Pittsburgh, PA – “Uncle Liv” – Three Rivers Festival – June 6, 1999

I’m up in the air. Uncle Livingston is flying. He lets/makes me take off and fly the plane for a couple of minutes, under his supervision. I’m scared, and who could blame me after my plane accident in Peru, landing on the PanAmerican Highway and hitting a car. *(See plane accident here. Be sure to scroll)

My voice is scratchy, and I’m exhausted after an all-night drive from Ocean City, MD, to Pittsburgh last night.

We’d rushed loadout and departed at 2 am after the gig.  In the door light of the passenger seat, I changed out of my pink top and tight black skirt trading them in for green sweatpants and a pair of knee-high orange striped tube socks. Starting a road trip so late at night reminded me of road trips we used to take from New York City to Martha’s Vineyard when I was a kid.  Since my mom was not fond of flying we’d drive up to our summer home in an old 1978 New York City Checker Taxi my dad bought and painted white.  

We’d slip out of our apartment on 135 Central Park West after the scary paparazzi that swarmed our stoop from noon til night had all gone home. I remember the coldness that bit at my exposed skin as my father bundled me in a duvet and escorted me from the building to the chubby car. I remember the empty streets and the traffic lights that turned from green to red for no one.

Inside the Checker, my dad would have laid two massive cushions from our couch upstairs into the foot well on either side of “the hump” and that’s where Ben and I slept while my mom and dad took the front seat and blinked back sleep to drive through the night. My mom would wake us when we got to The Woods Hole Ferry.

Those mornings on the water, the first boat of the day, sipping clam chowder from styrofoam cups, feeding gulls oyster crackers off the bow of the deck. Those moments with my mom and dad still together, before the sky shook off the stars, before the haze lifted off the shoreline, our eyes still coated in dreams- those were truly the best times of my life. I can still feel the excitement of summer just beginning, barely opened, like an unwarranted gift.

Back in the van, I propped a hard-cover book behind me to support my lower back and pressed some yellow earplugs into my ears. Brian drove the first shift and somewhere outside of D.C., stopped for gas. In the parking, Bri made silly pig faces and grunting noises at me which I videoed through 4 a.m. blurry eyes. We sang “Happy Now: …stopped for coffee on the way….” when he returned from the gas station with two pipping cups, one for each of us. Our singing woke the rest of the band.


We all swapped seats and Delucchi took the wheel. Having secured the comfiest seat for the first stretch of the drive, I agreed to the least comfy seat for the second. The least comfy seat is the one directly behind shotgun. It’s wretched because you have to sleep with your knees propped into your chest in a vertical fetal position. Somehow as the drive continued, I managed to maneuver into a horizontal position with my feet against the door panel but when I woke up at 6:00, Soucy’s butt was on my ponytail stapling my head to the seat, so I just went back to sleep.

When we arrived in Pittsburgh it was sweltering. The haze was thick and it was as muggy as the inside of a shower stall. My pants stuck to my legs as the five of us birthed ourselves from Moby’s womb and slugged through The Three Rivers Festival fairgrounds. Dazed from the all-night drive, we wandered past cotton candy and fried dough stands and shacks advertising “Chick’n on a Stick’n” and “Veggitarian’s Delight All Pork Hotdogs.” For breakfast, I chose a $4 Chick’n on a Stick’n” and a cherry snow cone which melted immediately in the heat into a pool of cherry slush.

Our outdoor arena featured a giant lawn and a big stage with a white clamshell dome where we found my glorious, tall, and very awake, Uncle Livingston. He was a sight for sore eyes and his Taylor-isms made me miss my ol’ man. I was delighted to introduce him to my band who fell in love with him on the spot, mesmerized by his interminable energy and captivating storytelling. When I mentioned we had two days off he offered me a ride to Martha’s Vineyard on his plane in the morning. I took him up on it.

Now, halfway through our 3-hour flight, and almost at the bottom of a thermos once full of coffee, Liv excuses himself: “Can you hand me that gallon pee jug in the back?” I giggle as he puts the plane on autopilot and turns himself around in his seat. But half an hour later I’ve got to use it too!

The clouds are curdling up here as we float close enough to skim them like foam off the top of a latte. The peacefulness of the untouched sky is unmatched save for some of the snowshoed forevers I’ve been privileged enough to meet.

Thanks for the ride Uncle Liv.

Reader interactions

6 Replies to “Pittsburgh, PA – “Uncle Liv” – Three Rivers Festival – June 6, 1999”

  1. Sally – that white taxi cab car is hilarious! Was it actually comfortable? I guess maybe it was with the couch cushions installed?

    What great memories! I’m sorry you and your family had to deal with paparazzi, but I am glad it didn’t sour you on your career pursuits!


    1. It was like a rolling bed for Ben and me. I’m sure it was like driving a boat for my pop. It’s amazing we all survived without any seatbelts!


  2. ” before the sky shook off the stars”
    what imagery describing a morning breaking away from the night. Took my breath away as you nailed it with such precision!

    Thank you for your beautiful writing!


    1. Thanks Jean, Almost took that line out. Glad I didn’t. Sally


  3. Bill Pressler May 14, 2024 at 9:47 am

    I love the Checker story! I seem to recall your Mom mentioning it in an interview long ago, saying, “It’s practical, as we’re such a leggy bunch”. The understatement of the century! Checkers had a reputation for being sturdy and reliable. Besides being a big fan of particularly your Mom’s music, I like that your folks seem to have a bit of car-love…I know your Dad has/had that old green Ford panel truck; your Mom kept her Mercedes convertible for many years; and that Checker is not the usual star-mobile! 🙂


    1. Yes, we are quite the leggy bunch. My mama’s nickname for me is “Stems.”


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