Tuesday, July 29, 2003

What I Did On My Summer Blogcation

A week ago in the midst of what we in the technical field like to call a "kablooey" -- see below and then back father still to track the recent almost-demise and eventual ressurection of Not All Who Wander Are Lost -- I stopped blogging. There wasn't much point, really -- the good folks at blogger were understandably slow in helping a barely-paying customer with a violently unusual problem, but in the meantime, I was locked out of my primary blogspace and then rather quickly lost the password for a gifted second: I had nowhere to publish, and plenty to do.

Sorry. Really. I missed you all, and it's good to be back.

There's no real way to do justice to over a week of whirlwind summer in a single backblog (definition: any blog entry which tries to recapture a series of events just on the verge of mental overripeness, often resulting in a long boring entry which no one really ever reads), and not much point besides. But the highlights are pretty bright, so let's recap, shall we?

Saturday, June 19th, the Green River Festival in nearby Greenfield, MA. Discoveries that day include sparse funk band Inner Orchestra, Kris Delmhorst, who I came back to for a workshop set after being wowed by her early slot on the mainstage, and the joy of Patty Griffin in live performance (I've loved her forever but never made a show before); rediscoveries included They Might Be Giants, who always put on a great show, and Amelia, a beloved ex-student who also appeared the following weekend at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival. Rekindled my love of kettle corn and Burnt Sugar and Cream ice cream from the traveling Herrell's double decker ice cream bus.

But Green River was just a warmup for the summer's main event. Sunday, June 20th found us packing up the camper, dropping off the dog and picking up Virginia at the in-laws, errand-running. We left early the next morning, stopping at diners and roadside stores to keep the baby happy and our nicotene cravings fulfilled. And from Monday to Monday? The four of us -- yours truly, the now-one Willow, fond wife Darcie, her sister Virginia -- lived neo-nomadically out of blue tarps and screentents, campers and cars, in the damp green air of a horsefield in Hillsdale, New York, where every year the hordes descend for the Falcon Ridge Folk Festival, and we are there to greet them, and dwell among them, and listen as they sing.

Condensing Falcon Ridge into anything resembling a readable blogentry is impossible -- I live a year in one week each summer. We set the camper up against a creekbed and a road, next to Dave and then Virginia, right where we had been two years ago, but from there the narrative thread goes awry; it is not enough to say For three days we camped and worked as the festival slowly came to almost-life around us; for four days afterwards the festival raged as we rode the wave partially underground, like woodland elves on other faraway fields., and the blog format is antithetical to you had to be there or anysuch. The best one can say is that, in this time as in all timeless times, a week passed, the community around us grew and waned as a constant.

But I suppose to some extent life fell into three overlapping but identifiable categories: Work, Music, and, above and between it all, Leisure.

Work at a festival like this is lower than everyfest average, about 20 hours total, for which you get free admission and camping, free albeit meager and meat-free rations, undying friendship, and the best camping spots. Darcie painted festival signs in the shade of the central staff tent, including one which said "Baby Zone" and another which said "Today is Wednesday" and then later "Today is NOT Wednesday" and then by Friday "Today is (still) NOT Wednesday / please see the festival information tent for further temporal/spatial reference" which we hung outside our camping area. I checked in volunteers in the bigger tent out by the parking lot as they arrived and then, later, checked in the performers for a few hours each festival day, shaking Richard Shindell's hand, being introduced to Dar Williams' husband Mike (Mark?), watching the night rain with the members of We're About Nine, and putting wristbands on all of them. Dave, our Falcon Ridge Buddy -- we know him only from there, and see him never otherwise, but camp and spend all our time with him there every year -- stood security watch at the vegetarian-only staff meal tent entrance. Virginia watched the baby.

The Music at this year's fest began slow, with not much worth seeing Thursday but a late-night Patty Larkin (I got her some water later in the staff tent) and Richard Thompson, who was dressed exactly like a mime but was so much louder he brought his own stage amps and speakers. But over the next few days the rich diversity of two stages and a dance stage captured me, as it always does. Highlights included the discovery of last year's Emerging Artist Showcase winners Girlyman, a homophillic trio of powerful harmony, song structure, production and energy whose live performance and whose new album I cannot recommend any higher; also Richard Shindell, who I've seen before only peripherally but was much more impressed with. DaVinci's Notebook and Eddie From Ohio were as always rocking and hilarious; Railroad Earth and Vassar Clements bluegrassed the heck out of some jam band music (or vice versa), Dar, Kaplansky, and fest-fave John Gorka were predictably pleasant. Tuesday when the line was drawn between camp and stage seating we had pitched the fifth tent up along the line from stage, a freak miracle of timing which allowed us to closely watch the music that followed from the comfort of our own sun-and-rain-blocker without having to wait for three hours behind a rope for the 9:30 daily mainstage rush; it was the closest I'd been to Greg Brown since I shook his hand at the last festival we attended together, and nice to be able to drink beer at the otherwise dry festival under the shady screen. Virginia even got me to the dance tent late late late one night, where I managed to spin through a fifteen minute contra without bashing her into more than a dozen people.

And Leisure? Dave and Ginny and I spend hours together a day, sometimes wandering the grounds making friends with the food vendors, mostly just sitting around at the main path-side tentsite and watching the world eventually walk by. It was a bit like holding court; people would walk into our domain, and would instigate speech or not, and some of them sat, and some just said "hi," but all smiled, and were appreciative, and approvingly and jealously watched the baby walk among us always smiling, not like those other sometimes-grumpy otherkids we sometimes heard late at night from a few tents over, loud in the songcircle nights. Willow was a joy and a marvel, and we bought her a kazoo which she buzzed on while she danced and waved at the music. My parents, active and eager cajun and contra dancers for whom Falcon Ridge is large-scale but otherwise a bit minor-league, I suspect, took us all out to really-nice dinners twice and watched the baby when we needed naps and sat and watched the music with us sometimes when they weren't dancing. I found some beloved ex-student working in the Burrito Booth, wore a new denim hat, slept little, was happy.

We stayed overnight on Monday the 27th and packed up in the morning with a teary goodbye to Dave for another 51 weeks, and went to get Willow a passport in Keene today, and that doesn't even get to the heart of things, but it's late here and probably there; I think now we've caught up and can go forward, that it's time to get back on the pony and ride like the wind. Much of the next two weeks are inherently, powerfully blogworthy -- a trip to Bangladesh, another to Alaska via Vancouver; the start of a new job and a new school year; a new autumn. Any or each of these might cause another blogout/blackout, to be sure -- I know of no network access outside of the school where we'll work in Dhaka, and suspect not much will be available on the waters of Alaska as we cruise. But each is surely worth waiting for in it's own right, and, well, thanks for coming, y'all, and for waiting longer.

posted by boyhowdy | 7:19 PM |

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