Friday, July 25, 2014

Firefly: More weird than you can fit in your pants

Jack Johnson blows away with crowd with an incredible performance.
“The weirdest things just happen around me all the time!” my friend Jamie proclaimed, lying on a T-shirt blanket under the canopy by our tent.
Kelly and I looked at each other, nodded, and laughed.
“Why do you think that is, Jame?” Kelly asked.
“I think because I egg people on,” Jamie said, reflecting on the disproportionate number of weird but hilarious things that had happened in the three days since we had arrived at Firefly.
“The funny thing is, most of the stuff that happens is not even your idea,” I said.
“I give them confidence to do the crazy things they already wanted to do,” Jamie concluded.
I finished scrambling our omelets over the camp stove on the last day of the four-day music festival we’d driven nine hours for, and we laughed as we looked back over the highlights.
Looking grungy after four days sans showering.

On Friday, our first full day at the festival, we planned to enter the festival by 4:30 p.m. to see Bronze Radio Return, and a slew of other artists later. We cracked the first beer at 10 a.m., and began acquainting ourselves with our next door neighbors, the J Crew or JTrain (as most of their names began with J), who also happened to be from the Cincinnati area. We’d been enjoying ourselves for several hours, playing Frisbee games and meeting new people, when I realized we had to leave or we’d be late for the show. And with a 45 minute set, every second counted. We hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so I ran back to the car and laid out six slices of bread on the back bumper. With one stroke, I peanut buttered three slices, then did the same with the jelly. I stacked the sandwiches and threw them unprotected into my drawstring bag. We grabbed a water bottle and two roadies each for the 30-minute walk to the festival.
At the festival gate, I distributed the sandwiches.
“What, no bags?” Kelly asked, wearing a sports bra and colorful skirt. “Where am I supposed to put this?” she asked, as we prepared to smuggle the sandwiches in to enjoy later.
“Get creative!” I said, nestling mine between my belly button and the wasteband of my jorts. Kelly evaluated her best assets, and slid it behind her butt. Jamie looked at her sundress, frowned, and slapped the PBJ on her right boob.
“Can you tell at all?” We all asked each other. Satisfied we wouldn’t get caught, we sauntered through the security check point.
We enjoyed a few shows, then went back to camp for some dinner and to resupply before the late evening shows.
The next morning, Jamie woke up with a weird stain on her bra. She held it out the tent for better lighting.
“Ughhh it’s a peanut butter jelly bra!” she said. The J Train had a good laugh out of that.
“In hindsight, sandwich bags might have been a good idea,” I mused.
That morning, we needed to make it to the festival by 2 p.m. to see Twenty-One Pilots. So we set down to the task at hand. At 1:15, I remembered sandwiches. This time I grabbed bags, along with a healthy supply of fruit snacks and granola bars, sure we’d be able to find suitable hiding spots at the gate. 
Twenty feet from the gate, I again dropped my bag and started handing out the contraband. Kelly and I put everything out of sight, and walked through with no problem. I looked back.
Jamie stood before the metal detector wand wielder with a full corner of the plastic sandwich bag sticking out of her cleavage. The man looked at her, a dead serious expression on his face.
“I bet you have a gun, don’t you,” he said.
“I have three!” Jamie said, exuberant.
Unconvinced, he wanded her and waved her through.
Ten feet inside the gate, we pulled snacks out of every crack and crevice, doubling over in laughter that the guards hadn’t questioned the baggie sticking out of her boobs, which had looked to contain far more questionable materials than it actually did. 
Jamie and I pregame before hitting the festival.

