In my concert-going life, I have been late to three concerts, and all three have been in Florida. My most recent tardy appearance occurred on September 25, 2012 in St. Augustine. The telling of the story begins with another long drive, an unprinted concert ticket, and my hair.
I had not printed my ticket before packing my printer in Colorado, had procrastinated printing it due to the one million other concerns on my mind, and left for my drive from South Carolina to Florida on the day of the show with the ticket only in its virtual PDF form. As for my hair, I was certain that, in the Florida humidity, which I was newly reexperiencing, my hair would not straighten properly for my preferred, well-groomed Stevie-concert look. Once at my Priceline value motel, I decided to forego probabilistically futile hair efforts in favor of spending that time searching for a local Staples Office Supply to print my ticket. By the time I had found both Staples and someone in Staples that could print the PDF ticket file, the 7:30 concert start time had arrived, and with it, the early symptoms of a panic attack. I hoped beyond reason that Stevie would have an opening act to soak up some of the time it would take me to drive to the venue, park, and reach my seat, and I once more lamented that I am physically unable to propel myself from location to location through flight, apparation, or some other form of cosmic transport.
Once in the car with the engine running, “Gypsy” came on the radio. “Gypsy” is my significant song that mystically plays on a radio near me in times of turmoil or despair, so I slowed my thoughts and did not panic. As I approached the amphitheater, I rolled down the window and heard not an opening act, but Stevie, singing Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll,” the current first song in her set. The venue parking lot was full. I steered my car down a street, veered it into an overgrown grass lot, possibly someone’s yard, vaulted out, and sprinted in my concert clothes and boots down the highway (on the sidewalk), across the street, and through the amphitheater grounds—easily a half a mile. By this time, we were into the second song of the set, “Enchanted,” and I vaguely noted the irony of Stevie singing, “My destiny says that I’m destined to run” as I ran. I noticed that none of the other late comers were running; I was going flat out.
As I raced through the amphitheater gates, Stevie sang, “Enchanted—-Well, I hope you make it!” This almost compensated for my tardiness. The security guard at the gate took a small eternity rummaging through my purse, and then calmly informed me that I could not take my bottle of water into the venue. “Take it!” I cried. The ticket scanner told me that Stevie had just started, and I thanked her quickly as I lunged up the stairs to the strains of “Wo wo wo—I hope you make it!” and then down the stairs to the stage as security miraculously waved me by rather than spending their usual five to ten minutes scrutinizing each attendee’s ticket. When I arrived at the stage area with my hair even more of a humid wreck and my otherwise carefully-groomed appearance a thing of the past, I noticed immediately that Stevie had made a similar hair choice—to not straighten—for the evening, and that, A. Her hair looked better overall than mine, and, B. She was probably on time, not making a time crunch hair decision.
This was the show I needed. Every part of it mattered, but the moment that made all of the effort—the driving time, the running, the internal near-combustion when the ticket wouldn’t print—worthwhile was a ten-second comment Stevie made in her introduction to the last song. Her nutshell explanation that night was that “Love Is” is about wanting something, having it, not being able to keep it, and accepting that.” Something about the way she said this, especially the resoluteness of her saying “accepting that,” was so striking to me. I learn so much about impermanence from Stevie and from her shows. With this introduction and this particular performance of this song, I remembered both Buddhist teachings of impermanence, attachment, and craving, and Christian examples of loss, suffering, and acceptance. Did I mention that I have a now-distant background in comparative religion? That helps. Anyway, I forget what I think I should already know and I forget how cravingly I can become attached to things I want or to things that I think should be a certain way, even to ideas and conceptions that aren’t good for me, until I hear Stevie say something about accepting loss or until I have a moment that I try too hard to hold onto. The big idea of “Love Is” for me now is trying to be happy with reality after our expectations and attachments are torn away. With hesitation, I would like to add that this was my 17th exposure to a “Love Is” live performance. Sometimes I require multiple experiences to get the point.
On my more leisurely exit after the show, I realized that I didn’t recognize any part of the venue through which I had spirited myself in my race to the show. I also realized that my calves and hamstrings were indeed sore after my unanticipated pre-concert workout, that my hair was and will always be irredeemable in the Florida heat, and that I had, through some manifestation of good fortune, managed to turn my car off and take my keys with me, permitting me to spend the remainder of my night in happy contemplation of a concert well lived rather than waiting in someone’s back yard for triple A to show up and let me into my car. For this and all other graces of the evening, I am grateful.