It’s still tonight, so technically I’m still doing my update for today.
And I will start it with the tail end of another fantastic email, one that might make you jealous with it’s geniusness. (At least it did for me.) Behold, Brett N’s contribution:
PS– and the other folks saying this are right: there is absolutely a script waiting to be found in this Orient Express trip with your mom.
MOTHER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS
You guys. Mother on the Orient Express. I don’t know how I could call it anything else.
Tonight I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see Pink Martini and special guests including Rufus Wainwright and some people from Sesame Street and fireworks. It’s really one of the most beautiful places in Los Angeles, and one of my favorites. And earlier this year, I got to take my mom here.
Last winter I found out that James Taylor and Carole King were reuniting for (what at the time seemed to be a) small tour. A miracle tour, really, because CAROLE KING ON TOUR! I quickly snatched up two tickets and a plan.
Over the years I’d come to realize my mom’s not the easiest person when it comes to buying presents. She has a tendency to say things like, “I don’t really need anything. How about some new sweatpants?” Or, “I guess you could get me the new Stephen King, but I might have already read it before Christmas if the library has it.”
Usually she just goes with, “If you come home for Christmas. That’s my present. My girls with me.”
For the past few years my family has insisted on not getting each other presents, just spending time together with our family, usually gathering in the living room late at night to watch one of my mom’s favorite movies — something incredibly warm and holiday cozy, like Armageddon or Die Hard 2. Last year, I seem to remember we watched Cloverfield.
Mom can’t hold herself to this no presents rule, by the way, and in the end she’ll find a way to hand us stockings filled with candy and trinkets. There’s only been one year in my memory when I didn’t get a brand new box of crayons, and that was the year I was thirty years old and crying that I didn’t get a box of crayons. She didn’t know that they meant Christmas to me, just as late-night viewings of Bruce Willis movies with scalp-shifting Surround Sound mean Christmas to her. Now she never forgets my box of Crayolas. And this past year, I handed her a Christmas card. Inside were two tickets to see James Taylor and Carole King at the Hollywood Bowl.
I open Why Moms Are Weird with a quote from Carole King’s “Home Again,” off her Tapestry album, because the song always reminds me of my mother. I also wrote about this here for Largehearted Boy, but when I was little, Mom used to play that album every night before going to sleep, and I remember one night standing in her room, watching her smoke a cigarette in the dark as she listened to “Home Again”, and I remember thinking, “Mom is sad. When I grow up, she will never be sad.”
I don’t know that I’ve done such a good job with that promise, but I don’t ever forget that I made it. She doesn’t know I made myself that promise, but she obviously picked up on some part of it, because she will often remind me, in a ha-ha-jokes-are-fun sort of way, that when I was five I promised her that one day I would by her a house down the street from my house. And I guess when I was ten and we were living in Palm Springs I promised her that I’d buy her a house in Palm Springs one day. That promise, she remembers.
Mom will be the first to tell you that I was not a fun baby. I was a fun child. Actually, I guess I was a fun toddler, because from everything I remember about myself from about five on I was kind of a stressball nerd child. And for my first year I screamed and cried almost nonstop. Mom would have to put blackout curtains on the windows and keep the house silent if I were to nap for even twenty minutes.
But then one day, when I was about a year old, I apparently was wandering through the house just crying away, holding a bottle, and the television was on in the background. Whatever my mom had been watching had ended, and now it was Sesame Street, which she’d never seen before.
Mom says I was walking and crying, walking and crying, and then I saw the television and I just stopped. I stood still, in place, bottle dangling from my mouth, teardrops frozen on my cheeks, and I stared at the screen.
Mom was like, “Oooh.” She says she went and got a blanket and quietly put it down behind me, grabbed a couple of pillows, and then gently moved me into a seated position.
