Grey Fox, 2005
Saturday, July 16 2005
Last night I suddenly realized I was running low on Doxycycline with ten days left of my Lyme disease course. So today I drove into Uptown Kingston to have it renewed. Certain that it would take a good 45 minutes to have my prescription refilled, I brought my iBook along. Happily I even found an open node of the most widespread public network in the country, the one called simply "linksys." But my wait was only ten minutes.
I tried to pick up some fair price free range organic coffee from the coffee place out on Route 28 near Onteora Lake, but that shop doesn't open until 10am on Saturdays so I had to buy Maxwell House at the Zena Road Stewarts, the gas and dash capital of the Hurley-Woodstock frontier. The beneath some break away packaging the Maxwell House can was decorated in a floral English garden motif with an understated Maxwell House logo woven into the pattern. The break away packaging urged me to "buy all three" - meaning that there are three other motiffs. But you can easily see the motif peaking out through the packaging, so it's not like you have to keep buying Maxwell House until you randomly get all three - you can get all three on the same day just by picking the right ones. But maybe that's the idea - to sell three times as much coffee up front.
Despite the threat of rain, Gretchen and I drove out to rural Ancramdale, an hour or so to the northeast near the surprisingly unpopulated place where Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York share a common mathematical point. We went there to attend the second day of the annual Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. Two years ago Gretchen and I went to Grey Fox and had a terrible fight as we climbed the hill from the parking area and we didn't speak to each other the whole time we were there. This time, though, nothing of that sort happened.
We slathered on free sunblock at the first aid tent and then set up our wooden collapsible chairs not far from the stage. There was a tent not far away equipped with water hoses spraying a fine watery mist into the air, and we could retreat into that whenever we'd absorbed too much solar energy.
I don't know that much about Bluegrass and don't have any special fondness for it, though I don't dislike it either. I can appreciate it live, particularly when the lyrics are interesting. I noticed today that a lot of the bands on the stage were kind of showy with their virtuosity. Often times they'd demonstrate a strong jazz influence, though it would have been more fun had they veered off into the sorts of things one normally hears played by a classical string quartet. (It would have been easy; some of the bands were in fact string quartets, though they never played anything detectably classical.)
The main question on our minds concerned a distinction that kept being made by various MCs from the stage. Evidently there's music called Bluegrass and then there's this other thing called Old Time. Supposedly Bluegrass evolved out of Old Time when Bill Monroe introduced a new picking style, but I couldn't hear any difference at all between the two genres of music. Mind you, the two styles might well be worlds apart and easy for even a Bluegrass neophyte to distinguish, but I was like a little old lady trying to figure out whether Alice in Chains is grunge or heavy metal. At one point Gretchen asked somebody nearby to elaborate on the differences, but what he said was all fairly technical and lacking in the absolutes we needed.
At one point we went to a different stage to see Tim O'Brien and his band play. Tim (who looks like an English professor) kept forgetting his lyrics and going for his cheat sheet, though even when this required that he put down his mandolin he managed to do it in such a way that the music could go on around him uninterrupted.
Due to the Darwinian selection forces of foodie post-hippie Bluegrass fans, the food sold at Grey Fox tends to be much better than that found at the crowded day festivals in, say, the heavily-populated flatlands of the Hudson Valley. But it wasn't just the food that had me pleased. I found that the best way to pace myself in terms of the intake of refreshments was to alternate between ice coffee and Red Hook India Pale Ale. It was all ridiculously overpriced, but (as Gretchen pointed out) this was our vacation for the summer.
Late in the afternoon Gretchen and I played what Gretchen termed "a rousing game of scrabble" in the shade of a medium-sized truck. The truck was covered with God Bless America and Support the Troops magnetic ribbons which I wanted to steal for my ribbon collage project, but I think the truck belonged to a guy in a nearby booth who was selling sunglasses, and he kept looking over at us. I did manage to steal one of his ribbons, but that was it.
Later at the one booth selling tempeh reubens there was mass confusion concerning who had title to which things coming off the grill. Since Gretchen and I had both ordered reubens, we needed to get both at the same time, but the reubens coming off the grill kept being split between various other people, some of whom showed up after us. At first this was infuriating, but in the end we managed to profit from the chaos and get three reubens though we'd only paid for two.
We were kind of wondering what would happen after it got dark, because there were no provisions for lighting much other than the stages themselves. But we never got a chance to find out because suddenly Gretchen realized that neither of us had fed the dogs this morning, so we had to hurry home. My guess is that after sunset the occasional clouds of marijuana smoke drifting through the crowd become much greater in number and might even be joined at times by their flaming authors.
It had been fairly cloudy at some points but the weatherman had been wrong: it had never rained a drop.
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