Keeping Fridays Square



(Here is a guest post – a bit of an ode to Harrisonburg’s Fridays On The Square.)

Other towns can have their completed bike paths, their pedestrian malls, their scenic greenways – Harrisonburg has Fridays. To be specific, every other summertime Friday Harrisonburg hosts a free evening concert on the downtown square. It’s perfect. Virginia summer evenings are cool and breezy because it’s so hot and sticky in the late afternoon that we call whatever happens next “cool and breezy.” (Unless of course it’s drenching cats and dogs and then we’re honest with ourselves and call it a “passing storm” and move the whole free concert thing over to Turner pavilion and pretend like we’ll keep dry even though the roof is too high and skinny to shield the rain unless it’s coming straight down.) (And it’s never coming straight down in a Virginia summer.)

The music is always good. It’ll be some band you’ve never heard of with some style of rootsy-blues country-funk mix and after a couple songs everybody’s singing along and kids are dancing whirly-twirly around people and band and some of those kids may or may not be your kids and if they are yours then you’re only half listening to the music because you’re also thinking about the bedtime that should have started forty-five minutes ago but the kids are dancing like dervishes – and dervishes don’t go to bed. It’s Friday anyway so that makes tomorrow Saturday and even if the kids stay up too late tonight they’ll straighten out by Sunday or Monday – school’s out so who cares. It’s Friday, the music is free, and you remembered the blanket this week like your wife asked you to so it’s all good.

The music sinks in, soaks through, washes over and purifies you and the square and the whole town and now everything is awash and aglow in music and your workweek is a thing of the past. This is perfect. There’s no better way to start the weekend. Actually, it would be more true to say there’s no better way to end the workweek. The weekend is still ahead of you, two perfect days resting on the horizon like unopened gifts. Two full days of trying not to work and trying even harder to not think about work and maybe this weekend will be The Weekend of Zen Perfection where you go to the next level and don’t even think about trying to not think about work. Live music, especially free live music that’s just a little too loud is the ticket. The stage is set. You’re rocking out a concert and the workweek isn’t even over. In fact, you left work early just to get to the square in time even though you didn’t have to leave work early to get to the square in time but that’s why you said you were leaving early. This music and the weekend that follows might cleanse your mind to such a level that you’ll forget how to do your job by Monday. Maybe you’ll forget where you sit. You’ll wander around the office looking for a desk with pictures of your family. It’s probably best to not go to work at all on Monday. Maybe you should take The Trip. (The one you haven’t told anyone about.) Bicycle West with nothing but the clothes on your back and a copy of Thoreau’s “Walden” and maybe Kerouac’s “On The Road” to counterweight Walden’s overgrown naturalism. Just you and the bike and two books and the open road in front of you like a long string of possibly – the free music pumping through your blood like Novocain laced diesel fuel – muscles pounding – responsibilities drifting away and the American dream reaching out – distilled / enshrined / enfleshed in the metaphoric reality of the open Road. You, your bike, those books, the music, and your phone. (For map purposes only.) You’ll have to have it for when the metaphor of freedom becomes an actual roadblock causing real life delays. (The phone is only for maps.) Of course, you’ll have to bring your wallet because you will get hungry out there on the road and there might just be one or two places that sell beer.

The music crescendos. Your wife sits beautiful on the blanket beside you – the music living within her. She doesn’t know you’re quitting your job and spending a year or two biking across the country while she raises the kids. Of course you’ll write letters. You could tell her about it, but she’s so into the music – swaying to the rhythm of the base drum and the lead guitarist’s staccato exploration the upper frets. She will be surprised. You’ll write lots of letters.  The kids are still dancing. Passing trucks compete with the music and add a needed breeze. If she knew about The Trip she probably wouldn’t want you to do it.  If it’s this sticky at night, think about how hot it will be biking across all of America. Instead of The Trip maybe you’ll just swing by Pale Fire Brewery on the way home from work Monday because this concert is free and would have cost a lot more than a beer; honestly a lot more than two or even three. So you won’t do The Trip, you’ll just grab a beer – she would prefer that. And there’s another concert in two weeks – you can re-consider then. The kids keep whirling. The base player leans over to glance at his watch.* It’s getting late, even for dervishes.


-David Stephen Wingfield

*This is a quote/reference to Billy Collin’s poem “Questions About Angels.”

You can find real details about Harrisonburg’s Fridays On The Square here:

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