My life writes itself.
As if I would pass up the opportunity to see Maceo Parker and Daddy G in a hurricane? Puh-leeze. But the friend who was meeting me was of a different persuasion.
Dang! I'm not walking anywhere in this bullshit. It's POURING!
According to Accuweather it's going to clear up shortly.
Which it most certainly did not, but that's hardly the point.
Those who plan their life around the temperature and precipitation are doomed to miss all kinds of wondrous things, but also, they are forever in my mind labeled weather wimps.
With one of my larger umbrellas in hand, I hoofed it to the Richmond Folk Festival without knowing if my friend would show or not, despite me leaving back-up instructions should he decide to brave the monsoon later.
The walk was a lot like parkour because I was constantly jumping over puddles, fording streamlets and having to negotiate ledges and curbs to avoid getting further soaked.
And if I thought it was bad on city streets and sidewalks, I was completely unprepared for the quicksand-like miasma of Tredegar and Brown's Island's once-grassy fields and dirt pathways.
I'd just stepped onto the muddy mess of Gary Gerloff Way when I spotted everyone's favorite banjo player leaving, but, as he said, for the very best of reasons: to go home to his four-day old baby.
He got a pass.
After dropping my contribution in the bucket, I headed up the steps at Tredegar behind a guy who already had a napkin wedged into the heel of his boot to address a festival blister, only to realize I'd reached the wrong stage.
The trade-off was running into a wine rep friend on the way out, feeling guilty about bailing because of rain so he gifted me with his Folk Fest map to help avoid future navigational errors.
Moseying back down the steps, I made my first stop at Urbanna Crabcakes for, what else, a crabcake sandwich (and the pleasure of hearing the kid behind the table bark at the kitchen staff's adults, "CrabCAKE!" like a drill sergeant) and passed the time while they were making it by watching two FF volunteers take possession of their fried oyster boats.
The woman took hers to the table and promptly covered the bivalves and fries with ketchup, then cocktail sauce, then hot sauce and finally tartar sauce.
X-ray glasses would have been the only way to see the oysters for the condiments.
Just as I'm concluding that she must really hate the taste of oysters, she holds up a squirt bottle, raises an eyebrow at her companion and a look of panic crosses his face.
"Er, no, um, I like them the way they are," he tells her, clutching his fried oyster boat closer to protect it from her saucy invasion.
Walking to a hospitality tent to sit down and eat, I lost my shoe for the first time when mud sucked it clean off my foot, setting the tone for the entire evening and future lost shoes. On the up side, the crabcake was outstanding: large, sauteed to a golden brown and resting on a boat of fries.
Fortified, I walked over to our Plan B meeting place but after seeing no sign of my weather wimp friend, took the higher bridge to Brown's Island where I spotted a "Don't NOVA my RVA" bumper sticker on a bridge support as I went by.
Yes, for the love of all that is sacred, please don't.
But what I also noticed from the bridge's high point as I looked around at the silvery gray canal, sky and river along with the bridges and sidewalks bustling with pedestrians was that Richmond was having its London moment and all those weather wimps were missing it.
I was headed to the Dominion Dance Pavilion for the foreseeable future, feeling confident because it's a covered stage, but I had no clue as to what awaited me.
Located at the far end of Brown's Island near the trail for my beloved Pipeline Walkway, it clearly sat at a low point on the island, meaning a moat had formed on three sides of the wooden dance floor that had been laid.
I slogged through to a seat and was immediately reminded me of my amateur status when a pro and his wife arrived and a hand towel appeared from his pocket to dry their seats before sitting down. So very civilized.
Just as I was beating myself up for not having done the same, the woman next to me complimented me on my bell bottoms and I forgot practicality entirely for a compliment from a stranger.
Her husband warned me off attempting to cross the area to their right to get to the dance floor because of how deep the water and mud were. I only needed to see one guy attempt it to realize that people needed to be warned away from it.
I did my best, but watching insistent types try to cross it anyway provided a lot of entertainment for the three of us. Before long, people were taking selfies of their feet and legs buried past their ankles in the mud baths and by the end of the night, people were bringing friends over to admire the depth of the muck.
When a guy appeared to my left and his girlfriend to my right on the dance floor, he waved her around, nailing the situation.
