Beliefnet
The Bliss Blog

The highlight of my summer for the past umpteen years has been an event called The XPoNential Music Festival. The third weekend of July brings with it fun, friends, sun (usually), music, dancing, laughter and love. It is sponsored by member supported radio station, WXPN and  is a place to showcase heritage musicians The Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Mavis Staples, as well as introduce up and coming talent such as Darlingside whose harmonies and uplifting tunes grabbed a hold of my musical heart today and wasn’t about to let go. As the sun blazed down in the mid 90’s, baking avid musical fans, there was much merriment among the all ages crowd.  Babies and young children were getting a good start in sonic appreciation and  (hopefully) they will have great memories of summer fun. Blessedly, a light breeze off the Delaware River that spans the border between Camden, New Jersey and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, made it tolerable. Clouds skittering across the sky helped a bit. Abundant refills of water in the members area (I have been a member for decades) kept me hydrated and  slathered on sunscreen prevented what could have been lobster red skin.

I was there with my friends Gary, Clare, Chris and Phyllis. The first three are part of the regular cast of characters with whom I share a blanket. Phyllis is a new face to face friend who I cyber-met five years ago after she read a Beliefnet piece I had written. This weekend, she ventured northward to Philadelphia from her home in South Florida. Interesting viewing it through a newcomer’s eyes. I have become  accustomed to tooling around the grounds as if on auto pilot, since I know them so well and yet, I never take the magic for granted. Other friends, Nancy, Naila, Anna, Virginia and Sophia were wonderful to run into if ever so briefly. It never ceases to amaze me that in the midst of multitudes, I see kindreds.

Long about late afternoon, the heat was mellowed by a torrential downpour. Crashing thunder and flashing lightning sent us all running for cover as the shows were called to a temporary halt. We were instructed to go to the parking garage across the street where my Jeep was ensconced and hunker down until the storm passed. We followed their good advice. While Phyllis and I were chillin’ as we waited for the rain to cease, a young woman named Steph approached to greet me. She is the lovely daughter in-law of friends of my sister in-law and brother in-law. She recalled meeting me at  family gathering  years ago and we remain connected via Facebook. How she recognized me looking very much like a drowned rat is beyond me. Ran into my cousins Jody and Dan and Dan’s girlfriend Leslie, under cover as they had bolted for their car too.

Because I thought we would be returning to the concert venue, I left my two purchased-that-morning camp chairs; one in vibrant orange and the other in vivid blue, to fend for themselves. Hoping they find good homes; that is, if they weren’t swept into the river by the passing storm.

One of the most delightful parts of the day came while Phyllis and I were taking shelter from the storm,  as I was hugging dripping wet, laughing strangers as a Hug Mobster Armed With Love. It is becoming a regular aspect of my life as I have the joy of embracing folks from all walks of life.

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The downpour called to mind something similar that occurred three years ago when I invited my friend Greg to join me at the festival to celebrate his birthday. The day began in much the same way as it had today. Brilliantly blue sunny skies, friends and lively music greeted us. As it had today, the horizon bore ominous clouds that hovered above. Rumbling thunder and startling lightning flashes had the field cleared as he and I grabbed up our belongings and attempted to keep ourselves upright as we dashed for my car. The umbrellas we had wisely brought with us were rendered useless as the wind and sideways rain turned them inside out. At one point, when we could go no further, we took shelter under an overpass in inner city Camden. The water rose above my knees (I am 5’4″) and a bit lower on my much taller (over 6′ high) friend. It was both exhilirating and frightening as I found myself laughing wildly that I had promised him an adventure and that we got. When we realized that we couldn’t possibly get any wetter, we shrugged and made a dash for the Jeep.

I am eager to return tomorrow and indulge in melodic magic; sunscreen and purple umbrella, hugs and a sense of humor at the ready.

 

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