Monday, July 25, 2011

Folk and Roots Fest Weirdo Watch

Whenever you go to one of Chicago’s many festivals, like the Folk and Roots Festival we attended Saturday, you have to expect to encounter a few weirdoes, myself included. However this time, the weirdoes came in counterintuitive packages.

Saturday was a perfect day weather-wise for hanging out and listening to great music. The large crowd reflected that. Our newly CTA savvy boys met us there around dinnertime (food always being motivational if you’re a fourteen year-old boy.) after attending a friend's block party. As I see it, it’s never too early for them to learn another important life skill: finding people at a large festival, especially when they don’t have a big tie-dyed flag.

Shortly after they arrived, a huge bare-chested man in dreadlocks came by our blanket selling handmade bracelets. I must admit I was tempted, even though I know a beaded hemp ankle bracelet is the kind of thing I’d only wear for fifteen minutes at a street festival.

I told him, “No, thank you. They are beautiful, though.” And I smiled and made eye contact with him. I could tell from the body language in our little group, they thought I was nuts for potentially encouraging this guy. But the response he gave me! It’s like I gave him a bar of gold. He was so damned grateful. He said most people, “treat me like I’m an alien. But it’s beautiful people, nice people like you that make it all worthwhile.” He actually made me feel good for telling him "No."

A while later he was dancing with his beer and I heard another woman, pointing to him when she walked by, say, “And then there’s always that guy. You know, the weirdo with his shirt off dancing.”

Later, when the last band was playing, a pretty Asian woman in a large straw hat walked up to my friend. We’ll call him “Bill.” She had her hand out as if to shake his and was all enthusiastic to see him so, for a moment, I thought they knew each other. Soon it became clear he didn’t. What happened next is where it gets strange. Bill was standing next to my husband when she came up in between them. I was standing next to Jeff, with Bill’s wife was on the other side of me. She began stroking Bill’s hair and giving me and Bill’s wife a look like, What are you gonna do about it?

I told her I thought it was time she left. And she said, “I no go bye-bye. You go bye-bye. You ugly. You ugly, you go bye-bye,” smiling at me all the while. I told her I was going to walk over to the tent behind us and get security. She didn’t budge. So I walked over to the tent behind us, turning around a couple of times. She was watching me, but still she didn’t move.

A very nice Folk and Roots staff lady quickly followed me back with a walkie-talkie, calling for security after I told her what was going on, that a strange and probably drunk woman was harassing us and wouldn’t leave, even after we’d asked her to.

When we got back, I took my place next to my husband and waved at the little straw hat woman, saying, “Now you go bye-bye” as the staff lady approached. They had words, and it took a while, but the straw-hatted interloper eventually followed her away. I don’t know what happened next, but the last we saw of the tiny straw-hatted lady was her breaking into a run for the gate with the staff woman chasing her.

This is a lesson in using your intuition, I told my kids. The threatening looking weirdo was just that guy, having fun at a street fest and trying to make some cash to buy beer. The non-threatening looking little woman was actually a great threat that needed to be run off by security. I told them they should try to listen to that inner voice when they hear it, the way I had. Because ugliness, like beauty, often comes in unlikely packages.

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