Festival Guy

If you go to a lot of free concerts in Rochester, you start seeing the same people. There's one guy who looks troubled, even when he dances. His moves are akin to Tai Chi, slow motion poses only occasionally synching up with the rhythm, but he is feelin’ it. The last time I saw him was at the Lilac Festival last year. Some ditz came running down the hill with a camera. She squatted right next to him and started clicking away. After each shot, she’d look back up at her friends and laugh. This went on for several minutes. Eventually I spoke up. “He’s not wildlife, you know.” She scowled at me and retreated and you could hear more laughter up the hill as they reviewed the photos. Tai Chi Guy seemed oblivious.

There’s another regular that would encourage that sort of attention. Festival Guy showed up on Jazz (nee Gibbs) Street on Saturday. I had just crept down in front for a seat on the pavement when I spotted that white beard in the crowd. He emerged, capped and shirtless...with those short, short shorts. I like to think of him as a kind of modern day Walt Whitman, roaming the city, taking note of all the laborers, stopping to admire the trees and the river and the passing strangers. But that image holds up better at a distance. He found space right next to me, greeting the folks behind him and asking kindly if they minded if he danced. We waited out the sound check and then up he sprang.

He's a sight to behold. You can get a glimpse on YouTube and find out more about him on his MySpace page (where he lists both Cheech Marin and Alan Greenspan as personal heroes). Whatever else you want to say about him, he sets a great example for people who have ever stood off to the side, a little unsure and self-conscious. For those people, it's good to know Festival Guy is out there.