Twenty-One Pilots put on an amazing show, working the crowd into a frenzy despite the majority of the audience only knowing one of their songs. But as their 45-minute set ended, a mass migration away from the stage began. Since Kelly wanted to see Third Eye Blind, beginning in 45 minutes, we seized our chance for a better spot in the crowd, and salmoned upstream toward the stage. We got about 15-people deep from the stage, and people weren’t budging, so we settled in.
I’d brought a blanket, so we asked a few neighbors if they’d like to sit down for the wait. They gladly agreed, and we all made room to spread the blanket. We instantly became the most popular people within a full 20-foot radius as I pulled out deck of cards to play B.S.
The crowd got restless, so we had to stand again. As we stood up, Jamie caught a whiff of a strong odor to her left. A sleepy-eyed boy with bright blue eyes and an impish grin was screwing the lid on a water bottle. Jamie looked at the yellow liquid in the bottle.
“Did you just pee in that bottle right next to me?!” she asked, shocked.
He couldn’t very well deny it with the evidence in his hands, so he laughed and admitted it, dropping the warm bottle into his drawstring bag.
We feigned anger but more than anything we were just jealous of the convenience. But to make it up to us, he offered us a sip out of a sunscreen bottle.
“Excuse me?!” Jamie said. Then shrieked as he went bottoms up with the orange tube.
He laughed and pointed to the “ingredients” on the tube – 54% boozerwine, 30% drunkacider, etc., with fine print instructions reading, “If a security guard is reading this, run away!” He offered a taste again, so I went for it.
“Oh…it’s just Fireball and Red Bull!” I laughed. He told us where to find the clever water bottle online.
Third Eye Blind came on stage, and relived its glory days from decades past. I hoisted Kelly onto my shoulders for a better view of the first band she’d ever loved.
We realized we’d planned our day poorly, because after that show, we wanted to stay in the festival rather than make the long trek back to the camp for dinner and more drinks, but we didn’t want to buy food and drink in the festival, so we bit the bullet and walked back. I got impatient and jogged back to get a head start on making camp chili.
I dumped six cans of beans and chicken in a pot and realized we had way too much food for three people. The J Train was away from their camp, so I looked for some other new friends to share the food with. Two fine looking gentlemen stood two sites over and I waved at them and offered them some chili. The smell was wafting their way already, and it was an easy sell.
“It’s kind of a BYO-Bowl situation,” I said. “And spoon. And beverage. But I’ve got the chili!”
Jamie and Kelly slumped into chairs, finally having caught up with me to find chili sizzling on the stove, and new friends joining us.
“OK, guys we CAN’T miss Imagine Dragons, so everyone has to eat and drink fast!” I said, dishing out the chili.
I watched everyone’s lips like a hawk. If they weren’t chewing, I threw a goldfish at them, commanding “DRINK!”  
Somehow we still managed time for conversation.
“Does anyone like kiwis?” Alex asked, out of the blue. “I’ve always had this vision of walking up to a girl with a kiwi in my extended hand, and offering it to her, just holding it in front of her mouth. Just to see what she would do!” he said.
“Wait, like to see if she would eat the skin?” Kelly asked excited. “I totally would! I eat kiwi skins!” she said. So Kelly and Alex bonded over their weird fruit habits.
“Well, one time I wanted to eat a whole banana—peel and all,” Alex said. “But my friends wouldn’t let me.”
I thought it was a strange idea, but Jamie’s silent powers of egging on the weird in people pushed me forward.
“I … have a banana … in the car… is this still a dream of yours, sir?” I asked Alex.
“Yes?” he said, a light coming into his eyes.
“We’ll save it for the walk to the festival,” I said. “Now drink faster!”
Alex showed some reluctance, teasing me.
“Lift the drink, put it to your lips, and guzzle!” I said, laughing. Then I remembered an exercise we’d used to do in high school. “Let’s play that game where one person closes their eyes and then we have to tell them exactly what to do but they have to follow all the instructions literally!” I said. For no good reason, everyone cheered and agreed to play the dumbest game ever invented.
“Close your eyes! Touch your nose with one finger, put another finger in your mouth! Now throw a goldfish at Jamie! Now put a piece of corn in your nose, then snot rocket it out! Now drink your beer!” And so on. Jamie had to alternate placing three fingers in her mouth with sipping her drink. I had to make a beautiful scarf out of the roll of paper towels, all the while getting pelted with goldfish.
We were determined to not spend money in the festival, so we loaded up the backpack with a bottle of Gatorade, and two water bottles full of various liquors. They slid nicely into the crotch, with only the slightest indication that all might not be entirely right down in those parts.
As promised, I also grabbed a banana out of the car.
Halfway to the festival, I turned to Alex and handed him his banana, for which he’d been waiting so patiently.
“OK, are you guys ready?” he asked.
WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP WHOMP! Swallow. It was gone. Just like that. Four bites. Our eyes grew huge and the laughter couldn’t find its way out fast enough.
“You actually did that!” we screamed. Little banana pulp pieces eeked out the corners of his mouth as he attempted to keep it down. But then he smiled, licked his lips, and kept walking.
We all continued on as before, but now genuinely curious what our new friend’s next pooping experience would be like.