"It's a bog!" That it was.
Me, I was there to see Gary "U.S" Bonds, who brought his Norfolk sound to the stage and managed to prove within a couple of '60s songs I'd never heard why Springsteen, among others, had been so influenced by his sax-fronted brand of rock and roll.
When Gary asked an audience member where she was from, I couldn't hear the answer, but he apparently had. "Ports-mouth? You're from Ports-mouth? Deal with it!"
When he explained that they were combining several of their early '60s hits into a medley because they hated the songs they'd been playing for a half century, I understood completely.
On a more upbeat note, during a recent visit to Spain involving beautiful beaches and $3 wine, Gary had been told that their song "I Wanna Holler" was number three in Spain, a fact he attributed to "too much cheap wine."
He sounded as amazed as anybody at the news.
But the highlight of the set was when 90-year old Gene "Daddy G" Barge took the stage to sing "Way Back Home, talk about stopping by Oceanview and Church Street and playing the sax like a boss.
Without a doubt, the most sublime moment came when he told of playing with Bonnie Raitt on Oprah's show and, as a tribute to Bonnie, launched into a heartbreaking rendition of her '90s hit "I Can't Make You Love Me" - a song I find so incredibly sad that I never purposely listen to it - on sax.
I'm just going to say that until you've sat under a tent listening to a nonagenarian rip your heart out playing saxophone while a hurricane dumps rain all around you and winds buffet the tent you're under, you haven't had the fullest Folk Fest experience.
While the next band was setting up and more people arrived to pose in the bog, others used it as an open sewer, spitting in it and hocking into it. I had to assume they were raised by wolves.
On a higher plain, I watched as a guy took off his plastic bag raincoat, wrapped it around one of the tent's support poles, tied it in a knot and pushed it high up on the pole so he could return later and claim it.
Easily the most creative coat check I'd ever seen.
Soon I was joined by an artistic friend and music lover (we'd run into each other at Psychedelic Furs and I learned tonight of his abiding passion for punk), at the festival by himself because his main squeeze was at a birthday party, although she also thought he was crazy for going out in this weather for music.
But it's Maceo Parker, I insisted, feeling his need. "That's exactly what I told her," he said. And it's Maceo in a hurricane, so even better, we agreed.
L'Orchestre Afrisa Internationale took over the stage to deliver New World-influenced African music that soon had a band member dancing in a way that white people would call twerking but in reality was African-based in the first place.
Naturally, he also executed it far better than anyone my color could.
Despite the rain and mud on the dance floor, the crowd danced almost non-stop to Congolese music as trains screeched by and rain poured down even harder. My feet were wet and cold, as were my friend's, but we were in this for the duration.
Occasionally, I'd use my umbrella to block the wind-driven rain blowing in the canal side of the tent, but when my friend tried to do the same, the wind turned his umbrella inside out.
Mind you, we were inside the tent.
After their set, a Folk Fest talking head thanked the crowd for being there despite the elements. "You're a hearty bunch to be here in a hurricane! You're the real Folk Fest fanatics!"
I don't know about all that, but I do know every person in the Dance Pavilion braved the weather for the sake of seeing Maceo Parker.
Things got down and dirty fast as he and his impeccably-dressed band and back-up singers (one from James Brown's band and the other his cousin) did a number on songs by James Brown, George Clinton and others I didn't know.
"We only got two songs and this is one of 'em!" Maceo hollered before getting down on "Make It Funky."
It takes two to make things go right
It takes two to make it outasight
"They're really laying it down heavy," my friend commented once Mr. Parker and his trombone player got wailing.
They did Marvin Gay's "Let's Get It On" and his cousin sang lead on "Stand By Me" and in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the sax man was closing by saying, "I'm Maceo Parker!" as if everyone under that tent didn't already know.
Closing with a mashup of "Get On Up" and a reprise of "We Love to Love You," my friend's pleasure at the set was obvious. "I kept expecting James Brown to come out."
That wasn't necessary. It was enough that Daddy G and Maceo came to Richmond in a hurricane and I got to see and hear it.
Dang, it wasn't just all right, it was clean outasight. So I got a little wet. I'll dry.