Tuesday, July 27, 2010

(Good Lord, but this blog is long. Get a cold drink.)

Mad Dogs, Englishmen, and Hackensaw Boys Fans Go Out in the Midday Sun, or I'm a Dirty Girl, or What a Difference a Day Makes, or My Trip to Floydfest

Hello, blogees. I was going to try to put together a blog about my weekend as a Sunday blog, but I had to gather my thoughts, and I'm afraid there were just too many thoughts and they kept running around like so many stray sheep.

Yes, this was the big weekend of Floydfest, festival of music, love, happiness, and hippiedom in beautiful Floyd County, VA. If you'll recall, the Sauerkraut Band were on the bill Saturday, then my SKB friend Susan gave me a free guest pass for Sunday.

Now, as often happens, I'm not sure where to start this whole tale. I guess I could start it by saying that while excited to experience the 'Fest, I was also dreading it quite a bit. And that's because of the massive heat wave that's gripped Virginia, and has probably gripped your little area as well.

I've spent a lot of my life afraid to make a certain admission, see? Because I seem to be the only one who suffers this affliction. But I finally realized there's no reason to hide it anymore, so I'll just come out right here in the old blog. I hate summer. I hate summer, I hate hot weather, and I hate the outdoors.

Sounds like a perfect match for Floydfest, huh?

Mr M and I got up early Saturday and started out to Floyd. I spent a fair amount of time watching weather reports the night before, and the word "oppressive" kept cropping up. Weather People like the word "oppressive." Triple digits they were saying, in heat and maybe even in humidity. I was already getting hinky.

Now, I had to take a clarinet along, of course, they don't furnish them on site, and since I wasn't relishing the thoughts of walking around Floydfest all day in a dirndl, I also had to take a change of clothes for after our set. So I brought along a backpack and packed it as lightly as possible. One change of clothes. "Good Karma" baseball cap. (hmmm, good karma.) Small shoulder bag containing Sherman (like he'd miss this?), a wallet, and the Flip camera. I wore my green goofy shoes with my dirndl so I wouldn't have to take extra shoes. Sunglasses. Small tube of sunblock. And that was about it.

We drove the tiny, winding roads (and thanks to Mr M's GPS lady, a piece of road that wasn't even a road) until we hit the parking area for Floydfest. Sadly, the organizers didn't give the whole band access parking, so most of us had to do it the general admission way - park in a huge hilly field, then walk to the bottom of said field, where old shuttling school buses would take us to the festival. We had to park way up the field, and got out and got our stuff together. Our friend Laine came along in her own car. When we got out of our cars it was about 9:45 and the heat was already stifling.

The bus ride was actually fun, riding these old buses over tiny gravel roads into the middle of nowhere. I met a couple of nice people who told me what a great time I was going to have, and some expressed interest in seeing the Sauerkrauters, and of course when they did, I told them all to go see the Hackensaw Boys on the main stage instead of us.

We reached the festival, got our all-access passes (they said "artist!" I got to be an artist!), and went in through the performers' entrance.

And there is where I discovered my first surprise of Floydfest.

And that surprise, my friends, was that although I was expecting this to just be a huge field, and parts of it were, a lot of it was not. In fact, I'm not sure my foot ever hit the ground that it wasn't stepping either on a rock, a twig/limb/branch embedded into the ground, or a hole. Yes, friends, I'd been there approximately ten minutes and I was already walking around like a drunken toddler.

Our entrance into the festival was right at the beer garden, where we were playing. We milled around a bit seeing if we could see anyone else dressed as silly as we were, ie, other band members, and we sure saw some people dressed silly, but it wasn't our kind of silly. So we headed on into the beer garden, where there were lots of trees and it was fairly comfortable, found a few other Sauerkrauters, and headed to the backstage area.

And I was starting to feel pretty good! I found a chair, and we were getting our stuff ready while the band before us was playing, and I turned around and there was my cousin Jacob. She and her husband had decided to pick Saturday to come as well, and she came back to say hello. She also said something else. "Guys, this is the only place you're going to get any kind of breeze or coolness. Outside the beer garden the heat is unbearable!"

Oh well. 15 minutes of good is better than none, I guess.

We had yet to take the stage when I discovered my other big surprise of Floydfest.

Yep, we were horsing around backstage and I noticed that my goofy green shoes had quickly become my goofy brown shoes. Covering my brown feet, which were attached to my brown legs. And that my brand-new dirndl and freshly-washed blouse and apron were - well, in a word, filthy.

