A Month of New Things – Catching up on Weeks 21 – 23 and BonnaroOo 2013!

Weeks 21, 22, and 23:

          In the month that has past since my last New Things blog post, summer arrived in DC with guns (suns?) blazing. Each weekday at 5:00pm, I ache to escape my windowless office to grab a drink with friends on a crowded roof deck or bar patio. Sadly, law firm life is rarely amenable to the District’s infamous happy hour culture. I’ve compromised by spending the bulk of my weekends outside. And so, my long absence from the blog can be explained by both my busy work schedule and my Florida-girl proclivities.

         Never fear, I’ve stayed true to the 52 New Things mission. During Week 21, I fired a handgun at a gun range in Tennessee. Although my hands shook as I gripped the barrel for the first time, after a few rounds I became more comfortable and tested my ability to survive the zombie apocalypse. In Week 22, I ate brunch at the historic Gadsby’s Tavern in Old Town Alexandria – a quaint establishment frequented by George Washington during the late 1700s. My friend and I sipped on beer that was allegedly brewed to bolster the spirits of Revolutionary troops. Finally, during Week 23 I attended my first-ever Washington Nationals game. While I cheered on our local team against the Twins and feasted on spicy corn-on-the-cob, my smart-phone met an unfortunate end on the hard concrete of the “standing room only” section.

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         The most memorable moments from those three weeks, however, occurred during my brief visit to Nashville for my nephew’s first birthday. My sister placed little Andrew in a highchair in the yard and presented him with a “smash” cake. The birthday boy was not amused – apparently Andrew is the only one-year old who isn’t delighted at the thought of shoving cake into his ear. Fortunately, big sister Caroline was happy to take over the role of taste-tester.

         Per usual, I spent my first night sharing Caroline’s “big-girl bed” with the diminutive toddler. At 3:00am, Caroline tossed and turned in the throes of a nightmare. Before I could gently wake her, she sat up, rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, and whispered into the darkness, “I’m not scared.” She then curled her tiny body into my chest and went back to sleep. The next morning, my sister’s husband explained that Caroline recently started saying the same thing whenever she becomes frightened. No one taught her to do this. Chalk it up to yet another life lesson from a two-year old – facing your fears with a bit of bravado is often the key to overcoming them.

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Week 24 – Bonnaroo 2013.

         During Week 24, I crossed off a big-ticket item from the original 52 Things List (#28 – attend a large outdoor music festival) and spent four days camping in the blistering June heat at Bonnaroo 2013 in Manchester, TN. The lineup was strong – with Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and Mumford & Sons serving as headliners. And from noon until 3am, each day was packed with lesser-known artists who often help me wile away the workday – Alt_J, Phoenix, Beach House, Delta Rae, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the Lumineers, and of Monsters and Men.

         The first thing that struck me about Bonnaroo was the logistical puzzle it posed. In the weeks leading up the trip, my friend Mark and I attempted to compile the perfect supply list. Yet, half of the things we bought went unused. We arrived on Thursday afternoon to a welcome sight – a screened-in area filled with foodstuffs, a large grill, and chairs and hammocks protected from the sun’s glare by two large canopies. Mark’s cousin Ferrol, the recognized “mama bear” of the group, smiled and said “This is my seventh year at Bonnaroo. Every year you learn another lesson about how to do it right.”

         On the supply side, my crowning achievement was the purchase of 800 baby wipes and dry shampoo. Four days in the hot sun on dusty farmland leaves you feeling like you’ll never be clean again. I went to bed shivering under a towel because I didn’t expect the nighttime temperatures to drop as much as they did, and was forced out bed by 7:30am when my tent became an oven. Yet, on Friday morning, I gave myself a baby-wipe bath and declared that this wasn’t so bad. By Saturday, however, I gladly waited in line for 30 minutes to pay $7 for an ice-cold shower. Although I returned for a (blessedly) warm shower on Sunday, by then Mark had fully embraced his inner hippy. Clutching his knees as we sat watching Beach House, he said “You know, after four days, you really get used to being dirty and hot and uncomfortable. Keep the music coming and I could be this gross forever.” Although I’m not sure whether I’d embrace a week-long ‘Roo, his next comment made me think – “We’re too used to being comfortable all of the time – controlled air, hot showers, three square meals – but its okay to be uncomfortable sometimes, I think its a good thing.”

