Thursday, September 15, 2016

In Which I Fail to Slay (But Do Get Home)

I don't know where else to put this.

Last night I went to see Beyoncé at Dodger Stadium. The night divides into two parts: the actual concert, and the complete disaster I encountered in trying to get home.


From where I sat, Beyoncé was about three inches tall, but even at that distance, I could feel the force of her charisma. She is a queen. We all knew that, but it was still remarkable to feel her power unroll toward me. The concert was this odd, careful mix of giving herself to fun and strength and artistry on stage + a stage show crafted and calculated to give you goosebumps, predictably, every 90 seconds or so.

She used her hair like an aspect of her costume. She sang as beautifully as anyone ever has. She has the best smile since Marilyn Monroe.

But MAN. There were 50,000 people in that stadium, and almost all of them sang along with every word for two full hours. It couldn't drown her out, nothing could, but the audience was 80% of what I heard. The acoustics sucked, because it's a ballpark and not the Hollywood Bowl. And all the surrounding business of going to a show of this magnitude turned me off so badly that I don't think I'll ever go to another one.

She only sang about half the words of a given song, letting the audience sing the rest. Instead of feeling like a cheat, this felt to me like it was tied up with her performance persona: the whole show seemed like a continuous give and take of energy. She was giving us all she had, but she was getting all that back from us at the same time. We were each doing our half to make the show be spectacular. It was like kung fu: the transfer of energy to your opponent with least trouble and injury to yourself.

The materialism was outrageous. T-shirts were $45 apiece. I didn't plan (in terms of outfit) for the stadium to be as cold as it was, so I ended up buying a sweatshirt...for $85. Outrageous.

She also sang weirdly abbreviated versions of all the songs. I don't think she sang a single song all the way through; instead it was like verse-chorus-chorus-next song. Like a medley that moved through most of her A catalog. Breaks in between medleys for costume changes, like six or ten of them, an unnecessary number of costume changes.

Can you see actual-size Beyoncé? Her hair is a white blob, and she's kind of to the right of what look like three stairs.

Some of the numbers were stunning. She used a shallow stage full of water for "Freedom", and it was way beyond any concert I've ever seen in terms of innovation and impact. But on balance, going to a concert like this showed me that I don't really need to go to concerts like this, that I'll do better listening to records and watching official footage on YouTube.


I got an advisory email telling me that because so many people were going to this event (again: 56,000 seats in Dodger Stadium, and although most of the seats behind home plate were closed off, every available seat in the stadium had been sold), they recommended getting there before 6 PM for the 8 PM start time. Because of where I live in Los Angeles, I took their advice and left my apartment around 4:30. I drove the half-hour to the Metro station in North Hollywood and took the subway (red line, for those of you who know LA) for another 40ish minutes to Union Station, the closest stop to the stadium, to which I then Ubered. I got there a little before 6. It was perfect: I got all the merch I wanted without standing in line, I took pictures, I didn't fret about getting to my seat, I bought a Dodger Dog and ate it at a decent pace, I drank my absurd tallboy straw-ber-ita and let it mellow me while the place filled up with excited 20-year-old girls. I got to the stadium two hours before the concert started, it's true, but it wasn't so bad to be early. I got to watch the sun go down over Dodger Stadium. Some people never get to do that.

Concert happened, see above. She finished around 11.

As I walked out of the stadium, my phone died. Unexpectedly. With, I thought, 20%+ left. So now I had no way to call an Uber, or anyone else for that matter, and I know nothing about the geography of that area of L.A. I followed the crowd to try and find the Uber stand (apparently Uber is "the official driver of the Dodgers" or some such marketingspeak), hoping I could cadge some battery life or a ride, someway. Supposedly the Uber stand was behind home plate, but I walked from my seat in left field all the way around to right field (winding through the parking lot, so it was a long walk) and I saw zero Uber stands. Meanwhile, I'm in this parking lot with 50,000 other people, many of whom are trying to drive their cars out of here. It is not a pretty scene.

I was frustrated enough from walking around the stadium that I just kept walking. I saw a sign pointing to Sunset Boulevard so I just walked that way, because I knew sooner or later I'd get to a freeway or a Metro stop or a street that I could identify or even a gas station that sold battery packs.

I walked for 45 minutes.

No luck in the gas station I went into. I passed two pay phones, both dead. Meanwhile I was still surrounded on the street by people who'd left the concert. I didn't know their stories, but I doubted any of them were as clueless as I.

Finally I went into a bar (Taix, 1911 Sunset) and asked for help. They called me a cab and gave me a little bit of battery power in my phone. I thanked the hostess profusely.

The cab did not show up. I had enough battery power to call for an Uber. The Uber cancelled me. 11% battery. I called another Uber. This one arrived, but he didn't have an iPhone charger cable. He tried to drive me to Union Station but the 101 was closed, so we had to go through town. He finally dropped me off at 12:40. Union Station closes at 1:00.

I was thoroughly exhausted and not a little scared by then. I walked through the station, and you can almost definitely imagine the people who were in Union Station 20 minutes before it closes, the ones who were not transit employees? Yeah, you've seen Adventures in Babysitting, you know who they were. I walked downstairs to the red line, and a train sat there, out of service. Transit guys in their neon vests fiddling around with the doors. I asked them frankly how the hell I was going to get home. They told me to go upstairs and walk to Cesar Chavez and Alameda and catch the bus.

I have never used the bus system in L.A.

I walked out of Union Station in the clutches of a full-on panic attack. I was repeating, loudly enough to be a denizen of the station myself, "You're going to get home. You're going to get home. You're going to get home." I repeated it until the words began to lose meaning, and I almost sort of believed there was truth under them.

Outside, lo and behold, there were four taxis with their lights off sitting at the opposite curb.

So I paid $40 for a cab back to the North Hollywood station, a trip that costs $2 on the Metro. I gave the guy a $15 tip because he listened to all my gibbering madness and traveled so far away from downtown, which is reasonable cab territory.

I got to sleep at 2. I woke up at 6 to bring bagels and pastries into the office for a settlement conference. And now here I am at home. I will be sleeping well and early tonight.

Incidentally, if I had gone left instead of right when I left the stadium, I would've been able to walk to Union Station in less than an hour.


Gloria said...

Holy crap. What a night. I'm glad you're safe and that you got to see friggin' BEYONCE!

devinneyh said...

Oh goodness, this is crazy. I cannot believe you went through all of that!