Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why aren't I more cultured?

I like saving ticket stubs. They effectively snapshot the time, date, and place of a performance that you've seen on a tiny piece of cardboard that is about 2" x 4". I keep them in a small box, that, until I embarked on the big cleanup of my messy house, was inside of another box in my basement. Tonight I went through the stubs, trying to make some sort of order to them and wondering if I should still hang on to all this crap. I'm such a collector of stuff.

I pulled out six stubs to performances that were a little more memorable than most.

In 1983, I saw David Bowie in his "comeback" Serious Moonlight tour in Philadelphia, at the Spectrum. I wore a sleeveless white t-shirt with hot pink and black amoeba all over it (I was much more "modern" back then) tucked into black pencil pants. Most of my wardrobe was black back then, except for items like amoeba shirts. My friend had painted a silvery crescent moon high up on my cheekbone and I did the same to her. This was the first time that I had seen Bowie live, ever. It was an incredible performance. Bowie's songs sounded like simple statements of love, all of them. "If you say run, I'll run with you. If you say hide, we'll hide." I remember that when I walked into the ladies room at the Spectrum, I saw a very drunk girl throwing up in the sink. Since that day, I never rest my pocketbook on bathroom sinks.

In 1989, I saw Mikhail Barishnykov perform on Broadway as Gregor Samson in Kafka's classic Metamorphosis. Barishnykov performed the role without any sort of makeup or special effects, and he was utterly believable. I had seen David Bowie pull off the same sort of thing in The Elephant Man a few years before. It helped, of course, that Barishnykov was a dancer, as his movements in his role as a bug were fluid and realistic. He was brilliant, sharp as a knife.

Also in 1989, I saw Meatloaf perform at The Ritz in New York. I don't know if anyone out there remembers The Ritz. It was one of my favorite venues. It was a gigantic room, a stage, and a sound system. There were no chairs anywhere, though there were giant blocks spaced randomly around the room, that people used to dance on. I got pushed by the crowd to the front of the room, right under the stage, and I remember Meatloaf spitting and sweating on me as he sang. I remember not minding. He was an enormous guy, with dramatic sweaty, stringy hair, feminine clothes, and a scarf that he waved around like a flag. And he could BELT out those songs. I've already talked about "You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth" here. I remember that when Meatloaf sang "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," all of the guys shouted the lyrics along with him at the tops of their lungs, while their girlfriends blushed. The crowd went crazy when he did a number from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. There was no air conditioning at The Ritz, and everyone was literally dripping from the dancing.

In 1999, I saw a performance of "The Taming of the Shrew" in New York, in Shakespeare in the Park. I had been to about a dozen or some SITP performances at that point...they are very popular in NY, as they are free and they are usually excellent. This one was brilliant; I remember thinking that watching this performance was making my college Shakespeare course come to life for me. I fell in love with writing and literature that night. Well, I was already in love and had been for some time, but "Shrew" made this crystal clear for me.

In that same year, 1999, I saw Paul Simon and Bob Dylan at Madison Square Garden. I've already talked about this concert, here. This was one of those rare concerts where I knew every single song, as both performers had huge repertoires and never really had to revert to any obscure tunes. I remember thinking that I was somehow in the middle of something historical, because Simon and Dylan were such legends. I felt my eyes tearing up when they sang Simon & Garfunkel's "America." The boy sitting next to me, whom I didn't know, put his arm around my shoulder and kissed me on the neck and said "I love you Rachel." Of course he was very drunk, my name is not Rachel, and I ended up standing mostly in the aisle after that.

In 2003, I was visiting friends in Colorado and saw Simon and Garfunkel at the Pepsi Center. My friends had gotten the tickets through their company, and they were crummy seats, but I didn't care. It was startling that thirty, maybe forty years after they had first recorded it, S & G could still hit every note in "Scarborough Fair." I remember thinking how comforting it was that there were some things in this world that were perfect, like their performance of that song. The two guys in back of me were probably in their sixties, and were reminiscing about seeing seeing S & G in the early seventies. I wished they would shut up.

Why aren't I more cultured? I am admittedly a pop culture junkie. I love a good concert and have been to dozens of them. Growing up in New York, I've gone to countless of landmark Broadway shows. So why hasn't all of this NY culture sunken in and sea-changed my personality into a cool, cultured, sophisticated New Yorker? Has becoming a little bit more frum anesthetized me against absorbing culture?


abandoning eden said...

i'm not sure what you mean by "cultured" you mean why arn't you a snooty hipster? :)

WebGirl said...

AE, you joke, but yeah, maybe. ;) Sometimes I think that being frum obscures expression in other areas. Sure I have a bunch of friends that are firmly frum and equally cultured, but it often it seems that they cancel each other out.

abandoning eden said...

you know i suggested to some other frum guy that he go to the chelsea art galleries for a first date...they are free and awesome (and i'll be visiting them later this week when me and my bf are taking a 3 day trip to NYC and staying right near them at the chelsea hotel!). But anyways, i looked up the times they are open, and it seems they are not open on sunday, and only open during the week during daytime hours (They close around 6). So if you are frum and have a job (like most people do I assume), then it's just impossible to go to places like that. :( So I see your point about maybe culture and frumness canceling each other out.

But you don't have to be a snooty hipster to have culture! (and believe me, i live in a neighborhood that is full of hipsters, and most of them are just ridiculous, and obsessed with buying clothes that look ridiculous and making fools out of themselves). With the internet, it's super easy to find local "cultural" stuff, and you don't have to dress like an idiot to do it! :)