This is the point in the story where Mom always says, “And thank whomever was in charge of programming at our local PBS station, because that channel would play two straight hours of Sesame Street. They’d air yesterday’s episode, and then a new one. Then that one would be on the next day followed by another one. In one month, you were saying your ABC’s. Singing songs. You became this new person, one who was really fun and wanted to know everything. And soon after that, we found you reading a book out loud in your crib.”
Sesame Street saved my life. Because without it, Mom might have tossed my screaming ass out the window.
But back to Carole King. The concert happened to coincide with Mother’s Day. So part two of the Christmas Gift was a Mother’s Day present — I flew Mom to town to spend Mother’s Day with me, Carole King, James Taylor and a few thousand people at the Hollywood Bowl. Or, as I soon renamed it: Momapalooza.
Normally when you go to the Bowl you can bring a little picnic basket of wine and cheese and sandwiches and snacks. You can get there early and sit while the sun sets and get sweetly boozy before the music starts. But when the Bowl is being rented for an outside concert — like Radiohead or Beastie Boys or James Taylor and Carole King — they have a strict “You must pay for our booze and food” policy. But it was clear that the patrons of this kind of concert had never before come to a Hollywood Bowl concert that wasn’t the usual “Our Orchestra Presents” kind of thing where they get to call binge drinking Friday at the Bowl. They’d never gone to a “concert,” or even for a second considered that this might be one. Because they had all brought booze. Contraband booze. But they weren’t going to just toss it in the trash, so there were these piles of ladies on the ground, sitting there taking giant gulps from their wine glasses, shoving cheese into their faces, determined to get all that Whole Foods organic goodness into their tummies before James started singing “Fire and Rain.”
I’m not too worried about making sure my mom has a good time with me when we’re in Europe, because that concert was like a test run. I’m not trying to brag, but I’ve figured out the secret to taking my mom out for the night. She likes it to be like she’s on a date. She hasn’t said this, I can just tell. I have to think like a dude who’s on a first date, treating a lady like I’m a perfect gentleman. What? IT’S NOT WEIRD SHUT UP.
First: I paid extra for easy parking. No long walks for my mom! Not like when I go to the Bowl and I park pretty much at Hollywood and Highland and hoof it uphill for thirty minutes wondering, “Why did I wear these shoes?!?”
Then, right when you enter the front gate, they ask, “Would you like a program?”
Now, in all my years of going to concerts, I’m pretty sure I’ve never bought a program. I’ve taken a free Playbill. But I’ve never paid cash for the — I guess the souvenir, yes? That’s what the program’s for? When they asked if I wanted a program, before I answered my usual, “No, thank you,” I looked over at my mom, who was smiling at the picture of Carole King on the cover of this glossy magazine. And I looked at the twenty dollar price tag, and said, “Mommy, do you want a program?”
And I bought my date that program. You can get one too, I’m sure, on eBay right now for a dime. Let me check. Hmm. Only CD’s. But — oh, my god, mom. Hang onto that program!! 2031, here we come!
While standing in line for popcorn, other people — strangers! — were borrowing her program, talking about this pretty picture or that one. Mom was like, the coolest kid in line. But she also likes her popcorn with extra butter and layered with both butter and salt, so she had to choose between looking at her program and eating the popcorn we just bought. She opted to carry her program. I carried the ball of butter lumps. Because that’s what a gentleman does.
I have pictures from the time we spent in our seats before the concert, but Mom would actually stop talking to me forever if I posted them. She really doesn’t like pictures of herself (other than the one I use for her Twitter account, which somehow miraculously she doesn’t hate), and has spent the past forty years of her life actively avoiding any equipment that permanently records her image. So you’ll just have to trust me when I say Mom was already dancing in her seat before the show started.
People have a tendency to talk to me. Strangers will just start talking to me like we’ve known each other for a while. I get this — whatever this magnetism is — from my mother. So within minutes she had befriended everyone surrounding us in our seats. The ladies to the right of me were already drunk (having had to gulp a couple of bottles outside like they were trying to get featured on Tosh.0), and were going on about how I was the youngest person in this section by a good fifteen years. I said to the one closest to me, “I can’t be more than five years younger than you,” which made her night, because she had two grown children.
