Ray is the Publisher Emeritus for Appen Media and the Herald newspapers.

We wove our way slowly in and out of the late afternoon crowd on our way to get in line for the concert. It was humid and not so comfortable, but at least the heat was beginning to recede. I was acutely aware of my lack of sunglasses, the ones I had not been able to locate prior to leaving the house.

All around us, folks were in shorts, golf shirts, tee shirts, sandals, Braves hats, halter tops — some “appropriate” and some not so much — jeans, pirate bandanas, scatterings of various band shirts and sunglasses (everyone except me).

Everyone chatted, mingled, people-watched, and generally behaved wonderfully, waiting. Yes, waiting. Waiting, like adults should wait, adults with their heads screwed on properly, respectfully and civilly. That sounds kinda similar to another (historical - 1969) concert/festival from another lifetime, no? Except that at that festival, there wouldn’t have been a single cell phone — in contrast to today where those phones appear invisibly bound with unbreakable cables to almost every ear or hand in sight. Those phones bug me.

What was it that Nobel Prize winner (in 1975 for Economics) Herbert Simon said?

“What information (i.e. use of cell phone today) consumes is rather obvious; it consumes the attention of its recipients.”

That is, it detaches, separates/isolates from the immediate, the here and now, the essence of things —humanity — and only replaces it with a shallow substitute, a wholly unsatisfying one at that. We miss so much that we can never recover because of the distraction of those phones.

Anyway, after we got inside the gate and got situated in our seats, my old friend, “crowd-generated anxiety,” paid me a visit.

“Hiya, long time. Wasup? Kinda crowded isn’t it. Not many exits are there?”

“Go away. Go far away, I don’t have the time to pay attention to you right now. Get!“ I replied.

Added to that was the other penny in everyone’s shoes, that awkwardness that I sense half that the world is beginning to experience — that transition of going from a world of pandemic-generated chaos, isolation, disruption and fear, back to the more familiar world of non-pandemic dysfunction.

Moving through the queues to get into the concert, people seemed at ease. No one seemed to be in a hurry — for once. Being in a hurry, I think, is some sort of a disease. It is maybe one of the worst aspects of living in our lovely amazing North Fulton so many of us call home. Especially beguiling are those in such a big hurry that they ride bumpers, honk, weave in and out of traffic and generally make public fools of themselves. Me, me, me, me. And, of course, the majority have no reason to be in a hurry. Most of the time, they are just impatient, myopic and can’t help it.

We made it past security and then, Yuenglings in hand, we managed to get to our seats without spilling or overly disrupting the folks already in place.

Giant fans were blowing air down from above. The night looked inviting; we were going to enjoy this first night out since the pandemic. That was my thought. And the bands, more than a couple times kept saying how ecstatic they were to be back out in front of a live audience. It’s been a long, long road home I kept thinking.

I felt awkward though, and my ol’ buddy anxiety continued to poke me in the ribs. How was this going to go? Then I started inventorying the crowd. That’s when the guy with his wife in the seats next to us, the one that arrived late and then insisted that we were possibly in their seats — until he realized we weren’t — leaned over and asked me if I noticed how “old” everybody was.

“You believe this? Who goes to concerts with nothing but senior citizens? Did they let out all the assisted livings at once?”

I just grinned and shook my head, but if the truth be told, I was thinking the same thing, including about him (even though he was at least 10 years younger than me)!

I wanted to leave before the encore to beat the traffic, but Christina vetoed that.

“I want to hear “Sail Away,” she said. “OK,” I shouted back, thinking that I can probably make it just a little longer.

It was nice, darn nice to “get back out,” I thought later; it definitely has been a long time coming. But gosh, that crowd was so old, and Styx surely must all be grandparents now. Glad I’m not like that.

I don’t even recall what music we listened to in the car as we drove home that night. Didn’t matter though, because we got out — with people without masks — and drank a brew, chatted and had a time that resembled normalcy.

“Come sail away, again,” I thought. Couldn’t get that tune out of my head — even at my age!