Posted on October 4th, 2022

The Soft Core of the Earth – The Pendulum Swings

I’m a “bite off more than you can chew” kind of guy when it comes to travel and leisure planning, and because of this, I also end up being a “be careful what you wish for” kind of guy, too. Fortunately, more often than not, the travels and leisure go close enough to plans to render them enjoyable, good decisions. Once in a while, however, I regret my choices. Regretting something that you can bail on because of minimal investment is one thing, but something that you’ve booked flights and lodging, amongst other things, is another. There’s an annual weekend of concerts out west that I like to attend, when possible, not only for the music and location, but also because I have a lot of friends who go. As soon as these shows were announced this year I immediately wanted to go, and I checked with others to see who could make it. Some folks I wanted to see wouldn’t be going this year for numerous reasons, but many others were committed – and thus, so was I. That is until I saw the cost of travel – prohibitively expensive. It was a bumout. Well, as luck would have it, I kept an eye on the prices for flights and car rentals and followed a tip from a friend to rent a U-Haul instead of a car (which cost me less than half), and miraculously a flight popped up that was 60% of the others available, and a direct one to boot. The stars were in alignment!

Go with the flow. The pendulum will lock you in to where you need to be. (Image retrieved from https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-of-crystal-pendant-1540321/ and comes courtesy of lilartsy)

Over time, of course, those people I really wanted/expected to see changed their plans. Most were from close enough that they could drive, so they didn’t have flights to change, and it was even up to the first day of the three-day weekend of music that one of the last holdouts informed me he would not be there. I was staying in a house with ELEVEN other people (seven other adults and four children), something that I don’t tend to do (I typically opt for solo lodging whenever possible), and none of the folks were people whom I would consider “close” friends. I’d known most of them for years, some very superficially, some only through the grace of time, and my primary connection to that lodging situation was someone I do really like for sure, but I wouldn’t call her a “good” friend by any stretch of the imagination. Add to that a rainy outdoor show that was low in energy due to the singer having recently been sick, and I found myself thinking what a bad decision this was; how much money I spent and wasted; that this was the last time I’ll ever come to this event; that people just let me down by not showing up. I was in a funk for sure.

The next day came, and my mood was still kind of the same, and all of the converged parties in my house went about their day to do different things, like grabbing food, going to the hot springs, go antiquing, etc.; and while invited, I declined and decided to get some much-needed alone time to recalibrate and relax. I sat out on the porch and looked over the wide expanses of the rural northern Rockies and finished a really good book; it was a welcome recharge. As people started to filter back into the house, I surrendered to the flow and decided to make the most of it (not that I was being a brat before then, only that I’d let the melancholy cloud hang over me), yet I still operated on the fringes in loner mode (as I’m wont to do), and went into “town” (permanent population of about 150) to get something to eat and then catch the end of the opening act. Somewhere along that night my mood improved, and I’d gone from negative on the experience to neutral, and as the band was more energetic, that helped immensely too.

The first night, I saw a gal I met in 2019 with whom we had a brief “connection.” It fizzled quickly on a subsequent rendezvous (the makings for another story), and then we fell out of touch. Last summer (2021) we crossed paths at a show in Denver and chatted a little, but I’d resolved that whatever had been would be no longer, and there wasn’t much else to salvage aside from that – hence my reasoning for not approaching her on the first night. But, because the crowd was so small (think cult following here), it would’ve been just weird not talk to her, so later on the second night, a Saturday, I approached her and we had a good and deep conversation, rekindling some of the discussions that brought us together in the first place. After the show we parted ways, and I acknowledged that I was slowly coming around to thinking this weekend was getting better. The pendulum swings.

The next day, our house hosted a potluck – well, to be fair my main friend in the house did and everyone else fell in line – and there were at least 20 people who showed up; it was fantastic (as parties go). While I can be very social, I’m still more of an introvert, so I hung out on the lower-level porch with a small collection of other social abstainers, and we reveled in our cavern out of the storm. After the party, we all headed into town for the third and final concert, an early show. I stopped by the gal’s place beforehand (the one I’d rekindled with the night before), and we had another good talk and continued it throughout the afternoon and into the evening, parting ways later that night with promises to keep in touch. We’ll see.

The third and final day was the best in almost every way possible, and I’d gone from feeling negative to feeling neutral to feeling positive about the decision to travel for this trip, even if so many of my good friends didn’t make it. And you know what? Some of those long-time acquaintances became better friends, too. Imagine that.

Would I go again next year? Hard to say. I’d like to say I would, but travel is challenging from where I live to where this takes place, and it gets more and more expensive every year. If it somehow worked that this run of shows happened when I was already out west, like I often am during the summers, and it fit perfectly into my itinerary, then definitely. But if I’m already back in the east and have to do a return trip, it would be less likely. This past weekend was my sixth or seventh out there for this event (the band has played 15-20 time in this remote location over the last two decades), so it’s become an important part of my music travel life. To think I’d never go again is a hard outcome to settle with.

I also have to add something I’m sure I’ve mentioned numerous times in this seldom-read column: I hate to fly. Not because I’m scared to do so, but because you sacrifice all autonomy and control the minute you walk into an airport. Driving may take a lot longer, but at least there’s some resemblance of control there, however fictitious that may be. But this flight, as with all of them, I couldn’t help but think about how much I hate people; how much I find them to be utterly selfish (including myself); how disgusting I find them; how annoying they are. I’m no better, I know. But being sequestered on an airplane is like being on a ship of fools. It just reminds me what a horrible species we are on so many levels. I digress, as usual…

Back to the task at hand: I went into the weekend from the earliest stages of planning with high hopes and a big grin. As folks backed off their commitments to attend, and the first day settled over me, I was feeling I’d made a bad decision. (Keep in mind, I’d already traveled about 7,500 miles by car this summer over six weeks, including one other flight, so I was kind of over travel in general.) But over the course of the weekend, slowly and bit-by-bit, I not only had a good experience, but felt I’d actually made a good decision. The pendulum swung in my favor this time, all I had to do was fall in line.

Marco Esquandoles
Swinger

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