This summer, I reluctantly accepted a "non-profit" position working the Philly Cheese Steak stand at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado. When I say "non-profit" what that technically means, I agreed to work 4-5 hours a night for upwards of 32 nights, over the course of 4 months, with the guarantee of making $50+ dollars a shift. With promises too good to refuse, I agreed to help man the booth selling pseudo Philly Cheese sandwiches to the various concert scene masses. Why would a mom of 4, with a successful career, decide to become a cheese steak chopper? Well, I was lured. Lured with the notion, that I could make fast bucks to offset my son's exorbitant soccer fees. But, now that I've worked in excess of 32 shows. I now feel that I was duped into completing a fools errand! I walked away from this summer, with more than a full soccer account. Much much more...
Working a concession stand is physically intensive work. I didn't expect to sit on my butt all summer long raking in the cash doing nothing. But, someone should have forewarned me when I signed up this year that I will eventually lose all sensation in my feet and lower back. Standing in steak grease on hard concrete for 32 days takes a toll on your poor tootsies. Not to mention, the lower back pain you'd develop from bending over 200 times a night reaching for rolls out of a laundry hamper! Or the numerous steam burns that I would endure tending to the planter grill.
It would have also been most beneficial to learn that I would end up smelling like a 135 pound cheese steak by October 1st. The residual meat, pepper, and onion smells has permeated my skin. No matter how hard I scrub, how hot my shower water is, or what type of soap I use, nothing seems to alleviate the stench of 8000 cheese steak sandwiches made over the course of the summer. Someone, somewhere should have warned me that my hands would forever smell despite the 50 boxes of latex gloves I would eventually go through. I guess I was stupid into thinking that I could handle over 2000 pounds of meat, and not have some lasting effects. Maybe in time that smell will dissipate, but for now, when someone curiously asks me what my "perfume" is called, I will tell them "Holstein."
Duped I say.. I was duped into thinking that working at Red Rocks would be easy money. Besides the on the job burdens, no one ever prepared me for the different types of people I would interact with. Each different concert would bring out different subsets of our culture. So often, we only interact with people who share our values, and interests. Rarely co-mingling with people distinctly different from ourselves. Not ,me.. I've seen all the varieties of people out there. Smart, stupid, rich, poor, clean, dirty, funny, boring, drunk, stoned, normal, happy, sad, flirtatious, abrupt, chatty, you name it. I've met them all. From Rappers to cowboys, they all are unique in their own way. But, none compare to HIPPIES.
I've seen about 50,000 hippies over the course of the summer. So many hippies, that I have now been able to classify them into several different groups. All equally stoned on pot, most are nearly incapable of interacting with "normal" society. Although I'm not sure what normal society is anymore. For the sake of the argument. Let's just say, anyone not on drugs is normal in my book. I worked around 10 hippy events. Each specializing in a unique subset of the hippy culture. Each more unique than the last.
The Broke Hippy: After they somehow paid for their concert ticket, they are left with about $1.66 in change to survive for the entire weekend. As a result, they live in the barter world. "Hey man, I'll trade you my hemp necklace for a sandwich." or "Hey man, can I trade you one of my "special stamps" for a trash bag, so I don't have to sit in the rain and get my joint wet?" or there's the " HEYYY MAAAN, I'll give you guitar lessons for a sandwich". Then there is the "Hey MAAAAN, how about a HUG" Hippy. That one particularly grossed me out.
The Panhandling hippy. "Hey man, can I have a piece of cheese for free?" or the "Instead of throwing it away, can I have that sandwich you just dropped on the ground?" Sorry Pal, I dropped it in wet bird poop, "I'm so hungry man, I'll eat around the poop, just give it to me for free." Or "Hey Dude, I only have $1.66 can I have 1/4 of a sandwich?" or the "Hey man, if I buy a sandwich and then drop it on the ground, will you replace it so my buddy can eat too?" hippy. "Hey Man, why don't you quit the ganja, go get a job, and buy your own friggin' sandwich?"
Stoned Mama Brings Her Baby to the Acid Show Hippy: I can not tell you how many women I saw carrying around her newborn babies in a shoulder slings. Standing next to her husband while he and his buddies are freaking out on acid. NO, the baby isn't gonna get scarred for life.. Nah, little tyke won't get sold for the next baggie of stuff. Stay in denial hippy ma'am. Or my personal favorite. "The tie dyed dressed mini toddler hippy, staring up at a shirtless pastie clad- no pant wearing hippy ma'am. While, she's staring into the black hole of her hemp handbag, in search of $4.00 so her little boy can have a Red Bull. What the heck is that all about? Rock on hippy Mama, rock on!
The Stinky Skudzy Hippy- Afraid of the water, unable to bathe so you can smell them coming hippy 100 yards away. Wanting to give you a high five after you hand them their sandwich. The stench worse than "eau de Holstein". I'll give you a sandwich for free if you promise to just take a bath! Hell, I'll give you every sandwich in the bin, if you just go wash the grime off your hands. Oh, honey.. braided arm pit hair and the glow in the dark pony beads attached to your leg hair. Is that the new look for Fall? Just psychedelic man.
The Organic Hippy- Vegan, authentic greenie type hippy, who is frustrated there is not a vegetarian option in concession stands. But, plagued with the munchies she dares asks if the cheese in the Chicken Cheese Steak is soy. When we tell her NO it's fake cheese , she asks if the chicken is at least free range. "Uh, I don't know. The box just says Costco on it." OK then, she replies, "I'll take it". Way to stick by your morals, you stoned out freak!
My personal favorite, the Mystical Hippies. So caught up in the transendence of what life has bestoed upon them, they are in awe about everything. These are the hippies concerned about auras and past lives. I'm sure the the acid they just took while standing in line has them free associating with anything they come into contact with. "Hey Man, my sandwich has a mystical air around it. I think it's aura is telling me to eat it!" No bud, that's call steam and you are hungry. Why don't you tell your aura to hand over the cash, so we can help the aura in line.
Lastly, there is the authentic, stuck in the 1960's hippy. A routine visitor to our stand. This is the guy that travels around the country in his beat up, tie dyed painted short school bus. Big white beard, tie dyed hippy beanie hat. Confused about why things cost so much these days. Well, Mr. Burnout, most people have JOBS. You know that place you go to and do a service in exchange for money. But,
no, you offer hippy back rubs in exchange for pot and food. Wanting to spend your time talking to me about the olden days. Ignoring the fact that I'm trying to man handle another 200 sandwiches because the rest of your hippy brethren just got the munchies. So, please wander off for your next hit of whatever you are wanting. I don't care what Woodstalk was like. I just want to collect my 50 bucks and go home! Please just get away from me, you freakin'geezer hippy.
I'm sure there are a few functional people out there that only dabble in the hippy world. Work from 9-5, and only play hippy in their free time. But, the desire to be an occasional psychedelic whack-a-do is beyond me. And hey, more power to you, if you want to live the "good" life wandering from hippy festival to hippy festival. But, please do me one favor next year.. when you come to a concert in my town, and want a cheese steak, please have $6.50 on you. I don't want a hug, or a necklace, I don't care if life is all about the "LOVE, MAN," all I want you to do is to hand me $6.50 for your meal and walk away. Tell your Jerry Garcia stories walking, pal. I could give a hoot about your smelly, grimy, dreadlock, tie dye wearing, acid taking, pot smoking lifestyle. I'm here so my kids can play sports and stay off the drugs, something in which you miserably failed at achieving!