Today’s Prompt: Think about an event you’ve attended and loved. Your hometown’s annual fair. That life-changing music festival. A conference that shifted your worldview. Imagine you’re told it will be cancelled forever or taken over by an evil corporate force.
How does that make you feel?
Music, decent food made with love by a selection of vendors who are trying their best to outdo each other, and a bunch of rowdy people jockeying for space closest to a stage. This is how I liked to spend the first weekend in May. The DC101 Chili Cook-Off, sponsored by the National Kidney Foundation and Bud Light! I get the irony in an alcohol based anything working with a national charity to raise money, but we’ll get to that later. Standing under a series of tents, hawking beer to potential minors, praying that I didn’t have to wash my hands after every person I met tried to hug me; for me it was paradise and torture all at the same time.
Every year around March I would get a notice asking what I wanted to do to volunteer. Check I.D.s, take tickets for the beer, help set up tables and later tear them down, or my go-to Selling Beer to Anyone with Money! That sounds overly broad, if someone gave you a wrist band, I was selling you a ticket. You’d wind your way through the rope, all 12 feet of it, hand me your money, I would hand you some tickets and point you towards the giant tanker truck style vehicles with taps in their sides. This became more interesting as the day would go on, lots of drunk morons lost in the parking lot of R.F.K. Stadium just on the edge of Washington, D.C.
I’d pack Whitney up in the car, tell her that it was going to be fun [or the people I was laughing about would be the humor point], we’d watch a couple of bands and just do some good for a day. I hated the Port-o-Pottys, I disliked the fact that I wasn’t sure if my car would be vandalized by someone from the surrounding hood, and I have a reputation for not liking people. By the end of the day, my t-shirt saying proudly “One Last Call for Alcohol, 7:30 p.m.” covered in sweat. Unfortunately I was usually the drunk who hugged me because I slid him an extra ticket.
Over the years I saw Stone Temple Pilots, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, plenty of other rock acts during my time slinging booze. I never got over the people who would thank me profusely for selling them beer. You gave me money, what did you expect me to do?!! Even the year I felt creepy about the guys looking inside the shoebox we were storing the money in, until I put it in my backpack and walked it to security. [The next year, they were a little better organized!]
Than, it just stopped. No more asking for volunteers and then no more festival period. I never heard why. Clear Channel is a large enough company that they could have kept cajoling musicians into showing up. The Kidney Foundation, well they do like to find ways to raise money. These things always made plenty of that. I sold $5,000 worth of beer on my own in the matter of a few hours. There were at least 20 other doing the same thing, in four hour shifts, all day long!
I looked forward to that every year. It was just one of those times when I would act goofy for a few hours with people I would never see again. Or at least hoped I wouldn’t run into in a professional setting. I looked forward to sitting in a chair, watching Whitney smiling back at me because while she wasn’t the biggest fan of this event, she knew I was secretly loving it. Talking music, for a couple of hours with people who were so different from my daily routine, it excited me.
We’d drive back to Annapolis afterwards commenting about the people pouring both in and out of those Port-o-Potty stalls. Some barely able to remember which direction the stage was in. I’d talk about the first time hearing some of the acts first albums in college, she tell me about hearing some of those same things but she was still in high school. There weren’t any worries about work, or family, nothing about doctors visits or some other issue. I could always count those days as being something we could joke about, from the minute we left the house until the minute we crawled into bed exhausted from it all.
Maybe I miss it most, am angry about it’s having gone away because I always knew those were going to be good days.