Yes, what wasn't a field at Floydfest was a dirt/gravel/limb/branch/twig surface, and very dry dirt plus 11,000 people kicking it around made for some airborne filth just dying to cling to someone. Anyone. It was impossible to escape getting absolutely filthy.

But the time came and we played our set, and people really seemed to enjoy us. They Chicken Danced, they did the polka, they clapped along. And it really was a fun set and I enjoyed it a lot.

Now, sets are short at this thing, ours was 45 minutes. That's one reason I've never had a desire to do the festival thing. A band gets an hour at most. If you hate a band, you're forced to listen to them drone on for an hour. If you love a band, you only get to hear them for an hour.

So our set ended, and I packed up my horn and changed into my other outfit right there in the artists' tent in front of God and everybody, and a 10 year old boy. I was discreet, I don't think anybody saw anything more than my bra, and my philosophy on the whole thing is that if you want to look at my nekkid flesh, you have more problems than anyone can help you with.

Mr M and I walked out of the beer garden and I was immediately hit by the sun. Yes, the sun hit me, bonked me right on the head, and he'd brought along his friend Mr Humidity, who proceeded to reach down my throat and render my lungs useless.

We headed over to the performers' tent across the way, where we were given some cold water and told we could leave our stuff there if we wanted. Mr M declined on his horn, but I said, "Screw the horn. Who here's gonna steal a clarinet?" I took my water, drank a gulp, and poured the rest over my head, a ritual I would perform several times that day.

There's a large thoroughfare between the two big stages, and all along there are booths. Some sell things, many are food booths, there was a booth doing tattoos, and even a massage therapy booth - dollar a minute. And I was really tempted to go there and plunk down a twenty and let the good times roll, but I chickened out.

Walking the thoroughfare, we bumped into Ward and Ferd from the Hackensaws, who had also just finished their set, and since I wasn't interested in any shopping (except the massages), I stood a lot while Mr M and Laine looked at a few things.

And that's when I realized the old joke is true. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity."

Because when I was just standing there in the sun, well, I mean, don't get me wrong, it was hotter than 40 hells, but it was just the hot of having the sun beat down on me. It was when we started moving that it all became so oppressive (thanks, Weather People). There was just no air. We'd left the only trees back at the beer garden, and there wasn't a breeze to be found.

We walked what seemed like a mile but was in reality only about 100 yards back behind the main stage to the big peformers' tent, where as artists (did I tell you I was an artist?), we'd get free food, more free drinks, and a nice cool shady place to sit and eat. On the way I bumped into Jesse, Baby J Hackensaw, and said hello. We got into the tent and the line for the food buffet was about 150 people long. Boy, we artists sure do like free food.

Now, I have to tell you at this point that I'd been at Floydfest about 4 hours, heard music in the background but had only "seen" the band that played before we did, and I was already ready to go. I was hot, tired, hot, filthy, hot, and once had felt like I was maybe getting ready to fall to the ground. And I was hot. Oh, and I was also kind of whiny.

But Mr M and Laine had expressed interest in staying, so I was prepared to sweat it out, literally, but when the buffet line was 150 people long, I could see a little weariness hitting Mr M's face as well. I asked him what all and who all else he wanted to experience on the day, and he said, "You know, I'm kind of ready to go right now." So we discarded our plates and left the tent to find Laine, who as a non-artist (awww) had to go to an adjoining tent.

When we left our tent I saw two fellows standing talking to some folks, and I was so immediately in love with their look, I had to go up (yes, I did that on my own, must have been the heat) and say hello. They were wearing seersucker suits, bowties, little doody hats, and spiffy shoes. I introduced myself and told them I just had to meet two men dressed like that, and one said, "Oh, oddly enough, that's exactly how we meet most women!" They were incredibly nice, and were an act called the Two Man Gentlemen Band.

And so the trudge over rocks, embedded branches, holes, and more dirt began, back to the performers' tent to pick up our stuff, and Lord have mercy, the heat was just ungodly, and once again my head went "nyiing-nyiing-nyiing" like I might drop to the ground. And the walk to the shuttle bus pickup was no easier, in fact, it was a little harder because I was now laden with backpack and clarinet.

Now, when our bus deposited us back at the parking lot - let me stress, I wasn't going to ask. It was the only thing on my mind, but I wasn't going to ask. And God love Mr M for not making me ask. He said, "Listen, let's put all our gear right here, and you can stay with it while I walk back to get the car, and we'll load it down here." Oh, thank you, Mr M.

