I really go for the people. It's so much fun how you make friends there who you might not even think about 51 weeks of the year, but you're really close to for the other week. I camped with John and Katie, siblings who have been going their whole lives and probably my two best Fest friends. And some of John's and Katie's friends. And the K-C family, who I adore; especially Phil, the guitar-playing father who manages to relax me just by hanging out with me more than anyone I've ever met, and Coral, the ultra-cute 14 year old daughter. And the other few people who always camp with us, and who are always good to see. Also around were conana and his brother, and deled, our little NHC contingent of 4. And not much farther were sherbieroni and gutwoman; and just a bit farther up the hill were jdcohen, Brian, ruthonfire, and the rest of the Habonim contingent. Coincidentally, Kelilah and RayRo and their respective boyfriends happened to be nearby as well.
The campgrounds really are crazy. The people I camp with tend to stay rather chill, which is how I like it, though it's fun to live it up a little too. I celebrated with Pat and ladykat81 and her family, as their campsite threw a toga party in honor of the 1,925th anniversary of the fall of Pompeii. Apparently Katie and Josh got married, and then Brie and Seth got married, and then Katie and Brie got married too. By an actual (Universal Life Church) minister. But the only wedding I saw was of two Lower Merion people. Both Jewish, so of course there was a tapestry held up as a chuppah, and the minister (!) kept calling for loud, drunken, communal shouts of "shalom" instead of "amen". Josh tells me that that particular wedding, while not kosher by Jewish standards, could actually become legal if the happy couple signs something and the minister sends it off within 60 days, but I'm somehow skeptical. And yes, there are the random screams, picked up by others and carried through the campgrounds, every 15 minutes or so until at least 4am. And lots of drumming from all directions. And the random girl who thought she overheard me say that I have some valium to spare. And apparently Coral and zestifyingagent and others their age had their own sights to see and experiences to experience, good and bad. And I'm pretty sure I saw splizwarf at least twice, but by the time I determined it was him, I never saw him again. And Carissa and her pet turtle who's probably been to more Fests than I have. Really, it's not at all surprising that there are people who never leave the campgrounds all weekend. And lucky me, as a member of a volunteer committee that has a lot of stuff to do early in the week, I got to go up on Monday and enjoy the campground for six nights! There's nothing quite like it; there really isn't.
But on Friday, the music finally started. It's funny, you get so used to just hanging out with people, living in tents, and relaxing in the shade that you forget the real reason you're at Fest. Especially compared to the Havurah Institute: Fest, for me, is exactly the same length as Institute, which you attend ostensibly in order to take classes. Those classes are almost completely over by 11am Friday of Institute week, but by that time during Fest, the music is just getting started. And the music was much, much better than I expected. Though I wasn't expecting much, having heard of no more than 2 or 3 of the artists beforehand.
The best acts: Kris Kristofferson, who I'd never heard of before, but apparently I should have. He had the most beautiful singer-songwriterish songs, and I've now decided that he's my own personal Phil Ochs. Plus, to hear Bobby McGee (yes, it was originally about a girl) by the original artist was damn cool. Natalie MacMaster, a fiddler from Cape Bretton, an area in Nova Scotia of Scottish ancestry. She really had incredible energy, and played some great stuff. It reminded me of when Eileen Ivers was there three years ago, complete with standing ovation, except I think I liked Eileen a bit more. Brave Combo, a polka (!) band from Texas. When I think polka, I generally think Weird Al; and while this wasn't quite as parody-laden, it was really just as fun and non-serious. Dunno if I'd buy a CD, but I'd definitely hunt them down to see them live. And, of course, DaVinci's Notebook. Most didn't know this until they were done, but their Fest concert last night was their farewell show. We all think they took the Moxy Fruvous comparisons a bit too much to heart. So sad, even if two of them are still going. They could've dominated the a capella humor niche for years to come.
Also fun to listen to: Cindy Cashdollar, also from Texas, who rocked out on a steel table guitar. John Prine, who was just generically good, though it was enjoyable to hear Angel From Montgomery by the original artist. Mike Agranoff is a crazy old hippie. Mike Miller sang about 5 different versions of "hineh ma tov" at the Rise Up Singing workshop, an 11:00am thing with about 15 people in the audience. Full Frontal Folk can't handle a big stage, but they're still fun on a small one. We're About Nine could be quite the folk rock band in a year or two. Girlyman too, maybe, though I liked WA9 more. And Wild Asparagus was fun to watch on the dance stage, though they weren't anything special in concert.
