The last in a series:
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.