Had it not been for Sweet Soprano and Master/Master’s credentials, we might still be inching our way towards a parking spot. Securing a space in a highly coveted lot near the Orchestra Gate, we waited under the watchful eye of the gate tender for five o’clock to roll around.
Tanglewood concertgoers are a serious bunch. They are hell bent on finding their little patch of green, and heaven help you if you get in their way. I watched in both amusement and horror as people poured in from the gates, dashing across the wide expanse of lawn to stake their claim. We toted a demure plaid blanket, the aforementioned picnic basket, a cooler to house the Aperol Spritz fixings and compact folding chairs. I had baked a wild nut pie for dessert thinking it was a touch extravagant. Our humble spread was somewhat pedestrian in comparison to the buffets springing up around us.
An extended family positioned their compound directly in front of us, spreading out what seemed like miles of a blue tarpaulin. Next came a line of canvas folding chairs emblazoned with the Tanglewood logo. There were grandparents and grandkids, brand new babies, disinterested moms and one Super Dad. I watched in utter amazement as Super Dad assembled a pop-up tent while his young wife sat sipping a cocktail. One of the greatest moments of the evening occurred before a single note of music had been played; an official from Tanglewood arrived and explained that the pop-up tent was a no-go. From where I lounged on the blanket, that little piece of news was worthy of a standing ovation. One of the grandfathers in the group was mildly offended by this and announced that he was going to buy ice cream for the children. At $6.50 a pop per cone times “x” number of children in his entourage, the math was staggering. I shifted my attention elsewhere.
A young man arrived juggling a stack of folding chairs in bright summer colors that coordinated with his madras shorts. He was attempting to secure ample space for his little group that had yet to arrive. In doing so, he was clearly trying to inch out a family that had set up camp earlier. A turf tug of war ensued complete with the exchange of some unpleasantries. Everyone wanted their little piece of the landscape. I lost interest in the war of words when I spotted a full size table complete with candelabra and floral centerpiece.
We were surrounded by an impressive array of foodstuffs, picnics straight out of the glossy pages of Martha’s July issue. Wine bottles were uncorked and unscrewed, emptied into high-end outdoor insulated glasses. Charcuterie boards groaned under the weight of sausages and cheeses, meats sliced paper-thin and crusty breads.
Bags of crunch spilled across the lawn; thick rippled chips spiked with black pepper and blindingly orange Doritos. We were swimming against the tide as we attempted to make our way through the crowd towards the rear of the lawn. Bobbing skewers of watermelon and feta while sideswiping Tupperware containers overflowing with fruit salad, we finally arrived at a clearing. The dramatic view of the Berkshires tempered the frenzy behind us.
Shortly before show time, we divvied up dessert, sharing with newly made friends to our left. They handed me a plate filled with local berries, whipped coconut cream and gluten free biscuits. Before offering them a taste of our humble pie, I made sure they did not suffer from any nut allergies and reminded them there was gluten in the crust.
As for the nuts in the lawn chairs in front of us, I didn’t even ask them. They were so preoccupied snapping selfies of their prosciutto-fueled selves, they didn’t deserve dessert. And one row ahead, Super Dad was pacing back and forth across his sea of blue tarp, unsuccessfully cajoling a crying child. His wife was outfitting the rest of the children in glow-in-the-dark-necklaces just in case they should wander off in the sea of 12,000.
At eight fifteen, just a few chords from a guitar made the crowd fade away. The lyrics are indelibly etched in my head, songs that once poured out of a blue Magnavox portable record player. For so many of us, James Taylor penned our Great American Songbook. I have plenty of time to mull this over as we wait in the parking lot for the crowds to thin.