Pass the Memories

The last time I walked into The Forum in Los Angeles – Inglewood, actually – I was still in my teens. Nearly all the concerts I attended before heading off to college were hosted at The Forum, along with Lakers’ games and other random events.

Decades later as I drive through the crowded LA streets, Yahoo! directions guiding me, I comment to my son and his two friends, “Coming here when I was your age, it seemed so far.” The streets were unfamiliar back then, neighborhoods away, an unusual distance before one could drive. But tonight, I realize it’s only a matter of a few miles.

We snake into the parking lot, find a spot, climb from the car. I force the boys to pose for a few commemorative photos, and then we move quickly past other fans and line up to enter. The sexes divide into two distinct lines for prodding by security personnel. And just like the sexism of bathrooms where it should be easily noted that women need more stalls to move through a line in a timely fashion, the single line for each gender screams inequity as men cruise through, their pockets quickly patted down, while women’s purses require unloading, jiggling, and painstaking examination.

The three boys wait for me on the other side of safe as I impatiently wait my turn to be inspected. Just like the boys, I’m eager to get inside.

The trip to The Forum has been on my calendar for months, ever since I battled online for four tickets to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers, a gift to my son and self for his thirteenth birthday.

“Do you miss when I was young and cute?” my son asks when seeing our two-year-old neighbor strut through our communal garage, a straw cowboy hat upon his little head with a royal blue star on the front.

With complete sincerity I tell my son that I love where he is now, that we enjoy so many of the same things, can share more with each other with genuine enthusiasm rather than with the feigned joy so many parents plaster upon their faces when playing toddler board games or attending G rated movies. We love it for them, but we don’t necessarily love it for ourselves.

But tonight isn’t just about doing something for my kid.

The Forum is noisy and crowded with none of the slick newness of the Staples Center, the cross-town rival that has snatched up many of the most popular performances coming to Los Angeles. As I navigate to our seats, I see myself at thirteen coming here with my fourteen-year-old date, a boy I met at tennis camp, accompanied by my date’s older sister and – I search to remember, a friend of hers? – to see Chicago, how that date was our one and only as I found myself talking more to the sister than to the boy. And I flash on the time I came to see Queen and went backstage afterwards, courtesy of my friend’s father, a high-level music executive, to peer at a hyped-up and sweaty Freddie Mercury scurrying about greeting friends and strangers. And Yes on New Year’s Eve escorted only by my high school date where when the lights went out, he lit up a joint and offered me some.

I turn to my son and his friends. They can’t possibly imagine the flood of memories coming at me.

I buy the boys T-shirts, $35 a piece, the night an enormous outlaying of cash with $20 for parking on top of $320 for four tickets. How did we ever go to concerts as teenagers? I could only imagine asking my parents for money on that scale, parents who weren’t raised on rock and roll and couldn’t possibly understand the grand importance of being there, being a part, creating a memory that would never fade.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The hometown boys bred in the tiny local clubs of the 80s where the cover charge was around $5. A time when I had friends who took their turns on stage in other home-grown bands. A time when going out for music felt so personal.

But tonight, when the lights go down, an arena erupts in cheers. The three boys beside me leap to their feet, eager, anticipating. The smell of marijuana soon wafts through the room, but not in the cloud-creating quantities of my teen days. Tonight you can actually identify the location of the smoker. The aroma adds to my nostalgia as I inhale deeply, wanting more, wanting that connection.

I turn to see the boys with their arms slung around each other’s shoulders, swaying to a slower song, and I think, “I’m passing the torch.” Tonight the memory belongs to them. At thirteen, this moment won’t fade into an unremembered event only vaguely called up with a photograph. By thirteen, the memories stick, a piece of past never feeling so far away.

And when Flea, the bass player, comes to the mike and says, “You can’t imagine what it’s like to be someone who grew up in LA, driving to The Forum, knowing you’re going to perform there.”

But I can imagine. I can imagine how incredible that feels, how it symbolizes a completed journey even if there’s much more to come, even if other milestones have appeared more impressive. This one is personal. And suddenly I feel an inexplicable connection to the band as if they’re truly my peers rather than celebrated rock stars, a connection of overlapping childhood memories. I imagine that since their dreams have been realized perhaps mine be can, too. Rather than envy, I feel optimism. I feel the pursuit of a passion, to remember to chase a dream even if you can’t clearly see a destination.

Since the concert, I’ve been walking around with one corner of my mouth upturned, an unconscious smile creeping onto my face. I’ve been sparked to life, remembering what makes me want to pull myself from bed in the morning. I imagine that someday, in some context, I can feel like Flea and breathe in my dream realized, can nod and say, ‘This is what I was looking for and I didn’t even know it.’

Not only did the Chili Peppers give me a great evening and a great memory to share with my son, they gave me hope. Suddenly the price of the evening seems like a bargain.


Trouble said...

Great post!

I took my daughter to her first show this year (she'll be 13 in a few days). I can so relate to so much of what you write about your son. There are days when I miss that small perfect charming little girl, and I'm shocked at the lanky, long-legged confident almost-woman that has taken her place.

But mostly, I love the person she is becoming. We have way more fun together NOW then we ever have before.

kristen said...

I adored reading this.

Emily said...

Your writing gets better and better! I so appreciate the way you turn these great memories and images of a rock concert and suddently it is about hope. And it works.

Anonymous said...

I completely understand your emotions. My first concert was "Yes." Although in retrospect, it probably was a corny overdone concert, I remember it as the best thing I ever saw. And it must very special seeing the next generation have the "concert" experience.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful essay about that night, DeeZee. I could feel your joy about your son, the show, your memories, and all that it meant. It's very inspiring to know that one can attain such ecstatic feelings when the music, the past, and hopes for the future all come together.

stephoto said...

Oh, this is so great. As a mother of two boys of similar age, it speaks to me on so many levels...Beautifully written.

My first concert was Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden, circa 1973 (I was around 13) Those were the days...!