What I Did This Summer Continue…

The last in a series:

IMG_0164DaisyDoesBonnaroo: Bonnawoohoo!

We have friends who are the adventurous type. Vacations are trips to Europe driving through Germany, or hiking Irish hills to kiss the Blarney Stone. Other friends of ours, newlyweds who are too cute to tolerate, honeymooned in India and Cambodia, picking up some mission work along the way. Our honeymoon was lying in the sun in Jamaica; theirs was fighting human trafficking.

I like adventure as much as the next guy, which is why I can watch the movie, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” over and over again. What fine adventures he has, I think as I recline on the sofa and scratch the dog’s ears. Walter Mitty is jumping from a helicopter piloted by a drunk and I cheer him as I ask Spousal Unit to pass the salsa.

Perhaps if my daily grind were less adventurous, I would be more inclined toward a thrill-seeking vacation. I mean, I know that dealing with a painfully arrogant, self-righteous, dishonest and threatening consignment store owner doesn’t have NEARLY the thrills and spills as climbing Everest , but it increases the heart rate nonetheless. The adventures of owning a horse AND a teenage daughter don’t compare to cliff diving, but I defy any cliff diver to get to a horse show with daughter, horse, ALL the paperwork and ALL of the gear without some sense of going over the edge. And even though six thousand dollars’ worth of get-out-of-the-house-for-24-hours plumbing work doesn’t compare to white water rafting, the heart-in-your-throat action FEELS the same.

To me, a good vacation is a vacation that includes a LOT of books I wouldn’t read in front of my book club friends, (Jennifer Wiener who?) water, sand, alcohol and SPF50. The most work I want to do is open up my Urban Spoon/Zomato app to find a restaurant where I can wear a muumuu and flip flops.

I’m not completely certain that taking Daisy, Spousal Unit, Boy Child, She Who is Formerly Known as Girl Frand, Girl Child and her Frand to a rock music festival in Middle Tennessee in mid-June falls within that category. In fact, I think it may be the polar opposite of hanging on the beach with a bodice buster in one hand and a mai tai in the other. The muumuu is the only thing in common and that’s because it’s tie-dyed. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.

“Would you do it again?” friends ask. I’m not sure. I think a person’s first time to Bonnaroo is like a person’s first time to a YMCA water class. Or at least MY first time to a YMCA water class. I did everything wrong. I had the wrong swimsuit (who knew that lovely tummy-covering swim top would balloon around my chest like a recalled Honda airbag, exposing the very parts I wanted hidden and providing buoyancy that made me flip onto my back like a show porpoise?) I wore the wrong goggles. “Those look like children’s goggles,” one woman commented. She donated her extra pair at the next class. Just because mine were pink and hinted at Hello Kitty? I came to the wrong class at the wrong time. I zigged when I should have zagged and nearly beheaded a woman. Movements under water are harder than they appear. At least I didn’t pee in the pool.

Nor did I pee at Bonnaroo. Like ever. I’ve never been so dehydrated in my life. Part of it was intentional. The stages were each a three-day trek to the porta johns and a five-day trek to our camp site. To be honest, I never entered the porta johns, so I can’t judge. But 100,000 people? In various stages of substance use and abuse? I’ll take my chances with dehydration, thank you.

Would I go again? Well, I DID return to swim class at the Y. I was slightly more prepared and at least I had the correct goggles. We MAY return to Bonnaroo. We know things now.

We know that we don’t need to empty Costco and prepare delicious campside dinners. We know we don’t have to dress well, if at all; nor do we need to shave our backs. We know that handicap camping is hella cheaper than VIP and we will get treated much, much better. We know that water is VERY important. In bottles. Not jugs. We know a few things that we thought we knew already, but were reinforced.

We know that love wins. As hokey as that sounds, this was a good summer for love. Not only did our family share the joy that our gay friends can marry those whom they love, but we shared the weird, lovey dovey hippie vibe of love at Bonnaroo. Hippie Girl Child felt it most. She texted me, “I sneezed and was blessed by everyone. EVERYONE.” (I didn’t tell her that if she’d come to church with us the same thing would happen; she was in the groove, man.)

