Never Too Old For a Music Festival
“Where’s Mark?” I asked my friend Peter, as I helped him pitch a tent in the crab grass in open meadows of the Catskill Mountains.
As Peter attached the tent’s fly — which was, according to the directions I was reading him (that’s how I was “helping”) the thingamajig that gave the structure its archway — he replied: “Oh, Mark says he’s too old for this.”
Too old? Mark was the same age — mid-40s to 50 — as the rest of us going to this Greyfox Bluegrass music festival. In fact, we’d all been going to these music festivals for decades.
Maybe in the past, the festivals were more … rock-ish. More (for lack of a better word) loud, and maybe we used to stay up drinking and playing/singing until dawn. Now the folk music was less booming and the lyrics actually made sense, and I didn’t think I’d make it past midnight after only a couple of drinks, but so what? We were still sleeping under the stars, hanging out with old friends and making new ones, and hearing some great (and not-so-great) artists.
“Too old? How can he be too old for this?” I said, pointing at the low-hung clouds kissing the green hills behind us, sweeping my arm around to the huge stage on the other side where thousands of people’s low chairs sat eagerly for the next performer.
Peter shrugged and began blowing up his air mattress. With an electric pump, of course.
OK, so maybe we’re not as young as we used to be, I thought, surveying the huge pile of stuff in the middle of our tents to be unpacked: the picnic table and chairs, the canopy to shade us from the sun, the extra air mattress for use as a couch to lounge around on, a box of healthy food, like rice cakes and cut-up veggies.
What would my younger self make of all this gear? There was a time that I could roll out of bed (no makeup) and say, “Let’s go camping!” I'd grab my sleeping bag and a toothbrush, and hit the road. (I say I brought the toothbrush, but who really knows?) I certainly didn’t schlep a suitcase filled with possible weather-dependent outfits. And if I were headed to a festival, I definitely did not bring my own food. An air-mattress? Fuggedaboutit.
Yeah, my younger self would have sneered superiorly at this spectacle.
But my present self would sneer even more superciliously right back at her.
“Remember all those nights you’d wake up doubled over because there was a rock underneath our sleeping bag?” I’d say to her, showing her my comfy, new puffed-up bed.
“Or the trips you were soaking wet because you forgot rain gear?” I’d gesture to the canopy and the rain outfit. “And how about the bloatedness you’d have for a week after these weekends?” I’d explain, showing her the healthy food options I had with me.
OK, so fine, maybe I wish I still had my younger constitution (and those knees — how I wish I hadn’t been so hard on my knees!), but I did not want to trade places with her. To be her. To be my younger self, who hadn’t yet enjoyed those lazy summers and screaming fans and sometimes awful bands.
Mark was wrong — he wasn’t too old. Too spoiled, maybe. I wouldn’t blame him if he preferred a weekend at a spa — I’d plan one of those weekends there myself. But I wouldn’t miss out on Greyfox or the other festivals (which, by the way, were populated by people much, much older than us who had brought their entire living rooms). I wouldn’t miss out on any of them — except the ones that I’d learned were too crowded (Bonnoroo), too inconvenient (Coachella) or too damn hot (Burning Man) for my taste.
That’s the beauty of time, of the decades that passed between when I first started sleeping outside on my own and when I acquired enough gear to live comfortably outside: I knew what I liked, and I knew what I needed to make me happy. And this was one of those things.
Too old? Just old enough, in my estimation.
Originally published on Purple Clover