About a week ago, I went to a music festival in Arrington, Virginia called Lockn’. Between all the sweating, awkward finger-snapping (my specialty dance move) and *tent spiders, I realized something: I am lucky to have friends who look back.
If you’ve ever been to a festival, or even a concert, then you know the feeling of walking through a crowd and suddenly losing your friends, your wallet, and your left pinky-toe. One minute, you’re with the group and the next, you’re being jostled around and have to make friends with a guy in a lion suit who truly believes his name is **Mufasa. And fucking hell, it honestly might be.
I’m small. Small enough that when I go to the book store, they ask me to join their middle school summer reading program. 99% of the time at festivals I have no idea what the musicians look like, but I have memorized a few tall dudes’ ***neck tattoos. It’s easy to lose me in the sea of drunk, sweaty bodies. I always see that one weirdo at festivals who is alone, dancing like a car dealership balloon man, or walking tent to tent, selling magic crystals with his crack, and I wonder, did your friends just lose you in the crowd a few years back?
But my friends look back.
My group, mostly guys at stuff like this, all in their gold-bond, beer guzzling glory, look back over their shoulder every few steps when we move through the crowd to make sure I’m still there, and I inwardly smile every time. It may be simple, and it may just be common decency (harder to find than you think), but it’s nice, and dammit, that matters.
Festivals are bizarre. A good example is the man who dressed in a ghillie suit at night and hid in the bushes, waiting to casually extricate himself from the greenery and walk across the road as all the high people passed by. Or “The Woods”, where people stare deeply into the eyes of a Jerry Garcia tapestry, seemingly praying to the ghost Jer-Bear. You’re packed in tight with people you don’t know and if there was a fire, I would certainly be the first to die, trampled beneath hordes of ghillie-suit wearing, Jerry worshiping, puddles of sweat on legs. In general, it’s stressful and it overwhelms my senses. Sometimes I brave the port-o-potties (where piles of crap like soft-serve await) just so I can experience that cool blast of air when I step out, which is silly, because it only feels cool because the port-o-potty is a veritable sauna. Half the time, I’m in love with the music, completely wrapped up in it, and the other half, I want to cry. But at this particular festival, I learned the secret to life.
One morning at our campsite, one of my friends said the following: “The secret to life is putting onions in the freezer. You’ll never cry again.”
And suuure, he may have been referring to cooking and the danger of chopping onions, but I’m still going to stick an onion in my freezer just in case, because I have friends who look back to make sure I’m safe, and the least I can do is take their advice. And who knows, maybe I’ll cry a little less.
*I didn’t notice that the tent spiders had colonized in my tent until day five. So basically, things got intimate.
**True story. I met Mufasa in college. He was strangely inspirational in his lion suit, and because of him, I don’t give a piss what you think about my outfit.
*** Most common neck tattoo: “Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Really, really.