This past Saturday through Monday, we camped with many old and new friends, celebrated the camping portion of Sage's 6th birthday and Father's Day and saw two amazing Phish concerts at Alpine Valley. The band stopped touring in 2004, so though the kidlets did see live Phish shows the first few summers of their lives, these two are the first they'll remember.
We camped at a small, family run campground on picturesque Turtle Lake, where we were happy to escape the heat advisories with a dunk in the water and an afternoon floating on rafts. The kids gathered large snail shells, watched frogs and minnows, and serenaded everyone.
For eight of us, it was truly a reunion. In the close to 20 years or so, that we've all been going to concerts and camping together, lots has changed. We first saw The Grateful Dead each summer at Deer Creek, Alpine Valley and Soldier Field and later, after Jerry Garcia died, we made the same mini tour with Phish.
None of us had children of our own. And camping was not just a place to crash after the show, but a fun bonding experience. Three of our friends are now high school teachers and college professors, many have higher degrees, we're all scattered across the Midwest, and we have 4 new humans among us, two of whom came along for the ride.
We even broached the subject of a living will, and asked our friends, Danielle and Tim, to raise Du-Jay and Sagezilla in the event something happens to us in the next 12 years, before the kids are legal adults. One always hopes that will be a non issue, but we didn't want to strand the kids without a plan or have the lawyers plop the kids on their porch unannounced some day! Our friends didn't run screaming, but tearfully and happily hugged us. We had to make them promise not to hire a hit man or run us off the road just to inherit Du-Jay and Sagezilla.Still, despite all the years that have past and all the changes, much was completely familiar. We picked right back up where we left off, as friendships can do. The songs remained the same. We shared food, pitched in helping each other with camp duties, got to know the new campground neighbors, and experienced those uncanny coincidences that always magically happened.
Coinkidink 1: We drove several hours in from Chicago and our two friends came from The Deer Creek shows in Indianapolis via an overnight in Lisle with friends. We left from different points at completely different times and pulled in to the camp ground within minutes of each other.
Coinkidink 2: In parking lots full of thousands of cars, we were in the same row as our friend from Summercamp and Metronome Fest, River's Mama. And walking from the lot to the venue, we saw another awesome Mom we met at Summercamp, who is a homeschooling book seller.
In 2004 in the Phish lot, we parked literally next to our old Naprapath and friend, Dr. Drew, whom we hadn't seen in a year.
Coinkidink 3: The kids talked about what songs they'd like to hear Phish play and got 4 of them their first night! Three of those songs had been answers to a 3 question trivia game we made up and played in the car on the way to the show.
Coinkidink 4: We were talking with a woman in the lot, making necklaces, and discovered she grew up near where Dug did. Her family business bought their place from his relatives...next to a place owned by the company his Dad worked for till retirement. Small world.Sage is still hoping to camp with some of her 6 year old friends and their families, but logistically we couldn't make it happen before fall, so we told her this would be camping birthday and friends (tho grown up friends). Two out of three isn't bad. We brought a big chocolate cake to share and topped it with fresh fruit. Friends celebrating their anniversary brought champaign for mimosas. And we all sang a rousing "Happy Birthday" on the shores of the lake.I brought fabric markers and Sharpies and we communally decorated a birthday dress for Sagezilla at the camp ground. She wore it to the 2nd night of Phish (also Father's Day and summer solstice) where the dress decorating continued through the lot scene and the show. Kind strangers gave her glow sticks, a funky colored hair headband, bubble swords, and a beautiful, handmade necklace, where she got to choose her own beads. By the end of the concert she had declared it the bestest bubblin' birthday EVER.
We were near the front of the lawn for the 2nd night, and the kids caught literally hundreds of glo sticks to throw back out into the crowd (or in Zilla's case, also into the face of a guy who was in her space). They wrote messages on balloons and sent them soaring into the audience. Sagezilla made balloon works of art, her favorite being a creepy and detailed "baby vampire crying blood tears, because he's too young to HUNT." The flip side of the same balloon was a cute little anime looking frog with long lashes.
She sent it into the crowd, where it vanished, only to have it come back to her about 15 minutes later. She was on my shoulders, excitedly following its progress, as it bounced around the crowd. But, like a boomerang, it kept returning to her. She was happily laughing as she virtually played catch with an audience of over 40,000. Even the security guards got in on the act, spiking the little vampire back to Sagezilla when it ricocheted out of our section.
Finally, after multiple balloon rebounds, Sage had to pee, so she made the long trek up the steep slope, to the back of Alpine Valley, with the vampire balloon clutched in her hand. It lasted through the two of us skipping to and from the portalets and magically meeting up with the male half of our family, who had made a break for the potties a half hour before. The baby vamp lasted through the kids rolling down the back side of the steep hill repeatedly.
Then...... it popped. Sagezilla wailed, "I worked so hard on that balloon!" and I gently reminded her that that's the nature of bubbles and balloons. But she got to fill it with her breath, created it, and enjoyed it immensely while it lasted. "She smiled and happily exclaimed. I got to see it die!" Du-Jay added, " You were there for the balloon's whole life cycle!"
Dug put up with the rest of us, since it's not his favorite music by a long shot. That's true love for ya--and on Father's Day, even. But, he got a few good weeks of grumbling mileage out of it and got to keep his Punk Cred.Phish did cover Talking Heads, "Frankenstein" by The Edgar Winter Group and Jimmi Hendrix--all bands he does like. These two shows wrapped up the early summer portion of Phish's tour. We have tickets to one more show in August, at Toyota Park. Till then, we'll play our sets from the taper section and remember the fun we had Phishin'. Mr. Miner's Phish Thoughts is a good source for set lists, downloads, photos, and insightful musings, if you're interested in more Phish food for thought.
Please remember to vote for ChiIL Mama for best blog, Chicago. You can vote daily through July 15th, by clicking on the circular button--the bright shiny button--to the right, under the slide show and selecting ChiIL Mama. Thank you. Tomorrow we're off to Portland, OR. So our next post will be from the coast!