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Questions asked and answered about a long 90's rock weekend
I’m going to let you, my beloved newsletter readers, in on a bit of a secret: 2022 has been an awfully crappy year thus far for the Dalys. I won’t get into the details here, but we’ve been hit with one unexpected gut-shot after another that began literally on January 1. These last few weeks have been disheartening, and at times painful.
In a sense, I suppose we were due. COVID-19 made life very difficult for much of the world through 2020 and 2021, but truth be told, my family came through it mostly unscathed. For that, I feel both fortunate and thankful. But now, it appears it’s time to pay the piper.
Don’t get me wrong. Things could be worse — much worse. But let’s just say that if a runaway ice-cream truck were to suddenly crash through my office wall as I’m typing this, and one of my orbital cavities was impaled with the wrong end of a waffle cone, the predicament — at this point — wouldn’t feel particularly out of place.
That said, I do have hope — even optimism — that these last few days of January 2022 will wind down on a positive note. And the name of that hope is HootieFest.
Hootie what? you might be asking.
Let me explain.
At the end of last summer, when it looked like the pandemic was in its final throes (before Delta and Omicron stood up and shouted, “Not so fast!”), I started seeing online ads for a wintertime, multi-day beach-concert event in Cancun, Mexico. It included resort lodging at the Moon Palace, and it was being hosted by Hootie & the Blowfish.
I’m guessing most of you know who Hootie & the Blowfish are, but in case you don’t, they were a very popular rock band in the mid 1990s. Their most recognized hit is probably “Hold My Hand.”
Now, just between you and me, I’ve never been a big Hootie fan. I am a fan, however, of a number of other 90s bands scheduled to perform, namely Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Toadies, Blues Traveler, Sister Hazel, Better Than Ezra, and a bucket-list group I’ve been wanting to see live for a very long time: Drivin N Cryin.
Barenaked Ladies and the Spin Doctors are also on the schedule, but I never got into the former and genuinely can’t stand the latter. (Seriously, if I could snap my fingers like Thanos, and eradicate any one song from the universe, it would probably be “Two Princes”). But the good far outweighed the bad, and for a 90s rock guy like me, this thing sounded like it could potentially be my Woodstock. So, my wife (who also likes several of the bands) and I decided to pull the trigger and make the trip our 20th wedding anniversary gift to each other (granted, about eight months early).
We put down the money, have crossed our fingers that this doesn’t end up being a Fyre Festival type s***-show, and have kept our 90s-throwback week pretty secret for several months. In fact, this is the first time I’ve talked about it outside of my immediate family and a handful of friends.
I’m writing this first portion of the newsletter on the evening of Tuesday, January 25. Our plane leaves for Mexico tomorrow, and we’ll be returning back home very early on Monday, January 31. In fact we’ll probably be walking right back through our front door around the time this newsletter is delivered to your inbox.
The trip hasn’t been easy to prepare for, not just because of the roughness these last few weeks have dealt (though that’s part of it), but also with work schedules (we’ve already had to change flights) and the latest COVID wave. In fact, the event requires a negative PCR test to be taken, and the results uploaded, all within 4 days of check-in. This has assuredly been a nerve-racking process for all attendees (as it was with us), being that so many people are getting tested right now, and lots of labs aren’t guaranteeing results for 5 business days. The good news is that we’ve cleared that hurdle (not without a fair amount of drama). We’ll also need to test negative before returning to the U.S.
For now anyway, I think we’re set. And since I want to focus on a much needed vacation rather than writing for the next few days, my plan is to treat the rest of this week’s newsletter as sort of a short-form travel log (or perhaps captain’s log for you Trekkies) for some thoughts and maybe images from HootieFest (recorded from my smart-phone).
You might like the rest of this week’s newsletter, or you might hate it. Either way, I’ll write something more substantive, and bring back the regular features, next week.
Frankly, this trip could either be a fun getaway or kind of a disaster. The weather forecast for Cancun is showing a lot of rain (including thunderstorms) for most of the week. Also, the city just announced heavier COVID restrictions due to sharply rising infections, and our flight change will already have us missing most (if not all) of the first night’s sets (including Better Than Ezra).
In other words, expectations have already been lowered. But we’ll see how things go from here. Wish us luck.
1/26, 7:35pm local time: Arrived about 20 min ago. Nice flight. Very humid. Customs a breeze. Dodged several dozen hyper-aggressive cab drivers to get to resort shuttle. Now riding in van through torrential downpour to resort. Insane rain (that rhymes). We just might be the resort’s last arriving HootieFest guests. Wednesday night concert probably still going on if not cancelled, but we’ll skip whatever few minutes are left, get our room, order some room service dinner — all inclusive baby! — and start tomorrow fresh. Will have to tip our shuttle driver 20 bucks since I forgot to get smaller bills before we left. Lucky guy.
