In six months, no one will say “white trash” . . . it's the last racist thing you can say and get away with.
This is a public announcement: I'm sorry. I'm sorry my friend talked through the entire concert. I know it was distracting and ruined your whole evening. I myself was getting annoyed at her endless chatter. But I shamefully did not speak up for what I knew was right. Please accept my apology.
Here we are. In box seats at the Hollywood Bowl. I've never been in box seats. When my friend hands me the comp ticket, I know why. They're 80 bucks apiece. We even get to park in the Bronze parking area, whatever that means. I've never entered the Hollywood Bowl without walking at least a mile. We have valet parking and just stroll right through the gate and start looking for our box seats. Hell, I didn't even know they had tables down there. How fucking civilized. This is the life.
All four of us are carrying parts of a picnic. My friend went to Trader Joe's and splurged and spent $78 on Brie and pate and champagne. We know how to live high on the hog, yessirree. She's even brought an ice bucket to keep the booze chilled. Now that's living large. We set everything up, spread out the spread, and start on the champagne in the early twilight. Look at us, everybody! We're in box seats at the Hollywood Bowl!
It feels like we fit in so far. No one is giving us dirty looks yet. Our immediate neighbors seem pleasant enough. So pleasant that I don't even notice them. The champagne tastes good and the pate even better. That Trader Joe's. The lights go down, the conductor comes out – we still aren't that close, but this is the hugest I've ever seen the conductor – the show is about to begin. The evening's entertainment: Broadway show tunes, with Lynn Redgrave and Patrick Stewart. Since when does the bald Star Trek dude sing? Okay, whatever, it's free. There's plenty of alcohol to make sure the evening isn't dull.
Dull? Did I say dull? I'm not exactly a connoisseur of show tunes. I do take notice of a few. I like the Sweeney Todd tune, ya know, it's about eatin' people. But other than that, the music is a bit on the boring side. My girlfriend, Sharon, decides her conversation is more interesting. At this particular moment, I'd say I agree. At first I think it's just going to be at the beginning and she'll settle down, but keep in mind, we have three bottles of bubbly to consume. She talks in a hushed manner, of course, she isn't that gauche. But her whispering is bothersome to the neighbors, and we begin to get shhhhhhhs and dirty looks. I periodically elbow her and shoosh her myself, but she is relentless. In those rare occasions of silence when we actually pay attention to the music, we quickly return to our gossip. The show tunes are a bore. I'm sorry. Does this mean I'm uncultured or low-class? When I force myself to listen and persist in shutting Sharon the fuck up, I find myself preferring her increasingly drunken conversation. This does not bode well with my immediate neighbor. She starts giving me the stare-down, like I'm supposed to do something about my friend.
It's finally intermission. This scene is dull. We head for familiar terrain and seek out a spot to smoke a joint. When we return to our box seats, I'm hoping the pot will calm my friend down and eventually pacify her. Couldn't the music lull her to sleep? Oh yeah, show tunes. Never mind.
Second half, they bring Patrick and Lynn on. The crowd roars. We wonder why. Much to my surprise, the Trekkie is not so bad. Lynn, on the other hand, just stinks. I find it hard to believe they paid her. They sing a variety of tunes in that ever-so-peppy-show-tune-kinda-way. They even lose themselves in the moment at one point and dance across the front stage. Lynn accidentally bumps into the conductor's podium and Patrick catches her ever so naturally, and she bounces back, acting of course like it was intentional, and even if not, she and Patrick are having a ball – so there! By the way, Sharon is talking the whole time.
After some fantastic fireworks (that finally shut us up), the concert ends. But wait. They're coming back. There's going to be an encore. I'm awestruck (for the first time that night!). Half of the front section is gone by now. What possibly prompted an encore, for chrissakes? Finally it passes. Lights back on, people scurrying to get to their cars. We're in no hurry. We need to finish off the last of the champagne, anyway. I'm squinting my eyes, adjusting to the glaring light, and in my peripheral view I see our box-seat neighbor leaning into Sharon, snarling with a smile on her face. “Honey, is this your first time at the Bowl?”
Sharon is caught off guard and answers innocently, “Well, no, it isn't.”
