It was the fourth year of the great promoter war.
I was a corporal in a TM peacekeeping force that was hunkered down somewhere between rows A and G in a bombed-out amphitheatre. To the north of us, the HOB Guard was massing, 10, maybe 20,000 strong. To the south, SFX had fielded two battalions, including four pro-sports merch squadrons and several synergy units. And there we were, caught in the middle, waiting for the compost to hit the proverbial rotating blades, when Sarge walked over to one of the new recruits, a guy named Ryan, and shouted, "What's that on your face, boy?"
"A beard, Sergeant. A fashionable little goatee."
That's when it got real quiet. All eyes were on Sarge, and the only noise was the steady drone of the corporate sponsor recons flying overhead. We thought Sarge was gonna tear the recruit's head off. Instead, he looked at each one of us dog faces and then let out a deep sigh before turning back to face the recruit. To this day I can still remember what he said.
"A goatee? We're fighting for The Eagles, Dwight Yoakam and Madonna, and your mamma sent you off to war wearing a goatee?" I thought nothing bothered Sarge, but I guess four years of blood, guts and rising ticket prices had finally gotten to him.
"We're fighting so the folks back home can buy tickets for The Cult and Slipknot at a reasonable price," barked the sergeant. "We're fighting for low service charges and other applicable fees for Wotapalava. But we ain't fighting for no stinking goatees."
That's when he turned, looked at the rest of us and said, "Men, you know what to do."
We didn't have any spare razors, so we broke into the amphitheatre's box office and grabbed all the tickets we could find. Then the biggest ones in the outfit held the recruit down while the rest of us took turns, using concert tickets for Green Day, Don Williams and G3 to scrape, scratch and pull at his goatee until that recruit's chin was as smooth as the day he was born.
I guess it's the little things you remember. Your mind blots out the battles and the firefights. To this day, I've forgotten more than I even care to remember about the war, like the SFX Tank Brigade coming over Bill Graham Hill or when HOB's crack air squadron, The Blues Angels, strafed our Popa Chubby tailgater. But I still remember what the sergeant said. Yes sir, I'll always remember that day.
The day we were shaving Private Ryan.