Wondering… About that part inside of ourselves that longs to rock… Does everyone have one? Is the difference only in degree and stylistic preference? The extent to which we let it be seen? Let it loose?
Does anyone not have an experience from their early years when they turned up their favorite song and just rocked out? Whether it helped us connect to the moment or weather the moment. Whether it enhanced the moment or defined the moment. I think we all have had those moments.
Where does that part of us go? When adulting… Getting serious about getting serious…
Does it come out in the car? When no one is watching and the stoplight stays red a bit too long? Does it come out at a party, when that one favorite song comes on and you can’t help yourself? Do you sing along in the record store because it’s just so good (and the lady at the register is singing along too)?
Can it ever wither so much it’s impossible to revive?
I’ve wondered… But, I don’t think so. I think it’s more like it lives dormant inside us. Ready for activation. Perhaps yearning for activation. Should we only give it the chance. Like a seed in the winter, waiting…waiting…waiting for spring.
Friday night, I saw spring.
Through a winding path of synchronicity, my son fell in love with KISS. First vinyl. Then KISS. Or, maybe some intertwined combination of both. And, it’s been this random, curious, interesting thing to watch develop and evolve. I always love to see where his wonder goes. Far be it from me to predict or insert myself. It is far more fascinating to watch as it unfolds and see where it takes him, and us.
Friday night, it took us to Hollywood to see KISS on their End of the Road World Tour. Their last.
We arrived at our hotel near the venue and, as we rode up to our room, we shared the elevator with a man. He appeared to be in his sixties. Tall, physically fit, energetic and returning from a walk with his dog. In his KISS tee shirt. And, as so often happens, he saw my son’s KISS tee shirt and gave him a knowing look. Then, a fist bump.
People seem to perk up in a special way when they see my son get glowy about KISS. His innocence and unself-conscious enthusiasm. I think it touches a part of people they perhaps haven’t connected to in a while.
It was much the same here. The man began telling us of his first concert and how he wished his parents would have taken him to see KISS. One of his all-time favorites. He wished us well and, as he left the elevator on his floor, I heard him say to himself “Coolest parents ever!” But…it’s not about that. Not really. Our son awoke something in us too. Something wilder. More innate. Primal.
Hearing KISS was on tour and that this would be the last time, coinciding with our son’s growing obsession, we knew we had to go. It made no sense and was totally impractical and, yet, we knew we had to give him (and, maybe, ourselves) this experience. We got kind of giddy talking about it, and then planning for it, and then going for it.
Maybe it was about that time. To step out of our routine and into another side of ourselves. That Rock God (or Goddess) fantasy. I’d rather be Stevie Nicks, myself… But I think that’s it. I think we all have that version of ourselves in daydream. Even if just for a moment. Totally, radically actualized. In high def. Losing ourselves in flow and expression.
Looking around that night, we were not alone in this. Standing in front of us in the line to get in was a sweet older couple who’d shared the elevator down with us. He was clean cut, short white hair neatly parted, wearing a golf jacket, khakis and practical loafers. She was in an elegant jumpsuit mostly covered by a light coat. Salt and pepper hair pulled up in a French twist. I’d assumed they were on their way to a nice dinner and quiet evening. But, no, here they were…right in front of us in line. Craning their necks to try to understand the flow and pace of the different lanes and develop a strategy for getting into the venue as quickly as possible. They were ready to rock. Under cover. But ready. Maybe all the more ready for being under cover.
Then, of course, there were the many many fans in full regalia. Ranging from a vast array of KISS merch to full costume. Lots of bedazzled leather, face paint and wild hair.
My grandma used to set her silvery white hair in curlers. It always had that gentle, puffy wave that surrounded her kindly face like a halo. When I entered the women’s bathroom, I saw her hair. On a woman who was probably in her seventies. Maybe eighties. It made me think of my beloved Gagoo. Childhood. And, then, I took in her head to toe black sequins. Pants and a collared jacket. She turned towards me and I saw with joyous incredulity that she wore the full face paint I’d tried to convince the boys to sport with me.
Absolutely spectacular. And I thought to myself – I want to be like that! I want to be the woman in the bathroom that fully embraced her rock and roll spirit. Even now. Perhaps, especially now. She was transcendent. And, similar to the people who lit up with a spark seeing my son, I was lit up seeing her. Maybe I am her. And maybe they are him. Maybe we are all one.
Fifty years… Fifty years(!), KISS has been rocking out and bringing audiences together. Connecting people around that spark. The unassuming young guy next to me who knew (and exuberantly sang…) every single word to every single song. The family rolling three generations deep with face paint and a cooler full of sandwiches. The middle-aged couple you can tell had been buttoned up all week, ready to get their rock on. My son, face aglow with awe, singing and screaming at the top of his lungs, smile spread ear to ear. Everyone coming from very different days and ways, unified in this convergence of place and passion. Brought together to ROCK.
It makes me think of root systems in the forest. The way the trees – many different types of trees – can stand far apart. While their roots run deep and venture wide and end up intertwining. The oak sharing space with the pine. Nourished by the same soil. Elementally connected.
After an evening transported to this spectacular rock and roll reverie, and a morning watching the sunrise over the Hollywood Hills, my son’s face aglow in profile, backlit by the city that lit a spark in me and that I once called home, we returned to our regular life. A few short hours and he was, once again, a ten-year-old kid gathering sticks and chasing friends in the forest. Yin and yang…
But the memories and inspiration had taken root. Generative and alive in him. Forever.
At the record store in town a bit later (looking for the Paul Stanley solo album on vinyl, of course), my son eagerly told the record store owner about the concert. With a faraway gleam in his eye, the man responded to my son with enthusiasm and then shared that KISS was his first concert. His dad took him when he was eleven. The magic of memory and generational bonds hung in the air and electrified the space we shared. These things that connect us, different though we are.
We got home and used the golden honey fall afternoon to tend to our yard and prepare for the seasons ahead. We planted a tree. An apricot tree. Its fruit will feed the generations.
I wonder if they knew. When they first met. When they first came together as a band. Played their first show. Embarked on their first tour. I wonder if they knew what they would create and all they would feed with the fruits of the seeds they’d sown.
I wonder if they knew that, some day, they’d rock us all.