Last night, when Husband got home from work, we watched the clip of Heart performing Stairway to Heaven at the Kennedy Center. It was an amazing performance, Ann Wilson’s voice strong and pure; I can’t imagine a finer arrangement to play homage to Led Zeppelin. And let’s be honest, tell me it didn’t/doesn’t make you smile to see Michelle Obama grooving in her seat.
It brought me back. The hours and hours spent listening to them. I never saw Led Zeppelin live, though I did see the Honeydrippers, and Robert Plant again on a solo tour. I don’t remember where either concert was held, but I have a clear picture of being so far from the stage at Plant’s show that I was glad one of the friend who were with me smiled and chatted with the guys next to us, so we could share their binoculars. I can’t remember if Husband and I saw him together, and neither could he, but I suspect not. Somehow Husband always got decent, if not excellent, seats.
A mesh of memories were triggered, not just the concerts. Like being wrapped in a worn quilt with an old and stinky lobster trap over it. The overriding memory was of sitting on the edges of a Brooklyn park at night, a few friends and a guitar. We used to do that a lot, get a bunch of kids together in a park or on the beach, and remove ourselves from the world and the city with music. I was never a musician or a singer, but I always wrote, and like every other angst filled teen saw myself as the next Sylvia Plath. So sometimes there’d be a real effort, a real plan (ha!) to the night, one of the more talented guitarists would sit with me, and he or she would throw some chords together while I and whatever other writers were there would come up with lyrics. All terrible, I’m sure, all forgotten by morning. There’s a certain amount of noise that goes with living in the city at night, and the level considered acceptable was a lot more in those days than now. I grew up across the street from one of those parks, which really weren’t parks at all, but concrete playgrounds and yards attached to elementary schools. You could tell the time by the sounds you heard. Little ones shrieking, before 4 pm, basketballs thumping, “foul!” “fuck you, go home if you don’t like it!” 3-8 or 9pm, thwok-“shit!” were the handball players, between 7 and midnight, music, shouts, firecrackers, and “shut the fuck up, man!” between 10pm and 2am, waking to the thwop-thwak of the paddleball players at 7am.
This one night was perfect, magical to my teenaged self. I can’t remember who I was with, not names or faces, just the shadows next to me, the splintered wood of the bench under my butt, acrid smell and bitter taste of the luke warm, green bottle of Heineken, and a sweet female voice singing Stairway to Heaven. I wasn’t where I wanted to be, no clue how to get there, or even where there was, but I believed I could.