The show started right when I’d gone to grab more drinks for Mom and me, and I missed Carole’s rendition of “It’s Too Late,” which is truly one of my favorites. The beverage line all sang with me as we danced and strained to hear, and when I got back to our seats, Mom was dancing in place, singing along, and crying.
Mom cried every time Carole King started another song. She’d grab my hand and weep and I knew she was just so happy. But you know, part of me was like, “She is really singing and crying like, a lot. I don’t know that I’ve ever gotten this emotional at a concert.”
(This is extremely untrue. When I was sixteen I cried at a Toad the Wet Sprocket concert so hard that Glen Phillips leaned over the microphone and quietly asked me, “Are you okay?” WHICH WAS THE BEST THING EVER OHMYGOD. Also: poor Little Pam. She felt every song like it was coming out of her lungs.)
I don’t know what my Mom said to the ladies next to me while I was gone getting our drinks, but the woman on my right suddenly grabbed my arm and whispered into my ear, “Your mother loves you… so much.”
And then I cried, too. Mom and I held hands and sang songs and when the show was over, while we were walking back to the car, we passed the ubiquitous hot dog street vendors. I craved one as I always do (but usually never get one). But I knew if I was craving one, that meant my mom was craving one. And a gentleman on a date must do his best to give his lady her every whim, even if she doesn’t voice it. So I bought us a hot dog that we shared as we walked back to the car. Best hot dog I’ve ever had.
I was thinking about that night tonight as I watched the Pink Martini show, which was very entertaining and sweet and fun. There were fireworks and funny songs and Rufus Wainwright sang with his eyes closed in those two notes he loves over and over. And once again I was the youngest person in my section by a decade or more, which was a little surprising. During intermission I’d somehow ended up talking to everyone sitting around me as we joked about the guy sitting next to me who texted through the entire first half. But then the second half started, and something unexpected happened.
I knew that cast members from Sesame Street were supposed to be there. But I guess there was a disconnect between knowing that they were going to be there, and then… seeing them walk onstage. They were really there. The people from Sesame Street. Bob, Olivia, Gordon, Luis — and more but — there they were. These people whose faces I’ve known my entire life, my first friends and teachers. And you guys, I cried. A lot.
I cried a lot a lot. I heard people talking about me crying.
They started to sing all these songs I’ve known my whole life. “Rubber Ducky.” “C is for Cookie.” “Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood.” And then they played the one that stuck with me when I was little, the one I think about sometimes when I’m nervous that what I’m doing isn’t right. They played “Sing.”
“I’m having flashbacks,” the stranger next to me said, nudging my arm. “I only kind of remember these songs, and it’s freaking me out. You know every word.”
And I said, “They taught me my ABC’s. How can I not remember everything they’ve ever said?”
I sat at the Bowl tonight in pretty much the same seats as I did back in May with my mother, singing and crying because I never thought I’d ever see the cast of Sesame Street sing songs right out of living places in my brain, and I was both unwilling and unable to reign in my happiness and emotion. And that’s when I thought: No matter how loudly Mom will tell you I am just like my father, I am very much my mother’s girl.
A very special thanks to those of you who have contributed to the Dewey Donation System. We have sent over 250 books, and today the VLP threw down a goal: if we broke $2000 in donations, they’d have a dance party. With pictures. By 6:00pm Pacific time, we hit that goal (and then some! (as well as clearing out another wishlist), and the VLP busted some serious moves. I really love The VLP. Part library, part school, part DANCE LAB. You can tell which one’s the derby girl librarian, what with the lack of pants. Woo-hoo to Anna and Emily for a successful first few days!
It was a slow start at the beginning of this week, and I worried that Dewey wasn’t going to be able to help as much as it has in the past years. But luckily you guys have all pitched in and spread the word and gave what you could and it’s really a wonderful thing to witness. Thank you so much. Oh, god! More tears!