Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Living Legends and Legendary Traffic

"Why don't you go to Miami more often?  You live so close, and I get the idea that you hardly ever get down there?"  The friend who asked me that question lived in Jacksonville, which is a small, Southern town.  The friend who asked me that question doesn't drive, and if he did, he rarely faces the kinds of traffic snarls that many South Floridians face every day.

The last 2 times I've gone downtown to the Adrienne Arscht Center for a literary event, we've had an amazingly easy time in terms of traffic.  Last night was not that kind of night.

Even before we got to I 95, the place where I expected congestion and boondoggles, we sat in backed up traffic for half an hour because of something going on with the railroad tracks.  Sigh.

We had stop and go traffic on the Interstate, and if I'm from here and got confused about which exit to take and how to get to parking, imagine if I was from out of town.  I had hoped that we would have time for drinks and dinner, but we barely had time for a drink.  And I needed one after the drive down.

We got ourselves settled for the evening with Patti Smith.  I enjoyed the people watching, and the cocktail made me less judgmental.  The woman beside me talked with her friend about her latest obsession which is looking at wedding cakes.  At first, I heard her say "wedding capes," and for a few minutes, I imagined this latest fad:  dracula capes, superpower capes.  But then I glanced at her phone and realized my mistake.  The woman confessed the strangeness of her obsession since she doesn't particularly want a wedding cake to call her own.

The crowd was an interesting mix of older folks who might have been part of New York City, back when it was gritty and scary, the New York City that Patti Smith documents in her magnificent Just Kids.  There was a wide variety of younger people too, predominantly white, unlike the audience of Ta-Nehisi Coates.  One young guy carried a copy of Horses, on vinyl, and I thought about how unusual it is to see anyone with a record album these days.

I got us great seats--we were 6 rows away from one of the great artists of our time.  I could see the expressions on her face, that's how close we were.

I wish I could give you words of wisdom straight from the lips of one of our great living artists, but it wasn't that kind of evening.  Patti Smith seemed rather bemused that we might want to know about her artistic process or about her experiences with some of the other great, once-living artists of our time (Robert Mapplethorpe, Sam Shepard).  She did talk about feeling the presence of her loved ones, even though they're dead.  She talked about her need to be alone, but it's not like she doesn't have friends.

She sang two songs, but I didn't know them.  She encouraged us to vote.  She read from her book, and my spouse, who had been reading the book before the show started, said it was better hearing her read than reading it himself.

It was not a moutaintop kind of experience, like I expected.  Still, I'm glad I live in a place where I can hear/see one of the great legends--even if it does mean braving horrible traffic.

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