After living so close to the Hollywood Bowl for so many years (and often, blatantly avoiding it), I definitely started to take it for granted. When I lived a few blocks away I rarely planned ahead or bought advance tickets, instead, I’d start strolling up the hill just as the performance began, buying deeply discounted tickets on the street or a nosebleed seat from the box office. I loved not even knowing what was playing until I saw it spelled out on the marquee in huge capital letters, slipping into an empty seat during an applause break as a hush echoed through the canyon. It was so close and so easy that sometimes I’d go all by myself (with a bottle of wine, of course).
Last night I went for the first time since 2009 and had a completely different experience—one of sitting in the box seats that ring the floor. Where I had treated the Hollywood Bowl as a casual neighborhood diversion, these folks had spent months, no, years, working on securing these very specific squares of real estate a rose’s toss from the stage. My friend has had her box for five years, and people in the boxes around them have had theirs for at least that. They share wine. They’ve watched her kids grow up. It’s a pop-up community of like-minded people who gather to swap pasta salads, swig chardonnay, and settle back for some music. It was like having neighbors you only see on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.
As we stood to sing the national anthem, then again when the great Itzhak Perlman took the stage with the Philharmonic, I felt suddenly very proud to be seated amidst this little subdivision of culture junkies who had staked their claims like homesteaders. Like any group, they have rules, mind you—digging through your picnic basket or fussing with your table during the show down here is a no-no, and you will get shushed. But as people were slapping shoulders and pulling each other into sweaty embraces (it was hot like St. Louis last night!), lighting their candles and unfurling tablecloths, the whole thing had such a sense of sweet, familiar tradition—a ritual that plays out almost every night from June to September. It was summer camp for adults.