“Well, then, it must be your first time in box seats,” she quickly adds, still smiling that fake smile, “BECAUSE YOU DON'T KNOW HOW TO ACT IN BOX SEATS AND YOU DON'T DESERVE TO SIT IN BOX SEATS AND HOW DARE YOU RUIN OUR ENTIRE EVENING? YOU DON'T BELONG IN BOX SEATS! I HAVE NEVER BEEN SO ANGRY. IF YOU WANT TO TALK WITH YOUR FRIEND, WHY DON'T YOU GO TO A BAR AND TALK ABOUT YOUR PROBLEMS? ALL YOU DO IS DRINK AND BLAB. THANKS A LOT. THANKS A FUCKING LOT!”
Sharon is getting the lecture that, to be frank, she deserves. I'm a little shocked, but think the lady has the right. But the lady is getting really riled up now, and appears not to be able to stop. Sharon looks at me, I shrug my shoulders. The lady's voice is getting louder. Her face is becoming a massive screaming mouth with platinum-blond pageboy hair swinging back and forth. She's glaring at me now. She's so livid that her sentence structure is failing her. She's just spitting out words.
“DRUNKARD! STONER! WHITE TRASH! YOU'RE JUST FUCKING WHITE TRASH!”
Hmmmm. Drunkard! Okay, I expect that label, especially lately in America. You have a bottle of wine (okay, three) and you're all of a sudden a drunkard. I'm used to that. It's kinda comical, and I giggle with warped pride.
Hmmmm. Stoner! Okay, I accept that, too. Anyone with droopy eyes and a shit-eatin' grin on her face deserves that attack. Yeah, we probably reeked of marijuana, too. Okay, guilty.
Hmmmm. White trash! Don't know if I exactly like that. Hmmmm. White trash, I don't think I'm immediately guilty of that. I probably have a higher education than our accuser, or at least equitable. Could I still be white trash? This woman is obviously from money. I'm sure she drives a better car. Is that why I'm white trash? And she can't possibly know I'm from Oklahoma. My friend grew up in Brentwood, with a pool in her back yard. Doesn't sound like white trash to me. Are we white trash because we engaged in conversation during a show-tune concert? I know that's not proper and our behavior doesn't display much decorum, but white trash? I take umbrage with this term. I decide to yell back, all for the sake of some good white-trash banter.
“OH YEAH? AS A MATTER OF FACT, WE DIDN'T BUY THESE TICKETS. WE CAN'T AFFORD BOX SEATS. IS THAT WHY WE'RE WHITE TRASH? IS THAT WHAT EVERYONE ELSE HERE IS? ALL THOSE PEOPLE UP THERE, ARE THEY ALL FUCKING WHITE TRASH? YOU ARE A FUCKING CLASSIST!”
“YEAH, WELL, I'M REPORTING YOU TO THE AUTHORITIES AND I'M TELLING THE OWNERS OF THE BOX SEATS ALL ABOUT YOU AND MAKING SURE YOU ARE BANNED FROM EVER SITTING IN BOX SEATS AGAIN. YOU'RE NOTHING BUT FUCKING WHITE TRASH! I HAVE A GOOD MIND TO KNOCK OVER YOUR ICE BUCKET.”
Shit, now she's threatening to extinguish our liquids. This is going too far.
This screaming Beverly Hills chick is probably close to our age. Looks different, so adult, but definitely our age group. It's really strange being attacked by your peers, especially for your conduct. I'm thinking, if we behaved properly, maybe she wouldn't have deemed us white trash. It's our misbehavior, and the addition of multiple vices (drinking and getting stoned), that made us white trash. So we, as Caucasian human beings, become lower class when we drink, smoke and express ourselves . . . during FUCKING SHOW TUNES FOR CHRISSAKES!
Okay, okay, I know that's no excuse.
So back to Moneybags, she's still screaming, I'm screaming back, Sharon's screaming, our boyfriends are packing up our picnic. Now the neighbors on my side manage to muster some courage and attack us.
“YEAH! THANKS FOR RUINING THE CONCERT FOR US, TOO. YEAH.”
I don't acknowledge them. I'm still screaming at Moneybags. So they yell directly at me:
Oh brother. How original. They can't even come up with anything to add.
Boy, they know how to ruin a good high. I ignore their unoriginality. Then one of them comes up to me and pokes me and says (get ready):
“Yeah, thanks for ruining the whole concert for me, too.”
“Yeah, yeah, you too,” I reply with equal banality.
By now the crowds are thinning and our new acquaintances are begrudgingly leaving (I'm convinced this is the most fun they've had in a long time). Their husbands are pulling at them to come on and forget it, but as they're walking away, they're still screaming threats and promises.
We're sort of stunned. It all happened so fast. Gee. This is what it's like to sit in the box seats. Thank God we don't have very far to walk to our cars.