ascending order by date and only containing events that I've personally attended, provides a detailed timeline of where I've been on a Saturday night, both literally and figuratively.

The rules for collecting are simple. Anything, other than everyday movie tickets, is fair game. As a result, I've managed to amass a fairly thorough history of, well, me. Each stub has the potential to bring me to a place long ago forgotten, sometimes uncovering hints of how and why I've become the person I am today.

My oldest stub, Depeche Mode on June 9, 1990, reminds me of my childhood best friend, Andrea. While it wasn't my first concert ever—that distinction goes to Laura Branigan way back in the third grade—it was the first time I had voiced my independent musical tastes and actively pursued them. A year out of high school, Andrea and I were novices to both life and the concert scene. I remember our frantic drive in her family's Ford Tempo to the then Great Woods box office in Mansfield, Mass., trying to arrive promptly at the 10 a.m. on-sale time. Neither of us thought to check to see if the box office at the seasonal theater was actually open in April. It wasn't. This venture marked both the first and last time I've ever tried to purchase tickets on the day of sale, in person. Lesson learned: call ahead.

Then there's the Chicago concert—the band, not the city—less than a month later. Andrea and I went with my parents. Both home from college, it was the summer of the temp job. Andrea snagged a prime gig at a doctor's office, and encouraged me to apply to her agency. I wound up with a weeklong stint at a mental-health facility in the records office. My Chicago stub brings me right back to the painful monotony of hours upon hours of filing. The glimmer of the upcoming concert was the only thing that helped me survive.

Often, my stubs are frank reminders of the people in my life and times we shared together. I went to see George Michael with Charlene, my girlfriend since the third grade, at the Worcester Centrum on Oct. 28, 1991. I picked her up in Providence, R.I., and we stopped on the way to the show at my parents’ house for a homemade crock pot dinner of kielbasa. My brother Rob and I sat in the absolute last row at the Black Crowes concert on April 5, 1993, three stories up at the Providence Performing Arts Center. The band was a speck below, but the acoustics were incredible.

Other times, my stubs are bittersweet tokens of those who have drifted in and then out of my life. Like those truly up-for-anything high-school friends who talked everyone into dressing up for a B-52's concert in September 1992. I wore a waist-long blond braid and we tailgated before the show in the parking lot, with wine coolers, the first alcohol I purchased after turning 21.

If I ever forgot the year I met my husband, Andre, I could use my stubs as a guide. He opened my world on too many levels to count, and my collection reflects this growth and diversification, both in what we've experienced and where. Together, we moved from mainstream stadium acts, like Janet Jackson and Tina Turner, to unsung heroes like Ibrahim Ferrer, of Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club, and the legendary Motown backing band, the Funk Brothers. We also injected a bit more culture into our lives with musicals ("Rent") and plays ("TopDog/Underdog"). And while André's greatest influence has been to increase the number of sporting-event stubs in my collection, he's also responsible for never placing boundaries on our experiences. Consequently, I've added airplane-ticket stubs from New York City, Las Vegas, Boston and Baltimore, cities I'd never traveled to before.

The moments seemed unremarkable then, but as I've grown older my memories of those times have grown fonder, and my stubs are like tangible memories. My stubs simply reaffirm to me that life is in the experience. They're really all about me—my interests, my personality, my hunger for new experiences and my willingness to experience life. My collection of ticket stubs is concrete proof that I am, have and will continue to live life one stub at a time.

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