We know that attitude is everything. Bonnaroo’s directive to “radiate positivity” sure helped my attitude as we packed up to move campsites, especially since I knew the attitude police were watching. Girl Child reminded me on a regular basis to radiate positivity and bought a tie-dyed t-shirt with the slogan it. Every time she puts it on, even months, later, I smile.

We know that age is relative. Google the Bonnagrannies to see what I mean.

We know music is a powerful thing and can transform a moment, change a mood, even lead people to revolution. I attended a LOT of concerts that week, but a few stand out, mostly because the performers were just so danged happy to be there. It was incredible to see Earth, Wind & Fire acting one-third their age. I was amazed at how excited the band members were to be at Bonnaroo. They’ve been everywhere. Done everything. Yet, they were honored to be in a Tennessee field. Their performance proved it.

Members of Mumford & Sons seemed stunned to be performing at Bonnaroo, probably because their bassist, Ted Dwane, had a blood clot removed from his brain right before they were slated to perform at the 2013 festival, obviously cancelling the performance. They were grateful to be there, whole and healthy, two years later. We were grateful to witness it. (Boy Child was thunderstruck after the festival when he realized he had danced with a band member dressed as a chicken when they were filming a recent video. He didn’t make the cut, but the video’s still cool https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD3iXpv4h-o .)

Even Billy Joel, who’s been around the block a few times, seemed to have an awe shucks, I can’t believe I got invited to headline Bonnaroo attitude. Radiating positivity seemed to make these performers just grateful to be there.

My favorite moments, however, were watching a group of young men at the “New Music on Tap Lounge,” perform. The crowd was thick and rowdy. Many had been bussed in earlier that morning. They were pumped and they were radiating positivity. They were on the downhill side of 40. Many, like me, had probably changed a diaper or two on one of these boy’s arses. A few of them had taken the time to raise them from birth to the college students they are today.

As excited as the crowd was, the band members were even more. They stepped onto the stage and the lead singer placed his mouth next to the mic. He simply couldn’t believe his good fortune. He was playing at Bonnaroo. I had walked the paths of a city park with his mama when she was pregnant with him and I couldn’t believe it either. At least he remained more composed than I. Ugly-cry snot and tears dripped from my face.

I leaned over and hugged one of the mamas. She had remained strong through her youngest son’s cancer battle in middle school, celebrated his graduating high school and was enjoying her oldest son’s standing on stage at Bonnaroo. I stood behind the dad of one of the other kids. He’s a big deal in the real world. Suit and tie, mover and shaker big deal. He had on a t-shirt with his son’s band name on it and only moved and shook to the music.

Two cute-as-heck hipsters overheard me talking about knowing these boys and pecked on my shoulder. “We drove all the way from Virginia just to see this band! We played their music the entire way down. Do you know them?” Of course I do. I’m important.

The band played their music. They grinned from ear to ear. They played more of their music. Man buns and gray hair bounced to the beat. Hormonal teenage girls and menopausal moms screamed at the top of their lungs. We were every hippie dippy lovey dovey music festival cliché that ever existed. We radiated positivity and we let the music move us. We were going with the flow and we were groovin’ to the beat. We were the world. We were the children. I let the sound take me away (apologies Steppenwolf) and I was as relaxed as if I were sitting at the beach.

When I recall Boy Named Banjo playing their songs and celebrating their success, with the purest joy and love of music I have ever witnessed, I realize I will probably go to Bonnaroo again. Radiate positivity, man. Like wow.


What I Did This Summer Continued…

IMG_0160Daisy Does Bonnaroo: Bonnalewd.

