We made our way westbound on 50 towards DC on a cloudy Saturday. Katie and I were heading to Vienna, Virginia to take Abby to a concert. You’d think, based on how Abby’s giddy, lit match to a full powder keg, behavior she was en route to see Eminem at Bonaroo, inevitably to be surrounded by tens of thousands of loud and obnoxious fans, water and beer splashing inbound from every direction. There would be body surfing and madness, the likes of which none in attendance could imagine… Nope, we were on our way to Barry Manilow.
I think it was some time in 2013 when Abby and I watched Hellboy 2. There’s a scene when Hellboy and his buddy Abe are both drowning their sorrows with a few beers and begin to sing along to Barry Manilow’s “Can’t Smile Without You” as it plays in the background. She fell in love with Barry right then and there. Later on, she started downloading other hits from Barry. Less than a year later, she made her own playlist of nothing but Barry.
Twenty minutes into what was going to be a 90 minute drive, Abby commandeered the Bluetooth and proceeded to play all of Barry Manilow’s hits. Through the rear view, I watched this 14 year old girl lip sync and dance to every song for the next hour. I considered myself fortunate that all I was supposed to do that day was drive. At $100 a ticket, Katie and I determined only one adult needed to accompany this little fan. Abby’s backseat antics were the closest I was going to get to seeing Barry Manilow, and I was more than okay with that.
When I pulled up to the passenger drop off at the Wolf Trap, it looked like recess at a nearby senior living center. The smell of Icy Hot was strong as herds of geriatric Manilow fans formed a line anxiously waiting to get in. The order went Rose, Dorothy, Blanche, Sophia and repeat. Before you knew it, you didn’t know if you were at a Manilow concert or a Golden Girls cosplay contest. I couldn’t get over how many people came for this show!
I also noticed that the only men there had been clearly dragged reluctantly, with their arms crossed much like a toddler being denied a toy at Wal-Mart. It was abundantly clear their only function was to drive their significant other and applaud in between songs…though the latter was never agreed to. I assume the men had negotiated before they had arrived that there was a snowball’s chance in Hell they would be waving a lighter with the rest of the crowd. No, those tired hands were going to remain tucked tightly under those Brut-scented, pits.
I waved to Katie and Abby and told them to have fun. I drove to a nearby pub called Caboose Brewing Company, settled in and enjoyed a beer as I waited for the concert to finish. I began to think about what I was like going to concerts when I was her age. In the mid-90s, when I was Abby’s age, I would go out of my way to find the craziest concerts in my hometown of Denton, Texas. If it wasn’t overcrowded, with bodies pressed against strangers like canned sardines marinating in cheap Lone Star Beer, bouncing around left and right, I wouldn’t be there. I needed ear piercing noise that made my heart flutter! I needed the madness. I thrived best in melodic chaos. In my mind, life was nothing without a local concert at the (now closed) Good Bad Art Collective, where ONLY experimental music was hosted.
She walked out of that concert with a t-shirt, pictures and the biggest shit-eating grin. She had stories as well, one about how Barry got upset with the band as they started a song in the wrong key. He yelled, “We fucked the song up!” in frustration. THAT I might have paid to see. Later in the show, Barry performed his famous “Copacabana.” It was quite the spectacle as the 74 year old Manilow started “grinding on one of the dancers.” Abby was pretty descriptive about him rubbing his dusty nether regions on other dancers on stage, Abby called him “Bad Barry” for the rest of the night when addressing him. I laughed uncontrollably. Needless to say, she was on cloud 9 the rest of the night.
Parenting often feels like a wild car ride as you sit in the driver’s seat topping out at breakneck speeds with no steering wheel. It feels like chaos when all you’re trying to do is get a pulse on your kid’s life and find out how her day went. But I will look back at days like this last weekend and certainly appreciate them. Yes, it may be a while before I’ll be able to forget the story of “Bad Barry” gyrating his titanium hips on stage… but it will really be the memory of an extremely excited teenage kid emphatically singing “Can’t Smile Without You” as if she was performing tonight, in my backseat through my rear view that will remain in my mind for years to come.
I later posted on this Facebook:
If anyone was wondering who the youngest person (VOLUNTARILY) in attendance at Barry Manilow at the Wolf Trap in Virginia, it was my Abby.