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Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The pause that refreshes.

I must have been about 5 years old the first time I saw the Hollywood Bowl.

It looked just like this back then, except it was daylight. There was a pool and water and it was one of the most mesmerizing things I had ever seen. There I was, in my yellow dress with the full skirt, the one with the tulips all around the hem, my hair in braids, my white anklets trimmed in lace, my hand in that of my father.

I had no idea where we were going, I wasn't really sure where we were when we got there. To this day I have no idea why my mother wasn't there (Okay, I have an idea, but no reason to go there just yet). And we sat down in this open place and we waited, with hundreds and hundreds of other similarly clad children and their parents.

And after what was at least a YEAR of wondering why we were there, the orchestra played some really cheerful music, mostly with flutes, that I remember to this day. And out came:


If you don't know who the Captain was, well, I actually feel sorry for you. The Captain raised me. The closest thing to the Captain would be Mr. Rogers. Like Fred Rogers, Captain Kangaroo never talked down to me. He liked me. And there he was!

He had the orchestra behind him. The Captain always had music, always. And they never played things like "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" either. They played real, honest to God music. Because the Captain assumed that, even though we were five and six, we heard the same notes in "The March of the Toreadors" that everyone else did and that we would like it. And we did. Well, I sure as hell did, anyway.

Mr. Green Jeans was there, and so was Dancing Bear and Bunny Rabbit. I don't remember if Grandfather Clock was there, so I'm guessing he wasn't. And the orchestra played LeRoy Andersen's "The Typewriter Song" and a man wearing a green eye shade sat at a table at the front of the stage with an old manual typewriter and he typed so fast and he would always seem to reach the end of the line just in time to ring the bell and fling the carriage back so they could start all over again.

Every time I walk into the Hollywood Bowl I have the same feeling I had on that spring afternoon. Last week I took my son with me and heard some amazing Gershwin. A few boyfriends and I have nestled in the cheap seats in the back with a bottle of wine and Beethoven. No, not at the same time, get your minds out of the gutter. There has been a sunny June week-end or two lost at the Playboy Jazz Festival. I saw Van Cliburn there. Twice. The Beethoven he played was good, the Tcahikovsky just soared.

I've seen Cleo Laine, Anthony Newley and Ray Charles there. Henry Mancini was an essential. I don't remember how many times I saw The Boston Pops with Fiedler...they used to come out every summer. I've heard the "New World" and "Birdland" and "Last Train to Clarksville" there.

There have been changes in the 50+ years since I saw it first. The water is gone, replaced by very expensive box seats. The shell has been replaced a few times too. But the bowl remains essentially the same. When your there, that's all there is. Warm summer nights, picnics, music and stars. There's no Hwy 101 roaring towards downtown just outside the trees, no traffic jams snaking their way into Hollywood.

I'm going again this week-end, me, the hubster, two sons, a girlfriend and her parents. Along with a LOT of chicken, pasta salad, pita and hummus, maybe some brie, some cookies and a bottle or two of wine. It's a strange circle of a journey, from my father and me and Captain Kangaroo to my sons and their dates and Earth, Wind and Fire. Seven seats, on the aisle, in the back.

And I won't even think about contracts or bills or people that annoy me. There's no room for paranoia there. All the space is taken up with music and crickets and trees and the sounds of 16000 people all leaving their stress in the parking lot. I don't care if anyone watches me. I don't care who likes me or thinks I'm smart or stupid. I just AM.

I think we don't spend enough time just being. Not being anything in particular, just being. No watches, no blogs, no reports, no Monday mornings. See, I've been thinking of that poor guy today, the one who lost it and tried to hold the Discovery Channel hostage. Because, among other things, he wanted them to stop glorifying people having HUGE families and sapping the planet's resources. I kind of get it. If nothing else, I really get not wanting to look at the Duggers. But how frightened must that man have been? He was convinced that the planet is being destroyed and that the Discovery Channel is glorifying people like the Duggers who sap it's resources and abuse it's space.

I really feel bad about this. This poor man lived his life worrying about what other people are doing. Now, yes, there is validity to that. The planet IS special, and it's all we've got. But living one's life in fear, full of suspicion and worry and anger, well, that's just gonna get you dead.

There are things we SHOULD worry about. And times we should worry about them. And then there are times we should forget about it for awhile. Times we should just talk to a friend about how good the corn on the cob is this season. Times we should rub the dogs tummy. Times we should read a book or quote "Casablanca". Times we should just come together in one lovely place and surround ourselves with something beautiful and be glad we're there and NOT worry about where the funding for the arts is coming from.

In the morning it will be soon enough. For now...just BE.

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