When I was a little kid I sat on the grass high above and back behind the Hollywood Bowl with my family to listen to the performances. The Bowl to me was a brilliant white blob with an uneven number of misshapen balls magically suspended over it and a dozen or so trees outlining the far left side of the horizon. These were the images I remember focusing on while the music lulled me to sleep immediately after every intermission.
When I was a young married Ed and I were lucky enough to get closer seats, sometimes even in the coveted “box” area. Then the music of the classics, show tunes and jazz moved to the foreground. After having the kid the Hollywood Bowl trips lessened and finally diminished into a wistful memory. Then last week, for the annual fireworks season opener, I was reintroduced to it all again.
My mother had asked our family months ago to go on 7-3-03 to celebrate her 71ist birthday, but to get the nosebleed cheap seats. I had no idea, other than trying to keep the cost down, why. I complied, ordered the tickets and started to look forward to introducing Samantha to the Bowl.
Ed and I anticipated traffic and parking problems and, since we planned on picnicking there, allowed two hours before the program was set to start to set out ourselves. We were in for a real surprise when the usual stop and go traffic on the Hollywood freeway had abated that night. We were even more surprised when we were able to pull right into the Bowl for parking! As we loaded up our arms with our picnicking supplies we walked maybe fifty feet up to the ticket turnstyles!
My sister and her family were due to arrive via bus any moment and I watched as Eddie charged us on to actually attain a coveted picnic bench! We set out our bounty of fruit, pate, cheeses, meats, wine and a birthday cake anticipating their arrival. Within a few minutes there all eight of us leisurely sat munching to our hearts content. So far, so unbelievably good!
So here comes the tough part: leaving our comfortable picnic to make our way up, up and up to the nosebleed section. I could still see my “suspended balls and trees” but no one else around seemed to hold them in the same mystical esteem that I did. Eddie and I noticed pretty quickly that sitting so far away from the action required people to make a little action of their own!
Smoking was forbidden but that didn’t slow anyone down. That misdemeanor seemed to spread like a wildfire as people then talked loudly to be heard through the first orchestral portion of the show. Then some chose to either dance or lounge in the aisles. (Wasn’t that our fire escape?) Arriving late the heat seemed to warrant a new rustle of activity while people groaned loudly while trying to make fans out of their programs. Screaming was the toughest to take.
My mom tried asking a gentleman, the owner of the two nearest screaming young ladies, if he could just keep them with him instead of across the aisle with us. He returned her request with a battery of fowl language, and then, maybe due to her age, he did seem to attempt to reign in his children a few minutes later.
Eddie tried to ignore it all making a joke that he fit right in his $6 shirt (from Old Navy that we ALL wear for the 4th of July) his $6 wine (a Sauvignon Blanca from New Zealand that we had tasted and liked from the Valencia Wine Bar) in with his, needless to say, $6 seat. My mother mentioned that she hadn’t noticed the big Hollywood sign in the background before. Ed told her it was because we had never sat this high up before.
After intermission, and hearing everyone in those cheap seats sing along to wish my mother a happy birthday, we relented on our negative attention to them. We simply chose not to notice anything but the performance. And just in time because Kenny Rogers, of “Lucille” and “The Gambler” fame, was about to begin.
I had bought Samantha a karaoke tape of Kenny Rogers so she could get into the music a little bit. Not only was I pleased that she could join the other screaming adults when it was finally appropriate, the proximity of Kenny allowed Samantha to sing her heart out, with everyone else in the nosebleed section. (Sans other eight-year-olds that had no clue who in the heck Kenny was.) I swear it may have quieted our area just a little when she belted out, “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, with four HUNDRED children and a crop in the field.” And her rendition of the ever-popular, “You got to know when to hold ‘em…”
We then were rewarded with the spectacular fireworks and cheered a final cheer to Kenny Rogers. We didn’t join the pushing match to get out any faster than anyone else or to collect as many freebie seat cushions as we could carry. We sat. We contemplated what we would like to hear at the Bowl next. We thought College of the Canyons should build an amphitheater. We finished off the chocolate turtles and contemplated how the row of trees got lost in the dark. When we finally walked to our car Samantha fell asleep before we got back on the Hollywood freeway. And we thought we had had a good time. But next time, we may try and sit a wee bit closer. Maybe just closer to each other.