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Monday, May 28, 2007

Thing 38: The Wolf Trap

The moon comes out over the Wolf TrapSometimes life throws perfect moments at you. Everything comes together in a great swirl of contentment, satisfaction, joy and peace. The night I met the Boyfriend comes to mind, when we both managed to say exactly the right thing, keep saying the right thing, telling just the right jokes and anecdotes to realize that this was gonna be something big. There was the time I made my first roasted chicken, one week after I turned 21, and it was juicy and shiny and and crispy, and I realized that this whole being-an-adult thing wasn't so bad. There was the night the week before the 2004 presidential election, when I was working on the campaign in Florida, and two friends and I went to the beach late at night. We stood looking at the ocean, and I remembered that for all the stress and hard work and sleepless nights, the tide would still come in and out every day. Everything was going to work out and move forward.

And there was the time I went to see Garrison Keillor's A Prairie Home Companion by myself at the Wolf Trap, two years ago.

I'd gone to the Friday night show on Memorial Day weekend in 2005, and no one would go with me, so I headed over by myself. I brought a simple supper of a turkey sandwich from the Safeway deli, a bag of chips, and a 22 oz Miller Lite. I found a spot near the top of the center lawn, sat down on my little blanket, and as the show began I munched my sandwich and sipped my big beer. The stars came out, Garrison took his stool out to center stage to tell us all about Lake Wobegone, and I leaned back in the grass, staring at the stars and listening to that steady, nostalgic monologue. I was content and at peace. Everything was as it should be.

In an attempt to recapture that moment of pure peace, I returned to see A Prairie Home Companion at the Wolf Trap on Friday, with Good Friend Lisa this time, and her new roommate.

I've already written briefly about Wolf Trap, so you may already know it is high on my list of The theater, the lawn.things to do in the summer heat. And it is an easy tradition to start, as Garrison does a live broadcast of his NPR program from the Wolf Trap every Memorial Day weekend, and a dress rehearsal performance on the preceding Friday night. I met GFL and her roommate in the theater, having staked out a small square of lawn. I had brought a cooler filled with arugula-red onion-feta fritatas (without which, I would never have run into ?uestlove), as well as white chocolate macadamia cookies, and tiny individual bottles of pinot grisio. GFL brought some blanched asparagus, about three dozen shiny bright green stalks, and a small container of homemade wasabi mayonnaise for dipping.
A pretty picnic of asparagus and wasabi mayonnaise
We ate and drank and laughed, enjoying the mild summer air and our beautiful setting. The Wolf Trap is a national park for the performing arts, and the main attraction is a huge wooden stage, Picnic essentials: wine and cookieswith a sheltered section of real seats and a sprawling lawn above that for those of us in the cheap seats. I actually prefer the lawn, as I think it gives you more freedom to come and go, the ability to picnic and drink wine, and a better chance to commune with your neighbors. Our neighbors to the front of us, for example, were a large group of young adults in their mid-twenties, apparently college friends and lovers, and then one of their moms. They kept going to their picnic basket and pouring deep cups of straight gin. The mom was hammered by the show's end, and one the guys couldn't find his flip flops when it came time to leave.

Our neighbors to our left enjoyed singing along, and luckily they could harmonize with what was going on on stage, so it wasn't even irritating. The man had brought his harmonica, and accompanied the star spangled banner with it, with perfect pitch and musical warbles.

The Prairie Home gang did a slew of political sketches and jokes, and poked fun of the musically inclined fauna that might live in a national park for the arts. The musical guest was the Wailin' They may be tiny, but these are the performersJennys, a quartet of three women and one man, a variety of stringed instruments (violin, bass, guitar, ukulele), and beautiful, haunting melodies in three part harmony. The other guest of the evening was Billy Collins, who read his comedic and moving poems in a monotonous dead pan, adding to the inevitably funny observations about lanyards or how your dog really feels about you. You can listen to the live broadcast here, but it will differ slightly from what I heard at the dress rehearsal, mostly tightened up to meet the time requirements of a live show.

And finally, as the moon rose high into the clear night, Garrison took the stage all by himself to tell us the news from Lake Wobegone. He told us about his home town's Memorial Day celebration, the VFW's ceremony honoring the fallen, and how one veteran, having forgotten to prepare his speech, simply winged it by saying "if ever there were a time for silence, it would be now." And he recalled how, as a child, everyone in the class had to memorize the Gettysburg Address, as it might fall on any one of them to recite it. And then he did, reciting the whole speech, in its simple eloquence, to the audience. And most of us realized that we'd never actually listened to it. Read it, skimmed it, perhaps even recited it, sure, but I mean really listened. To the beauty and the weight and the economy of words, their meaning then and how it still holds as much meaning now. The three of us by now had laid back in the grass, gazing up at the small dipper, letting that voice wash over us, full of too much asparagus and just enough cookies. And there it was...that perfect moment, once more.

Side Note: With a gusto that is both admirable and incredibly optimistic, the Boyfriend has decided he will be running a 5k in 18 minutes by the end of the summer. You can track his progress here. It promises to be both entertaining and incredibly foolhardy.


Jess said...

This sounds like a perfect and wonderful evening. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Billy Collins--you got quite the deal with both him and Garrison Keillor!

dc365 said...

And the Wailin' Jennys were really great too! We definitely lucked out with our guests for the evening.