Sunday, February 25, 2024

Porch Fest

I love it when people tell me I'm great, don't you?  Me, I mean.  They should do that more.  They should do that all the time, really.  

Unwashed, uncombed, unshaven, and unfed, I went to Porch Fest yesterday to meet a group of friends.  It was a gorgeous day, the kind you can never forget, the kind that lives on in perpetuity.  How could I not go?  I almost didn't.  I was sitting at my computer working on Miami images and suddenly it was afternoon.  I had to make a decision.  I grabbed my camera bag, put on my flip-flops, and headed out the door.  

"Look at me, going places," I thought on the highway to Grit City.  Yea. . . look at me.  I checked the rearview mirror.  Yup.  Look at me.  Maybe I should have brought a hat, I thought.  

When I got to town, I looked for a place to park.  Cars were lining the neighborhood streets for blocks.  I could find no paid parking, so I drove to the edge of things and parked my car on a shady street.  I don't mean it had overhanging trees.  But if others were doing it. . . .  

I took out my phone and texted my friend but the text wouldn't go through.  I texted again.  Nope.  WTF?  Had she blocked me?  I tried again.  Then I tried a friend.  Then I tried myself.  Nope.  Not going through.  I went into my phone settings.  I turned off WiFi.  Maybe that was it for some strange reason.  Nope.  It was as if my phone had died.  I called my friend.  She didn't answer, so I left a message and started walking toward town.  In a few minutes my phone rang.  I tried talking, but she said I was breaking up.  All I got from her was two cross streets.  I was near.  I headed that way.  I thought.  Then I wasn't sure.  I stopped a couple near me.  

"Which way is Park Avenue, this way or this way?" 

They didn't know.  Nor the next guy, nor the next couple.  Finally I saw a guy with a festival map.  After orienting himself with North, he pointed.  

"It should be one block that way."

I got to said corner.  I walked around slowly looking, but I didn't see anybody I knew in the crowd.  I did this for ten minutes then decided fuck it, it was better this way.  I would just wander about for awhile and head home.  And, of course, at just that moment, there they were.  They were at a tent serving greasy things with cheese, chicken, and bacon on pita bread.  The stand belonged to their friend.  This is where they were keeping their cooler of beer.  Unbelievably, this was supposed to be a dry festival.  There were no beer stands to be seen.  Everybody had cups though.  This was the most alcoholic town I had ever been to, so I was fair stunned that it wasn't called Drunk Fest on People's Porches.  That is what it would turn out to be.  

Now I was with a group.  They sat and stood and talked and drank.  That is what people do.  And take selfies.  I wanted to take pictures, but that was obviously going to be impossible with people.  I took a few snaps of the group.  There was a woman with them, a friend, or so I thought.  I liked her.  She was skinny and blonde and probably crazy, just enough to be interesting until it got to be too much work.  Not a real blonde.  Probably on meds to help control the other.  I can't help myself even when the alarms go off.  I guess I'm just attracted to the flashing colored lights.  

She looked at me and smiled.  Good.  We'd talk later, I thought.  And then she and the woman she was with wandered away.  

"Who is that?" I asked one of the gang.  


"That blonde."

"I don't know."

"You don't know her?"


Well shit.  What was there to do?  I ordered one of the greasy chicken, cheese, and bacon things.  Oh, yes. . . it was really good.  

The woman who asked me to come had been talking to a couple but now she wandered over.  She said hello without much energy.  Maybe it is just her personality.  I don't know.  But she pretty much ignored for the rest of the day.  

One of my former employees, a colleague of the group, lived a couple blocks away.  "Let's go see A.  We can use her bathroom."  And so we began the group march.  

A's house is a three story old wooden affair with a giant porch.  I headed straight to the porch swing while A showed people where the bathroom was.  I drank a little beer.  Mingling.  Talking.  It's what people do.  The sun was brilliant, the air cool, the play of light and shadow from the big oaks that line the streets of Grit City amazing. . . and I was making talk with my friends.  

"That's what you do," one of them said to me.  "You get with friends and drink and talk."  

I guess that's right.  

After some drinking and talking, the group was ready for the next thing.  A and her son joined us.  We wandered a few blocks to where another band was playing on another porch.  Someone asked me something about the music.  I said I didn't listen to this kind of stuff.  She thought I was joking.  

"What do you listen to?"

"Jazz, hillbilly music, you know, bluegrass and the like, and some stuff for feeling emo, you know, all soft and moody."

A knows things.  She was married to a musician most of her life.  Only recently they broke up.  

"Jazz and bluegrass are kind of similar," she said.  

"YES!  That is what I keep telling people.  Improvisational, great scales. . . bluegrass is just hillbilly jazz!"

More talking.  People kept offering me drinks which I declined.  

"I'm not much of a day drinker," I said.  "I'm happy when the sun is out.  It's when the sun sets that I feel like a drink."

"Oh. . . I love day drinking."

"But what do you do after?"

"Go to bed."

"When?  At six?"


"Then you are awake at two?"

"I like it. I get things done."


I'll have a glass of wine with lunch if I can go home and take a nap.  One glass, one hour.  Two, two hours.  I don't mind that.  But not on a day like this one.  Holy smokes, no.  Why wasn't I taking photos?  I tried.  I'd hang back from the group, but A and her son hung on me so that I couldn't get away.  I thought they would follow the gang, but nope.  If I stopped and turned away, they watched me and waited.  I tried to ignore them, but it was impossible.  A had a lot to say.  So did her son.  O.K.  Forget about making photographs.  

I wandered with my friends to another porch, another band.  

"What time is it?" I wondered.  I was reaching to get my phone out of my bag, but one of the gals had a watch on.  

"O.K. kids, I need to wander back to my car and head out to see my mother."

Heads nodded.  Everyone knows that I go every day to see my mother.  And so I said goodbyes and headed off into the sunset.  I would photograph now, I thought, but the sun was low and the shadows deep.  I wandered alone a bit.  I came to a porch with a smaller crowd in front.  I stopped for a minute.  The music was country.  It was good.  It was a Dwight Yoakum song.  They had it down, every beat, every note.  A skinny woman in a cowboy hat was on the Roland keyboards singing harmony.  Another skinny blonde.  I stayed for the next song, then the next.  I stayed for awhile.  I knew it would be too late to go to my mother's house, but I couldn't call her.  It was the AT&T outage.  I was lucky to have gotten through to my friend the one time.  Now I could neither call nor text.  I had an excuse.  I had other friends at the festival, gymroids.  I could not text them, either, as I said I would.  But I was happy now, happy alone in the crowd.  I was the happiest I had been all day.  It was getting cooler now and the crowd was swelling fast.  The festival would go on late into the night.  Old Grit City ain't all that bad.  It's a pretty town, really.  

And there I was, out in it.  "Isn't that something," I thought.  "Look at me."  

"You're great," I said.  I like hearing that.  

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