Last weekend, starting a week ago today, as a matter of fact, I hopped on a little mini Phish Tour: one night at Deer Creek (Noblesville, IN) and two nights at Alpine (East Troy, WI) ? my two favorite venues and so close to home.
There is nothing finer in this world than a summer Phish show. Even 13 years after my first show and 13 years closer to an un-cooperating body, I can still dance and smile my way through the entire first set. And, if I happen to sit down during the third or fourth song in the second set, well, it?s not because I don?t like the song. My feet and my back and my thighs and my calves just have a different idea of fun these days than my heart and mind do. They have been carrying this body around for nearly 38 years and they like it when I lounge; they are top-notch loungers.
However, the true test of my body this last weekend came hours before the Saturday show even started. We had booked a room at the Alpine Valley Lodge, which boasts the advantage of a short walk into the lower area of the venue from your room. Jason had news of the Alpine dates prior to the announcement so he managed to score one of the Lodge?s very in-demand rooms for us, citing the expense as a reasonable cost to celebrate Phish and our fourth anniversary Saturday night.
The disadvantage to staying at the Lodge is that while you have an entrance to the lower area, the parking lot is in the upper area and the lower area doesn?t open till doors open and then, once in the venue, you can?t leave out the other side unless you have another ticket to return. So the only way to experience the parking lot is to walk about a mile around (and wayyyyyyy up) the venue or to drive in like everyone else.
Once we were in our room, we discussed our options because Jason wanted to get in the poster line, which was up in the parking lot. We could walk the mile around (and wayyyyyyy up), or we could just go ahead and drive into the lot and not use the Lodge advantage this night. I was skeptical: I am essentially a frugal person and like to get my money?s worth when I put my money out and other than the advantage of walking in from the bottom, there wasn?t much worth in this particular lodging. Plus, if I remember correctly from wayyyyyy back when I used to follow Phish because Phish used to be a band before they weren?t (and then before they were again ? after, of course, before they weren?t and then were again the first time), wasn?t there one lot at Alpine Valley that really, really sucked? Like, it was a color lot, right? Blue? Did Blue Lot suck? Red? Is there a Red Lot? I don?t know ? all I know is I remember horror stories about this lot even though I don?t think I ever got stuck there.
So, finally, I agree. We will park in the lot this time, so Jason can get his precious posters and we can see some friends we haven?t seen in a long time, and the next night, we?ll walk in from the bottom.
So we pull out of the Lodge driveway onto Highway D and the turn-in for the venue parking is the very next driveway on our left. We follow the waving arms of the yellow-shirted crew and pull into Green Lot.
Once we were parked, near the treeline at the end of a middle row that was quickly filling up with tents and other large obstacles that would be impossible to drive around, and unfolded ourselves out of the seats, I recalled the color of the bad lot. Green. Green is bad. Shit.
I turned to Jason and let him know we just screwed up, but he?s a guy, he?s younger, he?s in better shape and I?m not sure he?s heard the horror stories I have so he looked at me with a blank stare, shook his head and started to walk down the treeline toward the path. And I followed.
So, what makes the Green Lot so bad has nothing to do with the lot itself. It?s grassy and large and they leave enough aisles so that getting out of Green Lot isn?t a horrible ordeal at the end of the night. No, what makes Green Lot so bad is not Green Lot itself but rather, Green Lot?s location. Imagine the Himalayas, okay? You?ve got the picture in your head? Stately peaks rising up so incredibly high, into the clouds, covered in snow and Sherpas. You feel a profound weariness looking up at those peaks because it will take everything in you to ascend them which is why you are just staring up at them from afar because there is no way in hell you would agree to ascend them ? your last name isn?t Hillary! Now, remove the snow and Sherpas. Welcome to Green Lot.
Green Lot runs parallel to Blue and Yellow Lots, but is separated by a river (or creek or swamp, some body of water that is impassable). They are about the same level above sea level but on different peaks. So to get from one to the other, you have to descend for about 10 minutes then ascend again for about 20 minutes, each way.
The lesson I learned from Green Lot, and I think it?s a good lesson for life, is to look down. Don?t look up. Hope is a pipe dream. The ascension never ends so there?s no point in hoping or looking up. Just look down. Keep looking down. Keep saying to yourself: Look down, don?t look up. Sing a few songs to yourself. Hell, you might as well sing the entire Beatles catalog in chronological order to yourself. Just do it while looking down. And when you feel the ground start to level, your body start to come back to a reasonable non-leaning state, then you can look up. But not until that very moment. Oh, and don?t forget to breathe.
