Last night Greg and I went with some great friends to hear Brian Wilson, of the Beach Boys, perform Pet Sounds. I grew up on the Beach Boys and the Beatles and the Temptations and the Supremes and any opportunity I get to see any of the greats from my childhood live in concert, I snatch it up. I promise you, going to one of those shows is a spiritual experience. I had a profound encounter with God while dripping wet, swaying with strangers to Paul McCartney softly singing “Blackbird” in the rain on a field in Atlanta. Something magical happens, something spiritual happens, when you are in the presence of great art. But that is a post for another time and my own personal PSA to just go see the rock and roll legends of yesteryear while you still can. They are far and away better at their craft than a lot of what you hear coming from your speakers today.
Last night held all of that magic for me plus an unexpected encounter I wasn’t prepared for. As I listened to Brian Wilson croon and bark out hilarious instructions like, “Stop clapping now!”, I couldn’t help but marvel at the fact that this tour was even happening because Pet Sounds, an iconic album but never appreciated during its time, had been released 50 years ago. Fifty years ago, the man now sitting at a gleaming white piano and apparently battling what had to be an entire village of frogs in his throat, sat down to create something new and created an album that influenced musicians for years to come. He created songs that would define a generation and impact future generations for who knows how long. Fifty years ago “God Only Knows”, “Sloop John B”, “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and so many more songs came pouring out of one man and led to me, tapping my feet, and belting out the lyrics at the top of my lungs with a row full of friends and an auditorium full of kindred spirits of all ages. That is a legacy. And I started wondering what I am creating today, or have created in the past, that will still be standing 50 years from now. Aside from Levi and my marriage, my list came up pretty short of possibilities that might withstand the test of time.
I kept this thought in the back of my mind all through the glorious event, not disturbed or depressed by it, but motivated and inspired by the challenge. And as the band took their final bow and the curtains closed, we started to make our way out of the theater. I was at the end of our long row of friends and turned to lead our long line out and found an older woman, probably in her 60’s, leaving the row opposite of me and smiling hugely at me. I smiled back and she immediately grabbed my arm and said, “I am so glad I came tonight!” (Side note: this happens to me OFTEN. I don’t know if it’s my small stature, my red hair or the fact that my mama taught me to always smile back at people, but I regularly get accosted by strangers in the most bizarre of places.) I squeezed her arm and out of nowhere said, “I’m so glad you came, too!” Surprisingly she was not at all caught off guard by my weird reaction (although in my mind, I was thinking, “I”m glad you came too?!” Reagan, the correct response that gets you out of this encounter with yet another stranger is “I’m glad I came, too!” and then you turn around and ignore her.) But I didn’t. I just walked with her arm in arm as we shuffled our way through the crowds.
“This music was the soundtrack of my younger years, ” she said. “My friends and I would cruise around town with the top down, blasting the Beach Boys and feeling like we could do anything!”
“Me too,” I said. “I love this music! It instantly makes me feel happy and reminds me of all of my favorite people and places.”
She went on to say this to me: “But you know what really made me so glad that I came tonight? Sitting across the aisle from you and all of your friends. Not only could I see that you all love life and love each other, but you let the music take you somewhere together. You loved it and I felt that from across the aisle and it reminded me so much of my younger days and my old friends. And it made me feel so less alone for a moment.”
And I knew exactly what she meant. There was a moment when the lights turned from the stage onto the audience and I looked down the row at the faces of my friends. I saw their excitement and admiration and amusement and joy all written on their unique and beautiful faces and I knew that my face was probably an echo of all of those emotions and thoughts and I realized in that moment what I had neglected to leave off my list of possible creations I make that might withstand the test of time: friendships. This woman across the aisle from us saw the markings of a creation in process and it reminded her of the friendships she had forged and loved and maybe kept and maybe temporarily lost. We were both a mirror for her and a time machine. And she felt it, deep down in her soul. So much so that she felt no other choice but to abandon her own seat mates and embrace a stranger across the aisle she had found to be a kindred spirit.
This is a powerful, albeit bizarre, take away for someone to walk away from a Brian Wilson concert with, (but, c’mon, really. You have read me long enough to know that OF COURSE this would happen to me and I would think these thoughts.) I don’t know how long life will keep on the same course as the fine people who I watched a Beach Boy with, I hope a really long time. But I do know that it is possible to create something that lasts 50 years. And if I play my cards right, I just might influence a younger generation with the people I love and how well I love and care for them. Fifty years is a long time but I think we as humans just might be hardwired to create art that is meant to last. Just ask my new friend. She’s probably zipping around town today, with the top down and “Little Deuce Coupe” blaring on the stereo, paying homage to what she created 50 years ago.