Who could forget Bob Uecker’s shout out to the Cheap Seats.
Although humorous it also illuminates the concept of division, of the us and them. My life’s work of art and business has often landed me in the cheap seats, from housing to concerts. It may be an enormously large rationalization, but here’s my take away on the cheap seat life:
There’s much opportunity for people watching. Sure, it would great to be the one with the golden pass around my neck, cruising to the front of the line at every event, as opposed to wearing the slightly tarnished one that requires I clock in and out. But, what a view! What an amazing opportunity to absorb the every moment adventures of long lines, will call, and endless questions about how and where do I?
Sure, I didn’t get to hear the whole workshop because in order to go to the conference I had to sign up for that volunteer shift that placed me halfway in and halfway out of the door at the registration table. But, I did meet some really cool people at check in. I got to engage with others who were working together for the cause unconstrained by the speaker’s agenda items.
Will I have a cheap seat when I leave this place and head on to the next? Probably. It’s encoded in me somewhere. It’s part of who I am. That’s not to say that life should constitute deprivation by choice. If you are privileged enough to enjoy the finer things in life, it’s great to make good on it. And to share when and where you can. If you have fallen on hard times, or if you by class or culture are not as fortunate, this post is by no means a way to sooth what ails you. It’s just my take on it all.
Many mock the Cities of Cleveland and Akron. I have been fortunate to have lived in both. I guess they might be considered the cheap seats of cities. But, how much is lost when we don’t walk a mile in our shoes on their streets. The vibrant energy that pushes life through onto the vein-like sidewalks and roads.
There’s a heartbeat that pulses through cities that scratches and claws for the good. There’s the necessity of invention after all when you can’t just drop the card whenever and wherever you want. There are late night shoots that peak in the morning hours with busted down generators, and improvisational riggings that cause the light to dance differently. They aren’t just happy accidents, they are the glue to the mechanism that becomes the art.
You can try to bottle it, pass it off as the grit of the cheap city seats, but you won’t get the flavor. It will be an imitation and the people who matter most to you will recognize it.
When I get to the pearly gates I expect them to be tarnished and worn. I expect St. Peter to be homeless and he will ask me for money for the passage in. And then with any luck, I’ll take my place next to him and we’ll watch the after life from our side of the stands. And we’ll be in good company, or at least our company. We’ll be among those who lived creatively on the edge. There will be jugglers, painters, writers and friends. Long live the cheap seats! They enrich us, they don’t coddle or pamper, they demand we work for them and with them, and in the end – we are not just their spectators, we are their teachers.