By lex, on May 9th, 2008
Your correspondent is not to be mistaken for an avid concert goer. Most recently he was dragged by the Hobbit to a Sting concert in Yokohama some ten or eleven years back. Then there was that BB King concert in a small theater venue in Meridian, MS. Must’ve been 1985 or ’86. The Police (and the Go-Go’s!) in the winter of ’81. One or two others along the way – Blue Oyster Cult in 1980, and Chicago in 1977 – but you get the picture.
It’s the crowds, mostly. Many of whom feel the need to be exuberantly intoxicated. And the hellish traffic. The thinking that one really ought to be wearing a mask over one’s nose and face in order to avoid popping positive for cannabis on the next random, the fug being that deep at times.
But then a note came in the mail from a nice man named John at USAA offering this blogger the opportunity to attend a concert at Camp Pendleton, near Oceanside. Janet Jackson would do her thing, Calvin Broadus – AKA Snoop Dogg, AKA Snoop, AKA Dee-oh-double-gee – was headlining, ZZ Top would play, Ne-Yo would do that Ne-Yo R&B groove (with dancers) and Jessica Simpson would sing as well.
Two things sold me: The first was the secure knowledge that getting your 14-year old daughter in the same general proximity as Snoop Dogg would – for reasons as certain as they are incomprehensible – get you collateral cool points lasting ’til next Thursday. But for my own part, it was Jessica that tipped the scales. On account, you know, of the patriotism *! And it being a Marine Corps base – not to mention our rapidly diminishing opportunities to contribute – the need for a face mask seemed vanishingly small.
And USAA is a good bunch. On my father’s recommendation way back in the way-back, I signed on with them and have always been satisfied. Most military folks are, I think. Good rates, great service, the unspoken implication that we’re all in this together. I got a chance to speak to a group of their executives going out for a DV jaunt aboard Reagan last month and was not at all surprised to learn that most of them are retired military senior officers and flags. When I got to the point of my pitch wherein I speak – movingly, if I might say so myself – about the quality and dedication of the fleet sailors, how hard they work and for how little pay the old heads nodded approvingly, interrupting my brief to emphasize to the younger executives that this was what they had been brought out to see. That these were their customers, why the job was so important.
I don’t know that you get that everywhere.
So anyway, Jessica Simpson tipped the scales for me in a way that she might not have done had the offeror been, oh: Enron maybe. Plus, the concert itself being free, there were no legal barriers to accepting the opportunity.
Strange though it may seem, I have never been to Pendleton before although I’ve driven past it many times. It’s a sprawling compound, home to the Marine Corp’s amphibious warfare training school as well as several line units – 1st MARDIV and 1 MEF, for example. Grunt infantry, training and support for the most part.
Getting on base and to Del Mar Beach, where the concert was to be held ended up being pilot-proof. Seemed like there was a granite-jawed gunnery sergeant respectfully ooh-rahing me into order any time I drifted from the right and proper. The Kat and her companion entered the crowd like fish being released into the sea, the Hobbit trailing after. I got separated from my group and – not being an especial fan of Janet Jackson or Snoop Dogg – ended up surfing the crowd, people watching.
I’m not particularly good at crowd counting, but by my estimate there were around 20,000 military members and their families there. Everyone painfully young. There were highly visible patrols of Marine police in their desert DCUs, lean, angular and serious. As comfortable with the Berettas on their hips as an accountant is with his calculator, maybe. USAA had a hospitality tent set up with hors d’oeuvres and beverages. I was pleased to see that there were more than just old guys and corporate types there being treated as VIPs. A number of young Marines and their families mingled, a couple of them walking with canes, quite obviously recovering from injuries sustained in the line of duty. It makes you thoughtful.
Or maybe it was just me. The crowd was clearly having a blast, the weather perfect, the entertainers putting themselves wholly into it, the son et lumiere * pitch perfect – there was great energy. Young people enjoying their youth and presented an opportunity to do so, free of charge by organizers and entertainers grateful for their service.
You know what you don’t notice about the military, because it’s around you all the time? It’s diversity. The kind of small “d” diversity that doesn’t much think about the fact that every color and creed stands cheek by jowl, laughing and dancing and singing along to the music unselfconsciously. It isn’t a capital “D” program pushed down on us by flag officers or congressional committees. It’s not more-victimized-than-thou preaching from race pimps and grievance panderers. It’s just people, used to working hard side by side, used to counting on each other in moments of existential adversity. Everyone bleeds red. Shut up and pass the ammunition.
It’s not every day you see concert goers draped across an LVTR 7-ton truck *, but as you’ll see in the photos below, that was a great vantage point to watch the show from. And an AAV might seem a strange place to put the Charger’s cheerleaders * . At least until you see them up there, suitable escorted. That’s a bad angle, I know.
Best I could do.
Snoop * rocked the house. The Hobbit and the Kat got a big kick out of Ne-Yo *. Herself dancing out in the open * , right there in front of God and everybody, and the girls meeting up with one of the dancers * after. Somehow I’ve got to find a way to get the Hobbit to come out of her shell, take chances. She’s such the introvert *.
We had to bug before ZZ Top came out – school night you know. It was a great time. And we’re in good hands.
* 08-20-2018 Links Gone; no replacements found (most were pictures tied to neptunuslex.com) – Ed.