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!”