Children squealed with delight as they ran under the fine spray of outdoor misters. Adults faked nonchalance as they wrangled for the best positioned picnic tables. Teenagers pushed up slipping over-sized sunglasses, pulled down their slim jeans, and cast furtive looks at their reflections in shaded boutique windows. Everyone gathered to hear the band play.
While the band checked sound and set up the donation box, the crowd settled down into various stages of dinner. Some ate leftovers from compact tupperware containers. Others were finishing up takeout dinners and gearing up for ice cream. Most stood in lines that curled like tendrils and waited patiently for this century’s answer to T.V. dinners: Pick Up Stix, Quiznos, Pizza Palace. The hamburger joint boasted the longest line.
One bacon cheeseburger special, one veggie burger special, and one kid’s grilled cheese special, please.
Minutes later, everyone is outside, seated and ready to eat food that makes one pause given the news of poor Tim Russert. But that thought is something to tuck under the carpet and hope denial inoculates against tragedy. For now, the focus is on long, crispy spears of fried zucchini dipped in ranch dressing. Is that dill? It must be. A faint taste of dill in the ranch must be what makes it taste so good. The baby inhales his half of the grilled cheese while his brother peers over the crowd in hopes of catching a glimpse of the band. They have real instruments. It will be loud, like The Wiggles. This is all very exciting.
Who’s playing? No one knows, no one cares. The line-up is always available online, but it is doubtful any of the people gathered took the time to look before showing up. The weather is perfect, the mood is light, and it’s Friday. For many of them, no work tomorrow.
The first few notes from a zampoņa, or panpipe, swirl up into the air and jump on a passing breeze. Peruvian music. Really? A few weeks ago it was Rockabilly. But no one cares. If they did, they would have checked the line-up. Peruvian music it is.
By now the grilled cheese sandwiches are nothing more than a congealed memory. It’s time to dance, and if not dance, it’s time to run around like a headless chicken in a roped off parking lot and call it dancing. One song. Then two. Three. Four. One “dances” while the other toddles around the crowd in search of standing water and sharp objects.
Six songs and intermission. It’s time to go home, amidst the pleas for one last song, one more “dance,” and the need to satisfy a sudden, ravenous hunger. It’s time to go home.
It will all be there again next week. The people, the music, the family. Dill scented ranch dressing, crispy fried zucchini spears and the strains of a schizophrenic play list.