A man surveys the village commons and lays claim to an area in the shade of a honey locust tree. Unfolding his chair, he settles back, removes his hat, wipes the sweat from his brow and allows the cool breeze to blow through the remnants of his hair.
The locals immediately recognize him as an outsider, so he sits alone behind his sunglasses, tapping his foot to the music projecting from the bandstand. Nodding off for a few minutes, he wakes with the uneasy feeling of someone hovering by his side. Noticing the silhouette in his peripheral vision, he turns, peers over the UV-blocking lenses, and comes face to face with his future. Even without Rod Serling’s narration, the man (being myself) realizes he has entered ... The Twilight Zone.
His (my future) appearance was somewhere between the disheveled, drunken hobo look of author Charles Bukowski and George Carlin in his later years. By the end of his one-sided conversation, I found him nearly as cynical and disillusioned, yet decidedly more entertaining, than either of those gentlemen. The mustard stained shirt he wore (buttoned one button too low on the left ... and 15 years out of fashion) flapped in the breeze like the main sail on a schooner. What had appeared through my sleepy eyes to be antennae were simply unruly clumps of poorly manicured hair protruding from his ear canals. A five-day stubble, which was threatening to become a beard, covered his face, and one of his socks was bunched at the ankle. My future leaned over my shoulder, cleared his throat, and asked ... (The man cursed, as they say, like a sailor. His colorful speech consisting mainly of interjecting random thoughts into long, continuous streams of vulgarity. So, in hopes of remaining a column contributor, I have taken editorial liberties and present to you the family version.)
“Hey buddy, what’s going on here?”
“A bluegrass festival,” I offered up.
That’s all it took. Off he went on a 45-minute, unprovoked, extremely offensive rant. Following are the highlights, as best I can recall.
“Bluegrass ... That hillbilly music? When did this start? I been living in Frankfort for 15 years, and I’ve never heard of any bluegrass hillbilly music. There used to be a farmers’ market in this park. The hippie country farmers would come straggling into town on Saturdays and sell potatoes and strawberries and pies. Was a big deal back then. But they ended up ruining it. Put up 100 tents and tables all around the park ... sellin’ jam and jelly and handmade hippie craft stuff nobody’s got a good use for or a reason to buy. Crazy old women flocked into town, parking in my front yard and blocking the streets and acting like that hippie junk was a king’s treasure. They take it home and tack it up on their walls to impress the bridge club. Then they die and guess what? Their poor kids have a house full of cheap, handmade crafty stuff to throw away. You got things in your house you don’t want anymore? Simply put it in your garage with a sign saying “Handmade hippie crap for sale,” and the old women will take every last bit of it.”
And on it went.
As he shuffled away with “Been real nice talking with you, buddy. Hope you enjoy your foot stompin,’ hootin’ and hollerin’ hillbilly music,” I wondered how to break the news of future me to my family. I’ll get on that as soon as I stake these “Handmade Hippie Crap For Sale” signs in my front yard.
Chuck Mason, a self-described opinionated wiseguy, resides in Princeton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.