This pandemic and its resulting quarantine and lockdown measures have stolen a lot of precious moments from people of all walks of life. Yesterday, I was watching a news report about a woman whose father died in a nursing home from COVID-19, and they’ve been waiting three months to have a funeral. This makes sense to me when I recall a friend relating her experience of attending a funeral during these unprecedented times, and they weren’t allowed to hug or hold each other in a time of deep despair. There was no real comforting allowed, just people sitting six feet apart and crying. Granted, this happened early in the quarantine, but the awful way human beings have been isolated and separated continues. In April, the CDC confirmed suicide rates increased by 35% (from this article) and that opioid overdoses were on the rise after declining (from this article). In short, people are not okay.
So any semblance of returning to normalcy is a wonderful thing. On Monday night, I attended my first drive-in concert, seeing Andrew McMahon at Monmouth Park. I went with three other friends as only four people were allowed to a car, but we had friends – and friends of friends – in two other cars. I definitely agreed with my self-proclaimed introverted friend that not dealing with long lines and suffocating masses of people was a plus, as was being able to sit and have access to a cooler. It was like the concert came to us in the parking lot, like we never had to stop tailgating. I remember standing for about eight hours when I saw Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium. My friend and I had general admission tickets, so we had to stand and wait in line to make sure we got as close to the stage as possible, and we had to stand and wait for the concert to start once inside the stadium. There were more lines for drinks and food and merchandise, and it was a struggle to squirm and plead to get back to where you were standing. I agree that this drive-in setup has perks.
But it’s still not the same. There were eight of us gathered around the trunk, getting what we wanted for the cooler, and the security guards made us separate. We understood and complied with little to no grumbling. But for the majority of the night, they were insistent we be in our car. Monday was a hot one, and when the concert started, it was an absolutely gorgeous evening with a remarkable sunset. We didn’t want to sit in the car. They seemed satisfied as long as we were touching the car, but naturally those with convertibles and flat-bed trucks had an advantage.
It was better than nothing to be sure, and the return of live music is one I celebrate and embrace. But I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t miss traditional concerts. Some of my favorite memories are with people I met at concerts. People in line for Bruce Springsteen are hands down the nicest people I’ve ever met in any kind of line. One time, my sister and her friend befriended an older couple who danced with us and brought us food and beer and for a couple of hours, we were a little family or the oldest of friends. And I mean we danced – limbs flying every which way, totally uninhibited and completely joyful. In one of my new favorite films, Jojo Rabbit, the mother of the title character (played perfectly by Scarlett Johansson) explains that “We have to dance to show God we are grateful to be alive” and that “Dancing is for people who are free.” Not being able to dance was disappointing.
And even singing along seemed pointless when the only people who could hear me (and suffer, as I am a terrible singer) were the three people I came with. There’s something transcendent about singing as loud as you can with a crowd of thousands to your favorite song. My friend once filmed me singing along with Bruce Springsteen and captioned the video, “Mandi worshiping at the altar of Bruce,” which is exactly what I was doing. I remember being filled with a passionate angst when I saw My Chemical Romance, raising my first to the air and proclaiming that I was not afraid to keep on living. Instead, we sang under our breath and honked our horns to show we were having a good time.
Walt Whitman once wrote, “O to have my life henceforth a poem of new joys!/ To dance, clap hands, exult, shout, skip, leap, roll on, float on….” That is what we need to get back to; to be joyful to be alive and to be grateful and to celebrate. I look forward to being able to attend concerts and weddings, and to congregate with friends. I am ready to smile and laugh, to hug and hold, and to just be together. I could complain about the drive-in (and I have), but it’s important I end with hope. It’s all we have. And as Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Let everything happen to you/ Beauty and terror/ Just keep going/ No feeling is final.”