force of breath

Saturday night, ten-thirty. I hide my nails from view, not from shame or modesty, but to keep light and careful fingers on my wallet and cell phone. We are standing less than a block north of the county library, at the ‘hard rock’ stage of Big Spring Jam—which, notably, is not held in the spring.

(It took me a year to find out that the park in downtown is named Big Spring Park. Thus, the festival is named after the park it is held in, and does not—as I originally assumed—point to the inability of local officials to distinguish spring from autumn.)We are playing at sanity tonight, Danielle, Jeremy, and I; we are avoiding the testosterone insanity of the mosh pit for a cushier, less-cramped view a few hundred feet back. Instead of jostling for room and oxygen up front, we are standing on the tiny strip of grass that separates the parking lot from the street.

The ground is yielding and still slightly damp from the remains of Isidore. My feet thank me for the kindness.

Any doubts we might have had about our fellow concertgoers’ chemical of choice were dispelled earlier when the lead singer announced the three things he loved best about Alabama—this crowd, the lovely women, and the lovely weed.

A quick sniff verifies the worst: my shirt is really going to stink, come morning. There’s nothing quite like the combined odors of Mexican food, sweat, and smoke residue (from cigarettes of varying legality) to prevent you from re-wearing an otherwise perfectly-good shirt.

It would be easier to comment on the band if I could understand a single word of what they were singing. I’ve tried both ways—earplugs in, earplugs out—and either way, the lead singer for Default is completely and utterly unintelligible.

To my left, Jeremy taps my elbow. He says something, but between the ramped-up roar of the speakers and the conversely dampening hush of my earplugs, his words become nothing more than jumbled sounds set to lip movements.

He—like virtually everyone I’ve ever known—is much taller than I am. He leans in, down, for a bizarre yelling parody of a whisper in my ear. My hair is pulled back in a ponytail, but the shorter, finer hairs along the edge of my hairline have managed to slither free. His breath fans them.

It tickles.

Somewhere amidst tickle and the overwhelming urge to rub my neck (to make the tickle go away) the words register: “I can’t understand a single word he’s saying! Can you?”

Between the external noise and the in-ear dampening, what was a shout sounds like a whisper. A moment or two later, I tap Jeremy on his elbow. Seeing my expectant face, he leans in, and I perform the same whisper-shouting dance in his ear. As I’m forcing extra volume into my voice, I see his hair move from the force of breath applied.

“Can’t understand a word. Maybe it’s better this way?” We laughed, the movements and expressions familiar, but the sounds were overpowered by the concert.

Eventually, I redid my hair, pulling it higher—bordering on painfully high—into a tighter ponytail, to keep me from emitting strange shivers every time we tried to have a short conversation.

I don’t mean to be ticklish. But, then again, I don’t mean to be short, either.

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Comments

domesticat's picture

Originally I hadn't planned on going that night at all. I'd bought a day pass for Saturday so that I could see Trout Fishing in America play on the kids' stage. That night, the local geek crew was scheduled to head out for a meal at Rosie's, our local Tex-Mex watering hole. In fact, let me say this while I'm thinking about it: if you're ever passing through Huntsville, stop at Rosie's. Order yourself a top shelf margarita with Cabowabo, and ask for a cup of the queso blanco dip to go with your chips. Prepare to eat yourself into a stupor. So...after Rosie's...I realized I'd have a choice. I could go hang out with the folks who had decided to skip the Jam, which admittedly would be a good deal of fun. But, Danielle and Jeremy both wanted to see Saliva and Default perform, and I already had a pass for that day...and I could watch movies with friends during just about any other weekend of the year... I went to the Jam. But no, the thought of seeing KC and the Sunshine Band never crossed my mind. Even given my inexplicable, bizarre love for disco-funk. What the Jam needs next year is Parliament. I'd be all about that.
andy's picture

You skipped KC and the Sunshine Band to see Default???? Heresy! I know where I would have been. :)
heather's picture

A Parliament concert in north Alabama: George Clinton is a rainbow doped blur. Someone yells, "FREEBIRD!" George Clinton stage dives.
domesticat's picture

eh, it looks like Lili will give Mobile a miss, but what I'd be more concerned about is New Orleans. Latest forecasts put Lili making landfall smack in the middle of Louisiana, putting New Orleans in line for a whole bunch of rainfall. There is no nice way to say this. If New Orleans sustains even a glancing blow from Lili, they are in deep trouble. A brief overview of why: (from here) Most of the city lies five to six feet below sea level and is surrounded by water. The Gulf of Mexico lies to the south and Lake Ponchartrain lies to the north. The Mississippi River cuts through the city. A strong hurricane approaching the city with winds out of the north could push water from Lake Ponchartrain over the levee into the city. New Orleans is saucer-shaped. There is no natural way for water to drain. Once water enters, it has to be pumped out. Pumping stations can clear about an inch of water an hour from streets, but even a minimal hurricane could cause major flooding. Pumping stations could be disrupted during a hurricane. It has been years since a major hurricane directly hit New Orleans. In 1915, a Category 4 storm on the Saffir-Simpson Scale struck the "Big Easy," killing 275 people. In 1965, the eye of Hurricane Betsy passed just west of the city. Seventy-five people died, mostly in floods.
gfmorris's picture

I tells you, this thing is going to sit in the Gulf, picking its victim. Yeah, the Crescent City will be screwed whenever a real 'cane hits it. Of course, that's one way they could clean out the Quarter ...
kat's picture

You guys seem to missing one fact. New Orleans has survived hurricanes in the past. Lilli is no different. If she hits the Crescent City then so be it. The residents have certainly dealt with it in the past. They'll continue dealing with it.

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