And it sure was busy around the ol’ doublewide, what with brother Jasper out of prison and sister Sophie’s latest husband showing off his tattoos. Of course, they all wanted to know about the concert tours, like where Shania Twain is playing on April 23rd (Atlanta, Georgia), and how many nights Elton John is scheduled for Vegas in February (eight, so far). As you can guess, they wanted to know everything there is to know about tour dates, like that Jane’s Addiction / Marilyn Manson package, as well as the routings for Queens Of The Stone Age, The Toasters and Sting. Yeah, it was great to be back home. That is, until someone asked THE QUESTION.

“Say, can you get us any free tickets?” asked brother Jeb’s boy, fresh out of juvie and therefore thinking he knows everything. “Can you get us tickets for Barenaked Ladies? How about Seal? And what’s up with Pink? Can you get us some free tickets? Can you, uh? Can you? Can you?”

Well, we don’t have to tell you that the room suddenly got real quiet as everyone looked in our direction. The rest of them already knew the answer to that question, but you could tell by the look in their eyes and the spittle oozing down their collective chins, that they had hoped that something had changed. That maybe, this year, the answer would be different.

You see, there are some hard-fast rules in the concert data biz. Aside from always washing your hands whenever handling new concert dates, and neve passing gas while talking with a booking agent, probably the number one rule of our profession is about free tickets, and how complimentary ducats for Radiohead, Nickelback, even Jewel, may never be given away to anyone outside the tour-date industry. Violation of this rule incurs a stiff penalty, and one need only look around the compound and count the missing fingers and toes to realize that this penalty is strictly enforced.

But if that rule seems a tad drastic, the second rule is even more extreme. For it is rule #2 that demands that if one of us is offered any free tickets, like the ones sitting on our desk for Mariah Carey and Fleetwood Mac, that we can never, ever refuse such hospitality.

For example, you wouldn’t believe how many times we were forced to see Pearl Jam this past summer, or how many nights we were jammed up against the stage during Springsteen’s last tour, that we ended up drenched in Boss-sweat before the third song. Heck, when you consider all the freebies we’re forced to accept and all the shows we’re obliged to see, like The Beach Boys, Cyndi Lauper and Metallica, it’s a wonder we have any time for our own life.

Of course, Jeb’s boy (whose name escapes us at the moment, mainly because all his kids look alike), didn’t know about the rules. So we took some time to explain the regulations that bound our industry 24/7. We dashed his hopes when we told him about how we couldn’t give him free tickets for Iron Maiden, we broke his heart when we told him we couldn’t swing any comps for Bryan Adams, and we absolutely shattered his dreams when we said we could not spare any tickets for David Bowie. Yep, it looked like suicide-watch time in the ol’ mobile. Again.

Well, maybe it was the holiday atmosphere, or maybe it was being surrounded by family. Maybe it was the time of year, or maybe it was the time of man. No matter, for our heart went out to that little nameless nephew. But we couldn’t just hand over our own pairs of complimentary tickets. After all, we still have years to go before retirement, and we need all the fingers and toes we have left. But to see the look in our nephew’s eyes was heart rendering. It was the look of youth coming to grips with the realities of the cold, cruel world. And when we examined our own conscious, and listened to the voices in our own head, we realized that there was only one thing we do.

We invoked a seldom used loophole in the tour-data industry’s rules & regs, and gave the kid a pair of tickets to see Phish on New Year’s Eve.

You can guess what happened next. Everybody wanted tickets, and we couldn’t leave until we gave each and every family member free tickets for Josh Groban, George Strait and Sarah Brightman. They were thrilled!

But more importantly, they weren’t the least concerned about complying with the loophole in the rules regarding free tickets. But that shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, it was Thanksgiving. And they are our family.

Besides, they’re going to discover the answer to the ancient question that has puzzled philosophers for many centuries. Just what is the sound of one hand clapping? We can’t wait for the answer.