Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All Good Part IV

Now let me launch into the final installment of the "All Good Quartet in Me Minor." Writing about this has been almost as exhausting as doing it, but I must press on so the backlog on the bench can step into the batter’s box. Cool, a sports analogy, the guys and gals at the office would be impressed.

Before launch, (or at least before lunch) let me give a couple of updates and revisions. A few days ago I wrote a post called “Why I Blog.” I took the easy way out and applied humor to the process, you know, that self-deprecating but kind of self-aggrandizing at the same time variety of humor…the kind that says I can laugh at myself but I’m not a complete flake. (By the way, I fully acknowledge my tendency toward flakiness, if I were a biscuit I would win awards, and I was once given the key to Flaketown.)

The point I did not make clear in the “Why I Blog” post is: I want to have something to help me remember my life. I don’t know if this is exactly an ego-stroking exercise because when I go back and look at the journals I’ve started in the past, the feelings are always mixed. First there is the “oh yea, I forgot about that,” factor, then there is the laughter—I do tend to make myself laugh, when no one else is around—but then there is the cringe factor and the idea that wherever I was at that point in my life, I should have been doing something different. In other words, Regrets.

So why put myself through that? I don’t know, perhaps I’m inclined towards nostalgia, the long lost cousin of melancholy. After reading about the Weimar Republic I realized how the modernists adamantly opposed the old socialist’s nostalgia for pre-World War I Germany. I wonder if nostalgia isn’t becoming a dirty word again, like “liberal” or “regulatory.” Thomas Wolfe was right, you can’t go home again, but you can sometimes hover over that old home and watch, and remember. When I do that in the future, I want the lines of that vision defined by this journal.

Patio Update: Three days in a row of working on the patio. Yesterday I started raking the area to loosen the dirt for stomping and leveling. I’ve borrowed this heavy stomping tool (I can’t believe I don’t even know the name of the thing) and it should add to the list of muscles I never knew I had. I’m spreading the extra dirt into the upper part of the yard, and I hope to plant either grass or bushes up that way, but that will come later. Leveling is the name of the game right now.

Booker Update: Booker is enjoying the patio project immensely. While the inside of my house used to be covered in a protective layer of dust, now it covered in protective layer of dirt. Booker loves the dirt, and yesterday evening he was catching the Frisbee at close quarters over the mound of dirt and really launching himself off of it and making good grabs. Other than that it’s the same as usual, sleep, wag-tail, drink water, snore, fart, and eat. Oh, and the periodic hero-worship of me.

School Update: All As this term. The Eastern Music Festival has been going on all month and the musicians practice in the library. Mornings are filled with classical music from world renowned talents, but don’t ask me to name any because this is totally out of my realm. The music is very nice, all except the avant garde group who was practicing as I was writing a final draft. That was a challenge. I started studying for the GRE yesterday.

All Good Part IV

I spent most of Saturday morning, after making a run to the truck, just sitting around the campsite and watching people walk by. I saw a family, a mother, father and small daughter trekking up the hill in front of the ridge. The father was pulling a heavily burdened wagon containing all of his daughter’s necessities, but the daughter was out of the wagon and walking up the hill with the help of her mother. She weaved a bit and toddled along quite happily as her mother, in swaying skirt, led her daughter forward. It was a slow procession, all in honor of the daughter, and as they moved up the hill I watched them with interest. With all of the varieties of revelry going on around me, this seemed like such a serene and calming scene, although the husband, dragging his heavy rolling caravan behind him in the late-morning heat, might have had a different opinion.

I met people as they passed by my tent. There was a large area of campers directly behind me and people from this area would pass by my site to take the ridge line down to the main road. I met an African American man named Wayne who was there with his father. He had been to three of these things and filled me in on the bands that had played there in the past. There was also a girl who lost her cell-phone and believed she had done it while she was talking to me. She had offered to let me use it when I was trying to find Pete and Paris, but she never produced it because I told her I had lost their number. She seemed a little disoriented and didn’t quite accept the fact that she hadn’t given it to me. I offered to let her use my flashlight and to help her look but she said no.

I went to Pete and Paris’ campsite but they weren’t there. I left them a note telling them I would check back later. It may sound strange but I really enjoyed walking around more than anything. I have legs built for this, and as long as I have good shoes and no blisters I walk for hours. On the way there were so many things to look at. I stopped a guy who was selling T-shirts and bought the one he was using as a display. A bright blue T-shirt that was designed to look like one of those European road signs that tell you if there is lodging or camping or a telephone or restaurants at the next exit. The panels on this shirt show a tent in one, a fire in the next (I guess to represent cooking or pagan ritual or something), a musical note in the third, and this weird void/spiral-like design in the fourth, conceivably to represent strange apparitions and the like. On the back are the names of all of the bands that played at the festival. I wonder if this shirt will make it to the stage of some of my others, un-wearable because of their ragged state from over-use, but un-tossable because of their intrinsic value to my memory.

