I want to blog a little, even though I’m still feeling like someone’s filling a water-balloon inside my head. If I don’t, I’ll forget about the weekend, and filling in the blanks will feel cursory instead of fun.
But whew. I’m tired. Been up for thirty minutes and I’m ready to go back to bed.
So I had Thursday night off, and managed to get about four hours sleep before hopping on a plane to Portland. I will never fly without my iPod Shuffle again. All the difference in the world. You can watch small children cry and feel badly for them and not for yourself. In the breaks between songs you can hear the guy behind you transact business with words like "profit-shared edge of margin" and "bastard son of a bitch" and just think about how great the next song is going to be.
A friend of a friend named Robin, who was passing through Portland agreed to pick me up at the airport when I got in at nine am. She was driving around the Pacific Northwest in her ’64 Dodge Dart, and while I had to admit it was weird to be picked up by a total stranger, it worked out great. We didn’t even head straight for the festival, since Lala, Camilla and Emily were still driving up from California and were hours and hours away.
So we went into Portland proper and ate breakfast and shopped, including at this fab store, the Portland Outdoor Store.
All the western wear your heart could desire. At prices our thin purses could not support, of course, but gorgeous nonetheless.
Robin was at this point my new best friend, confidences and sex stories shared by eleven AM, and we traipsed all over the city, my yarn-dar even finding The Yarn Garden, a beautiful store with an attached coffee shop. While I only walked out with one hank of BearFoot, I saw a bunch of yarn I’d never seen before in stores, including some stray New Zealand companies I’d never heard of, and some Argentinian ones that were new to me. Now, you know, when you walk into a yarn shop and find something you’ve never seen before, that’s a good day.
In the late afternoon, we decided to head to the Pickathon. See, at many, many festivals I’ve attended, I’ve been the first one there, and I’ve been the one to have to pick the camp spot. I HATE picking the camp spot. For the rest of the damn weekend, I always wonder and worry — Is this okay? Is your tent level? Sorry, but there wasn’t any shade….. So we were glad when the girls got there first and set up a spot. I had been stressed about finding them. At Live Oak, we always camp in roughly the same place and it’s maybe only 3000 attendants. But at Strawberry, with more than 5000 people camping cheek-to-cheek, it’s almost impossible to find your camping mates if you don’t have a detailed hand-drawn map. Lala just said to drive in and look near the RVs. I panicked a little, but swallowed it down.
So we drove down the dirt roads (arms hanging out the red and black vintage Dart, Dolly Parton on the radio, not much better) and got to the front gate. Where there was no line. They banded our arms and we drove on. To the meadow. Where there were, like, no cars.
Dude, this was the SMALLEST festival I’d EVER been to. I’d guess maybe 800 people attended. There was this huge meadow and little clumps of cars parked randomly through it. I was SO excited.
We found their cars, pitched our tents, and called our friends who were up at the stage. Yep. Cell reception at a bluegrass festival. Also: We drove out of camp to the Safeway that was less than two miles away when we needed D batteries. I have a new favorite way to camp.
So that was our drinkin’ night. Everyone has to have one, and oh, did we. The music was great, the pulled pork was fantastic, and the playing went on pretty late. There was a good jam at a van parked nearby (when we were putting up our tents, they tromped over and said, rather mightily, "We’re musicians, and we’re going to be playing late all night, in case you might be disturbed…."), but all I did was sing and knit, since I didn’t feel like messing up on the guitar.
I wore my new favorite shirt:
(They have a new CD out, you know. And they’ll be playing for FREE along with everyone else that’s great in the bluegrass/old-time world at Hardly-Strictly in October. Seriously, check out that link. Dolly? Ralph? Gillian? Doc? Emmylou? Robert Earl Keen AND Steve Earle? All for FREE? My mind still boggles. But that’s not the festival I was talking about.)
So I found out one really important thing: I am never camping without an air mattress again. We didn’t want to talk about it too much, since our friends had nothing but blankets under their sleeping bags, but the air mattress? Up there with stitch markers, yo. We were SO comfortable. And warm. And it was a queen size, so it was even bigger than at home!
But I found out one other important thing: Do not EVER leave an autoharp next to the bed, where someone (me) might roll onto it in the middle of the night. Worst wakeup call ever. Damn hippies.
On Saturday, once we got over our collective hangovers, we enjoyed the music which was nonstop. Seriously. I’ve never seen anything like it. There was a stage in front, the main stage. If you were to spin on your heel, there was a small stage at the back of the music area. Between sets on the main stage, they put a band on the smaller stage, so you could seriously just turn around and listen. That little stage’s band would play until the main stage’s sound check was done, and then the bigger stage would play. From 11am until 1:30am, there was non-stop music. No midafternoon break, just music.
And here’s how small it was. I took these standing in one spot. The people in back are far away because those were the only shade structures, but they can see the stage just fine. Here’s looking back:
And turning around to look forward:
At any point all weekend, one could walk up to the stage and plop down and watch.
And Lala’s two biggest musical heroes were there, Danny Barnes (banjo player extraordinaire, of the defunct Bad Livers) and Cathy Irwin, of Freakwater, Lala’s fave band ever. I will not give the punchline away, because I said I wouldn’t (but SHE will), but I know I can safely say that she met them both. And that her banjo, seen here, was signed by Danny.
And because Camilla has bigger cojones than anyone in the world, we got backstage and met Jolie Holland, seen here with a Be Good Tanya:
It was all just too much.
See? Just too much.
Lala and I drove back together on Sunday. It’s one long-assed drive, I can tell you that. But now that I’m eating healthy, most of the time, it was a treat to be stuck on the road with limited choices. This was the best I could do:
Dude. Monte Cristo, fried sourdough with ham and turkey, dusted with powdered sugar and pineapple, fries, coffee, and a strawberry shake, eaten at the Ranch Cafe, a place that had both Elvis and John Wayne on the walls. Good stuff.
It’s no wonder I have the flu. Totally worth it.
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