Some people say it isn’t a real rock concert experience unless someone pukes at the end.
But I’m pretty sure these people are not talking about Wiggles concerts.
Yesterday we took the kids to the Universal Amphitheatre to see the Wiggles, Australia’s most popular export among two-to-four-year olds, fans of relentlessly cheerful clean cut young men in bright costumes, and command hallucination aficionados. It went about as well as you would expect.
Evan and Abby were a little uncertain, and spent much time in laps with thumbs in their mouths. They both perked up a little bit when the Wiggles sang the song “Shake your hips like Wags the Dog.” Thus in the span of half a century, conduct that would get you censored on the Ed Sullivan show becomes fodder for the amusement of the preschool set. Evan eventually danced a bit and even did some of the many complex arm movements required by the various songs (I’m pretty sure Henry the Octopus was vogueing), interspersed with returning to the lap or attempting to climb into the next row. Abby spent most of the 75 minutes trying to escape, screaming about not being permitted to escape, or jumping up and down repeatedly in Katrina’s lap.
We were in the balcony, but could still see and hear the show pretty well. It’s not like you’re going to miss any subtle facial expressions or a stage whisper like in an Ibsen play or something. What they mostly do is jump up and down and sing and talk about jumping up and down and singing. They also shout at Jeff a lot. Jeff is the Wiggle whose entire dramatic purpose is to fall asleep so that everyone can shout for him to wake up. I don’t know what kind of legal protections are offered in Australia, but I’m pretty sure that if you have narcalepsy in America, “reasonable accommodations” under the Americans with Disabilities Act would not include getting everyone in the office to scream at you simultaneously.
Despite our nosebleed seats, we actually got to see two Wiggles very close up – both Jeff and Murray came upstairs and plowed through the audience, even walking through our row. I guess this is the kid-concert equivalent of mosh pit diving. I can report reliably that they look the same up close. I can also reliably report this previously unknown fact about Wiggles: they are extremely sweaty people.
Here we see the stage. The illusion of a fission reaction is created by the lousy camera on my Treo 650. You could actually see the Wiggles and Wags and such.
Here we see one of the big side screens. One of the challenges in getting a toddler to appreciate a stage show with big TV screens is that toddlers are conditioned to watch the screen instead of any nearby action. That’s why I can safely doze on the couch while Evan and Abby watch Thomas the Tank Engine without them getting too grossed out over my drool. So I had to prod Evan constantly to watch the people on stage rather than the big TV screens showing the people on stage. I’d say, “Those are the real people, Evan, whereas the TV screen only shows digital representations of those people. As Magritte would say, ‘ceci n’est pas un Wiggle.’” Evan, impervious to turn-of-the-century French artistic philosophy, mostly watched the screens instead. Oh, that doesn’t bode well if we wanted to get him into a good Santa Monica preschool.
We escaped midway through a finale that was dragging on like a Liza Minelli farewell tour. It was about 6:30, past normal dinnertime for the kids. We thought, let’s look at the restaurants over here at the edge of Universal Citywalk. What could go wrong? [cue dramatic approaching-doom-music, like they use on The West Wing when a Republican comes onscreen.]We chose a mega-touristy chop house with a stupendously belabored cowboy/ranch theme. The waiters and waitresses, all dressed Ambercrombie meets Bonanza and all looking like they just came from a casting call for The OC, led us to a table on the outside dance floor. Pluses: music videos blaring from the TVs meant we could relax about the whole “indoor voice” thing. The choice of videos was curious for a cowboy restaurant. Is Billy Idol a cowboy?
We ordered. Huge but watered-down drinks arrived, as did rolls and a quesadilla to amuse the kids. We plied the kids with lemonade. Strolling cowboy guitar players appeared – sort of a cowboy equivalent of a mariachi band – and played the “Spider Man” song at Evan’s request, resulting in one of the more surreal moments of a life full of them. The guitar players, like the chiseled waiters and waitresses, looked a little put off by the Wiggles horde that had descended on the restaurant – they ran out of high chairs and did not appear to be prepared to handle toddler table manners.
So, now we get to the barfing promised in the lede. Why did Abby boot all over? It might be she is fighting a little cold. It might be the lemonade we gave her was too tart. It might when the quesedilla appetizer arrived, she swiped the little bowl of salsa and ate most of it with her hands. Anyway, boot she did, aplenty.
One might think that the volume of vomit is limited by the physical size of the toddler. But there is more vomit in a toddler than is dreampt of in your philosophies, Horatio. Toddlers are not constrained by the laws of physics, God, or man. Abby hurled repeatedly. Katrina attempted, in a classic parenting I’ll-throw-myself-on-the-grenade-Sarge manner, to catch most of it in napkins, wipes, place mats, bread baskets, and eventually her pants. Fortunately, we were finished with dinner at that point, and fortunately with the din of the videos and the distance between the dance-floor tables the other customers did not seem too repulsed. We beat a hasty retreat.
On the way home, Evan rather sadly remarked that we would not be allowed to return to that restaurant.