San Diego, August 28, 1965

She wore a hot pink and black granny dress chosen specially for the event, and white go go boots zipped up the back of her calfs. The boots she had begged for and received last Christmas. Her straight-as-a-pin strawberry blonde hair swirled around her shoulders as she hopped into the car, her freckled face rosy with excitement.

A sophomore at Castle Park High School, she barely knew the three senior girls who were giving her a ride to the concert that night. But it didn’t matter. This wasn’t a concert you take your boyfriend to. Her parents weren’t interested. And she needed to get there.

The girls parked in the lot of the Balboa Stadium, a horseshoe shaped AFL venue, home of the newly acquired Los Angeles Chargers. A pack of cigarettes was passed around, but after two coughing fits, her attempt at senior-level coolness was abandoned. The ride was enough.

With hard-earned nickels, she had purchased an advance ticket for a front row seat, the very best in the house for $5.50: on the field, with only a rail between the bleachers and an elevated stage. The girls pushed toward their seats, surrounded by over 17,000 fans.

The opening acts began. King Curtis Band, Sounds Incorporated,Discotheque Dancers, Brenda Holloway, and Cannibal & The Headhunters. Each new band raised the anticipation level for what was to come as the sun set in the west and stadium lights flickered on. In the open air that warm August night it was a challenge to not overheat from singing, dancing, or simply leaping over the benches with impatience.

150 San Diego police roamed the area, keeping fans in place. The chanting thousands stood up, searching for any sign of impending phenomenon. Her hand kept straying up to the commemorative pin given out by the sponsoring local radio station, KCBQ, the station who knew her by name, she called in so regularly with song requests.

And now they were bringing her the music in person. She could hardly stand the wait.

Just after 9pm, the British Invaded.

The screams reached octaves that only dogs can hear, it’s likely ships in the harbor began evasive action. The Beatles ran on stage and began a one and only, last minute concert in San Diego. There was mass gyration, a flailing of female forms, as devoted fans completely lost their minds. Our sophomore, only sweet 16, watched John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr performing only a few feet away, their perfect mouths singing into microphones…and couldn’t hear a single note.

With no intermission, they played a dozen hits: their truncated version of Twist And Shout, followed by She’s A WomanI Feel FineDizzy Miss LizzyTicket To RideEverybody’s Trying To Be My BabyCan’t Buy Me LoveBaby’s In BlackI Wanna Be Your ManA Hard Day’s NightHelp! and I’m Down.

There were Charger-worthy football tackles as each song brought more fans over the rails. Police held back the tide of sobbing humanity while the Beatles worked off their pre-show dinner of sodas, sandwiches, and KFC.

We know now that this August would mark the last of their commercial concerts, at the end of a frantic four year touring schedule. They could not compete with the fanbase wall of sound, realizing that live performances no longer had anything to do with their music. The next step in their musical journey would be the creation of Sergeant Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band.

So I’m glad our sophomore – when she realized The Beatles were done, when she watched them abandon their instruments on the stage and flee for their lives across the field to a waiting helicopter – hiked up her granny dress and hopped the rail. Racing ahead of the surge, she and everyone else ripped up the turf that the musicians had run their rhythmic shoes over. She held onto that contraband fistful of sod for the next 25 years. In a baggie. Like weed. Until it turned into dust.

She kept it next to every album The Beatles ever made, heaps of memorabilia, and of course, her KCBQ pin.

Fast forward to June 6, 2019. I’m at the Fair, standing right in front of the stage, singing at the top of my lungs with the band: The Fab Four. I’m delighted that my childhood training was so thorough: I know all the lyrics. I know all the dance moves. I hitched a ride with girlfriends. I’m only missing the go go boots.

I’m happy to report that mom never did take up smoking, although The Beatles were all heavy smokers and worse. KFC, however, remains a family delicacy.

Date Night Dallies

The long San Diego summer days are sauntering towards a suggestion of fall.

Although our weather will be warm for another two months, the kids are back in school and the malls are geared up for HallThankMas Eve. And while our sprawling San Diego County has myriad year round entertainment to choose from, summer nights seem to hold more hours in them.

I want to take a moment to remember a wandering date night last month before rushing head-long into the jumbled rest of my calendar.

Try this some time.

We hit the happy hour at the Brigantine in Del Mar. Sit outside at the narrow bar facing the race tracks.

Watch a couple races. Watch a train go by. Watch the moon rise.

Watch the hot air balloons in the distance. Be glad you’re not in one.

Order a spinach salad, two fish tacos, and a house margarita in a shaker.

Watch the lid.

Hop in the car and head south, crossing up and over the Coronado Bay Bridge as the sun lowers towards the horizon.

Whoever is driving, watch the road.

The other guy (that’s me) gets an incredible view of sailboats, sunset, and downtown.

Make a mental note to check out the new library down there that looks like a giant birdcage.

Someday.

Drive down to the Hotel Del and park on the street at a meter. It’s free after 6pm.

Stroll around the Del. Pretend you’re staying there and mingle in the lobby and admire the elevator cage. Wander out back to the Grille and buy a coffee. Then meander down the walkway to the beach.

There will be a wedding party on the sand to admire, with chandeliers hanging from organza swathed gazebos and a seven-tiered cake surrounded by elegant bridesmaids dressed in periwinkle blue.

Stroll the length of the boardwalk and back, reminiscing about your own honeymoon there…a million years ago was it?

Breathe in the sea air.

Feel young and fresh and ready for the world and then immediately thankful for all of the hurdles the world threw at you that are now in your past. And not still in front of you. And that you made it this far.

Hop back in the car and head back over the bridge and up towards Mission Bay.

If you turn onto Fiesta Island and park, you will be treated to a massive fireworks display at 10pm nightly, courtesy of Sea World.

Lean against the hood of your car, wrapped up in a blanket for two, and watch the spectacle.

Hold hands.

Toodle down the freeway, heading for home.

Discuss whether you’re up for dessert or not.

Discuss it some more as you get into town.

End up at The Cheesecake Factory. They are open almost as late as an IHOP.

Have a slice of cheesecake extremely worthy of tomorrow’s work-out. Enjoy every last crumb.

Wonder why you don’t do this more often.

And then remember why as you’re licking the plate.

Watch your waistline, watch your bedtime, watch your summer slip away like sand at high tide.

But take a moment when you get it, and frame it and you can watch it for the rest of your life.