We made it in time for Imagine Dragons, and made sure everyone in our group got a turn sitting on someone’s shoulders, as the experience is heightened 10 times from that vantage point.
From Imagine Dragons, we ran to get a place for Tegan and Sara, one of the bands I had been most excited about.
They were going full power, with an energetic crowd responding well to the music.
Feeling at home among my people, I broke free from Jamie and Kelly. “I’ve got to mingle!” I yelled, squeezing through the press of dancing revelers. To the first pretty girl I found, I tried a cleverly crafted line.
“You can’t see Tegan and Sara without making out with a girl, right?” I said, compelled by liquid courage, which is not exactly synonymous with charm, tact or being smooth. But still, a tall blonde took me up on it and went in for the kiss.
I came up for air, my mind blown. I ran back to Kelly and Jamie.
“I saw stars! Oh my god! I saw stars!” I yelled as they shook their heads at me.
After Tegan and Sara, we collapsed in a heap on the festival grounds during a small break before Outkast was supposed to take the stage. For some reason, we could not stop laughing as we rolled around in the dirt, with life and emotion gushing through our veins and exploding out our pores.
We didn’t venture too far into the crowd for Outkast, wanting plenty of elbow room to dance. But halfway through, safely past the performance of “Hey Ya!”, Jamie and Kelly found they couldn’t stay awake. They told me to meet them in the mulch area under the trees, 100 yards from where I stood.
I distracted myself with my hands on the hips of a blue-haired girl, displaying a considerable amount more charm than I had two hours before.
The show ended, and I turned the girl to face me.
“I’m Dana,” she said.
“Nice to meet you, Dana,” I said, and leaned in for a sweet kiss. She smiled, and we parted ways.
Then I was lost. Where in the world did Jamie and Kelly say to meet them? I breathed down the panic. There were still more shows I wanted to enjoy with them, although I supposed I could have tried to find Dana again.
I vaguely remembered something about the mulch, and combed through it, calling out for them. I couldn’t find them, and no one was responding to my calls.
Almost out of hope, I turned back for one more pass through the mulch. Then I spotted their two dresses as they lay passed out on the ground. I slide tackled them for joy.
“I found you!” I yelled, shaking them awake. “Oh my god you have no idea how happy I am to see you!”
They sat up groggily.
“Who, what…where?” Jamie said, groaning. Kelly’s eyes were open, but she looked like she’d never seen me before.
“Are you guys missing how ridiculously lucky it was that I just found you?” I asked, surprised. “Come on, let’s go to the bathroom and then go to Pretty Lights!”
“Bathroom, yes, Pretty Lights, no,” Jamie rasped, looking exhausted. Kelly stood, still without saying anything.
We made it to the port-a-potty corral, though Kelly stayed out by the fence, looking dazed. Jamie decided to go back to the tent by herself to sleep, but I wanted to stay for Pretty Lights. Finally Kelly seemed to turn on. “Yeah, I’m excited for Pretty Lights!”
We were walking toward the stage, and she realized there was a hole in her evening.
“What happened between going to Outkast and just now?” she asked.
I replayed the story for her.
“I didn’t wake up until just now at the port-a-potties. I legitimately have no memory of you finding us in the mulch,” she said.
“Well that explains why you weren’t very happy to see me!” I said. “You were completely sleepwalking.”
Back at camp, Jamie’s throat was sore after breathing in massive amounts of dust in the festival. She’d been laying in the tent alone for a few minutes before she heard the J Train return. She unzipped a corner of the door and rolled her head out.
“Hey J Crew, what are the chances one of you will put two ibuprophen in my mouth and pour some water in it?” she ventured, pitifully.
No answer.
“Are they high?” she wailed.
“Are who high?” Jill asked, hearing Jamie for the first time.
“The chances!” Jamie said.
Upon relating these stories again on the car ride home, we shared many laughs. But the weirdness wasn’t over.
We stopped along the way at a Wendy’s for Frosty’s. After debating over whether to split a small, get two kid sizes, or get two smalls, Kelly and I settled on two smalls.
“Oh, I immediately regret this decision,” I said, seeing how large the small is. As much as I love Frosty’s, I’m always full way sooner than I expect. Kelly shared my sentiments. Twenty minutes later Kelly looked at her half-eaten ice cream.
“I just really want this to be gone, but I don’t want to eat it, and if it’s in front of me, I’ll keep eating it,” she said. Then she took stock of our surroundings. “I really think I just want to throw this out the window.”
“Hey not the cup!” I said, conscious of littering.
“No, just this giant scoop,” she said, loading the spoon up with dripping frosty, and looking dangerous.
“I guess it’s not littering since it’ll melt,” I admitted, and consented. Suddenly, Jamie was all in. She prepared to catch the feat on video.
“Catapult it out of the spoon right into the grass!” she cheered. “But don’t hit the car behind us!”
Kelly rolled the window down, cocked her hand back, and slapped her elbow, launching the scoop of frosty flying out onto the shoulder.
“Woooohooooo!” we all cheered, as if we’d accomplished something spectacular.
Jamie just chalked it up to another ridiculous side effect of her personality.
We rolled back into Dayton with smiles on our faces and a week of eye-rolling, hysterical memories to keep us giggling for weeks.

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