Sunday, September 24, 2006
Heh, I went to prom.
A bunch of extended friends were getting together to go to the last night of Proms. Best I could tell this was an “Opera in the park” kind of thing. A bunch of classical music in a park. One difference was it cost money. Another was Lionel Richie was playing. How does he fit in? What the hell, sounds like fun.
When we got to the park we found a mob. I thought the brits knew how to queue. They are ridiculously proud of their ability to stand in line properly but it wasn’t apparent here. There were a few thousand people massed in front of the entrances to this place. They moved us through pretty quickly though. Despite the big “No chairs” sign, everybody had lawn chairs. They checked backpacks for glass but not shopping bags. Indeed, most people brought wine. They also didn’t scan the barcode on our printed tickets. We could have Xeroxed one ticket and saved 200 bucks.
We were obviously way underprepared w/ our chips and beer. Many people went all out, there were full fancy picnic spreads in effect. I had wanted to go to the farmers market but I was overruled w/ the idea that there would be food vendors. Bad move. The food on site paled in comparison to the spreads that people brought.
Everybody kept remarking that this was such a British thing, so British. At this point, I didn’t see why. It seemed like every other city’s party in the park. Perhaps there were a few more flags in evidence. Actually, there were already a lot of flags. Mostly UK or British flags, a few other EU countries in evidence, even 2 US flags. I got a glimpse of the program and became even more confused. We started off w/ a Madness cover band (Madness did some crappy 80’s songs like “Our House”), moved on to an Amos and Andy type duo and then we were greeted w/ THE Chico. Apparently, Chico won XFactor. This is a Pop Idol type show. More evidence of the British obsession w/ the mildly famous, everybody loved to discuss how he had been a goat herder and even though he was terrible we should show him some support. I was of the opinion that he had gotten a disproportion amount of support given his skill. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be up there.
We finally got to the classical music, but it was short lived. They brought out a star trombonist and she played for 10 or 15 minutes. Then they brought out a soprano, a flautist etc. We pretty much tuned out and chatted amongst ourselves. There was 20 or so of us in the group by this point and it was nice to meet some new people.
Everything was pretty mellow (though there was a lot of drinking going on) until Lionel started. Within the first song, he had everybody on their feet. Maybe he was just more exciting than the classical types preceding him but even songs I normally dislike were fun then. “We are going to play until you all are exhausted …. As long as you get exhausted in 5 songs.”
It was about this time that I saw a public safety official really live up to their name in the best of ways. There were a group of ladies that were quite drunk. In order to make sure they didn’t hurt themselves or anyone else, one of the public safety, cop type people was opening their champagne for them. Hurrah for safety!
The crowd was sad to see lionel leave the stage. They asked for an encore but we had to move on to some horn player until it was time to join up w/ other locations in Britain for a live feed that marked the culmination of proms. This was when it got … well, interesting. Each location seemed to need to out-patriot each other. The flags came out and 10,000 drunk brits (in our location) all started singing national songs and dancing. It was a little freaky as an outsider. Now I see why it was “a very british thing”. In talking w/ some of the locals, they expounded at drunken length, basically saying that this was the one time it was acceptable for the normally reserved Brits to dance like fools and smack anybody they thought was attractive on the ass w/ the flag (how that follows, I am not sure). It was also the only time they felt they could wave the flag and sing to the queen about how they would never be slaves (those were the words) without being cast as racist.
Quite the experience. Fun but creepy in some ways. As Ariel put it, “I never really trust people waving their flags too much”