In the last week, I experienced two totally American moments.
The events didn’t have anything to do with love-hate identity politics tearing this nation apart. It didn’t have anything to do with talk shows, slanted news coverage or controversy, only the awe of thousands of Americans getting together having a good time.
Recently, a group of friends toted snacks, chairs and beverages to the Redondo Beach Pier to participate in the Beatles tribute concert performed by The Beatunes. We ate corn dogs, munched on soft pretzels, and shared each other’s grapes and crackers.
Everyone around us, mostly our age, was comfortably decked out the same way. There were no strangers in that crowd, just folks sharing in the love of the music of their youth.
The music began and the audience’s spirit soared. Everybody knew all the words to all the songs. People danced, shouted “HELP!” in all the right places and boogied until the band put away their instruments after sunset.
At one point some of us “girls” got up to dance, dusting off moves and muscle memories to bump and swivel to “Twist and Shout” and a number of other classics. One of the husbands sneaked to the side of the dance floor and began videoing us with his phone.
I’m sure that thoughtful piece of filming will be worth something some day, but he won’t be getting any hush-up money from me. There’s no shame in grooving to the music—only using a derivative of “groovy,” maybe.
But like our crowd, everyone at the tribute concert was jubilant, digging on the vibes of the crowd, singing at the top of their lungs and dancing with people they didn’t know.
To me, this was a truly American experience, and I love my community for it.
The second authentic American experience was an evening at the Hollywood Bowl with two of my favorite neighbors and golf girlfriends.
The evening started with long drive to the Bowl, followed by a scrumptious picnic. We placed our picnic paraphernalia in the car, then carefully hauled the Bailey's, chocolate and decaf up the hill to our seats in Row K2.
Thousands of people of all ages turned out for this spectacular musical evening under the stars.
The theme was “America in Space.”
It was a one-night event celebrating the achievements of American space travel. Symphonic music, film clips and archival footage of astronauts and brainy scientists were woven together to tell a story of our nation’s finest minds and heroes.
There were no screaming protests, no hate, no unwelcome opinions. The National Anthem was sung with gusto. Everyone around us respectfully held hands over hearts, then cheered at the finale.
Solo soprano Diana Newman performed during the film expert of “Apollo 13.” Her voice was so clear and pure, the hush of the crowd was deafening.
It was the first time I saw someone singing the surreal-sounding vocals behind an eerie part in a film.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic was conducted by film music composer and conductor David Newman who led the orchestra through climatic movie scenes from “Gravity,” “Apollo 13,” “The Martian,” “Hidden Figures,” and “First Man.”
An added treat was the special speaker from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. Abigail Fraeman, an actual planetary scientist and member of the Mars Curiosity rover team who shed light on the future of American space exploration.
The crowd cheered for the musicians and conductors. They cheered for the astronauts, control room scientists and engineers, NASA’s women astronauts, poignant film clips—and for the flag.
The Hollywood Bowl that night managed to invoke the pride of our nation’s know-how, leadership and can-do spirit.
For my friends and me, this was a truly collective American experience.