Limping toward one of the numerous stages upon which a musical genius would remind me why I was torturing myself in thousand-degree heat with one hundred thousand of my closest friends, I heard my beloved gasp. This was it. The final countdown. He would meet his maker, clutching his chest at Bonnaroo. It’s how he would like to meet his maker, but probably a few decades earlier than planned. I was already writing his eulogy in my head when I turned around to see his pasty white complexion covered in a sheen of sweat.

“You okay?” I asked, thinking there is no way I’m gonna give you mouth to mouth in this heat.

He gasped, “Borat Suit.” I thought those were strange last words, but I would be sure to put them in the eulogy. He grabbed my elbow and steered me toward the direction we had just come.

“Yes, honey?” I queried politely, wondering if his demise meant I would miss Hozier. Maybe we could play, “Get me to church” at the funeral. Oooh. Maybe Hozier would even play at the funeral, seeing how Spousal Unit expired at Bonnaroo. Maybe I could ride in the helicopter with him. Hozier would be kind to a grieving widow.

Spousal Unit continued to tug my elbow and point. “Borat Suit. Oh my God, a Borat Suit. My eyes.” I patted his hand gently. We must be kind to those who are on their way out. If his eyes were going, he must be heading to the light.

“It’s okay, honey,” I reassured him. “I’m here.”

“Did you (effing) see the (effing) guy in a Borat Suit?” I didn’t know if he were dying or had found Jesus. He was speaking in tongues. I told him I didn’t know what he was talking about.

“You don’t know what a Borat Suit is?” His tone had turned condescending. Now I knew he was about to die, but at my hands. I’m a busy woman and I don’t get out much, I snarked, so I invited him to tell me what a Borat Suit was.

Obviously I hadn’t gotten the memo, seen the movie, nor had I seen the gentleman walking past us in what is described on the interwebs as a “mankini.” Back when I was a tween and first started wearing bras, my friends and I giggled and called them “over the shoulder boulder holders.” To the unlearned, a Borat Suit is an over the shoulder banana hammock.

I eased him toward our goal of  Good Music and Spousal Unit remained in a state of shocked disbelief and V-fib until his heart jump started into a normal pattern after two beautiful young women walked by, topless with painted breasts. Once again, he stopped abruptly and pointed. Subtlety is not his forte. I tried to appreciate the artistic perfection of their perky canvasses as I wiped the drool from my life partner’s face, but it was difficult to not wonder what art could possibly appear on my poor, breastfed-longer-than-I-should-have, gravity-is-a-bitch bosoms. These young ladies had gold swirls, and posies on their chests. I suppose I could have weeping willows painted on mine.

The sartorial splendor of Bonnaroo continued throughout the weekend. Man buns prevailed, as did ink. So much tattoo. There were a lot of flowing skirts and peasant shirts, tons of tie dye and daisy chain head bands. The hippie vibe was like cool, man and like speaking of cool, keeping cool was imperative. Many, many young women in bikinis. And some not-so-young-women in bikinis. Spousal unit needed whiplash treatment at the end of the week.

But because life isn’t fair and gender equality is a myth, lines to the women’s porta-johns are always longer and good looking men wear jorts and t-shirts at Bonnaroo. A few went without shirts, but they were the age where I wanted to make sure they had on sunscreen, stayed hydrated and were texting their mamas who were home worrying. I wasn’t alone. Our new friends, the Amish donut pushers, living in The Pickle next door, suffered in similar fashion.

“That boy needs sunscreen,” one new friend said, reaching for her can of SPF 70. We were the guerrilla warriors of skin care. Girl Child quit coming by with her friends, because we’d squint beadily into their eyes before handing them hydration with one hand and spraying Coppertone bombs with the other. “Were they sober?” we’d ask one another after they left. “Yeah, but did you see that streak of sunburn on her back?” We’d sigh and shake our heads. The risks these kids take.