Once we reached the other peak, the Blue-Yellow peak, my vision and other senses slowly came back to normal. It was hot over here. So hot. But we were here and this is where we wanted to be and that was great. Jason went and got his posters, stood around and talked to some friends, we mingled and met someone who was taking my extra ticket and then Jason asks me if I?m ready to go back.
Go back where?
To the car?
Debbi, we have that champagne and strawberries and water and ? we have to go back to the car. Fred?s heading that way too and Jim will walk with us.
You can go back to the car. I?m staying here!
Debbi, I?m not going back to the car to celebrate our anniversary with champagne without you. Come on, it?s not that bad.
Apparently, his defense mechanism to that climb was to send his mind somewhere completely different from here. On what planet is it not that bad?
So, of course, I followed the pack of in-better-shape boys down the Blue-Yellow peak (10 minutes) and up the Green peak (20 minutes ? this hill was longer but less steep, so completely equal to the other hill in exhaustion).
We spent about an hour to an hour-and-a-half at our car. I drank three waters and toasted with a red plastic cup of champagne. I had some baby carrots thinking the vitamins would help me negotiate the mountain heading back, then I remembered that carrots are great for your eyesight and I stopped eating them because I didn?t need better eyesight to look down.
Then the dreaded moment came when Jason asked me if I was ready to head back. It was about 6 at this point and he wanted to get into the venue a little early. I laughed ironically to myself and then began the process of psyching up for the descent and subsequent climb. I knew the pot of gold awaited us at the top and whereas posters didn?t hold much motivation for me, the band did. So I nodded and fell in line.
The walk back up was as grueling but less horrific since I had, by now, become quite the expert at looking down. I was midway through ?Don?t Let Me Down? when I felt my feet hit ground that wasn?t at a 55 degree angle. Jason and the other guys smiled benevolently at me and I?m afraid I may have growled in their general direction. Had Jason made any mention of forgetting something and needing to go back at that moment, divorce papers may well have been served. Stupid Green Lot!
The good news is, the mountaineering was well worth it. That night?s show rivaled some of my favorite shows in Phishtory. The highlight came deep in the second set as I sat through the ending strings of Ghost (second set, on the lawn, had to sit) and the beginning notes of my most favorite Phish song tinkled out over the audience. I?ve mentioned the song in this blog, of course - http://9lizards.blogspot.com/2009/02/me-music-part-ii.html ? and perhaps the name of the blog itself derives in part from this song, definitely from the reason I attached this song to myself so many years ago. I immediately jumped into a standing position. This was only my third time hearing this song live and I had not expected it ? they?d already played it once on this early summer tour and I had thought that audience very lucky to have gotten it and assumed that would be its only show. Sometimes I am very glad to be so wrong.
I sang out loudly, though not as loud as I could since the volume wasn?t so high on this part of the lawn; I didn?t want my nearest neighbors to hear my voice over Trey?s. And when they got to the oh-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-umby-downt-downt-downt-umby-downt-downt-oh-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-whoa-oo-WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, I closed my eyes over my budding happy tears and enjoyed the perfectly played instrumental section that has always made me so glad to have found this band and stuck with them through the funk years and the all-night sets and the hiatuses and the drug years and the break-ups. That moment of closed eyes, perma-grin smile, thinking about all my friends and how much they have been around me all these years and being so grateful to have my wonderful husband standing behind me, no doubt smiling ear-to-ear for me ? that is the moment I am always looking for and always so blessed to be able to find, even if it?s been a few years since I last found it. You don?t want that moment everyday ? it would lose its luster fast. So long as I can get it every once-in-a-blue-moon, I am thankful.
At the end of the night, as I was descending from Blue-Yellow peak, preparing to ascend Green peak, I had that Lizards to buoy my tired bones as I gave them one last, great workout of the night. In some philosophy or theatre theory class in college, I had become fascinated with Aristotle?s Poetics and his theory of the necessity of bad in order to know good (he used the terms non-musical and musical, which is very fitting in my life sometimes). That you can?t know what good truly is without having had bad to compare it to. Which is true ? try defining the word good without using a single synonym or antonym. You can?t. You have to have the bad to know the good ? and vice versa, yes. I have lived that philosophy and it has gotten me through some of pretty harsh things life has throw at me. And while Green Lot might not be all the way up there with some of the more depressing moments of my life, as I ascended Green peak, I infused myself with the musical so as to get through the non-musical and the path was so much easier than it had been before.