I am generalizing, sure, but on the first night, most festival-goers will appear to be their everyday, average selves. By the second day, the transformation of some visitors is inevitable, and that is what I wait for. Women who rarely step out of their heels suddenly flounce through the grounds barefoot in flowing skirts and guatemalan tank tops. It becomes commonplace for people to have sections of hair bound in embroidery thread. Girls will have fresh, crusted mehndi on their arms and legs that they will regret as it turns a faded carrot orange over the coming weeks and sticks out of their sleeves at work. A solitary, young man with a bowstaff will free himself from his garage to practice his art in public.
(In the following video, Daffy Duck's quarter staff routine starts at about 1min45sec.)
Am I sounding crusty and old? I am not. I like to sit out and watch people try on personae for three days. It is a vacation from cubicles and cash registers and factories and delivery trucks. I wish that it would last a whole week.
The real hippies, the ones with dreads and armpit hair who are draped in crazy amounts of naturally dyed hemp fabric are of an elevated standing at the festival. Those of us stuck in this small, prairie city for the year's duration watch them with envy. They walk slowly. The women have quiet babies that sleep in cloth slings. They are often musical. They hug each other. I have heard people use the words "dirty hippy" as an insult, but at the festival, I know that we secretly wish it was okay to behave like them. They smell like human bodies and scented oils. If you lick them, you won't ingest forty different chemicals listed as dangerous to eat by government agencies. They don't iron their collars.
I will be of the sort who eats meat sandwiches from an offsite deli, wears my usual t-shirt and jeans, and smells like Ivory soap, men's hair pommade, and, perhaps, beer. Some vendor will share a cigarette with me on the grass when the traffic is slow. A few of the real hippies will nod at me, remembering me from ten or fifteen years ago. Late at night when the big acts play, this ticketless person will be one of many strung up on fences and benches around the park's monument to catch a glimpse of the main stage.
It is kind of nice to be slung between the end of my near two-month recuperation from surgery and my re-entry into cubicle life. I am in between slow rest and pressed clothes, feeling no rush to be in either place. It is my favourite limbo.