Friday night, of course, was Shabbat, and I was determined to make it something special for me, even in a weird environment such as Fest. I had determined earlier in the week that I was able to walk among the tents in the campground at night sans flashlight and still not fall on my face after being tripped by random guy wires, so I decided that I'd be able to keep Shabbat in almost the ways I normally do. No electricity for me.
So at 6:30, during the break between afternoon and evening concerts, all the Habos and random other Jews on our volunteer committee got together for candlelighting and such. I brought grape juice and challah and commissioned conana to bring candles, since the usual organizer wasn't there this year, but it turned out someone else had it covered, with fancy candlesticks and everything. Candlelighting, then kiddush and hamotzei, but I didn't want to do it then, because I wasn't ready to eat yet. In fact, I wanted to do Kabbalat Shabbat. So I announced that I'd be saying K"Sh, if anyone wanted to join me, and 11 people did! Yes, while 20 feet away the culturally Jewish, Habonim types were singing Israeli pop songs as their way to welcome Shabbat, we had a minyan at Fest. RayRo's boyfriend Baruch (!) led it. People looked antsy, so I essentially dismissed everyone before Ma'ariv, which I said by myself (Baruch wanted to wait until nightfall), followed by getting in line for food, kiddush, and motzei for myself. But yay, a minyan at Fest! And there'll be another one next year because lots more NHC types will come, right?
Saturday morning, said Shacharit by myself (Psalm 146 to Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, just like Ben taught me), then got in the breakfast line, kiddush again, and Shabbos "lunch" at about 9:45am. Then a lovely day of walking around in my kippah instead of a Flyers hat, and occasional random Jews stopping me to wish me a good shabbos. The Habonim types got together again at 6:30pm for a too-early Havdalah, but RayRo and deled and an Orthodox-looking family I met and an Orthodox guy who was camping with them decided to make our own havdalah at 8:30, taking a break from the evening concert. Absolutely beautiful. Then the Orthodox guy and I walked back to the campground, where he showed me the still-full cooler of kosher meat he'd brought. Yowza. I should've partooken. Oh well.
Oh, here's one story I can't get away with not telling: Trapper, the dirty old man who everyone loves, and who usually camps with us, wasn't camping this year. He got married this year. (He and I had this conversation at one point: "Hey, I hear you got married; congrats!" "Yeah, do you know to who?" "I think I heard the name Bobbie?" "Oh, shit, I married a guy?") I'd never met the wife before this year, but she was very sweet. So he didn't camp because they bought a house not far from Fest, and he invited a couple of us to take a shower there if we ever needed.
So he and I went over to his place on Friday afternoon for me to wash up a bit. I went in the bathroom, locked the door, took a wonderful shower, and got dressed. Then I couldn't unlock the door. 20 minutes later, the door was off its hinges and resting up against the bathroom wall, the antique-looking key was broken off in the lock, there were tools everywhere on the floor, the window had been climbed through by both me and Trapper, I almost got bitten by a dog who was freaked out by all the banging, and I think Trapper wanted to kill me. Even though I swear I didn't do anything wrong. I felt so terrible. We rode back to Fest in silence, after I was uninvited from his house. I apologized to Bobbie, who was actually a little consoling and polite about it all.
The next night, Bobbie was in a car accident on the way to Fest. She ended up okay, just really bruised from the air bag. But we didn't know that at first, and we were all really worried for awhile. So Trapper's bathroom door is probably still unhinged and propped up somewhere, the lock stuck, but he's got a lot more to worry about. Man, I feel so bad; I wish I could've done more...
But that was just the one blip on the week. And, oh well, now it's over, and I'm back to regular life. Was at work for 4 hours yesterday, and 8 today, and so on. And so on and so on, since I won't necessarily have another vacation for over 11 months. But so is life. I'm feeling a little under the weather now; probably because of the various environmental effects of Fest, especially the sunburn. I'm a little too red on my back and legs. It's a bit of a Fest souvenir, I suppose. But so is this blue plastic wristband on my right arm, which will probably be staying on at least a little while longer.