Thursday, October 15, 2009
Don't think twice, it's all right
I got in line on Sunset Boulevard in front of the Hollywood Palladium on Wednesday an hour before doors were scheduled to open, and about three hours before Bob Dylan and his band were expected to hit the stage.
I didn't want to take any chances that I would be too far from Bob to see watch his expressions and capture the subtle ways he moves while performing. Dylan is an artist who doesn't include fancy-schmancy high-definition video screens as part of his staging —just another reason I love him— so unless you're up close to the stage or have binoculars, you miss the special ways Bob lifts his eyebrows, squints his eyes and sways his hips when he performs.
Rushing into the ballroom, I found a Palladium staff member and held up a note asking where the disabled seating was located. He gestured toward a cluster of seats stage left behind the enormous dance floor. I was confident that my trach, G-tube and distorted mug would be sufficient to grant me access to a seat in the disabled section but I would sacrifice the ability to see Bob up close. Instead, I ran to a vacant spot close to the security barrier in front of the stage, to the extreme left.
I didn't know if I was going to have the strength to stand for four or five hours, so retreating to the disabled section was my Plan B.
The front of the stage is where you find the greatest concentration of fanatics at any rock show —you know, the ones who follow bands from gig to gig, and refer to songs not by their names but by the initials in their titles— and on Wednesday I was stationed beside two stylish septuagenarian ladies chattering excitedly to each other. Either one would have a shot at a trophy in a Ruth Gordon look-alike contest. The women appeared to be longtime friends, but I overheard one of the ladies ask the other's name so they must have met just a few minutes before I arrived on the scene.
I opened a book to pass the time while waiting for the opening act to begin, but it was too dim to read, so I closed the covers.
One of the ladies turned to me and smiled, "I hope we don't get too wild for you!" while the other added, "Whoo HOO!"
Then the first lady looked closely at me. "Oh, you have a trach," she said. "I used to have one, myself. How long have you had it?"
I scribbled in my note pad. "About 10 months," I replied.
Her eyes seemed to twinkle. "You know, these days, I don't even think about the scar." She ran a finger along her neck. "You're going to be fine. You are going to be just fine."
The other woman repeated, "Whoo HOO!"
I wanted to find out how long these women had been Dylan fans but the light really was too poor to write in my pad, and besides, the security guard on the other side of the barrier seemed to take an interest in both of the ladies. So I watched them all flirt with each other while waiting for the show to start.
As for Bob, I had a clean view of his every twitch and gesture for the entire set. The guy is 68 years old and I'm guessing that he performs on a stage somewhere on this planet at least 200 nights a year.
Over the decades, I've seen Bob perform close to two dozen times and I'm sure I'll be seeing plenty more of him before he or I reach the end of our roads. Because like the lady said, I'm going to be just fine.