Apparently, I did miss a few worthy visions. Girl Child tells me there was a couple dressed as Maddie Ziegler and Shia LaBeouf in Sia’s video “Elastic Heart.” If he looked anything like Shia LaBeouf in that video, I really did miss it. Boy Child danced with a chicken, who he thinks might have been a member of the band, Trampled By Turtles, or was it the Mumford and Sons? Not I. Instead I saw a version of the FTD Florist, in a gold Speedo with knee-length athletic socks. I also came upon Cap’n ‘Murka, Captain America’s redneck cousin, with an American flag-themed Speedo, flag-colored tube socks, a flag-print towel draped over his shoulder and chuckies on his feet. The world is divided into two parts: those who shouldn’t be in Speedos and those who are dead. Even Shia LaBeouf doesn’t need to wear a Speedo.

The image that won’t leave me, however, and that may be because I took a picture of it, is that of a hairy back at the Bluegrass Stage. (Trigger warning for those who grew up with hairy backs at the pool.) Not just any hairy back, this back could donate to Locks of Love. This back could be an ad for Rogaine. This back, this very hairy back, has a future in the next Planet of the Apes series. I completely missed the musicality and marital banter of Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn because of the mesmerizing power of Hairy Back.

It doesn’t matter how many beautifully painted breasts, flowing skirts, muscular men and daisy chain headbands I saw at Bonnaroo, the image of the hairy back is MY Borat Suit, MY kryptonite. The hairy back broke me and so I share it. You’re welcome.

What I Did This Summer Continued…

IMG_0062Daisy Does Bonnaroo: Bonnafood

I’ve always imagined that if I were ever on “Let’s Make a Deal,” dressed as, oh let’s say a 1959 canned ham camper, Wayne Brady would ask me for the most ridiculous items and I would reach into my trusty handbag (my late mother-in-law hated either the word purse or pocketbook, but I can’t remember which one and since I know she’s still judging me from beyond the grave, I just say handbag) and pull it out.

“I’m looking for…” Mr. Brady would say teasingly “…a set of hospital-grade hemostats, a quarter-inch spur and a flattened Cliff bar.” I would smirk, reach into the bag, shake the dog hair and hay off my prizes and present them. “Bring it Brady,” I would sneer. “I’m ready for the car that is sitting behind Door Number Freaking Three.”

I am – if nothing else – prepared. I’ve been a Girl Scout leader and a horse show mom. I have traveled the hills and dales of Middle Tennessee with a chase vehicle for a ’49 Packard. I have overseen the renovation of three houses. I have chaired the sunshine committee for a k-8 school and I have led church committees. Nine times out of ten, I probably have a casserole in my purse. I mean hand bag. Just preheat oven to 350 and bake for 30 minutes.

When it came to going to Bonnaroo, by gum, I was going to be prepared. We would not be hungry. We would not be dehydrated. We would have First Aid. We would have bathroom facilities. Did I mention, we would not be hungry?

I came home from a marathon Costco run and Spousal Unit’s jaw dropped. “I think you may have overbought,” he suggested as I backed the tractor-trailer into the loading dock.

“We are NOT going to be victims of overpriced fair food,” I barked in return. We have a kitchen. In the rental RV. The overpriced rental RV. We will cook. “Besides, Beckie and I are working this out together. She’s going to do spaghetti one night and we’ll grill hamburgers on a campfire…”

“Beckie?” he interrupted. I hate it when he interrupts me, especially when he knows darned good and well who Beckie is. Beckie is my cousin’s daughter’s stepmother and we’ve known one another for YEARS, well actually we’ve only known OF one another, but we’ve been Facebook friends for quite a while and we agree on many things, including politics and that my cousin’s daughter is an amazing young woman and we both want her to love us best. How could he not know who Beckie is?

I waited patiently for him to assimilate the information. He still looked confused and I gave an exaggerated sigh. “Which part do you not understand? Who Beckie is, or that we’re going to SAVE MONEY and cook?” He would never know the total of the Costco bill. He was confused enough as it was. He looked like a Humanix from “Extant” with a glitch. Does. Not. Compute. Information overload. Bzzzt. Bzzzt. Must. Kill. Hybrids.

