Maureen and i are home.
We flew into San Francisco last Thursday for our annual visit with Alan, Maren, and Eleanor Hicks in conjunction with the incredible experience of “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass,” the free three-day concert in a bulging Golden Gate Park.
Alan had already picked up Cy Fraser (his wonderful Julie was attending a relative’s pre-nuptial event in Los Angeles, and regrettably, we missed her) when they gathered us up for the trip to their home.
Alan, Maren, and daughter Eleanor, an attorney for Google, have this wonderful home in Forest Hills, our headquarters for the weekend. On Friday, the guys arrived at the park around 8:00 am to stake out a close-up spot at the Banjo Stage, the main performance stage out of seven throughout the park. On Saturday and Sunday, Eleanor joined the early birds. Our usual routine is to claim our territory, walk about half of Hellman Hollow to grab some the first breakfast burritos from a concession stand and get coffee or latte’s on the way back. Then, we read or take naps until showtime, noon on Friday, and 11:00 am on the other two days. This year, Jim Hicks, Alan’s brother and long time fraternity brother of the trio, made the old guys a quartet. Friends of Alan, Maren, and Eleanor joined us throughout the days.
i left early with a several others on Saturday around 4:00 pm, but we had someone there every day until closing around 7:00 pm. The three-day total attendance apparently did not reach the 800,000 i predicted. Official attendance will be published in the next few days. But Saturday had to have set a record. Hellman Hollow was so full, it took at least 45 minutes to walk to and from the port-a-potties about 100 yards from our spot, an important statistic for an old man to know as the day wore on and the beer consumption increased.
The attendees cut the swath of race, country of origin, religion, persuasions, age, and every other possible categorization in every way possible. Booze flows freely. The aroma of marijuana hangs over the hollow like a haze. Yet in the six times we have attended (i think Alan and Maren have been there for 9 or ten years out of the fifteen), we have never witnessed a fight. It is people getting along with people.
i have discussed the music before, but it is rather incredible: eighty-six groups or solo performers sang and played. They all were of the highest quality.
The festival is fantastic, but time with our friends and their friends is even better.
We cannot thank Alan, Maren, and Eleanor enough for letting us share the experience. We cannot thank Cy, Jim, and the others for sharing the time together. And we are especially grateful to Ralph Lavage, our neighbor, who insisted in taking us to and picking us up at Lindbergh Field.
i have run out of superlatives for the experience.
But it was long, and honestly, we both were glad to get home.
Thanks, everyone…and see you next year.