*Photo taken at Colony in Woodstock, NY, featuring Queen Reaper (under the black veil) and Amanda Palmer at the piano.
Despite being somewhat rooted in New Hampshire at the moment, I think I’m really a gypsy at heart. No matter how much I enjoy living in a place, my feet want to wander, my eyes want new things to see, and my spirit needs to be inspired by variety. I don’t think it’s uncommon for people to feel this way. Many of us enjoy the adventure of exploring new places, whether near or far. When Michael and I went to Olean for Thanksgiving, we sort of drooped through the time there, both of us only confirming to ourselves that it’s not home anymore and we were right to make the choice to move. After living in a place for over 30 years, you learn the lessons you need to learn, and sometimes you need to go elsewhere to learn more. Both of us love New Hampshire, and I especially love the opportunity to rove around a new region to find special places like Franconia Notch State Park, or little towns like Peterborough. After traveling for a year and a half, I have missed getting on the road to discover new sights. Thus, when an opportunity arose to get out of dodge, I grabbed it. Over the weekend, I drove down to Woodstock, NY (yes, THAT Woodstock) for a dance party with none other than the fabulous Amanda Palmer. You may know Amanda as a singer/songwriter who first became known as one half of the Dresden Dolls, and now she has her own Patreon platform with about 13,000 supporters (that’s huge, and I am one of them) who help fund her art. Amanda also happens to be married to the writer, Neil Gaiman, and if you are one of her supporters you get to read funny anecdotes of their life together. It’s very entertaining. In any case, I needed a weekend getaway, so I went.
Because I have Google maps set to avoid tolls on my phone’s navigator, I drove all the way to Woodstock on a series of insanely twisty roads. There was no avoiding the twisty road through the Green Mountains of Vermont without adding a lot of extra time to my trip, but that road is mostly a familiar route after all the times we’ve traveled it back and forth from New York. What I didn’t expect was to drive ten miles here and twenty miles there on crazy back roads through Upstate New York in the dark. I mean, it gets dark at like 4:00 up here in the north now, and by 5:00 it’s really, really night. I’m glad it didn’t snow, or I would have been one sore puppy by the time I got there. Fortunately, I booked a great Airbnb with a lovely host who very thoughtfully showed me around her place to get me situated before I headed to the venue, and she set me right at ease before I headed out for my fun. When I arrived at the Colony (a performing arts theater), I had no idea what to expect. I mean, Amanda Palmer had proposed this idea once before—a goth dance party—as a fun surprise gift to her son’s nanny. At the time, I couldn’t go, but this time it worked out, and I had no sense of what would happen once I arrived. Somehow, for once, I forgot about my tendency to have all my ducks in a row, to plan for every eventuality, and simply walked inside the front door alone. I’ve done plenty of things alone, like going to movies, eating out, hiking, taking weekend trips…but this was a first for me. A goth dance party? I mean, I love the Cure, Bauhaus, Nine Inch Nails, and might even still have a small soft spot for Depeche Mode, but I wasn’t sure how much fun it might be to dance by myself at a party full of strangers.
When I walked through the door of the main room, the bar stands just about across from the main entry, and a woman with rainbow hair sat on a stool. For some reason, I gravitated right to her. We ended up talking for quite a while, and then she gave me a beautiful spoon shaped like a daffodil. She told me to look up “Spoon Theory,” so I did. It’s interesting. If you’ve never heard of it, go look it up and see what you think. Anyway, she eventually meandered up toward the stage, and I began to wander the venue in search of a woman who promised to help me get into a corset (yes, I have an actual corset, though I originally got it for a Renaissance Fair). Don’t ask me how I managed to elicit help lacing a corset from a total stranger, but I did. We were supposed to meet up in the bathroom, but the Twitter account she gave me wouldn’t send her a private message. I gave up worrying about it, since I was already dressed in black, and then I saw my rainbow-haired friend speaking to a woman who looked suspiciously like the photo of the woman who agreed to help me with my corset—and she had just received a spoon, too. Well, I walked up and introduced myself, and she had brought a friend, and we all got chatting, and then the evening began. Not having a corset on turned out to be a good thing.
