More Hardly Strictly, Less Bluegrass

I woke up this morning with my Grumpy Pants firmly in place.  No amount of prayer, positive thinking, or meditation would dislodge them.  Maybe it was PMS.  I said to my husband, “If I get my period at this festival today, I’m going to be a Very Angry Person.”  He replied, “But Bines, you’re already a Very Angry Person.”  By my subsequent reaction, he then filed that reply under Things Not to Say to My Wife, at Least Before She’s Had Her Coffee and Definitely Not If She Perhaps has PMS.

My next tactic was to try to combat the Grumpy Pants with donuts, Blue Bottle coffee, and That 70’s Show.  But as we were getting Olive ready to go out to get said treats, Joel started in on me about the aforementioned festival I was taking her to.  “I have a task for you today.”  “Okay.”  “I want you to count how many black people you see at this festival.”  Also, to our daughter, “I hope this doesn’t turn you into a hippie.  White people love them some Americana.”  Mostly these statements just made me laugh, but they also reminded me that I was going completely out of my comfort zone, for the entire day, with a one-year-old.

When I told my friends that I was going with Olive to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in Golden Gate Park, they were utterly shocked.  One of them said, “But you hate crowds, hippies, being outside, and bluegrass!”  I just said, “I am expanding, in my old age.”  The truth is that Joel had to mix an album all day and I wanted to spend time with my best friend Amanda so I just tagged along with whatever she was doing, which happened to be a crowded outdoor music festival.  She corrected me, “There won’t really be hippies there.  More like hillbillies.”  Wow, that really relieved me.  My tactic was to get to chill with her, and to try not to be too much of a whiny, contrary little bitch.  I even put Olive in some groovy red overalls, so we’d blend right in.  But I think gearing up for the festival is probably the real source of the Grumpy Pants condition I found myself in this morning.

There turned out to be little need for them.  I did, indeed, have a great time with my friend, and other friends came and joined made it even better.  I got to see the dude from House, Hugh Laurie, play some great bluesey music, and to see a band I’ve enjoyed for a decade but never been able to hear live, Broken Social Scene.  I also had to put up with a lot of things that were very out-of-my-element, but I am really trying, this year, to expose Olive to all kinds of new experiences, and let her be the judge of if they are awesome or not.  Turns out, she digs bluegrass, go figure.  When the real bango-picking music was on, she was dancing up a storm, and, to my horror, crawled over to a bunch of cowboy-booted beer-drinking dudes who were doing some sort of two-step so she could dance with them!  They didn’t step on her or eat her and we all laughed about it.  Whew.  It was close.

One of the reasons I hate being outside for prolonged periods is unpredictable weather.  Since I don’t have a car and would be walking & taking crowded buses all day, I dressed us for a cold SF day and didn’t bring back-ups.  At first, this seemed wise — when we arrived at the park and set up camp, it was drizzly and foggy.  But then, to everyone’s delight except for mine, the sun came out in all its glory, and shone down on us and the tens of thousands of music-lovers all day.

Olive gets down in the sun, with our friend Amanda.

I am either a delicate flower, or part vicious vampire, but either way, I am not a fan of being in the sun, and, for the most part, Olive shares my Vitamin-D aversion.  One of the annoying by-products of the sun is that men think it’s okay to take their shirts off.  Since I was a teenager, I have always been annoyed with this — it seems to me to be a brazen testosterone move.  I always imagine that next they are going to start beating their chests and saying “Me Tarzan!  You Jane!”  I just think that unless we are on the beach or unless you are cut & tatted like the dudes on Sons of Anarchy, keep your shirt on, dude.  I don’t need to see your weird useless nipples and that strange patch of hair some of you grow right above your butt.  I’m cool.

Overall, the people at this festival, though packed in like sardines and indeed overwhelmingly white (I sadly reported to Joel that I only counted 18 black folks, including Olive, out of thousands of festival attendees), were amazingly gregarious and sweet.  In fact, I would venture to say that this free festival could not exist as it does in other cities.  We are all so kind to each other here, that it works without a lot of policing.  However, people are a little weird around babies.  I got lots of glares while my blanket-neighbors were toking up “How dare you bring a baby to where I want to smoke my joint!  Now I feel bad when I should only feel glee.”, and I also got some weird stares when Olive said her favorite word, “Agua?” over and over.  “Why are you denying that gorgeous baby her water?” their horrified looks told me.  But there were also a lot of other babies there, with parents who looked like they did this shit all the time.  They had parasols, and sun hats, and all sorts of stuff that I don’t even think of because as a rule I avoid the sun like the plague.  Apparently, some parents just take their kids to events like this all the time!  I got schooled.

I'm so stoked that I got Olive to sleep during Broken Social Scene. But I am so not pumped about Shirtless Dude.

In the end, it was good to stretch myself, and we had a pretty good time.  I was really glad not to have to miss it like last year, when Olive was a newborn and Patti Smith was playing.  I had just read her memoir, Just Kids, and was so very inspired by her that I wrote her a poem, and really wanted to give it to her.  Alas, I could not go.  But here is her ode, in case she’s reading:


who glows and glowers

who wrote of her muses

became one to me

I had to ask for her book of poems at the Page desk

the volume like a relic was given only with collateral

and admonishments of its return.

Patti who stole steaks

and lifted tomes of her interest

her books are now kept under lock and key

at the SF Public Library.

Twenty minutes was not enough time

with your words like granular spit.

I want to roll them around in my mouth

to sit with each poem as I would a cousin

letting you get to that permeable part of me

sometimes gravy

sometimes grain.

So anyway, I was able to go this year, and I have the feeling it was really psychologically important for me, because I had a dream last night about missing out on things because of being a mother.  I was wearing Olive (which I did for over 4 hours today OH MY SWEET LORD my shoulders hurt), and these beautiful, young, blonde dancers I know were dancing all around me, drinking from water fountains (?) and basically being free while I couldn’t join in.  So, I knew I needed to stretch myself today, to do something new, despite the challenges involved with toting a baby.  And, she loved it.  And guess what?  Maybe I did, too.

2 thoughts on “More Hardly Strictly, Less Bluegrass

  1. Okay, so you’ve done bluegrass with hillbillies, and I think you’ll be all set to come visit the Bluegrass State now! Except you would never get to 18 at a bluegrass festival here. I agree with you on shirtless guys – even if they look like they work out, it’s so in your face.

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