by Janis Patterson
I’m a Texan, so ‘bigger is better’ is part of my DNA… but, I’m discovering, only up to a point.
A week or two ago I was lucky enough to go to the final
Husband is a rabid fan and I like him, too, which is rare for me and country
singers. We knew this was going to be An Event, but nothing could have prepared
us for what happened. George
The concert was held in the AT&T Stadium in
the same place where the Cowboys play football. It’s roughly the size of a
small European country. Just getting to the parking lot was a trial – a journey
that should have taken no more than 45 minutes took over 2 ½ hours – the last
20 minutes of which were spent going about 20 feet so we could turn into our parking
lot. We were shuttled to the stadium, then frisked and wanded by security (no
purses or backpacks allowed unless they were transparent) before we were
allowed to enter the building.
After standing in line for 45 minutes plus for the privilege of paying $35 each for t-shirts, we finally started the trek to our seats. I tell you, maneuvering through a crowd like that gives me new respect for salmon!
We had very decent seats – second balcony, second row. Down on the playing field there were about 1,000 folding chairs set up (and packed!) around the revolving stage on the 50 yard line on which these little ½ inch tall people performed. Yes, it was that far away. I wonder if the people up in the gods could even see the stage!
Not to worry, though – I doubt if there was a seat in the place that didn’t have a direct sightline to at least one of the multitude of tv screens. Yes, multitude, and in all sizes. The biggest appeared to have just about the same square footage as a 70s tract home. So – we had our choice – anything from a ½ inch
Strait on stage all the way up to a
face the size of Godzilla on a tv screen. George Strait
I love music, and love to hear all the nuances of it. Good luck there. The sound system was cranked up so high that the sound was hopelessly distorted. It had to be that way, I guess, because of the crowd. I can understand – somewhat – the screaming during applause, but for the life of me I cannot see why people pay the equivalent of a fairly good-sized car payment for a seat to hear an artist and then scream while he’s singing. It makes no sense. It does, however, make headaches.
All of that was cream, however, compared to getting out of the place. We had maps of the area and had plotted a reasonable way of getting out and getting home. Good luck! The police had blocked off streets seemingly at random and sent clogged lines of cars off in torturous directions. We rebelled, and as soon as we could get off the main street we dodged through secondary and tertiary streets until we finally found the southern interstate. This route took us approximately 20 miles out of the way, but traffic there was moving, and there was a much smaller chance of being surrounded by a bunch of concert drunks. Yes, the beer (small - $8) and the margaritas ($15) were flowing freely. Two couples in the row ahead of us had at least 6 margaritas apiece. (I think those were the prices – we didn’t buy any!)
So what does this have to do with writing?
The concert was all out of proportion. The charm of country music is the words (which were lost in the noise) and the music (distorted) and the down-home folksy ambiance (in a concert with a record 104,7?? attendees? Come on…) As in so much of life, it – and we – have lost the human proportion.
Think about it. Most thrillers aren’t about people, they’re about nations and giant corporations and saving/destroying the world. Yes, usually there’s a lone hero who is either an impossibly perfect standard of beauty and bravery with knowledge of just about everything (Jack Bauer, anyone?), or an impossibly average man who rises to the call and eventually reaches an impossibly perfect standard. He’s usually at least good-looking, too. In both mysteries and thrillers there is all too often what I call a Moriarity villain – each time he is vanquished he manages to get away, escaping things that would annihilate a normal person and coming back again and again until it becomes both excruciating and ridiculous. Think Red John on The Mentalist. I personally call it lazy writing.
One of the reasons romance is so popular is that it is human-sized – one man, one woman, a happy ending. Cozy mysteries, too – normal people solving a normal-sized crime in a normal world. These storylines are something to which most people can relate. Country-gobbling corporations or nations setting to enslave the world are – for me at least – too big. I can’t become emotionally or empathetically involved in something set to such a gargantuan scale.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for such large-stage fiction. Or, for that matter, gigantic, record-breaking concerts. Some people enjoy it. I just hate to see it become so prevalent that it sometimes threatens to choke off less strident and overreaching stories.
Or am I all wrong? No matter. I’ll still take things – concerts, storylines or whatever – that are human-scaled.