We went to Corinbank yesterday! Not just a music festival, it’s an immersive arts festival run by volunteers. As well as the usual music and street theatre and stalls, we made paper cranes and watched kids papier mache an enormous cockatoo. There was a poetry slam and a heavy petting zoo. There were workshops in swing dancing (Ryan tried it), bellydance (I shimmied myself silly) and burlesque (um, yeah). There was a circus corner with hula hoops and stilts.
Some musical high lights included Gypsy Dub Sound System, Blue King Brown and Mal Webb. In the circus tent, we watched Funkier than Alice, an awesome cabaret act, and then caught the Bees, who made Aussie pub rock into hysterical German folk songs.
Then we were quite tired.
We had wandered in and out of the Chai tent all day. It was full of pillows and balloons and carpet, with all shoes left at the door. At the counter you could buy chai, cookies and mulled wine. There were board games and jigsaw puzzles scattered around. Ryan suggested I look for the chess board while he got the chai. I found it mostly set up on the floor between a bunch of teenagers and a wooden bench. I got a brief teenage nod when I sat down, and then they went back to their guitars. I found a small die to replace the white queen, who had escaped.
I didn’t notice the guy sitting on the bench for quite a while. Just to my right, he was leaning his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. Half way through the first game, I looked up and realised he was watching. He smiled when he caught my eye, but didn’t say anything. I told him he looked tired, but when he just nodded, I went back to my game. Ryan and I were discussing the coming acts, and what we’d like to see next. The tent was gloomy enough for me to steal Ryan’s queen when he mistook my bishop for a pawn.
Quietly absorbed in the game, lulled by guitar and chai, I got a shock when I felt somebody behind me. The possum from the petting zoo had escaped again, and was pawing my shoulder, begging for a scratch. We gave her some cookie and she left. I thought it strange that she chose us to interact with, not the guy sitting alone on the bench. She must have come straight behind him to get to us.
Somebody set up a spotlight, and the women from Funkier than Alice started singing a capella quietly in the corner. Someone knelt down in front of the bench guy and started talking quietly, like you talk to a frightened horse or a kid nearly passed out on ecstacy. Cheerful but calming. I still hadn’t looked up from the chess board, but realised this new person was big and bulky and a security guard. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was – guy was just still and quiet, not bothering anyone. I was about to turn to the security guard and say something, when I caught the words he was saying “Hey mate, how ya going, how about we go back to the tents. nobody minds if you go shirtless, but you have to put some pants on, lets go get the rest of your clothes…”
I had been sitting next to a man with no pants, and hadn’t noticed. How is that possible? I looked up again, and he was still leaning forward. From my side, all I could see was his long legs and his big baggy sweat shirt. I looked away again as the security guard bundled him out.
I think the possum dobbed him in.
Every so often I feel like I’ve wandered centre-stage into someone elses drama. I’ll say my two lines and wander off, with no clear picture of the rest of the story. Bench guy was clearly stoned on something, but still – I wonder what he thought of us, sitting quietly beside him, playing chess. Did he think we saw his nakedness? That we were complicit? Did he get a kick out of us being there? Was he even conscious enough to realise?
Every day we wander into other people’s lives and out again. Most times we don’t ever know we’ve made an impact, if they’ll even remember us. It takes a shock, I guess, to remind us that their own worlds are as real and multi-dimensional as our own. I have no clue if the bench guy, the possum or the security guard will ever think of me again. But they made for a moment I’ll never forget.