Tuesday, August 10, 2004

"These go to eleven."

The Movie: This is Spinal Tap, 1984 (Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Harry Shearer and Rob Reiner, screenwriters; Rob Reiner, dir.)
Who says it: Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel, rock legend
The context: Tufnel is showing documentarian Marty DiBergi (Rob Reiner) his customized amplifier, with dials that go to eleven instead of ten. This is Tufnel’s response when DiBergi asks why they didn’t just make the “10” setting louder.
How to use it: When other people don’t understand how cool something is. Or maybe just when the music’s very loud.

Few things could be louder or cooler than The Who at the Hollywood Bowl, which I saw last night. I'm a little deaf and a little hoarse this morning. I'd like to believe that gives me something in common with Pete Townshend. The ticket was a present from Gary -- my gratitude toward him, for this and everything, will never end.

The Hollywood Bowl is as close as Los Angeles gets to a small town. We got there and almost immediately saw my high school boyfriend, Steve, who is also Gary's cousin and oldest friend. Steve was there with his fiancee, Sherril. Twenty-some years ago Gary and Steve and I were driving around downtown Norfolk in somebody's father's car, and the fact that we were all together at the Hollywood Bowl last night seemed almost miraculous.

Townshend and Daltrey are close to my parents' age, but they too seem almost miraculous. Roger can still hit that high shrieking note in "Won't Get Fooled Again," and Pete can still jump high in the air without missing a chord. The lyrics have a different meaning coming from the lungs of 60-year-old men, and I find that profoundly moving.

Seeing them on a stage together reminds me that the great compensation of getting older is being able to measure friendships in decades. I can't pack my friends in boxes, but I'm taking them along anyway.

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