Last Saturday Kathie and I took a ride out to Musikfest in Bethlehem, PA.
We go every year and it is usually a good time. This year, not so much.
There are stages set up all over the downtown area and in an adjacent park.
Bethlehem basks in it German Moravian heritage, so these stages are called “platz” as in America Platz and Polka Platz.
The city also capitalizes on its name with a big Christmas festival, the highlight of which is a huge nativity scene set up in the cellar of a church. This, with some degree of faux naiveté I suspect, they call a “putz.” There are signs all over town pointing bemused tourists in the direction of the putz. If these are not among the most stolen signs in the US, I would be greatly surprised. Every Jewish guy on the east coast must have one displayed in his man cave.
Anyway at the fest, there are bands and groups representing every sort of music imaginable playing at the platz throughout the day and into the night. All the street concerts are free. Quality, however, is spotty. We have made some discoveries over the years including our first exposure to zydeco and a terrific 50’s rock band from central Europe called “Red Elvis.” One of my favorites is a guy who dresses up as the Phantom of the Opera and plays baroque tunes on a gigantic truck load of bells called a carillon.
This year our timing was off and only one of the bands we heard was good. This was a group that pounded out mambo tunes at deafening volume. They were excellent though and the crowd was fun. We didn’t mambo because I wasn't drinking and Kathie was wearing flip-flops.
Among the low lights was a Jamaican group that pounded the bejesus out of what seemed like a dozen drums. If I wanted to get psyched up to raid and plunder another village this would do the trick, but on a hot afternoon in eastern PA it was just painful. It was fun though to watch over weight white people trying to dance to it.
Another loser was “Witches in Bikinis.” When I saw them on the program, I had to check them out although I expected it was like “Bare Naked Ladies”, three grubby fat guys in shorts and tee shirts. When we got to the platz, it was so crowded we couldn’t get in. Even from a distance, however, I could tell that, as advertised, the group consisted of at least four or five nubile young women attired in bikinis and witches hats and masks. I would have elbowed my way to the front for a closer inspection, but a look on Kathie’s face that combined both scorn and pity prevented me from doing so. (Why don’t I ever have my binoculars when I need them?)
Their music, however, seemed to consist of discordant wailing and screaming. It reminded me of what my neighbor blares through his speaker system on Halloween to set the mood for trick or treaters.
We decided to eat dinner at the fest and wandered among the many food vendors set up in the park. Kathie went with a pulled pork sandwich which she reported was good. I, perhaps inspired by the Mambo Kings, opted for arroz con pollo.
The vendor ladled a big scoop of the stuff onto a paper plate and handed it me. “I see the arroz, but where the hell is the pollo?” I said staring at a pathetic shred of chicken that looked like a half eaten Mac Nugget clinging to the edge of my plate. “It’s mixed in,” the vendor replied. It wasn’t. I tried spearing a few pieces of Kathie’s pork that fell from her sandwich, but she growled and I backed off.
As we wandered about, I began to take a hard look at my fellow Musikfesters. If ever there was any doubt that Americans are the worst dressed, most over weight people on the planet this group settled the issue. Fat, tattooed slobs in every imaginable get up, all of whom made the “Witches in Bikinis” look like they were dressed for the prom.
And most of them weren’t young. Kathie pointed out a 70 something woman in a wheel chair with a gaudy tattoo emblazoned across her amply displayed cleavage. “That should put and end to the tattoo craze,” she remarked.
We spotted an obese young woman with an entire garden of flowers and birds etched on her calves. “That looks like about four acres of scenic wonder to me,” I said. “Maybe she has the grand canyon tattooed on her ass.” “You’re getting cranky,” Kathie said. “It’s time to go.”
We got in the car, popped some Frank Sinatra in the CD player, and headed for home.