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The Crowd Was a Sea and the Sea Was Wondrous

We rode the subway that day, my young mother and I, the two of us sardined into an iron horse on our way to what would be my first concert. Earth Day in Central Park, 1990, at the height of AIDS and New York City violence, awful hairstyles and neon everything. I’d been dying to attend a concert, any concert, having been so thoroughly enthralled by her accounts of seeing Bowie and Petty and Dylan. So, in typical fashion, she made sure my introduction to the world of live music would leave an indelible print on my soul for years to come.

Holding my hand and urging me to keep up, she led me through a crowd of 750,000, using a combination of charm and sharp elbows to get us as close as possible to the massive stage. She turned to me and grinned. “Drink it all in, kiddo. The largest concert in American history.”

This was our quasi-version of Woodstock, minus the acid and grass, minus Hendrix and Joplin. The B-52s performed. So did Edie Brickell and Hall & Oates. Truthfully, I don’t recall much about their performances, as I was so utterly captivated by my surroundings and this unnerving, unfamiliar sense of solidarity bringing me to the brink of tears. Gazing at the waves of laughter and harmony, I whispered to myself, “The crowd is a sea and the sea is wondrous.”

 

(AP Photo/Susan Ragan)

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