We’re back at the Hollywood Bowl. “Ugh,” you’re thinking. “The freeway, the parking, the morons in their Maseratis…”
Obviously, the Bowl can be a bit of work. They’ve got these “boxes,” where they somehow squeeze four canvas chairs in enough space for only two, along with those collapsible tables — 800 pounds, easy — that rest on the ledge, ready to sledge-hammer your kneecaps. They could stop a bullet, these tables. And we’re supposed to pass them around like the queen of hearts.
Her: “Just hand it here.”
Me: “Yeah sure.”
Ugh. Crack. Crunch.
And I can never remember: Can I bring wine to the Bowl? Or not bring wine? Is this a series event or put on by an outside vendor?
So many rules. Fortunately, I now bring wine everywhere just in case. I wear a bottle in a holster, like Billy the Kid. I point it at strangers when my life is threatened, as at the Hollywood Bowl. I mean, would you ever endure this place without a drink in both fists?
By tradition, the Bowl most often resembles a massive wine tasting. In half an hour, I’ve forgotten where I am.
Oh, there’s music too?
Actually, my wife Posh got me here on the pretense that amazing living legend, Gino Vannelli, was appearing. Liar. Vannelli doesn’t play dumps like this — I should’ve known. He’s probably at Morongo, or some other shiny new place with gold-plated sinks.
Instead, the O’Jays are on the evening’s schedule.
“They’re an Irish band, right?” I ask on the way over.
I never could establish any sort of Celtic connection, but the O’Jays do have a string of ’70s soul hits hits and are wearing some sensational ruby-red pajama-tuxes.
“Yeah, they’re Irish,” I say as they launch into “Love Train” on this hot August night.
We’re here at the gorge with Rick and Lorraine, whom we’ve known so long that we don’t even remember why. Back in the day, Lorraine was my assistant coach, which made me the envy of the other softball managers because then, as now, Lorraine is a No. 1 draft choice — a five-tool player in terms of speed, strength, brains, character and smart-alecky remarks.
Plus, when the players were 8 years old and one of them would spontaneously burst into tears — like the proverbial burning bush — and the stressed-out dad coaches would respond by yelling: “NOW WHAT, HUH? HOLY…” and throw up their hands in total frustration, Coach Lorraine was able to move in and work her mom magic. That immediately diminished many dugout dramas. As an organization, we always prided ourselves on a progressive approach to teary 8-year-old meltdowns.
I really like her husband Rick too, even though he’s a big-shot fertility specialist. Professional success is such a turnoff to me. It rinses from the human form any sense of irony, humility or other endearing characteristic.
In fact, if you look at my band of buddies, the so-called Apostles, you’ll find in each of them a bit of putziness and an acknowledgment that, despite a degree of success, they don’t have all the answers. Even Jeff, and he’s a TV anchor. Yet somehow still a mensch.
But in Rick, I find a connection too. The good doctor is just back from a conference in Vegas, where he gave a speech about making babies for other people, which is a pretty rich dinner topic. But when he and Lorraine picked us up to go to the Bowl, he showed up in their minivan, the menschiest vehicle ever. And talk about a sleek, sexy ride ….
“Sensational,” I said in appreciation.
“And it’s so comfortable,” confirmed Lorraine.
I may never give up my own minivan. It represents to me the golden age of 8-year-olds scurrying around dugouts looking for their gloves, and camping trips to the Sierra and beach trips where you take half the sand home. A minivan is like a trophy case of suburban life. It’s where the memories happen.
Tonight at the Bowl, memories are happening too. We knock off a bottle of very good white, plus the smutty, low-rent red I brought. I hadn’t had a chance to shop, so I stuffed a bottle in the picnic bag and pretended it was a $100 Cab. After all, wine is what you make it.
The four of us talked about the kids, but not too much. We talked about the good old days, but not at length. Mostly we basked in an old, easy friendship in the buzzy and convivial Bowl… a sweet, celestial place. You don’t really even need the bangy floor show.
Indeed, across the canyon, 20,000 others are doing the very same, making memories, rubbing elbows, knocking knees, spilling bad wine on good people — and vice versa.
No, the Hollywood Bowl isn’t always easy. But it’s almost always grand.