This year for our anniversary we got tickets to see Willie Nelson who was playing at the local fair. Because, in all honesty, there’s really no more romantic way to celebrate your commitment to each other than by eating deep-fried Twinkies alongside aging ladies in cowboy boots.
Admittedly this may not be everyone’s dream date, but it was actually a huge improvement over our first anniversary years ago, which we spent cleaning our guest bathroom.
Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that we preferred scrubbing toilets to the more romantic notion of looking lovingly into each other’s eyes over free tortilla chips at El Torito, but the next night was our turn to host the monthly Homeowners’ Association meeting, and we didn’t want anyone on the HOA Board comparing us to the “rat” lady several doors down. In retrospect this was probably not very logical, since I doubt anyone could even find the rat lady’s bathroom. We did find her refrigerator, though. It was in the middle of the patio.
Since we didn’t have anyone to pawn off the kids on this year, we were forced to bring them along. This was one parental decision they actually agreed with. Granted, not all youth would see the value of such a concert, but Thomas has been brainwashing…I mean, schooling, our youngsters in classic folk and country music for several years now.
The prospect of combining a steel guitar with junk food and vertigo-inducing, spinning rides was almost more anticipation than any of us could handle. We all anxiously counted down the days.
Now, not only does it generally not rain in California between the months of May and October, but the state is in a serious drought. So, it was a shock to all, particularly those who’d been at the fair all day, when the skies opened up and poured water down upon the fairgrounds a few hours before concert time. Because we had not gone to the fair early in the day (in an effort to keep Twinkie consumption down to an acceptable level), we managed to avoid arriving at the venue unprepared.
The rain started shortly before we were set to leave the house. Once my brain processed the fact that actual water was coming down from the sky, my amazement turned to joy. A few more of these downpours might turn our grass back to green, which in turn meant we wouldn’t have to worry about replacing everything in sight with succulents in order to have enough water to flush the toilet. I don’t have anything against succulents, but the idea of turning the pool into a huge cactus pot was a little depressing. Besides, Larry the Pool Guy is ex-military, and I feel safer just having him around. You never can be too careful.
When we recovered from the excitement, we scurried around the house in a mad panic trying to remember where and in which year we’d last seen the umbrellas and rain slickers. Was it before or after the infamous toilet scrubbing? Had the kids already been born?
Once we’d successfully dug them up, we hopped in the car and psychologically prepared ourselves for the ride to come…Californians are notoriously incapable of driving without incident in any weather other than sunshine. As it turned out, luck was on our side that day; we managed to make it to the fair unscathed.
As we entered the grounds with our protective rain gear, it was clear to us that the folks who had been there all day and were forced to contend with the elements unprotected, were having a slightly different experience than we were. Many had completely given up trying to stay dry and had decided to embrace nature, which was primarily achieved by taking off their flip-flops and treading barefoot through the puddles of water inhabited by half-eaten, mushy fries and remnants of mysterious items wrapped in bacon. This didn’t seem like a very sanitary idea, but with my umbrella in hand and close-toed shoes, I didn’t think my opinion would be appreciated.
We’d really worked up an appetite dealing with all that water and immediately headed for the concession stands. Eating, however, proved challenging, since there were no covered areas except the bathrooms. We were understandably less than thrilled with the idea of spending another anniversary huddled around a toilet, and instead opted for Plan B, which consisted of alternately holding umbrellas for each other and shoving food into our mouths.
As we were finishing up the last of our dinner, the rain started to let up, allowing the rides to re-open and paving the way for extensive negotiations with the kids in an effort to keep the cost of the evening within reason. At $6 per ride per kid, Disneyland was cheaper…not to mention less grimy, less rickety and, generally speaking, less dubious. Snow White didn’t usually have a cigarette hanging out of her mouth. After heavy haggling and a few tears (mine, not the kids’), we settled on two rides each and no more Twinkies.
Once the rides were behind us, we were ready to walk over to the concert area. Right about this time it started to rain again. We had proven that we could handle this water stuff and expertly pulled out our umbrellas for the second time that day (and this decade), as we made our way over to see Willie.
Arriving at our seats, we made a roof with our umbrellas and hunkered down while we took obnoxious selfies and waited for the concert to begin. It began to rain harder and harder.
Studying the stage it dawned on us that there might be a problem. It wasn’t just the audience and the doobies that were getting wet. The instruments on the stage were all covered in plastic, which appeared to be dripping and closer inspection revealed the floor was flooding. Our eyes moved slowly to the roof over the stage…uh, where was the roof?
Apparently the builders had consulted the historical weather charts and found it rained so little in California on concert days that it was more cost-effective to ditch the roof on the outdoor stage. I wondered if Willie was going to play his guitar wearing waders and a giant Hefty bag. As it turned out, Willie was not feeling like embracing nature (and probable electrocution) and opted to stay in his trailer.
No concert for us. Maybe cleaning the bathroom really wouldn’t have been so bad. At least our bathroom has a roof.
 While I had generally been supportive of this educational experience, I heavily considered putting the brakes on his efforts when the kids started obsessively playing Bob Dylan’s “Christmas in the Heart” album. Bob Dylan lending his voice to songs meant to soothe your nerves and put you in the holiday spirit is already bad enough during the actual holiday season, but the fact that the kids were listening to this in mid-July made it nearly unbearable.