Friday night I took a nasty spill at Hunter Mountain, and I wasn’t even skiing. No, I was obeying the command of a sepulchral voice booming over the loudspeakers: “Everybody off the mountain immediately. Severe thunderstorm approaching with dangerous lightning. Get to your vehicles and take cover.”
Along with thousands of others, I was at Taste of Country, a three-day country music festival, awaiting the performance of the opening night’s headliner, Keith Urban. More precisely, I was on my way back from the portapotties, where I’d been photographing the trucks with their enormous tanks and hoses sucking out the shit while festival goers used the facilities.
At first I was too far away to understand what the voice was saying. People were
streaming down the hillside in droves, and when I saw the warnings on the giant video screens, I understood why. I didn’t want to abandon my folding chair and backpack, so I forged my way up the slope and packed up my gear. As I headed back down, lightning was flashing in the western sky.
The descent was orderly. No one was panicking, much less stampeding, probably in part because they’d been guzzling beer all day. But suddenly I slipped, falling hard on my left hip and thigh. I’m abundantly padded in that area, and I didn’t feel any damage, so I scrambled to my feet, with the help of a solicitous and shirtless young man who made sure I was alright.
When I reached the area of the base lodge, staff were urging people to head for their vehicles, since there was no way for the multitudes to take shelter in the buildings. But I went against the current, confronted a security guy at the entrance and played the age card: “I’m 73 years old and it’s impossible for me to get to my car in time.” He took pity on me, took hold of my arm and escorted me to a corner, where he ordered a young woman to yield her Adirondack-style chair with a back made from old fiberglass skis.
There I reclined in comfort for the next hour, reading a Joyce Carol Oates novel and sipping beer while the storm descended as threatened. The rain came down in torrents, and I could see flashes of lightening, but the thunder was drowned out by the uproar in the base lodge, coming chiefly from the drunken young men shouting and throwing beach balls, punctuated by the shrill screechy voices of young women. I was safely ensconced behind a few baby boomers who had set up their folding chairs, so I didn’t worry. Nor did anyone else; the mood was remarkably cheerful and upbeat. All in all, the event inspired confidence and hope for humanity, since most people were considerate and cooperative in a situation that could have become chaotic and dangerous. There were a few belligerent young drunks who got confrontational with each other, but the happier drunks quickly got them under control.
At long last the worst of the storm blew off to the east, and we were given the all-clear to go back out to the mountain. The crowd was much smaller now, and I set up camp much closer to the stage. Light rain was still falling as another half hour passed while the crew swept water off the stage and set up the equipment. The giant digital signs thanked us for our patience, and finally, at about 10:30pm, Keith Urban and his band took the stage. I feared for his safety, with all that water and electrical equipment, but he seemed unperturbed. “What’s a little rain?” he shouted as he launched into a blazingly brilliant set. A gorgeous guitar god in in his tight jeans, in a bygone era he would have been a rock star, but times change and music evolves.
I last saw Keith Urban at the Times Union Center in Albany ten years ago. His romance with Nicole Kidman was new then, and I later learned that she was there in the audience incognito, hidden beneath a hat. I’m glad their marriage has endured and that they’ve been blessed with two daughters. His music has thrived since then, and he’s a better performer, though less angsty than in his dissolute single days.
But I digress. I meant to write about whether it’s age-appropriate for me to attend events like this. There were lots of people with lined faces and gray hair, but most probably younger than me. It took physical endurance and stamina to traipse on and off the mountain and hang in there for the duration, but it was a hell of a lot easier than downhill skiing. I skied many times at Hunter, but in recent years I’ve skied mostly at Jiminy Peak. Last year, because of the bitter cold, I didn’t ski at all, and I’m not sure I ever will again. Not that I’m too old, but I know my legs aren’t in the condition they used to be, so I don’t want to press my luck. On the other hand, I didn’t break my hip at Hunter, though I fell on hard rocky ground instead of cushiony snow. So who knows – I’m not giving away my skis just yet.
I’ve got lots more to say about my Taste of Country experience vis a vis aging, but I’ll save it for the next post. Please subscribe to this blog so you won’t miss it. And please leave me a comment so I’ll know you’re out there!