“We’re going to this festival, called PEX,” he told her. “We’re gonna camp there for the weekend.”
“A festival? What kind of festival? Is there drugs? Are there naked people?”
“I don’t think so,” he said.
Actually, my chasidish mother-in-law in Boro Park had a more accurate sense of what PEX included than we did.
There were drugs. There were naked people.
There were butterflies twinkling on the grass along the khaki village of tents festooned with balloons and om printed textiles and smoke drifting from a hundred cigarettes and blunts.
There was taut skin flashing on every moving body, men in kilts and earth skimming gauzy black skirts and women in glittering bras and short shorts, hair braided and shaved and clipped with feathers and twisted into tight seaweed dreads.
At the pool at the bottom of the hill, swimmers bobbed on a gargantuan inflatable yellow ducky, glowing in neon lights, the thump thump thump of incessant ear splitting beats filling the camp.
On the other side of the oily lake, there was a round tent, ringed with a magical robotic music machine, that pulsated and clashed and banged in melody, swaddling listeners who lay on cushions with a drowsy opiate-like effect as they inhaled the mysterious melody and the reverberation of the silence between the sounds.
In the cafeteria, lined with tables and benches, overgrown children wore marigold turbans and glitter dresses and pilgrim hats and plastic wings. Florescent paint and tattoos winked from every brown limb.
Between walls of video art, indigenous music wailed around your hips, your shoulders, your legs. Across another stage, a woman called out yogiic instruction, and on the other side of the meadow, women slid down a pole clasped between their legs, a chipper girl sold hamburgers and watermelon from a truck and golf carts growled across the hills.
In a thousand conversations, one man talking loudly.
“He’s Chasidish,” my husband says. I look at the man, middle aged, with a close beard, in shorts and t-shirt, a throaty accent coating his English.
“No way, not here. He must be Russian.”
We listened for a moment.
“He’s definitely Chasidish, I bet you anything,” my husband insisted.
I take off after the man, and catch up with him in the middle of a ring of tents.
“Excuse me, can I ask you a strange question?” I asked.
“Do you by any chance speak Yiddish?”
He does. So do the three bareheaded, bare chested men lounging on sun chairs around him. They’re from Williamsburg. Avadar.
At night, the stars hung unevenly with the clarity of country darkness, the earth growing increasingly hard beneath the body, as a giant illuminated frog on wheels splaying techno music parked on the path for long minutes. Moans and sighs and mushroom tales drifted from the surrounding tents, as sleep finally descended on PEX – for some. In the morning, dancers were still spinning hula hoops around their waists to the DJ’s music, high and happy and going strong.Printable Version