I deliberately stayed a few miles out of town from the Fest, far away from the Holiday Inn, the "official" Fest hotel, packed with four-to-a-room punk rockers, 75% (at least) of whom are mainly concerned with being as drunk and as loud as possible for 72 straight hours. One can only imagine the reaction of the hapless tourist or honeymooning couple who unknowingly booked into that hotel in expectation of a quiet weekend away.
I also can't imagine why the Holiday Inn subjects itself to what, while I'm sure it's fun for the Festers, must be an absolute nightmare for the staff and management. Last year saw a near-riot, when drunk punks rampaged through the hotel, setting off fire extinguishers, throwing furniture into the pool, and in general engaging in all the clichéd dinosaur rock star behavior that punks so like to rail against (Paddy from the Dillinger 4 unreeled a similar rant from the stage before declaring his fondness for that ultimate 70s rock star cliché, cocaine).
The money is obviously good, especially on what would normally be a dead weekend (half the town having migrated over to Jacksonville for the annual Florida-Georgia game), but between damage sustained and the cost of alienating normal travelers who might never set foot in a Holiday Inn again, would it really be worth it in the long run? Well, it's their worry, not mine; I'm quite happy in my very quiet and peaceful hotel, even if it does mean a bit of a commute to the Fest-ivities and an increased carbon footprint (at registration they had us fill out a survey explaining how we'd gotten to Gainesville, and I felt deeply ashamed at my profligate squandering of resources, which entailed traveling by both air and car, and, worse than that, alone; on the other hand, for about 350 days of the year I seldom if ever set foot in an internal combustion-powered vehicle apart from the occasional city bus).
So this morning I was enjoying the free breakfast in the lobby and eavesdropping on conversations at nearby tables. Nearly all of them were about the election, which I found rather heartwarming, especially the one emanating from my nearest neighbors, a middle class family where the father, with the aid of a laptop, was explaining the intricacies of the Electoral College. Then in strode some generic punk rockers of the baggy shorts, wallet chain, slightly to moderately obese variety. They weren't talking about the election, the only things on their minds appeared to be hangovers (apparently there is "nothing like a bowl of Rice Krispies" to cure them) and something one of them had done the previous night involving Sparks and (if I heard correctly) his ears.
From the looks of them - well-fed, many years' worth of tattoos, costumes so carefully stylized that they could have been created by a Fat Wreck Chords counterpart to Calvin Klein - and the fact that they were staying at a slightly more expensive hotel, I deduced that they must be members of one of the Fest's headlining bands, and this hunch was soon verified when I heard them talking about the way last night's show had gone. But the thing that really jumped out at me was the t-shirt one of them was wearing, the back of which was emblazoned with, in four-inch-high letters, the slogan, "SKATE. PUNK. FUCK."
So this is where the "maybe I'm getting too old for this" sentiment comes in. I was genuinely embarrassed for the sake of the family near me. Okay, I'm not naive enough to think that their 12 or 13 year old daughter has never seen or heard the word "fuck;" chances are when she's with her schoolmates she uses it herself. Nor am I claiming to be above employing the word myself on occasion. But I guess I'm just old-fashioned enough to believe that it's not good form to put it very bluntly in the faces of people who very possibly might still think it's a somewhat rude word. Hell, I still think it's a rude word, or at least one which might be appropriate in some environments but not in others.
Hypocritical? Maybe. After all, I used to write and sing songs with that very word in them, and might even do so again one day. But the difference is that if I do, they'll be sung in a setting where people expect to hear rude language, not a middle class hotel lobby on a quiet Saturday morning. And perhaps language is evolving, as it always has done. Expletives, like words in general, come into and go out of fashion, and it's very possible that a word like "fuck" will soon have lost all power to shock or offend, in much the way that the word "nigger" seems on course to do, at least within the black community, anyway.
Nevertheless, I don't mind admitting that all my sympathies were with the family quietly discussing the Electoral College and none with the rather oblivious punk rockers. Whereas if I were a teenager listening to my dad expound on politics and some self-proclaimed rebel against society wandered into the room with dirty words splashed across his back, I don't doubt who I'd be paying attention to.
Oh well, I'm sure we'll all survive, the sun is shining brightly, Florida seems to have finally banned smoking in public places, and in about 20 minutes I'll be off to the Fest to mingle with some more of those rude and ugly punk rockers. Maybe next year I'll be too old for these shenanigans, but at the moment I think I can swing it for another season.