“Oh never mind. Just help me get the dried goods into these three crates and the refrigerated stuff into the two refrigerators and five coolers.” Why on earth was he confused? Overbought. Pshaw. I was PREPARED.

Let me say this once and mean it. NOTHING CAN PREPARE A PERSON FOR BONNAROO. There is no life experience one can rely upon and think, “Okay, I’ve lived through Bluegrass Festivals/frat parties/Southern Conference football games/church retreats/childbirth via c-sections/horse shows/ad agency overnighters/my dad’s Sunday drives/a house renovation with, well, somebody whose name I won’t reveal, so obviously I can live through Bonnaroo.” Nothing compares. Nothing.

The sweltering days all run together, but at one point, Beckie and her crew limped into our campsite. “Water,” they gasped. Water was what we didn’t have. I had purchased gallon jugs for each individual in our particular group and they were to refill them at the Bonnaroo water stations. We would save the planet AND money by not buying dozens of single water bottles. I saved the planet, but almost killed my people.

“I DO have coconut water, however,” I rallied. “It will replenish electrolytes and isn’t full of artificial crap.” The cousin’s daughter grabbed a Sprite. “Oh. Yeah. I have that too.” Beckie’s husband opened and closed his mouth like a fish gasping for water.

“Beer,” said Spousal Unit, rushing into action. “I have beer.” Girl Child also moved into place, pulling frozen grapes out of the overpriced RV’s freezer and thrust them at our guests. It’s a trick she learned from horse shows where she is as one with a 1500-pound animal whose core body temperature reaches that of the sun when they both go racing across fields to jump all the things. People grabbed frozen grapes. Ate them. Rubbed body parts with them. Girl Child and her frozen grapes were a hit.

“I have other food,” I continued to offer. “Lots and lots of food.” The cousin’s daughter, leaned back in her chair, sweat pouring from her like an overflowing toilet. She lives in Toledo. I had been trying to get her to move to the South.

“Is it always this hot here?” she whimpered as she pressed a frozen grape to her forehead.

Spousal Unit never misses an opportunity to brag, nor to eat a big chunk of his size 11 foot. “Oh hell, this isn’t even hot. You should be here in August.”

“Food!” I interrupted. “We have tuna salad and pimiento cheese and….” Apparently, heatstroke took away my ability to read social cues as well. I thought there was going to be a group hurl. Face it, the cousin’s daughter would not be moving to Nashville and nobody was going to eat crates’ worth of Costco food. NOBODY was going to be lighting up a campfire to grill hamburgers. I had overbought.

On the last day of Bonnaroo, I was walking Centeroo with new friends. Centeroo is where it all happens, including STDs and typhoid from the communal fountain. There is also shopping to be had. I can do that. I can shop.

“Have you had one of the Amish donuts?” my new friend asked. More than skeptical of fair food, I am extremely dubious of anything touting Amish. How Amish could donuts be if they were sold from a food truck type situation at a music festival? I declined. New friends insisted. (I swear, Mom, I didn’t WANT to eat the Amish donut, but my friends MADE me. It was Bonnaroo, Mom.)

Sweet Lord have mercy and bless all the Amish children making donuts. That thing melted in my mouth. First, it danced around and touched each and every taste bud. I didn’t want one Amish donut. I wanted twenty. Then I looked around. Fair food. I wanted ALL the fair food. I wanted barbecue. I wanted funnel cakes. What is that smell? No. Not that one. The one that smells like…bacon? Hamageddon? Bacon flights? Boy Child wandered up to me, tomato sauce dripping from his chin. “The pizza is amazing, Mom.” He didn’t even look guilty that he had cheated on me and the hundreds of dollars of Costco food waiting back at the overpriced RV.

I finished my Amish donut, licked the sugar from the paper towel on which it had sat, wrapped myself in the Tree of Life Hippie Wall Tapestry I bought at a vendor, raised my fist and declared in true Scarlett fashion, “As God is my witness, they’re not going to lick me. I’m going to live through this and I will never shop Costco before Bonnaroo again!”