We listened to a great NYC band called Weeknight, which played a good set that got the crowd moving, and then Amanda got her friend the Queen Reaper to take the stage. It was a fun set of spoken word comedy played to Amanda’s piano music. Then Amanda got another friend to play a few tunes with guitar, and she played two songs of her own, one of which was a new song due to come out on an album she plans to release in 2019. She got the audience to sing “The Twelve Days of Feministmas,” which was a hilarious mouthful to sing, and after all the stage fun Amanda had the DJ spin more goth tunes so we could dance the night away. She joined us on the dance floor and the lot of us enjoyed ourselves immensely. At some point during the stage show I met a friendly guy named John, and by the time the dancing started, all of us were on the dance floor together. What fun to hop around to songs I hadn’t heard in decades, dancing with people I had only met that night, and who were so wonderfully kind and inclusive. I expected to be back to my Airbnb by 12:30 at night, but it was closer to 2am, and I was probably awake until 3. Now that I work a day job at a school, I’m amazed I managed to stay awake enough to drive. I’m also glad I went without the corset. Dancing for four or five hours might have become even more painful–I limped to my car in the parking lot. Totally worth it.
In the morning I drove myself to town for a terrible breakfast in a nasty joint in downtown Woodstock after I realized I didn’t have what I needed to cook breakfast at the Airbnb. (Why I didn’t take the recommendations from people about good places to eat is beyond me—I blame not having coffee before leaving the house). Somehow my stomach didn’t rebel against the tasteless omelet and dry muffin, and I made it to the scheduled yoga class in a lovely, light-filled studio. If you’re not into yoga, you might not understand the benefits of such a thing after a hard night of dancing for hours, but trust me when I say yoga is good after hours of dancing. Especially when you’re over 40 and your knees need more love than they used to need. That night of dancing with strangers, followed by the hour and a half of yoga was truly a release I didn’t even know I needed. When you spend time with people you’ve never met, there’s a freedom in being able to just be yourself. You don’t have to impress anyone. What a delicious two days. On my way back to New Hampshire, I sang to my CDs and felt refreshed. I’m working on making happiness my choice, rather than to fall into the continual trap of complaining or feeling sorry for myself. Happiness is a choice, and even when bad things happen, we have a choice about how we react. I could have been brought down by the drive, by my social anxiety, or by having to go on a long trip alone, but all of it rolled off me and I fell into a state of bliss. Divine.
A short note about Woodstock itself: it’s lovely. If you live near enough to drive there, take a road trip. Though it’s known for the iconic rock festival, that didn’t even happen in the town proper—the festival took place on a farm in Bethel—and Woodstock has a life of its own now. Certainly you can wander the downtown and peer into all the quaint shop windows where people sell hippie clothes and art, but there’s also great food to be had, a wonderful bookstore (my personal weakness), and fun places to stay in the woods. Apparently Kate Pierson from the B52s owns a motel near there, and it’s a wacky, colorful extravaganza of exactly what you might expect from a woman who wailed “Love Shack.” Music and theater are also alive and well in Woodstock, at least at the Colony, where the dance party took place. After hearing Amanda Palmer share a little story about an event she attended in Woodstock, it sounds as though plenty of famous artists live there—probably as a sort of retreat from New York City. No doubt you could find plenty to do if you had a hankering to get out of the city to enjoy a little country getaway. If nothing else, the area boasts the same kind of beauty I love about New Hampshire: shelves of rock covered in lichen rising out of the wooded ground, hanging precariously over roads, or glimmering beneath riverbeds. The Catskills have a similar flavor to the landscape of Vermont and New Hampshire, a sort of continuum of mountains and woods and rivers and lakes. To me, it’s exactly what feeds my spirit. I see the woods as a sort of treasure hunt where I find giant boulders on which to climb, unexpected waterfalls tumbling over shelves of shale or granite, or surprise appearances of all sorts of animals.
If you haven’t been out of your house in a while because the weather is gloomy or it gets dark so early, do yourself a favor and plan a walk in a park or on a trail soon. So many people get miserable in winter in the north because of the weather, but I find that if I push myself to get out every day I don’t get depressed. Even if it’s cloudy, the light still brightens my mood, and the exercise gets the blood moving. Fresh air and sunshine is how I grew up, and I dare say I can’t give it up after all this time. Also, if the winter/holiday blues are setting deep into your bones, make time to go have fun. Go dancing, go see a band, take in a theater show, do something social where you will mingle with other humans. We spend too much time in front of screens. It doesn’t replace human connection, no matter what you believe about your social media accounts. Nothing is as good as being in the presence of people whose company makes you happy, and if you don’t have much in the way of friendships, go interact with people you don’t know. I used to be painfully shy, socially awkward, and easily embarrassed. If I can get over myself after being bullied ruthlessly in high school (name the reason, I was teased for it), you can, too. Buck up your courage and go make new friends. There’s someone out there for everyone. Yes, even you. This is the time of year that isn’t always so happy for everyone, even people who seem to have happy families. We all struggle, and we all need reasons to find relief. Rather than stuff your face with too many cookies, get out there into the big, beautiful world. I mean, have some cookies, too. We have to live, right? Cookies do make the world go round. 🙂