Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Day at Bonnaroo, Part 3: Pre-partying with the Snark Sisters

Click here for part 2 

They say that sometimes rest can be the answer to all problems.

In my case, that certainly seems to be true. Not long after my battle with runners and bowl movements, I find the way back to my group’s campsite and collapse under the shade of our tarp. I rest there for hours. Sometimes sleeping, sometimes not. Occasionally I scavenge the cooler for remaining water bottles. But mostly I just lie still, hibernating, While I hibernate, I listen to the sounds around me. Our campsite is rather far away from Centeroo (the name of where the actual music festival took place) so for the most part, the sounds of excitement, cheering, celebrating, all seems very distant right now. This frustrates me, I feel like I’m missing out on the action. Part of me is fearful too that my exhaustion and weariness is not simply due to going partying too hard last night but rather, because of my age. I’m not twenty two anymore, perhaps I don’t belong here...   

Sometime in the afternoon, as I go back and forth from sleeping to self-evaluating, I become aware of some humorous squabbling going on nearby and I can’t help but listen. 

“Oh by the way Becky, thanks for almost killing me last night while we were sleeping.”

“What the fuck are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about you rolling over on top of me in the middle of the night. I thought I was under a god damn avalanche.”   

“ Hey bitch you know I move around in my sleep. If you don’t like it you can always sleep outside. In fact, I wish you would, your damn snoring sounds like a goat being slaughtered.”

 “At least my snoring doesn’t endanger people’s lives, you monster.”

Both voices are female, and each statement made is thick with good-natured snark and underlined with hearty laughter. It’s obvious that these girls are long time friends who have been giving each other a hard time for many years.   

“You sure about that? I think some of the neighbors might have killed themselves to escape your caterwauling.”

 Despite myself, I crack up at this comment, and then immediately regret it as the girls suddenly stop speaking. Even with my eyes closed, and my body facing the opposite direction, I can feel the awkward tension in the air, they are aware some stranger is listening in on their conversation. I make a quick decision to try to kill the awkwardness. 

“Um, hello there, ladies.” I say after I lift my head out from the grass and turn to face them.

There is a brief pause that follows, and then one of them turns to the other.

“Oh look, Sharon, the ginger kid isn’t dead after all.”  

“Oh what a relief. We’ve been watching you lie there motionless for the last two hours. We thought you died of sunstroke. Red heads don’t fare well out here, ya know kid.”

I find myself looking at two women in their early-to-mid thirties, one heavy set, one skinny, sitting on tailgating chairs in front of a nearby tent, both wearing large sunglasses, drinking bud light while wearing bored or unimpressed expressions on their faces. I imagine this is their default expression most of the time.

“Yeah I know, I almost died last night…because I wanted to kill myself when some chick wouldn’t stop snoring.” This gets a laugh. Not a huge one, but enough for them to throw caution to the wind and invite me over for a beer.

The next hour or so is spent relaxing in a tailgating chair, exchanging jokes and sharing stories with my two neighbors Becky and Sharon who I affectionately, and secretly, refer to as the Snark Sisters.  They actually aren’t sisters, I learn, but rather friends who’ve known each other this they were little, back when they grew up in the suburbs of Chicago.

At one point I ask them why they decided to come to Bonnaroo.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Sharon replies. “ we don’t get to see each other very much since we don’t live in the same city anymore, so we figured since we both had vacation time coming up, why not do something crazy.”

“Yeah, plus, we really enjoy being around hippies.” Becky adds. “They have such realistic views of the world, and they always smell great.”

“Oh like you can talk, you smell like a bum’s nut sack right now.”

“Fuck you, slut, I do not. I smell like a petite delicate female…who’s been pissed on by a homeless man.”

They both let out a cackle, and so do I. I start to feel better about everything. I share my misadventures of the morning with the girls which they seem to enjoy.
“If a bunch of runners tried to block me from the bathroom I’d just take a shit on their heads.” Sharon tells me. Becky and I agree that that would be the proper action to take.

So there we are, lounging at the campsite, sipping beer and ignoring the heat as best we can, when I feel a familiar sensation wash over me. It’s that special feeling I get when I can feel the initial traces of the magic returning. That’s the thing about Bonnaroo, the place is full of magic, if only at certain times.   

Eventually either Becky or Sharon suggests that we should make their way to the festival.  I invite myself along, as my group has already entered Centeroo hours ago.

Before we head out we each lather ourselves in sunscreen once more, and then grab a beer for the road ( I grab two. You’re not allowed to bring any beer into the festival, but anything before that is fair game.).