And so I plopped to the ground with the stuff, and sat there feeling my brain contract in the sun with every body movement, and also entertained myself by rubbing filth off my body, especially my legs. And I waited for Mr M. And waited.

And after about 25 minutes of waiting, I started to worry. And caught sight of a miniscule speck looking like Mr M walking sideways across the aisles of the field. "Oh, shit, he's lost the car," I said out loud.

And he had. 40 minutes later he came down the field in podmobile2, and no matter how horrid I felt and how badly I thought I was going to pass out when I stood up in the sun to load the car, all I could think about was how miserable he must have been walking up and down that field looking for our car.

We loaded the car, and I think I can honestly say I've never been so happy to leave a place in my life.

On the way home, I made jokes about how we were both like Pig Pen from Charlie Brown, walking around in our own little cloud of dirt, and when I put my sun visor down in the car, I popped up the mirror to look at my face. I swear, I looked like I was made up for a minstrel show. My face was totally brown, with the whites of my eyes shining out.

We finally got back to base camp, aka Mr M's, filthy and sweaty and hot and tired. Me more so than him. And I had something very important to think about.

I was supposed to go back to Floydfest the next day!

I have to be honest. I debated just bailing, just calling Susan and saying that Saturday had rendered me useless and that I'd gladly give my pass to another of her friends if they were interested.

But that would have been rude. Susan gave me her pass out of kindness. I should use that pass, dammit. And I told myself I was going to see the Hackensaw Boys on Sunday with Susan. And so I set my mind to head out again. With a new mindset.

First of all, and you'll love this, especially if you know me very well, I didn't shower. I can never remember being so filthy, and I didn't take a shower. I figured, "What the hell? After a walk into the venue, I'll be that dirty again, and so will everyone else, fuck it." And so I didn't bathe.

Sunday morning I got up early, pulled on some clothes and a hat, lathered myself with sunscreen, put an ID in one pocket and some cash in another, and headed off. I drank a bottle of water on the way for hydration, realizing that although pouring water over one's head was great instant gratification, actually drinking the water was better in the long run. And after getting lost no fewer than four times on Fearless SKB Leader Ed's printed directions, made it to the venue. With a pain in my stomach. (I don't know if it was the fact that I was stressed from getting lost so much or the fact that I'd eaten way too much fruit in an effort to rebuild my system after Saturday's excursion.)

I pulled into the parking field and discovered something miraculous. Apparently Sunday is Mass Exodus Day at Floydfest, so I got a parking spot on flat land about 75 yards from the school bus load center. Loaded onto the bus, talked to some more really nice people, got to the festival, handed in my pass, walked in the performers' entrance - and found a port-o-potty, where I had a serious gastrointestinal emergency event in a 120-degree port-o-potty, and folks, that's just not much fun.

However! It completely got rid of my stomach pain, and I entered through the old cool beer garden and headed immediately to the main stage where Susan's clogging troupe was performing. However, after getting lost all those times, I'd missed their set, probably only by minutes. I was bummed about that, but walked immediately to a water stand for more water, then stood by the thoroughfare to watch for Susan coming by. I was sure I'd see her heading out towards Hill Holler, the stage where the Hackensaws were playing. I looked and looked - no Susan.

I saw a large tent near where I was standing, loaded with people underneath, and there was a small corner of shade at the end, so I ducked under it to wait some more. And lo and behold, you'll never guess what was going on under that tent. It was a set by the above-mentioned nattily attired Two Man Gentleman Band! I plopped myself down right in the dirt there in the shade and caught almost all of their set, and let me tell you, those guys were so much fun it was impossible not to watch them with a big ol' goofy grin. They played a sort of 1920's jazz music with tremendously funny and clever lyrics, and they were so entertaining, I just thought they were terrific. (Check them out on iTunes, please.)

After that, it was getting to be time for the Hackensaws at Hill Holler, so I bought three more bottles of water (2 1/2 to drink, 1/2 to pour on my head) and headed that way. Now, the Hill Holler stage is a large slope of grass, and at the bottom of the slope is the stage. And I'm no fool, I'm 50 and fat and it was still extremely hot, so I knew dancing at the front of the stage was not for me on this day. Up at the top of the grassy slope are strategically placed railroad ties, and I found an empty one and sat down. Sure, the sun was beating down on me, but I was comfy on the tie, had a good view of both the stage and crowd (still looking for Susan!), and, I guess because God doesn't completely hate me, there was even a little breeze flowing by now and then.

