Today was Day 2 of the Hardly Bluegrass Music Festival in Golden Gate Park. I was there and it was wonderful.
There were all sort of people: young hippies with long hair wearing tank tops and straw hats with rolled up sides, old hippies in tie-dye, clean-cut collegiate types in chinos, young women in sundresses, older men sporting fedoras, younger women sporting fedoras, old guys with military bearing and crew cuts, suburbanites in polo shirts. A middle-aged woman in Lands’ End cords and tee.
We sat next to a circle of about ten young people, all with tattoos and most with multiple piercings, almost all dressed in black. They leaned back, each with a large dog beside them, and passed joints and smoked cigarettes and drank PBR. Several of them had a hairstyle I had never seen before — what the Rocket Scientist christened a dreadhawk — shaved sides with a strip of dreadlocked hair in the center. Behind us sat a family of four: a young couple with toddlers, two sweet little girls who blew bubbles and refused to take naps. There was a man who walked by selling homemade samosas, three dollars each or 2 for 5. The Resident Shrink bought several: crunchy exterior, soft-spicy interior. We were in an ocean of people: some dancing and swaying to the music; others, much to my annoyance, talking.
After a while, we moved closer to the stage to hear the act we had really come for, The Chieftains. I lay back, closing my eyes, feeling the cool ground beneath my shoulders and breeze on my face, smelling the grass — and the occasional waft of the other grass (it is San Francisco, after all), hearing the whine of the fiddle and the lilt of the flute and the sharp rap of the heels of the Irish dancers. I opened my eyes and saw people dancing… dancing is contagious, the same as laughing.
I kept thinking about another concert ages and ages before, when I was another person in another time.
I sat on the damp ground on the Esplanade in Boston facing the bandstand, hours before the annual Pops 4th of July concert. We were there, holding spots so we could be close enough to see the stage clearly. The rain had stopped for the moment, although it would later recur. I was joined by my boyfriend (the future Rocket Scientist), our friend Rob (who would later be the best man at our wedding) and our friend Eric. Rob brought the imperfectly spiked watermelon (the vodka had only spread through one third of the fruit), Eric the chicken Kiev.* I had never had even heard of chicken Kiev before, and although it was cold it was delicious. Eric was a budding gourmet and quite decided on matters of food — he told the good Catholic girl that Jews did not eat mayonnaise on anything.** We had sandwiches and drinks, and waited through gray skies and occasional showers for the Pops.
It was worth it — the 4th of July concert always is, if for nothing other than Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture.” The church bells, the fireworks, the cannon; no one does this better than the Pops. In spite of the fact that I got slightly sick, probably from spending so much time wet and chilly, I had a blast. It is one of my sharpest memories from college which, given that my memory is a hunk of swiss cheese, is saying something. More than the day I arrived on campus, more than the night I broke my ankle,*** more maybe even than graduation, that 4th of July stands out clearly in my mind.
So much time has gone since then. I am not the woman I was, nor yet the woman I expected to become. This memory, as small as it is, is such a part of me, who I was, who I am, who I will become.
Maybe I’ll remember today just as well years from now. I hope so.
* Eric is Jewish (and proudly so) but it only occurred to me today… chicken Kiev is not kosher.
**Eric was quite decided on many things, in the way that very bright 21-year-olds at elite colleges tend to be. Once, standing in the Los Angeles home of his best friend’s mother-in-law (who was from Vegas), he grandly announced that no real culture existed in America outside of the island of Manhattan. That statement didn’t go over too well.
***Of course, I was really drunk when I broke my ankle, so that could be part of the reason it’s a little fuzzy.