Ryan and the Technicolor Wardrobe
Short Stories and Essays

I remember where I was on 9/11. I was at student staff training at my alma mater, and when I woke up that morning, I was scared because I had slept in. One of our staff trainers had knocked on my door and I was pretty sure I was going to get chewed out, but I was instead informed that training for the day was canceled and that I might want to call family and friends to see if they were okay. I got a brief run down of what had happened, watched it on the news and couldn’t believe my own eyes.  It just… didn’t look real.  My sister lived in Brooklyn and Bruce was attending Carnegie Melon in Pennsylvania, and since I was fuzzy on the details, I quickly called them/found them online. They were fine, and finally it was time to start processing everything else associated with the day.

It’s been almost a decade since the attacks, and perhaps Rudy Guliani and Alan Jackson are to blame for why I feel desensitized to all the events that transpired that day, but I don’t think I’m alone. I believe the poor reception to Oliver Stone;s World Trade Center film had a lot to do with the fact that people don’t want to think about it, and I think for those of us fortunate to not lose a loved one, we only really think about the aftermath of 9/11 on the anniversary and when we’re at the airport and we have to take off our shoes to get through the security checkpoint.

So on 9/12/2008, Jessica, Kirsten, Makenna, and I headed to the Hollywood Bowl to catch Brian Wilson perform with the LA Philharmonic. I’d seen him a couple of years before at the Bridge School Benefit and was excited he’d be playing his famous Beach Boys songs at Bowl with fireworks.  We didn’t share stories about how 9/11 affected us or where we were on the day.  Jessica just told us a story where she was at a bar the previous night and how there was a moment of silence, and how after the moment of silence, Neil Young’s “Keep on Rocking in the Free World” came on the radio and how she thought the coincidence was hilarious. After that, we went back to our normally scheduled activities: filling our ice chest with cheese, crackers, and other snacks to go along with our two bottles of wine, as we headed to watch Brian Wilson and his band perform.  It just seemed like a coincidence that he was playing the day after (it was closing weekend at the Hollywood Bowl, which he does every couple of years or so), but perhaps it wasn’t.

We were fortunate to be in the last row of our section and at the end of the bench because we were going to stand up for all of Brian Wilson’s set. We were by far the youngest people at the show that didn’t accompany their parents. We didn’t care we were out of place, we were intent on being shameless and loud.  The lady sitting next to me told me that we “were too young to like the Beach Boys” but that she “loved our energy” as we got tipsy and danced for the duration of the show. (I think she tried to dance with me at some point and all I could think in my head was “half your age + 7, lady, get away from me”, but whatever.) We heard “California Girls”, “Wouldn’t it be Nice”, “God Only Knows” and “Surfer Girl”. He didn’t have a lot to say between songs, not that Brian Wilson is known for his witty between song banter.  He wisely let the music speak for itself.  He then broke out the encore of “I Get Around” and “Surfing USA” as the fireworks went off.  It was an amazing climax to a beautiful evening. Not only were we having a great time, we found ourselves with a great deal of pride in our country. Brian Wilson’s love of California is unparalleled, and honestly it’s quite infectious. We left the Bowl seeing what he saw, the beach, the freeways, everything in a different light.  If everyone could see Brian Wilson perform with fireworks going off in the background, everyone would be in love with this country, full of pride, full of the American spirit and ready to show the world that we are not going to live in fear. He may not be able to bring back the loved ones we lost on that tragic day, or end the economic woes that we face, but he can help us remember how to love our country and for that, for everyone at the Bowl that night, Brian Wilson won the war on terrorism.