But myths aside, flashing my own cultural achievement scorecard is not the purpose of this post. Instead I’d like to eulogize the many, many milestones that I wish I could say “I was there” for. Regret is healthy and it’s honest. instead of leading people to believe that my world-weary, Sam Shepard-esque, taken-by-the-wind brand of sexy cool is anything but the result of years of practice and wishful thinking, I can come clean with exactly the kind of square I am. So here are my regrets, in reverse chronological order, and spiked with a jigger of professional jealousy:
January 2011: P. Diddy graces the stage at Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre New York
I will confess upfront that I’m not a huge fan of Diddy, Ciroc, or the crowded, smug conditions in the UCB basement theatre, but I am a fan of comedy stunts, and feeling like a cool kid. So it was with MUCH regret (and some loud ranting that disturbed my cats) that I awoke the morning after enjoying a friend’s sketch show at UCB, to the news that I had missed Diddy’s heavily rumored and tweeted-about surprise appearance on the Chris Gethard Show by AN HOUR AND A HALF. (Ah, so that’s why the UCB staff shooed us out after the show like feral cats – DIDDY WAS IMMINENT.) Had I faked hysterical paralysis and refused to leave my seat, I might have caught a glimpse of Puff the Magic Mogul. Alas.
November 2007: The cast of 30 Rock performs an episode live on stage
The WGA writers strike was on, and this sweet comedy antidote was announced very quietly through a handful of comedy nerd news sites…which of course immediately spilled over to EVERY MEDIA OUTLET IN EXISTENCE. Tickets were sold online to the general public, but predictably, they sold out in a nanosecond. I had one or two strings I could have pulled to get in, which I now realize I should have not only pulled, but swung upon as if they were the bells of Notre Dame and I, Quasimodo. That I was too busy pining after a young gypsy dancer is the only excuse I can think of.
October 2001: Jane’s Addiction plays Madison Square Garden on their Jubilee Tour
Normally I would feel fine about missing this concert, since tickets were harder to get than a fingerbang at a Christian Rock show. Normally, that is – except for the fact that a group of my (infinitely cooler and better-looking) friends got in without tickets by a crazy stroke of luck. They had been waiting outside MSG in the freezing cold, with throngs of other vinyl-corseted freaks for hours. Then, straight out of a Rolling Stone essay titled I’m with the (Pidgeon-chested Guy in Eyeliner and a Wrist) Band, the stage door opened a crack, and a roadie beckoned for them to come in. Two of my friends managed to slip in before the door slammed shut, and they joined the teeming audience for a night of transcendent druggy mayhem. Granted, one of them left behind his girlfriend (later the mother of his child) without so much as a glance, but hey – in the pursuit of “I was there” stories, sacrifices must be made.
Early 1990s: Seattle Grunge/ Riot Grrl Music Scene
While I didn’t technically miss it, I do think it sucks that I lived smack in between Tacoma and Seattle during the years leading up to the scene’s explosion, and then we moved to the East Coast right at the moment when:
- The music was taking off, and
- I was entering my iconoclastic, moderately angry teen years, outfitted in clunky boots, Dad’s motorcycle jacket and a suburban scowl.
1985/86: Singing with Placido Domingo and the LA Opera
Ok this less a cultural milestone than a missed opportunity, but it totally fits the “Look Back in Anguish” theme. When I was ten years old our school choir auditioned to sing with Placido Domingo at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. I don’t remember which opera it was, but my mother, a HUGE Placido fan, was thrilled and kept talking about how proud she’d be to see me on stage with him. In preparation for the audition I rehearsed a french folk song with a friend, in addition to the ancient choral number we sang as a group. Although mostly on-key, my voice could at best be described as “reedy” – I was always being told to “Sing OUT!” by our enthusiastic music director. Nevertheless I had the optimism of childhood on my side, and I envisioned myself at the stage door after an exhausting performance, graciously smiling at my admirers while clutching armfuls of roses. At the audition, I did my best but was not chosen for the “angel choir” in the opera. I bravely put the snub behind me, until the day a few weeks later when I came home from school to find my mother glowing, with a letter in her hand. I had been offered a walk-on role in the opera with Placido!! I asked my mother what “walk-on” meant and when I learned it meant pantomiming in crowd scenes I immediately refused – I would have a singing role or nothing! Her disappointment in me eventually faded but I have felt like a complete, utter jackass for 25 years and counting.
1981: Simon & Garfunkel Reunion Concert in Central Park
Yes, I was six years old. And we lived in LA, and my parents were bigger fans of latin jazz than folk rock, and were never the types to fly cross-country for a music event, but I still resent them for not taking me to New York. The video of the concert shows TONS of blissed-out children on their parents’ shoulders – WHY NOT ME??? Oh right: my fear of heights meant I was too scared to sit on my Dad’s shoulders, and I probably would have spent the entire concert screaming. Sounds of Silence indeed.
So that’s my list of regrets, may they rest in peace. I could probably think of more if I wracked my brain, but I’m saving the real gems for my memoir, tentatively titled Fumbling Towards Mediocrity: My Life in Slipper Socks. And now I’m curious: what are your biggest cultural regrets? Let’s share. I showed you mine!