I left my passport in Connecticut. I typically leave it with my parents, to keep in their bank’s safety deposit box. That’s usually a fine place for it to live, but not when I’m going to Sweden in a week (at least, if the airlines have cleared their passenger backlog by then). Luckily, my mother was coming up for the weekend to dance at NEFFA, the New England Folk Festival Association [annual convention], in southeast Massachusetts.
After a brief afternoon picnic to make the most of the beautiful sunny weather I drove down to meet her. We wandered around the fair, held in a public school complex, and visited a few different sessions. I got my first taste of contra dancing (I can see why my mathematically inclined friends enjoy it) and observed a few other dance styles.
In other circumstances, it might have been very enjoyable, but for me it was mostly stressful. NEFFA is not for novices, and it has a very specific idea of what “folk” is. It was as if I had stumbled into not only an art convention, but a painting convention, a landscape painting convention with an unwritten rule that this really means only oil painting on canvas. NEFFA seems to be a “northern and eastern European early 20th century group social dance” convention. Popular dances of other times and less white cultures, like Flamenco, Capoeira, or Breakdance, were completely unrepresented. The musicians were all tremendously talented, but their attempts at other styles like Swing or Cajun still sounded like old-fashioned New England folk.
It was not a place to be a novice in these styles, or an aficionado of some other form
of music (e.g. collegiate a cappella), no matter how well it might deserve the title of “folk”.
When I got back to the parking lot my car’s headlights were on, which I wish I could blame on someone else. I had to get a jump start from a stranger. By the time I got home I had an awful stomach ache and was totally exhausted.
Today looks like another beautiful day, though, and I feel great, so I think the weekend will still end up a net positive. Plus, I have my passport, so a week from now I’ll be in Sweden.