Wednesday, March 19, 2014

ROCKING (as in rock music) WITH YOUR DAD

When your dad was fifteen years old, his favorite music was heavy metal rock and at least for a time his favorite band was "Metallica."  One day he told us that the group was performing at the World Theater near Chicago and that he and his two best friends were going to the concert.  I had no problem with this, but when he said that his friend "D", who had just turned sixteen and gotten his driver's license was going to drive I balked.  No way was I going to trust my son's life to a novice driver in rock concert traffic.  Since they were determined to go, I told them I would take them there and wait for them in the parking lot.

A few days before the concert, they surprised me with the announcement that they didn't think I should just sit in the parking lot so they had bought a ticket for me as well.  I had no real idea what I was getting into, but I had grown up with rock and roll so I figured I would enjoy it and was pleased that they wanted to include me.  When we arrived at the World, an outdoor amphitheater holding thousands of fans, I found my fears of the traffic completely justified. It was bumper to bumper for at least a half mile leading into the parking lot, and I knew that the after concert traffic would be total madness.

The theater had seating under the pavilion roof, and standing room in the grass covered open air bowl.  In theory you could sit on the grass, but in fact no one did because the crowd was constantly moving and frequently "mosh pits" (more of them later) would spring randomly into existence.  The crowd was boisterous and happy, enjoying every minute while waiting for the show to start. 

My first revelation of what I was in for came when they began testing the sound system.  One of the technicians walked onto the stage and thumped the bass drum.  I didn't hear the thump, I FELT it. That thump, amplified through enormous speakers on the roof, hit me in the chest like the concussion from a Fourth of July aerial bomb.  THIS WAS GOING TO BE FUN!

Now back to the mosh pits.  This is a little like bumper cars without the cars.  People start good natured pushing and bumping and suddenly a circle opens in the crowd as non-participents back away and there you have a mosh pit. When one of these opened up right in front of us I was watching and enjoying when suddenly somebody pushed me from behind.  Since the ground sloped down from where we were standing, I couldn't stop but had to travel right across to the other side.  Once there, I had no way to return to the boys except to charge uphill bouncing off the other moshers.  I arrived back at the top to find the boys doubled over with laughter and just a little bit in awe of the old man mosher. Did I mention that at forty eight or nine I was probably the oldest person in the entire crowd?  None of the boys would admit to being the one who pushed me and still haven't to this day.  I too thought it was pretty funny and am actually grateful to whoever gave me that memorable experience.  I have Moshed!

The actual music of the event was something that I think I enjoyed just as much as the boys.  The opening act was trying too hard to be cool and not that great musically.  The second group was much better and for a time I thought they were Metallica.  When the headliners finally did take the stage, I was just as blown away as the die hard fans.  They were great!  There is something special that happens at a live performance by really talented people and these guys had what it takes to make it happen.  Of course, I couldn't actually hear any of the vocals, only the instruments, because it seemed that every member of the audience knew all the words to every song and sang right along with the band.  That didn't matter, because it was the shared experience that made it all so memorable.

Getting out after the concert was every bit the nightmare I had imagined, so I simply insisted that we sit in the parking lot not even trying to move until the madness had subsided.  Finally, four tired but happy fans were able to safely drive home, with memories I am sure we all still hold.

One more thing came out of the event.  Not long after, Grandma B was looking at a mail order catalog and found a T shirt with an image of the title character from Metallica's "Sandman" album on it.  She saw how much the picture looked like my dad so we got the shirt and gave it to him. Here is the result.


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Misty Watercolor Memories

"The Way We Were" is the beautiful, melancholy title song from a movie that came out in 1973, the year Grandma B and I met.  "Memories light the corners of my mind; misty watercolor memories of the way we were."  Those are the opening lines of the song and describe the mood I often find myself in as I begin one of these essays.  Reminiscing lets me revisit the past with filters in place to block out the less pleasant parts.

Many of the art prints we have hanging on the walls of our house are literal "misty watercolors."   I don't know if there is really a connection there, but it seems that my way (and perhaps most people's way) of remembering the past is like the artist Paul Sawyier's way of capturing his beloved Kentucky River Valley in his paintings.  The rough edges are smoothed away by the fog of selective remembering and the glow of sentiment highlights the good times.  At times, even imagination plays a role in our remembering, in the same way his "Mile High Bridge" uses memory and fantasy to create an ethereal scene that never was.

There is no doubt that my childhood memories benefit from the filter of time.  Living in unheatable houses, wearing hand me down clothes, and having the same thing in my school lunch pail every day is not the stuff of idyllic childhood;  But  growing up in a loving family, part of an extended family of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins who all cared for one another was more than compensation, and I only wish that everyone's memories could be as happy as mine.

I have to admit to a certain enjoyment of the melancholy part of memory as well.  A little wistful longing for what once was, a dash of pondering what might have been, and maybe even a touch of regret all add to the flavor of memory.  Dabbling in melancholy is mostly a good way to "pinch myself awake;" to wake me up to recognizing how profoundly I have been blessed.  I don't need to look at my life through a veil of mist that hides the rough edges;  I can see very clearly that I am "The Richest Man I Know."