I sat and watched the Hackensaws gather onstage, watched the crowd looking for my friend, and even met some more nice people sitting there on the railroad tie. (Really, I'm not kidding, I met such nice people at Floydfest. Lots of open, friendly folks.) And for a split second I thought, "You know, I probably could roam down there to dance a bit and....oh, come on! What the fuck am I thinking??!!?!" So I stayed where I was.

And you know, I never found Susan, and I so hope she was down there in the crowd dancing away, but in due time the Hackensaws started their set. And this was it - I was finally seeing the Hackensaw Boys at Floydfest! Their set was excellent. Just the right mix of old stuff and new. (Thanks for putting a good bit of new stuff into a short set, Boys!) They had so much energy and seemed to be having such a great time, and I've said it a hundred times, but they just bring such a joy of playing to anything they do.

I completely forgot I was sitting there with the blazing sun beating down upon me. I was just digging the music and watching the crowd having a blast enjoying them too. In fact, there was a point (remember the filth?) where the crowd started kicking up their heels in front of the stage, and they also kicked up so much dirt it looked like someone had started a fire in front of the stage and the smoke was rising upward. I couldn't stop laughing.

And so the Hackensaws ended. And it was time for me to beat it back to B'burg and back to reality. I was just steps away from the entrance to the site, to the old school buses, and I headed out, making yet more friends on the bus, getting back to the field and to the car, and when I left that parking field, I said, "Fuck the printed directions," and headed out my own way. The way I chose took me about 20 miles along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I'm telling you right now, people, you cannot drive the Blue Ridge Parkway without having your soul uplifted to the highest heights. You want to talk about beauty? Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Then it was to the town of Floyd Proper, up Route 8, back to B'burg to pick up Milo and my weekend's worth of luggage, and back home. Weekend completed.

And so now I can say I've done Floydfest. I don't know that I'd ever do it again. As these things go, I have to say that every single person I met, concert-goer, festival volunteer, vendor, everyone, was just great. As festivals go, I can't imagine any of them being any better run that this one. I'm just not sure I'm the "festival" kind of person.

But I'm so glad I went Sunday. It completely changed my memories of the experience that is Floydfest. It left me with a happy feeling.

Except for one small thing. Sunday night, blissfully back at the old Poderosa, after a shower so long my hot water started to wane, I still wasn't sure all the dirt was off of me.

Sadly, going back to Real Life on Monday, one can't be unabashedly dirt-covered.

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy Anniversary, Baby

I'm gearing up for the first of the two big weekends of my summer. This weekend it's - well, it's no Hackensaw Boys on Friday. I nixed that because logistically it made my brain hurt. I couldn't work out driving there and back, finding Milo accommodations, then still being halfway fresh on Saturday.

I have to be halfway fresh on Saturday because I have to be in R'noke at 1pm, and it's over 2 hours away. My clarinet buddy Mary and I are heading that way to meet with the lovely and extremely talented Cara. Cara plays piano.

Now, if I may slightly (or seriously) digress here, I don't think I've told you about the recital this weekend. My buddy Mr M came up with a wild idea some time ago. And it's a great idea, though I told him it wouldn't work. And so he's set out to prove me wrong, and gone ahead and organized this recital. It's called "Two to Nine," and features clarinets in ensembles of two, three, four, five, all the way up to nine players. The big finale will be a beautiful but complicated piece called "Monochrome III" by Peter Schickele, who some of you may know as PDQ Bach. Schickele also composes as himself, and as I like to say, for a man who made his fame and fortune writing comedy music, the really funny stuff he writes is the "serious" stuff he does as himself. Only the jokes are on the players of the music, not the audience. He just writes some really weird stuff, but I love it, and this piece is no exception.

Speaking of logistics, which I was above (no Hackensaws), the logistics of getting a recital of nine clarinets together is difficult, nay, I say impossible. We've yet to have a rehearsal with all nine players. A couple of them won't be in town until Sunday, the day of the recital. One of them was the principal clarinetist with the Richmond Symphony, so I'm not so worried about him, but.... But, well, he's going to be the concertmaster of the nine-player piece, so none of has practiced with him. The afternoon of the recital, we'll all head to that one golden rehearsal, try to figure out what the hell we're doing, and let the good times roll.

Anyway, let's get back to me being halfway fresh. As part of the "two" in the "Two to Nine" recital, Mary and I are going to recreate our duet from the Community Band's spring concert, only with a pianist. A pianist we've yet to meet with, until we find the lovely and extremely talented Cara on Saturday for one practice session. Then, well, as I said, let the good times roll.

