Last night, I fell asleep early, as I am prone to do. When I woke up 2 hours later, my spouse was watching the Kennedy Center Honors show. So I decided to watch the last half with him. What a treat!
When I first started watching this show, decades ago, the honorees seemed ancient to me, with their best work behind them. Ah, the hubris of the young, home from college for the Christmas break.
Now I feel like I'm seeing people from my former high school honored. Of course, I'm not. I went to high school in Charlottesville, VA and Knoxville, TN--if any of us is on a trajectory to be honored at this event, I'm not aware of it.
But it is sobering to reflect how many of last night's honorees got started when I was in high school. If we could go back in a time machine and talk to my high school self, she would not believe that one of the co-stars of the TV show Bosom Buddies would have the deep and rich career that Tom Hanks has had. And Sting? I saw him as talented, but not as someone who would be honored in the way that he was last night.
I was so happy to be awake to see the Lily Tomlin segment. I saw her one woman show, The Search for Intelligent Signs of Life in the Universe in college. I was home when it came through D.C. on tour--we might have even seen it at the Kennedy Center in 1986 or so. I am guessing that I got to go see it as a birthday or Christmas present. I remember going with my parents and my grandmother--it wasn't exactly the kind of show my grandmother would have loved or perhaps even understood. But off we all went. I was enraptured by Tomlin's talent.
My first year of grad school I found the book in a Book Warehouse type place. I still have it. Here are the quotes I marked back in 1987:
"We all time-share the same atoms." (p. 117)
"I am sick of being the victim
of trends I reflect
but don't even understand." (p. 53)
And in a quote which may come to haunt me as I get even older:
"If I'd known this is what it would be like to
have it all,
I might have been willing to settle
for less." (p. 184)
I love the annual broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors, even when they're honoring people I don't know, or barely know. I love the celebration of the performing arts. I love the narrative arcs of the stories told: people keep on making the art that they want to make and then it's decades later, and they're looking a bit sheepish at an awards show.
I love that people pay big bucks to be there in person, but then the rest of us get to enjoy the show too. I love the high production values. I love that people show up to honor their peers; no one looks sour, the way they might on other awards shows. Last night, the good will was palpable.
I love this show that has become a tradition--it's a good way to end the year and to start a new one.
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