A Music Festival Weekend
by Brock Skelding
I blame Greg Gillis. I blame the security guard. I blame my girlfriend. I blame my own bad genetics that I spent 36 hours in a foreign country as a blind man.
It all happened on the last day of the Sasquatch Music festival in Washington state as Greg Gillis (aka mash-up DJ, Girl Talk) took the stage and invited the crowd to climb up and join him. I rushed forward, but after three days of “celebrating” my reaction speed had diminished and as I climbed on the stage, a security guard stepped in and declared, “No More!”
Usually I would be fine with being relegated back to the crowd, but the combination of liquid courage and the sight of my girlfriend two-stepping on stage gave me the determination to soar over the barriers and join them. The first barricade was no match for my nimble feet, but as I hoisted myself up onto the stage for my second attempt, I felt an assortment of gloved hands suck me back to the Earth below. Chicken–winged and being battered down the gauntlet, my left contact lens was bonked of my eye and onto to the dusty field below.
I’ve broken my foot and kept the party going, so being down 50% of vision was barely a blip in my day. I continued to bounce around the festival taking in bands, albeit without the benefit of depth perception. On the path home, walking hand in hand with my girl, one ill-advised blink knocked my remaining connection to the visual world from my eye. In the dark, my reflexes kicked in and I shot my hand out to feel the transparent, dime sized, contact float into my accepting hand.
“Can you believe it? I just caught my last contact out of mid air!” I said.
“Really? Let me see,” my loving lady pleaded.
I opened my hand and delicately presented the remaining lens it to her. “That’s dirty!” she exclaimed, and slapped it out of my hand and into the dirt where it was lost forever. The best way to describe what happened next is to compare it to the final scene of Dumb And Dumber when Jim Carrey grabs the blonde guy by the face and cries: “DO YOU REALIZE WHAT YOU’VE DONE?” I survived the night by sitting in a van and drinking warm Keystones until it didn’t matter if I could see or not.
I woke up to the reality of being blind, in a different country, and facing an eight hour drive to the border with my five friends, all of whom sympathy was washed away by their own inner shame caves that four days at a music festival can bring. I knew it was going to by a long day when I spent 15 minutes looking for a fanny-pack that was already around my waist. Yes, I am that blind.
Since eating was an option at the music festival - an option we elected not to take - we left the rural concert grounds and ran directly for border. And by border, I mean the nearest Taco Bell. I had no chance of reading the large display menu, so I held the small laminated card of pictures so close to my nose I could smell the hand sweat and cheese residue of the previous patron. We ordered a mountain of tacos and ate until the wrappers on the table were piled so high that I couldn`t be seen by the person across from me. I could`ve been sitting across from Burger King himself and wouldn’t have seen him.
By the time we got back on the road we were four hours away from the real border. I had enough time to get home, go to the optometrist, and have my vision back before the sun went down. As I was contemplating the remaining hours of the day, the driver yelled out, “Something`s wrong with the van!” We pulled off the interstate and rolled into a mechanic shop just as the van died.
“It’s going to be at least an hour,” we are told by the mechanic. I asked the cute barista (I assume she was cute, but she could’ve been a 14-year boy) where in town I could purchase some new contacts. She told me there was a Walgreens four blocks down the road. I set out with two of my friends, who snickered at my disposition as we walked. After six blocks I decided to ask for new directions. We approached a crowded bus stop and I decided to approach a man standing separately from the waiting group in order to avoid the embarrassment of explaining my affliction to the masses. By the time I got up to the man it was too late. I opened my mouth and he immediately slid right up into my personal space. The horror of my situation was instant. There was a reason he was separate from the group. He should have been keep away from society altogether. Draped in civil war apparel, including a hat that could be described as racist, I was locked into a social interaction with a cross-eyed senior citizen with a large Yosemite Sam moustache that was dripping wet, even though it was one of the hottest day of the year. He was a crazy person, reeking of booze.
“Excuse me kind sir," I stammered. "I was wondering if you could point me in the direction of the local Walgreens?”
“Walgreens? WALGREENS! NO! NO! NO!” he replied in rage.
He continued to scream and chased me down the street. When he finally relented my friend asked, “What were you thinking? We did everything we could to avoid that dude, and you B-lined directly for him!”
I never found the Walgreens. We returned to find out the van was toasted beyond repair. While I stared at the wall, my friends rented a Jeep, loaded in our gear, and we raced north to the border. My fellow passengers made a game of asking me which road signs I could read (none of them) and asked why I didn’t bring extra contact lenses (because my bag was filled with glow sticks and spare fedoras). We all agreed that the weekend was worth ten sets off eyes and five 1996 Ford Aerostar vans.
The following day I was guided down the street like an old lady being helped out of church and hooked up with some new eyes. I booked an appointment for laser eye surgery shortly after and now I only need glasses for the sun.
I’ve seen Girl Talk several times since and each time the crowd was invited on stage, I stayed in the crowd, closed my eyes, and enjoyed the music.