         Another remarkable thing about Bonnaroo was the attendees themselves. I would call it a “human tapestry,” however, that may an overly grandiose way to describe a woman with a painted face dancing in a lace wedding dress or a 70-year old man strutting unashamed in a tie-die loincloth. On the first night, a girl with whom I’d had a pleasant five-minute conversation exclaimed, “It was really nice to meet you, I’m going to name my first-born child Lacey!” In such company, I wasted little time worrying about being judged for my rather dubious dance moves. It is impossible to feel silly at Bonnaroo. As I watched the crowds pulse with movement, I thought about how innate the love of music and dancing is in all of us. For example, even as a one-year old, little Caroline would wiggle and stomp her feet to music while laughing from the sheer joy of it.

         And now we’ve come to the music itself. Mumford & Sons, one of my favorite bands and a Bonnaroo headliner, had to cancel their set at the last minute because their bassist needed surgery to remove a blood clot from his brain. Jack Johnson filled in for them. Although admittedly I enjoyed “Bubble Toes” when I was 16, at 25 I was less than enthused about the replacement. It seems I wasn’t the only one – at 7:00am on Saturday morning, I overheard someone outside my tent remark to a friend “That skeleton costume of yours is sick dude. You should wear it tonight, maybe it will scare Jack Johnson away.”

         I wont waste words trying to break down the nuances of particular acts. If you’re eager for a recommendation, Alt_J is a band that I’ve been listening to with ever growing frequency before and after the festival. I was also struck by the unique make-up of the band Delta Rae – rather than having a single front man, five members of the six-piece band share the spotlight and, consequently, their unique sound. The result is an extremely varied album featuring the melodic and soulful “Morning Comes,” and the dark and gritty, “Down By the River.”

         However, the high point of Bonnaroo was Paul McCartney’s performance. At almost 71 years old, Sir Paul is no spring chicken. Yet he put on an amazing show for 3 hours. I got a bit emotional as the band played “Blackbird” and “Hey Jude” – I never thought I would see a BEATLE play the Beatles.* Between songs, McCartney told a story about Jimi Hendrix’s on-stage request to have Eric Clapton tune his guitar. On playing in the Red Square decades after the Beatles were banned in the USSR, McCartney remarked “Those ruskies sure like to party.”

When you’re growing up, you never think you’re going to meet the Defense Minister of Russia … The defense minister comes up to me and say, “The first record I ever bought was Love Me Do.”

McCartney then recalled another officer telling him that he’d learned English from Beatles records – the man shook his hand and said in a guttural Russian accent, “Hello … Goodbye.”

         After a powerful performance of “Live and Let Die” replete with fireworks, the band made their exit. The crowd didn’t move. Slowly we began to sing “Hey Jude” – beckoning Sir Paul back to the stage. At first, he returned alone, a guitar strapped to his torso. “You want to party some more?” he said, shrugging, “Okay.” McCartney then proceeded to pluck a fan’s toy Walrus from the crowd and serenade the toothy stuffed animal with the ballad “Golden Slumbers.”

* On a side note, McCartney is playing at the Nationals Park on July 12th, I’ve convinced several friends that they NEED to go, so I’ll be seeing Sir Paul perform again shortly. Yes, it was that good.

         On Sunday afternoon, Mark and I rested our aching feet and watched some the last few performances while reclining on the grass. I climbed into the car that night, dusty and dirty and yearning for my own bed. Since our cell phones had been dead for days, we called our parents to let them know that we survived. When asked about the experience, Mark intoned – “Oh, It was awful. And I’m definitely going every year.” My sentiments exactly. 

Roooooo

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