Every summer, in late June, I nestle into a rustic cabin in the woods with some of my best friends. The trip is to see Dead & Co. We pack food and beer so that we barely have to leave the campsite, except to hike and see the concert. We want our time there to be simple and relaxing. We are there for a respite from phones and schedules and responsibility. We are there to catch up. And to discover the wonders of nature down by the riverside.
A few wild ladies out for a some fun and adventure.
Our cabin is sandwiched by two others. The one to right has been occupied by somebody different each year. One year it was a couple also there for the concert. He was a deadhead; she was not. This was their first ever trip together, following the Dead down the east coast for two weeks. I often wonder how long that relationship lasted after that trip. I didn’t see her as somebody who would enjoy all the dynamics that encompass the elements of a Dead show. Who was I to judge her place there? I found my own self in a pickle later in the night…karma can be an even bigger bitch than gravity is to the mid-life lady.
The next year, it was some friends of ours joining our adventure. And the next it was a family there for reasons other than the Dead and Co.
The cabin on the left, however, has an annual return visitor, who we have come to know over the years. We all connected over our love for The Dead, being in the woods, and crazy concert stories. On the afternoon of the concert that very first year, he grilled fish and brought over samples for us to taste. We chatted around the fire as we pre-gamed over delicious, fresh fish and ice cold beers. We chatted as we ate and drank. His girlfriend joined us about an hour later, after a shower, we assumed. We barely had a chance to talk with her. Departure time quickly arrived so we piled into our Uber and waved goodbye, wishing them a magical night.
…I’ll tell you about the magic and it’ll free your soul…
We were lucky as we had front row tickets. John Mayer, in true Jerry Garcia fashion, forgot the words a few times and missed some cues. It was awesome. As the show came to a close, we noticed our new friend and his girlfriend right in front of us in the pit. We caught their attention with some screaming and enthusiastic waves and they generously offered us a ride home. We accepted gratefully as the Uber trip here took forever because of traffic and the trip out of There was certain to be a nightmare.
On the ride home, we were still giddy so we extended the invitation, “Let’s get home and start the fire. We have a ton of beer!!!”
As we were driving down the road, the girlfriend turned around and said, “You ladies seem like a bundle of fun. How do you know each other?”
We all began talking at the same time. “We met when we were 5!” (two of us) “We met in middle school…” (the rest of us), on and on it went.
She gave a nod in response and pursed her lips, deep in thought. In the midst of the quiet, we all began commenting on the magical moments of the show. She agreed and countered our invitation with one of her own, “Would you ladies like to make this night even more magical?” And pulled out what appeared to be an antique pill case or lipstick case. She opened it and inside were pills of all sizes and colors. To trip or not to trip? Maybe at one point in my younger years…but I was not down for a long strange trip at this point in my life.
“No thanks,” we said. And then were afraid to ask which pills our driver and new friend had taken. He sat quietly and focused on driving. Gratefully.
She seemed unfazed by our refusal and upped the ante. “Well, which one of you would be interested in joining me in our cabin when we get home? A threesome, or just me and you? I am down with any option…and any one of you.” She can make happy any man alive. She spun around in her seat and eyed each of us with an eagerness that scared the buzz right out of us. We all shook our heads silently insisting, “No thanks.” Definitely not interested in that type of trip.
Look out look out the Candyman…
I suddenly realized that we were leaving a Grateful Dead show where some fans were still living out Woodstock inside of their heads…Whoa, despite not having partaken in the pills, I dove down the rabbit hole of What ifs.
What if I went to Woodstock? Then the hole ran deeper (and much more meaningful). What if I met Harriet Tubman? Susan B. Anthony? Mary Wollstonecraft? The questions are endless.
Do you ever ask yourself:
What am I brave enough to do? Risk?
What am I afraid enough to allow? Ignore?
I do. And that night I was not brave enough to partake or I was brave enough not to partake. I am not sure which it is.
I spent the rest of the ride home wondering if age had made me prudish or if I have always walked that prudish line of conservatism with my life choices, falling off of it in one direction or the other at certain times, then eventually getting back on it. We began that night, three wild ladies out for some fun, and I ended out night wondering about the impact aging has had on my risk taking and my courage. Or if I was just blaming age.
The car got even quieter, if that was possible. We arrived at the cabin and you never saw three ladies run for our cabin so fast. Kind of like Cinderella trying to outrun the final dong of the bell, ending her fairy godmother’s magical spell.
Once we slammed the door safely shut, we erupted into giggles. Then we realized the beer cooler was still outside. The giggles dissipated and so did the night.
“Oh shit. Who is going out there to get it?” There would be no bonfire and no cooler. We snuggled into our beds and listened while one of us provided play by play commentary on her nightly beauty routine, offering each of us a chance to participate, offering us a peaceful way to wind down from the evening.
The following morning, I awoke to a delicious scent of coffee wafting in the air. I was still inside dressing when our neighbor brought over cups for us and asked “Where’s Dorothy?” causing my friends to later tease that he had a crush on me. I came out and he had set the steaming cups on our picnic table. All of us were hesitant to even take a sip. Can you blame us?? We all eyed the cups with trepidation. He caught on,”Come on ladies. The coffee is safe. Drink it or not, totally up to you, but your loss if you don’t.”
“Ahhh, why not? I’m on vacation.” The alluring smell won me over, and I took the first sip. Risky! I stepped off of the line briefly. We all gave in and enjoyed the amazing coffee, gratefully un-spiked. He laughed off the night before (saying her barely knew her) and the girlfriend never emerged while we packed up and headed home, back to reality.
Side note: He returned the following year. We were both surprised and excited to see him get out of his car. He must have been the most shocked though. He got out and ran right over to us. Quick hugs all around before the female passenger emerged a few moments later. She looked different than we remembered as she approached us with a quizzical look on her face. He said, “Ladies, meet my wife.” Then did the cut throat gesture and whispered, “We were on a break last year.”
About an hour of catching up went by and he asked, “Where is Dorothy? Why isn’t she back this year?”
I said, “I am right here!”
Gravity and menopause had wreaked havoc over that year, and he didn’t even recognize me. Maybe gravity stole my spunk too. The alleged crush was gratefully dead and the party began once again.