When I was 17, nearly 18, I flew to Colorado without my parents to attend my college orientation. It was early summer and I raced back to attend a Pearl Jam concert that was supposed to change the world of ticket sales. Eddie Vedder et al chose to boycott Ticketmaster due to onerous fees. In the spring of 1995, I paid what I remember to be “a buttload of money” to attend the Pearl Jam concert in the Golden Gate Polo Fields. Three of us made our way to San Francisco, and were ready for the day. Well, sort of. Temperatures skyrocketed to high 90s. In the Sunset District, this is highly abnormal. People passed out right and left due to sunstroke. My friends chose to drink straight vodka and were eventually sicker than dogs. Neil Young, who was opening for Pearl Jam, kept singing and playing, playing and singing. I wasn’t a fan.
By the time Eddie Vedder and his band made their appearance on stage, he was stumbling. I was up close to the stage thanks to my drunk girlfriends. I didn’t dare to leave them because this whole scene was (and probably is, even still) very new to me.
But they played like hell for nearly 30 minutes which was fantastic, until it wasn’t. Eddie pawed at the mic, set off an exorbatant amount of feedback which caused everyone to clutch their ears, and mumbled an inaudable phrase. We as an audience received the occasional word and had to piece everything together. “Flu”, “sick”, “worst day of my life”, and then Eddie split. As the crowd realized what happened, the booing began. And we stopped once one of the band members spouted explatives as a result of our booing. Then Neil Young came out. He played, and played, played, and played. I waited patiently for my friends who insisted on waiting for Eddie to return. When it’s hotter than Hell and the guy you are listening to sounds like a broken record, mentioning moons and gold and being helpless, well–you tune out. I tuned out. I was pissed. We waited diligently with the hope that they would return. Actually we were promised more than several times that he would, but he didn’t. And I waited, hating every minute.
I’m not sure why I am thinking of this moment–perhaps because both Neil Young and Pearl Jam are present tonight. All six songs also have to do with waiting, oddly enough. But I wonder about the idea of perspective: I chose to boycott Pearl Jam for nearly 10 years. I continued to “hate” Neil Young despite never once giving him a chance. I chose to go to the concert. I knew my friends well enough (and let me clarify that they were then and continue to be good people) to know that I had (and let’s face it–continue to have) a tendency to set myself up for disaster. I don’t mean I wish I had been drunk that day. But I knew what I was in for with them, and could have avoided the situation altogether. What a waste of a “buttload of money”, a waste of a day, a waste of a 5am wake-up to fly back to San Francisco.
My life has been filled with awkward moments that I continue to remember in agonizing detail. But with many years perspective between me now and then, none of it is a big deal. The concert didn’t ruin my friendships with people. It really in the scheme of things didn’t change my taste in music. I eventually learned to appreciate Neil Young. All of these things provided me with perspective. It’s amazing how a little time and experience causes a girl to reassess, re-evaluate.17 years later, I have allowed myself to fall back in love with Pearl Jam. 17 years later, I allowed myself to delve into the musicology of Neil Young, and have even enjoyed his music…to an extent. Three straight hours of him however, did not make me a happy girl. We were promised rainchecks, which sucked because the date was set for Labor Day weekend. I moved to Colorado mid-August. But I remember nearly every detail of that Saturday in late June. Perhaps it was the thrill and the unknown and the fear that I was way out of my element, at least for 17.
This weekend, I was granted a whole new perspective in three instances. Firstly, I met up with family friends the night before a wedding; boys I babysat while I was in high school. People told me that I looked exactly the same. Part of me felt offended (these laugh lines and gray hairs didn’t get there by themselves!) and part of me felt thrilled (I do have a big birthday coming up soon, you know). We recalled stories I hadn’t thought of, not even once, since I was in high school–awkward moments that no longer seem awkward, just typical. Secondly, I spent most of Saturday with my best friend’s family. All 8 of them. My best friend L and I met shortly after that Pearl Jam concert, when we walked into our shared dorm room in Farrand Hall in Boulder. Fate threw us together, and 17 years later, I truly call her my best friend. She was wild, much funnier than me, and had 20 times the amount of self-confidence I possessed, just in her little finger. Today, seeing as though we live down the street from each other, rely on each other for eggs, the borrowing of Cuisinarts, and grabbing the tab when we’re short on cash, we’re definitely on level playing fields. Talk about a perspective shift 17 years in the making. Finally, I witnessed my sister-in-law interacting with her family, an extended motley crue of amazing human beings. Because I only am reserved the usual view of her and my family, this was a treat. She’s the same fabulous person, but we tend to show all sides of ourselves in front of our family. It was wonderful to see her from a new perspective.
Family dynamics during all three instances, trump everything, whether we admit it or not. We act differently when we are around them. Our perspectives change whether we wish them to or not. Actions, reactions, and decisions that caused me so much anxiety, so much angst, are now viewed by me as mere every day experiences. They seem to matter less and less. I love seeing the world from a new perspective. 17 years later, I forgive Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. Perhaps he did have the worst flu in history. Do you know how many people would have paid to hear Neil Young play for 3 straight hours? Could I possibly have imagined at 17, seeing as though I had all the answers, that my 35 year-old self could turn a crappy day into one of the most adventurous, warmest San Francisco experiences I have ever had? Probably not. But I am glad I can now see how naive I once was. Like this picture at the top today. When I took it in Oregon at the beginning of the summer, I thought, wow–trees and Mt. Baker. Today, I see a heart and Mt. Baker. Funny how perspectives slide and fall…
Wooden Ships–Crosby Stills Nash and Young
Stand Out in the Rain–The Jayhawks
Shady Grove–The Black Crowes
Bubbles in my Beer–Willie Nelson