Throwing Muses
Kristin Hersh
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"The Fringe Festival" by Kristin Hersh, August 14 2008 (originally published on

The Fringe Festival is fringe, alright. Everywhere we go is strangeness. The High street looks like a Fellini movie; weird clowns and street performers dance down the sidewalk, surrounded by thick crowds of cheering onlookers. Club kids, dance troupes and musicians line the streets, bumping into each other, smoking, yelling, laughing and drinking.

Of course, Edinburgh is beautiful in August, the Fringe events take place under a canopy of racing clouds. The resulting sunbreaks add a sweetness, a group high. It is a festival after all.

Billy and I lack the let’s-do-what-everybody-else-is-doing-that-looks-fun gene, however, so we escape to our flat with the mountain view. Maybe they aren’t mountains; I bet there’s a Scottish word for what they are. They look like tilted mesas…green, ascending meadows.

To set up house, we walk to Sainsbury’s (pronounced “Sains-breeze”). I think our new landlord gave us directions, but we haven’t been able to understand a single word he’s said so far. Which is unfortunate, ’cause he seems to have a lot to say; we’ve been nodding and smiling for a couple days now. So we find Sainsbury’s on our own and even discover a short-cut through the park so we can stop and feed ducks on the way (ducks are important).

We feel weird…more than jet lag, which only feels like a knife in the eyeballs. This is different, like we’re shaken dice tossed and left to land where they will. We figure it’s because we never just go to a place and know where we are, like most people. Instead, we bounce around a whole lot first (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island), we stay in motels, we visit friends and family, places we used to love, places we used to live, we see rain, sun, heat and cold, fly, drive, drive, fly, sleep, don’t sleep, eat, go hungry, place children and snakes here, a dog there, another dog there, music playing the entire time…when it all stops, we aren’t quite sure where we ended up. We look around for clues–we’ve gotta learn to go native quickly in order to survive. That’s it: we feel like aliens.

It doesn’t matter, of course, ’cause we have work to do. I’ve lost my second Mudrock guitar to airline screw-ups, but this one is (thankfully) delivered in time for the show. The venue for Paradoxical Undressing’s Fringe debut is, as Billy puts it, “a dungeon of a basement of a dive”; the perfect setting for the stories I’m telling.

I decide that I’ll be brave and I won’t drink, even though I’m nervous; a decision made less impressive by the fact that no one offers me a drink and I don’t have any money to buy one. But I find it relatively easy to stay focused, given that the crowd is right there with me, laughing (and crying) and taking pictures and sending warm waves in my direction. Really warm ones; it’s about a thousand degrees in there by the end of the show.

We are all thoroughly wrung out.