billy collins and aimee mann

Billy Collins and Aimee Mann at Mondavi Center in Davis

billy collins and aimee mann

Billy Collins and Aimee Mann were a source of much joy at Mondavi Center.

Who woulda thunk to put Billy Collins and Aimee Mann together for a performance? I’m putting my bets on the female half of that duo. Billy Collins, former US poet laureate, and Aimee Mann, the extraordinarily talented and Academy-Award nominated singer / songwriter, performed together last night at Mondavi Center in Davis, California. We didn’t have tickets for the performance until last weekend because all the good seats sold out so quickly.

There are many people in the world who are happy to sit anywhere in Mondavi Center; they consider it a privilege to be in the audience, and there’s a lot to be said for that kind of belief, just not in my brain. Those people are never unhappy if they’re sitting way up in the balcony, so far back that you can’t even see the hat on Tom Wait’s head during a performance, so far away that you could close your eyes and pretend you’re lying flat on the floor listening to that gravely sound enveloping your living room and not stuck in the nosebleed section of Jackson Hall, waiting to see Billy Collins and Aimee Man..

My husband and I once bought seasons tickets to Mondavi, but that gave us seats in Row U. You don’t have to count on your fingers; I’ll tell you: it was 21 rows back. The deal is you buy season tickets and then the next year you might get assigned a better seat. Mondavi tries to be fair to everybody. It has rules. Like the city of Davis itself. Lots of rules. So many rules that the rules have rules. Because you can’t have a perfect society without a bunch of rules. I don’t know how the 1960s went so wrong. You can’t question authority at Mondavi Center either because you’ll be stranded at the top of the aisle until the usher decides at whim when he will allow passage to your seat, even if you’re one-minute late, like we’re at a Broadway show or the Oscars. Except, I’m pretty sure anything goes at the Oscars.

If you can’t get preferred seating when tickets go on sale at Mondavi, then the next best thing is to wait a few days before the show. Check online. That’s how we scored excellent seats a while back to see Patti Smith. I’m not sure if it’s season ticket holders who release the seats or where they magically appear from, just that they appear. Like that snappy comeback to an argument that startles you awake with its brilliance at 3 AM, instead of at the time you needed it, which means you now possess the duty to find a way to slip it into conversation just so you didn’t wake up in the middle of the night without a purpose.

Billy Collins and Aimee Mann met at the White House in 2011. They are an unlikely duo yet the perfect match. I now need to buy all of Billy Collins’ works of poetry. Today’s high school kids who are first introduced to Billy Collins are the lucky people on the face of this planet. He is immensely funny — laugh out loud hilarious. His prose does not follow a meter, but every word is carefully chosen, the way one might select strawberries. Only the juiciest, sweetest, delivering punch. The way Aimee Mann belts that angelic voice, barely parting her lips. Which one can see from the first few rows.

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