Being Alone in a Crowd

I love concerts – all kinds of them – for any number of reasons.  They are great people watching events, I love music, I like being with friends, I love seeing performers who enjoy what they do, and they are great people watching events.  Okay, I know, I said that twice – but that’s one of the best parts.  The revival of the ’80’s hair band music scene is a great opportunity to go out and participate in all of the above activities.  Last summer I went to the Poison/Ratt concert – two of my personal favorites from my misspent youth.  Last night it was Motley Crue.  I don’t know that they are so much a revival as a die-hard, keep rockin’ til your pace maker stops kind of band.

And I mostly had fun.  Mostly.  Here’s the thing: I went as the third wheel.  Correction, 13th wheel.  A large group of friends and acquaintances decided to go to this concert – a day-long celebration of rock and metal called CrueFest.  Things began to go slightly sideways almost immediately.  First, my husband opted to go on an all-expenses-paid fishing trip to Alaska with my step-dad, my brother-in-law, my step-brother, and some cousins.  Yeah – go figure.  Last summer he went on the all-guys-only golf trip for the Poison concert, so I flew solo that time, too.  The next thing that came up was that CrueFest kicked off at 5:00.  I teach World Civilizations until 4:50, and I wasn’t about to wear to class what I would wear to that concert, which meant I’d have to go home and change before I headed out, and I wouldn’t actually get there until 6:30 or so.  Not a terrible problem, but a little disappointing.  Fortunately, another couple with whom I am friends was also going to be late, so they offered for me to meet at their home and ride out together.

The third issue came up when I was late leaving work.  Bosses will do that to you.  It was an important conversation, and my boss was considerate of the fact that I was trying to hurry, but we really did need to resolve something before I left.  Then, about 5 minutes from the home of my friends I discovered I’d left my concert clothes at home – 20 minutes in the opposite direction!  Right about the time I was ready to throw in the towel, the couple who had put the whole thing together called to let me listen to what I was missing.  Even through the cell phone I could feel the energy of the event, and I really wanted to be there.  So I hurried home, changed clothes quickly, fought the traffic to the new meeting place, and rode in with my friends.

A brief time out as I explain that I am slightly self-conscious of bothmy age and my weight.  For the most part I’m comfortable with who I am and where I am, but occasionally – like at one of these events – I become very aware that I am not 21 any more, and that I do not fit into a size 00.  Okay, I don’t think I ever fit into a size 00, but you get the idea. As we walked to the entrance gate, dozens of women stood in line. My personal insecurities had me comparing myself to everyone of them, and I came to the conclusion that I fit somewhere into “average” among the women I saw.

And thus commenced the people watching.  I think every serious writer admits to being addicted to this particular activity.  As much as I wanted to turn off the writer and just enjoy the show, I really couldn’t stop myself.  That may have been, in part, why I felt a little distant from the crowd around me.  The 300 pound guy in the Harley Davidson leather vest was notable.  He had a beard that rivaled Santa’s, and a nose ring. A skinny blond lady dressed in a Catholic school girl uniform looked adorable from behind, but when she turned around, it was clear her school girl days had ended long before even mine had.  The wrinkles in her face looked like they had been gouged out of clay, and her makeup was so thick she must have put it on with a Spackle knife.  There was a guy who looked like he could be a CPA or an attorney, in a business suit who was clearly escorting his teen-aged son and friends.

As we made our way to our seats we discovered that six of our friends were down in the pit – the standing-room-only crowd right in front of the stage.  Four friends, including the two I rode in with, were sitting in another area, and the last couple (whom I did not know) and I were sitting in the VIP box.  Now, on the surface this sounds like a great place to sit for a concert – comfy chairs, a waitress to bring food and drinks, a great view of the stage.  All true. But the couple I sat with clearly didn’t like the concert, and mid-way into the last warm-up act, got up and left.  So I was in the VIP box alone. The option to leave wasn’t available as I hadn’t driven myself, and I really didn’t want to leave anyway.  At the break between bands, I texted the guy who had gotten the tickets and told him the box was empty if anyone want to come and sit down. They didn’t want to give up being on the front row of the pit, close enough to be sweat on or get a high five from one of the band members.  Can’t say I blame them.

Finally, the headliners arrived on stage.  It was an interesting experience to feel the goose flesh rise on my arms as the first few chords blasted from the speakers.  There is something unique about the communal energy of a concert, something primal, like an ancient ritual of some sort.  Music having been tied to spiritual and religious events since the dawn of man, there is no doubt this response is somehow embedded in our DNA. I danced to every song, alone in my private box, but also connected to this common energy force.  I yelled and screamed, swayed, shook my hips.  My children would have laughed at me, but thank goodness, they weren’t there.

Finally, in the last 15 minutes of the show, two of the friends who had been in the pit came up to sit down.  They were squished, banged, bruised, and generally exhausted.

“We should have been up here,” one said.  The other agreed.

“Yeah, it was great,” I said.  And it had been.  At some point the writer turned off and I simply enjoyed being in the moment. I was only a little sorry that my hubby wasn’t there with me, but I bought him a tee-shirt anyway.

I believe that one of the great blessings of being a writer is learning to be alone in a crowd; being able to connect at some level, and being able to detach as well.  I had a great time!  My ears are still ringing this morning and my legs ache from dancing in 4″ heels, but it was so worth it.  And I have enough character traits from people watching to fill many, many books.

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