(An aside here - we've been doing rehearsals for this thing for about 6 weeks or more, that's two trips to B'burg a week, folks, and Mary and I have been through pianist hell. In fact, the lovely and extremely talented Cara was a lifesaver to step in when she did. She fit us into an incredibly busy schedule.)

So. If I live through this weekend, and the jury's still out, I have two things I must do. The first is to go ahead and admit to Mr M that his brilliant but harebrained idea did in fact work, and that I was horribly wrong. And the second is to prepare myself for the next weekend.

The weekend after this one the Sauerkraut Band is going to play that hippie festival of music, happiness, and love, Floydfest. We've wanted to do this for years, and they've wanted us for some of those years, and it's finally going to happen this year.

Thing is, having never been there, I have no idea what to expect. I do know this - it's going to be hella hot and I'm going to be wearing a dirndl. And our entrance doesn't include parking, so I'll be schlepping all my SKB gear around on a shuttle bus. And the devil himself did the scheduling, because Saturday the Sauerkrauts are playing at the same damn fuckin' time as the Hackensaw Boys!

But no matter. I'm going to go with nothing more than a good time in mind. Then the next day, thanks to my Sauerkraut Band buddy Susan, I'll have a free pass for Sunday as well. Where our band is not playing and the Hackensaws are. So I'll get my 'Boys fix then.

Then I'm going to collapse for a while.

The Sunday of the recital, the 18th, is my dad's 80th birthday. As you may remember, our family has a long-standing tradition of not celebrating peoples' birthdays on their actual birthday, which is really good this time round.

And the Saturday before that, the 17th for those of you keeping score at home, is my mom and dad's anniversary. They will have been married 55 years, just count them, I know you won't. 55 years of complete wedded bliss and devotion, which is certainly mind-blowing in this day and age.

But it's another anniversary as well. It just happens to be the first anniversary of me and Milo.

Yep, it was July 17th of last year when I picked the little fella up at the shelter and brought him to his new home. I was so damn nervous. I was elated I'd found the dog for me, but I was nervous too. I hadn't had a puppy in a long time. Hell, I hadn't had a dog in some 15 years, and The Petster was about 12 when she died. That's a lot of time removed from puppydom.

Here's what I remember from that first day. Milo peed on me with anxiety when he was handed over to me at the pound. He had horribly unhealthy fur and a gnarled-up tail. I gave him a bath. He stole a piece of pizza off my plate and ran away with it. He cried for about 15 minutes when I went to bed, then was as quiet as a lamb.

By Sunday, he was already going to the door when he wanted out. In the next week, he was fetching.

And in the year that followed he got haircuts and combings and lots of love, and soon developed a beautiful coat and tail. He graduated from the Hi D Ho School for Dogs, probably by his cuteness more than any great obedience ability, but he still has that diploma. He's made people friends and doggie friends, and every mile I've logged to B'burg and back in the last year, he's been right beside me logging them too. He likes to watch TV with me, he's chewed his way through a hundred dog toys - but nary a shoe or piece of furniture. He's swallowed two footies and subsequently thrown them up, and I once had to pull a paper towel he'd eaten out of his ass.

We've been on many walks, though not nearly enough, we've cuddled in the chair nightly, and he's (reluctantly) let me take his picture in bandanas, hats, and a Snuggie. He's starred in a Comfy Chair movie.

And in what may be his biggest coup, after about six months, he totally won over my dad, who immediately disliked Milo because he was so against the idea of my having another dog. Now when I go over to visit, all Paw wants is to sit and pet Milo.

I've had a smarter dog, and a purely sweeter dog, but I've never had a happier, more adaptable dog. Milo has the perfect disposition.

Oh, he's stubborn. And I'm stubborn, and sometimes we lock horns. But we always make up within minutes.

He's such a great dog I often think he should have ended up with someone else. I often tell him that, while I'm ignoring him making a movie or running around late for work. "Milo, how did I ever get so lucky to find you? You are such a good dog you deserve a better person than me."

But there's a part of me that doesn't believe that for a minute. Someone else might have given him a bigger place to run, and more expensive dog toys, but no one could love him more. No one else would have composed The Milo Song to sing to him when he's anxious.

No, Milo and I are a match. If only we could make it 55 years.

Betland's Olympic Update:
* And now, it's time to take Milo out.

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Movie Time!

Hello, bloggees. Just popping in to tell you that I spent all of this week working on a new Comfy Chair movie.

The details, and the movie, are at The Comfy Chair Cinema. Go watch it, it was a labor of love (hi, Marla!) and a daunting task as well.

Hope you like it!