 We walk down the dirt path that splits the numerous camping sections. For the most part, the Snark Sisters talk to themselves while I drink my beer and observe the various campsites we pass by. I notice that each site is virtually the same. One or two tents on the perimeter, some fold out chairs in front of them, maybe a grill in the center, and above all of it is an overhead tarp to provide shade. Occasionally a flag will be tied to the top of the tarp, waving in the air as in expression of that particular campsite’s individuality.

It’s a long walk to the entrance of the festival, and the closer we get the more people we find at their campsites, pre-partying. This causes a shiver of excitement to drip down my spine, I have always been very fond pre-partying, hell, most of the time I enjoy the pre-party more than the actual event itself.

Anyway, after passing by numerous pre-party stations, I can’t remain silent any more, so I very coyly bring up the idea of crashing one of them to the Snark Sisters. As I would have guessed, they don’t take kindly to this suggestion. A raised eyebrow and an incredulous look is all I need to know that these girls don’t think much of bombarding strangers’ campsites. Clearly we are different people, but I’m ok with that for the time being.

We come to a large group playing cornhole on the side of the path, and that’s enough to tip me over the edge. If these girls aren’t going to participate in party crashing, I might have to part ways with them. But before I finish weighing my options, an opportunity drops in my lap.  I bump into a young Hispanic man as he is leaving the portapotties.

“Oh sorry my bad, bro.” He says with genuine remorse. Without even thinking about it, I hand him one of my beers and say “I won’t forgive you unless you drink this now.”  

The girls hear this and look at me like I’m a wild man, but to my delight, the young man looks at me like he just found a new friend, he grabs the beer out of my hand and slurps it down. I give him a broad smile and introduce myself. 

“Name’s Gonzales, bro.” he says. I like Gonzales, he’s one of the good guys. “You guys are cool,” he says, as if concurring with my internal thought, “you should come over to my campsite, we got the place pimped out.”

I look over my shoulders to the Snark Sisters, and the unimpressed/uninterested look has returned to their faces, as if there was nothing they wanted to do less than check out his “pimped out” place.  But I ask him where it is, all the same.

“It’s just over there,” he says, pointing in the direction we are heading already, “follow me.”

When we arrive at Gonzales campsite, I completely understand his choice of words in describing it. His campsite is in fact, pimped out. I mean, it appears to be actually five campsites combined as one; just one long row of connecting tarps. It looks more like a small scale circus than a campsite. Gonzales enters the circus first, and ushers us in. I look over at Becky and Sharon, they seem wary about the whole thing but they’re following just the same.

 Once we enter, we are treated to quite a sight. It’s clear these guys have been planning this for quite some time. Bean bags and make-shift couches decorate the area, as well as about ten large coolers that I later discover are filled with both beer and apple juice containers filled with Hennessey (no glass bottles allowed in the ‘roo). Gonzales group consists of about fifteen people, all Hispanic males, who I secretly refer to as The Gonzales Boys. As a whole, they seem to be like your classic group of fun loving, rowdy partiers. Exactly what I look for in my pre-party crowd. Things are getting better and better right now. I can feel the magic of the Bonnaroo day seeping back into my soul.

I look back at Becky and Sharon, they don’t seem to be feeling the exact same way, but they do accept the beers that the Gonzales boys offers, so that’s promising.

So the three of us take a seat and we all start to get to know one another. This lasts a few minutes until I spot a beer pong table at the far end of their site and instinctively make the claim that I will kick anyone’s ass at beer pong.

“Aw, hell no, homie, you are fucking going down!” is the response I get, in ten different variations, all at the same time.

The challenge has been made and accepted.

In no time at all, I find myself playing some classic beer pong with the Gonzales Boys, while the Snark Sisters watch from the side and make, well, snarky comments to one another about the stupidity of beer pong. But you can tell they’re enjoying the moment. We all are. It’s a beautiful moment.

 You know, people think that pre-partying is just about drinking and having fun, but I don’t think that’s entirely true. Yes, those two things are definitely involved, but I feel the real power in the pre-party is soaking up the anticipation. There’s no better high in the world than anticipation. Take this moment right now, for instance. If you isolated this moment, no future, no past, it will still be a fun moment. But the fact that we have so much to look forward to, so much mystery that’s yet to be solved, that’s what makes all of us so giddy right now.

As we play beerpong, I can hear the sounds of the festival much more clearly than when I was back at the site. We’re so much closer to the moment at hand. In a short amount of time we will have entered the fray and the real story will begin, but right now, I’ll I have to do is focus on my next shot while I soak up the anticipation that we’re all swimming in.