When my niece was four, we took her to a matinee performance of the Velveteen Rabbit. It was carefully explained to the children that this was a live performance. It was not TV, and the actors were affected by the audience, and therefore it was important that we all be quiet, and that we clap at the end. The theatre was filled with children, and that is what we did. We watched, listened, and clapped. The Velveteen Rabbit is one of my favorite books, but the play was a little traumatic for Katy who was upset that the other animals wouldn't play with the rabbit. I'm not sure she ever got beyond that to the happy ending.
Anyway, last night we decided to venture out to a musical venue in Mill Valley. The Sweetwater has re-opened, and Shana Morrison and her band were playing. We got there early but there was no place to sit, so we stood in the back for the opening act which we could not hear because everyone was talking so loudly. Then, out came Shana. She is local, so there was a huge turn-out, but even so, people did not listen. We sat on the floor in front, right in front, and then people crowded into the tiny space in front of us, and stood, and moved in a way that they seemed to think was dancing, though it looked rather spastic to me, and disconnected from the music. Anyway, some of these people then started talking. They literally could have touched Shana, and they stood there, jiggling and talking. I was mind-boggled. There is another room at this place, and there is an outside section. Why not stand outside and talk to your friends, rather than standing in front of a band, and a roomful of people who now cannot see the band? What am I missing?
I know that people have gotten ruder and ruder, and Mill Valley is renowned for rudeness. When I apologize to the checker at Whole Foods when someone before me is rude, they reply, "That's okay. We're trained that people in Mill Valley are rude. We're trained to deal with it."
I don't understand rudeness. I don't understand standing in front of someone who is sitting. One guy who pushed his way in to stand in front of me was losing his pants so I was looking at his butt crack. Because I don't want to come back as a cockroach, I didn't put my finger up, and watch his pants drop. I sat there doing Tonglen for people who seem unaware that other people exist. Needless to say, it was an interesting evening if not what I expected. My response shows how little we get out at night. In talking to people, we learned this is the norm, and we are the ones out of step.
I can't imagine what it is to be a musician and practice and practice and then be treated as though you aren't there. I learned that Michael Tilson Thomas stopped a performance of the SF Symphony because someone was talking. Good for him, I say, and yet, I am astonished it would be necessary. How have we lost track of what it is to listen, to be dropped into the experience of live music and changed?
Anyway, that is my rant. If you have a chance to see the boats in the bay this weekend for the America's Cup, I recommend you take a look. The boats are gems, and if you watch on TV, they might look really big.