My greatest most unique compliment
In July of this year, Rhea and I along with her daughter and husband journeyed to Spokane to hear a concert given by the musical group, Earth, Wind & Fire. EWF first hit the scene in 1970 and has maintained its popularity since then. Four of its original members are still with the group. Unfortunately, I was going through my Shostakovich period in the 70’s and did not know about EWF. What brought them to my recent attention was my granddaughter, Courtney, who is pursuing a career in marketing. She has been specializing in working with musicians and has had a contract with EWF for several years to do what I think of as Public Relations. She has traveled with them on tour to such places as Australia and Singapore. Through this relationship she has got to know all of them (about 20) very well, even to the extent that she refers to them as her “second family”. When I first learned of this relationship through many photos, I remarked to her how much I admired the fact that a Missoula girl could seamlessly move into a black group. She acknowledged that she gets a few raised eyebrows from old friends during her occasional visits home, but she is happy that she has found the world outside of Missoula.
When she wrote to me of the coming performance in Spokane, I resolved to go. My primary interest was in meeting the group and to see first hand their enthusiastic response to Courtney. I asked her if she would be there to introduce us around. She expected to be able to do so, but in case she had a scheduling conflict, she was sure that they would greet us warmly and show us a good time. So, off we went to the Northern Quest Resort to spend the night and listen. The hotel is new and very nice and contains a Las Vegas size casino (It is owned by an Indian tribe who are therefore permitted to have gambling on their premises.) Unfortunately Courtney was not able to attend, so we were on our own.
The hour arrived to find our seats and we joined several thousand other fans. The venue was next to the hotel on a beautiful grass lawn covered with thick plastic sheets for protection from the folding chairs used by the audience. As we walked through the gate, I had an uncomfortable feeling about what was ahead. Each person was given a small plastic bag containing earplugs. I am very sensitive to loud noises and occasionally have had to leave concerts because of the noise. The little bag contained the message “See the instructions on the box for proper use”. Since we did not have access to the box, we were on our own. I tried for a long time to get the things into my ears, but was not successful.
The group finally came out, greeted the audience and began playing. I should note that we were close to the stage and directly ahead of our seats was a huge bank of loudspeakers. I was certain that they could easily carry the music to Spokane, 12 miles away. As the music got louder, my hearing of it disintegrated into a very loud noise with indistinguishable musical sounds. I wish that I could have heard it as the crowd was really into it. They were laughing, dancing, clapping, etc. The musicians were versatile in the way they handled their instruments and several danced as they played. They obviously were having a good time, and so was the crowd. One particular couple fascinated me: a gentleman in his 70’s, dapperly dressed and obviously trying to project an image of youth. His companion was an attractive 20 something black girl. They walked back and forth through all the aisles, embracing, dancing, kissing, talking to people along the way and sometimes drinking a glass of beer. They repeated this throughout the performance. I wondered if that could be love that I was witnessing.
About half way through the second half, I could no longer handle the noise. Also, the loudspeakers were vibrating so strongly that I feared that the pulsating sound waves hitting my chest would affect my pacemaker. Therefore I left my seat and slowly worked my way through the enthusiastic fans to the exit. After distancing myself from the stage and loudspeakers, I calmed down and decided to wait at the exit gate for Rhea and the others. Eventually Rhea joined me shortly before the end. Since I had really hoped to meet some of the musicians I walked over to the souvenir counter where they were promoting photo opportunities with members of the group. However, I decided against this upon learning that the cost was $100 cash. Instead, I made a mental note to donate $100 to the Salvation Army.
As we stood waiting, several thousand happy people swarmed passed us toward the exit. After a couple of minutes two young girls walked by. When they saw us they stopped in their tracks. One of them (about 19) accosted me in a loud voice: “How old are you?” She obviously never expected to see anyone of my advanced age, complete with walking cane and white hair, attending this performance. I replied politely “Young lady, that is a rather personal question. However, I am happy to tell you that I am 84 years old.” She was astounded and asked how I liked the show. I mumbled something that I hoped conveyed my approval. She then produced a camera and asked if she could take our picture (she never explained why). Of course I said yes, put my arm around Rhea and she clicked the shutter. As she started to continue on her way, she turned back and left us with a parting comment “You guys rock”!!!!
Wow, I am not sure what she was telling me, but from the look on her face it must have been something worthy of great respect and that I had earned it.
And that, my friends, was the most unique compliment I have ever received.
Spencer Manlove 2012