That day I was wearing my old Grateful Dead shirt with the rip in the front. Someone remarked that it was a cool shirt as I walked by and I heard another from the group say, “thank you for anchoring us.” I have no idea what that means, maybe they needed an anchor to keep them from drifting onto the shoals of scary apparitions, but I took it as a compliment, although an anchor is only a cold stagnant piece of metal that sits half-buried at the bottom of the ocean. It also may add a bit of ballast to the ship when drawn in.

I also bought a poster of Jerry Garcia and Pigpen. Pigpen was an early member and co-founder of the Grateful Dead who's real name was Ron Mckernen. McKernen was a bluesman and a biker, and this early image shows the two co-founders of the band looking at once kindly and a little frightening. When I finally found Pete and Paris, I showed it to them and Paris said how she thought that they looked like Freddie Kruger from the Nightmare on Elm Street series. I’m planning on having it framed.

When I finally met up with Pete and Paris they were cooking up bratwurst in beer and sauerkraut. I slobbered down two of these while enjoying sitting at their campsite and hearing about the acts I had missed. Soon we packed up and headed back down to the stage area to see bassist Les Claypool. We planted ourselves on the right side again and listened to this weird music. Claypool is a little inaccessible for my melody-hungry ear. I went towards the stage for a while, and a walking puppet troupe came by dressed as weird creatures. One was of a giant goofy corn-cob with little hands that slapped back and forth. Another was a little mad doctor who would get close to the women and stick out a long, obtrusive and phallic tongue at them. The one who wanted to dance with me was a sea-creature with no eyes that looked like a character from Sponge Bob Square Pants who had ended up in a biker gang or something. The doctor stuck his tongue out at me and I punched it.

When I went back up the hill there was a crowd forming along a gully leading down the extreme right side of the hill. The three of us stood up and saw a man in a crash helmet making exaggerated stretching motions and pumping his knees up and down. He was going to do something, we just weren’t sure what. By the time a crowd had formed on both sides of the gully, it became apparent that the man was going to come down the hill in a daring and dangerous way. The crowd started chanting “go, go, go, go.” It reminded me of the people who yell “jump” during suicide attempts. I found myself chanting as well. The man did a very long lead-up, with the help of a friend who was presumably going to repeat the stunt wearing only a floppy hat. These two played the crowd for around ten minutes until, all of a sudden, the helmeted man hurled himself down the hill and somersaulted the entire 100-200 yard distance. His helmet came off on the first summersault which was forbidding because the gully was nothing but hard-baked earth and rocks. He didn’t summersault in the way I remember as a kid, he shot forward with his legs and flipped over on his hands, keeping his head, and more importantly his neck, off the ground. The crowd, always on cue, roared.

I ran into the daredevil at the bottom of the hill and told him that was the goddamndest stunt I had ever seen. His friend took offence and said “stunt, that wasn’t a stunt, that was an expression of being, a life affirming event, don’t call it a stunt.” I said “okay, but it was kind of a stunt too.” The stuntman looked at me and then gave me a hug, which I didn’t necessarily invite. When he pulled away I accidentally knocked the beer out of his hand. His friend said, “man, that was un-cool,” and I had to agree. To make the vibe right, I bought him another beer and apologized profusely.

The day ended with the jam band moe. By the time they started their third or fourth number, I decided that I would listen to the rest of the concert from the top of the hill, I said my farewell to Pete and Paris and headed back to the tent.

I returned to the house the next day. The festival continued through Sunday but I was starting the final week of the term and I wanted to be ready for the reality of Monday morning. Booker was waiting. It’s probably a good thing that you can’t take your dogs to one of these things. I saw a couple on the way out on Sunday holding up a sign saying they had lost their dog. The woman looked despondent.

I wonder now if I will go to All Good next year. My current plans see me in another country in a year’s time, but plans change. The festival was really what I needed at this point, when I’m trying to figure out how to be single again and looking for diversions to cover up the sadness. I know I’ll have to come down soon. This has been one of the least busy and relaxing summers I can remember, but a roller-coaster of a fall is looming. Through the upcoming trials I’ll remember the festival, the truck breaking down, Pete and Paris (who are on their way to New Zealand next month), the fantastic dirty-stinking hippies, my tent on the hill, the stuntman, and as much of the wonderful weirdness as I can.

1 comment:

Emily Barton said...

All that walking must have taken off a few pounds. Sounds like the music was incredible. Do I sound like I'm getting old when I say four days would be a little too long for me? Oh, and I think "heavy stomping tool" is probably a far better name for it than what experts might call it.