Before I even get started, I’d like to point out that I really have had a great trip so far. San Francisco was really fun, and I’ve been enjoying the dance performances here at Rakkasah West, the self-proclaimed “largest belly dance festival in the world.”
It started with a sore throat. That was a couple days ago. Then my nose started to stuff up. Now I’m coughing and hacking all over the joint, my sinuses feel like somebody’s poured cement in them, and I’m honkin’ green goo like a pro. I can’t do a zhigureet for the performances I like because it would sound like this: “Ah luh luh luh luh LGKCHOOOO” and somebody would end up with a hunk of radioactive-colored goo in their hair.
Needless to say this isn’t a good condition to be in at any time, but especially when you’re trying to convince people that you’re a nice, friendly person with whom it would be really fun to do an interview. Plus I’m surrounded, as I so often am in the course of my research, by gorgeous men and women covered in exciting makeup and dressed in all kinds of fancy, shiny stuff (though not always a very great deal of it). This makes me feel like a left-footed wallflower at the best of times; right now, with all the hacking and sneezing, I’ve downgraded to feeling like a big ol’ leper.
Vallejo gets the Least Pedestrian-Friendly City award (of those I’ve seen on this trip, which admittedly is only two.) I decided I wouldn’t have to rent a car while I was here because the hotel abuts the fairgrounds where the belly dance festival is, and there was a ferry from San Francisco up here. Big mistake! I asked at the front desk if there was anyplace nearby to eat and was told I’d have to go over the highway to get there. I got a taxi to a Thai restaurant thinking that maybe I could walk back if it wasn’t too far, and in reality it probably wasn’t a huge distance, but I got so turned around on the ride that I had no choice but to take a taxi back. The taxis, by the way, all have a little sign saying, “Driver only carries $10 change.” Better hope you don’t get an $11 fare.
No matter: the hotel abuts the fairgrounds where the festival is taking place, something Rakkasah notes prominently on its website. They even set up a special pedestrian route that takes dancers out a side gate so they don’t have to walk all the way back through the parking lot and up the main road at night.
What they didn’t say was that the pedestrian route is ONLY open at night so this morning (hack, cough) I got to take the extra-special long detour to the fairgrounds. I got up to the gate which I assumed would be open to pedestrians and it became clear it was locked. Because it was freezing and windy and a long way around to the front, I did consider jumping the fence. I decided against that and tried to wiggle my way through the gap. Guess how well that worked.
Much as I’ve enjoyed the performances at Rakkasah and I’m happy for the chance to meet and interview so many interesting people, there are a couple things about the festival that puzzle me. They’ve forbidden people from videoing the performances, threating attendees with immediate expulsion if they’re caught taping surruptitiously. Fair enough. But they also won’t let anyone but the performers themselves buy tapes. So I can’t take video of anyone, and I can’t get it either. Awesome. Also if they’d mentioned on the website that there would be vendors with food, or told the hotel concierge, I wouldn’t have spent 30 minutes sitting outside a Thai restaurant growing increasingly irritable – and cold – as the light faded.
Now I’m wrapped in a blanket eating leftover Thai food with my fingers because I don’t want to get dressed and go find a fork. There’s a big party in the hotel tonight after the last performance. I really want to go – left the fairgrounds early just so I’d be rested enough to do it! But despite the blanket and the heat blasting on high I’m feeling chilled. I can’t imagine running back and forth between the two festival buildings all day, then conducting an interview on an outdoor picnic bench, then walking back through the knifing wind (seriously, it’s howling under my windowsill) did anything beneficial for my health.
On the other hand, at the one interview I managed to finagle today my subject told me he was honored to participate. Makes everything else look like small potatoes.