1/26, 8:47pm: Soaking wet, but all settled. Nice room. Property is enormous. Goes on forever. Unpacked my raincoat for the long outdoor walk back to the lobby to break some twenties for tipping, but rain has totally stopped. Crazy. It was still dumping just 5 minutes ago. Hurrying to get back to the room before room service arrives with dinner. Otherwise wife won’t have tip money, and will be mad at me. Hoping I don’t pull a hamstring.
1/27, 8:16am: Slept great. Up early since it’ll raining in a few hours. Beautiful beach walk with Sarah. Hardly anyone out and about. Probably hung over from HootieFest night 1.
1/27, 8:31am: Still walking on the beach. Two dudes in colorful short shorts running this way. Reminds me of scene from Rocky 3. Won’t take picture because that would be weird.
1/27, 9:03am: At resort’s water park. Open and impressive but no one here other than employees. Guests still hung over I guess. Floated twice around lazy river with Sarah. Got tangled up in a maintenance worker’s garden hose the first time around. Cloudy.
1/27, 10:27am: Sun came out! At a pool. Just a few people here. Most probably still hung over.
1/27, 1:05pm: Back at room. Major scare when the safe in our closet, with every vitally important item we brought, would not open. Kind of freaked out, thinking I didn’t close it correctly, and that someone got into our room, took our stuff, and punched in a different code to buy getaway time. Sarah was calm. All good. Security dude showed up, got it open, and all was there. Man is a hero. Forgot to tip him though.
1/27, 1:46pm: Toadies shirt is on. Only the band’s lead-singer ended up making it to Mexico. He’ll be doing a solo acoustic set, which could actually be great. Will call it a night after that, because we ain’t staying for the dreaded Spin Doctors. Bringing our raincoats. Assuming we’ll get soaked. Aunt from Florida just texted to tell me how cold it is in small Ohio city where I was born. Not sure why.
1/27, 5:33pm: Made some friends.
1/27, 7:32pm: Freakin’ fantastic Vaden Todd Lewis set (he’s the Toadies’ singer). Soulful. Amazing. Didn’t even rain.
1/28, 1:05am: Awoken by call from our daughter. Kids reported that when they let the dogs out, our older dog Piper caught and killed an animal on the side of the house. Later identified as a rabbit. Kids needed instructions on dead rabbit disposal.
1/28, 12:37pm: Rented bikes this morning. Been riding all over the property, taking breaks along the way. Actual lasting sun!
1/28, 2:45pm: Found the hidden beach bar that serves coconut drinks. Was our last bike stop. Ordered a fruity number that I think was off the kids’ menu. Don’t care. It was good. Also, I’ve fallen in love with a retail snack called Bubu Lubu.
1/28, 6:15pm: Ready at the stage for tonight’s show. Surrounded by the same attendees as last night, who apparently now know me as “The Toadies Guy” (I guess because I was wearing the shirt last night, and knew all the songs). I somehow left an impression.
1/28, 11:49pm: Great night of music with Sister Hazel, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and Barenaked Ladies. Still not a fan of the latter’s music, but they’re funny and good entertainers. Clear skies throughout. Had to retreat from the stage area after Hazel and Toad, because drunk attendees (including those still calling me “The Toadies Guy”) were really getting on our nerves by seemingly relying on us to keep them upright. Lady in front of us just posted a concert photo to Facebook with a message to “all the haters out there” to suck it. She called out one of the haters by name, but at least she didn’t tag him.
1/29, 6:42am: Up early to explore a cenote and do some snorkeling. Just found out that a cenote is basically a water cave. Wearing aqua-shoes even though I hate aqua-shoes.
1/29, 12:49pm: The cenote was a blast. Impressive stalactites and large bats. Subsequent snorkeling was okay (muggy water). Really hoping our tour-guide, Manny, doesn’t have COVID. If he does, all of us who were in that van with him for over an hour each way now has it to. Unlike his driver, Manny wouldn’t wear a mask and spent both trips turned around in his seat facing us and animatedly telling us all about his life. Eesh. I’m not worried about getting more than mildly sick, but it sure would be great to pass tomorrow’s COVID test so we can fly home on Monday.
1/29, 12:53pm: On a separate note, the resort’s been taking COVID very seriously — almost comically so. Every single employee wears a mask (a serious one), whether inside or out. They’re also constantly slathering their hands with sanitizer and wiping down surfaces. Feels like the early days of the pandemic in that sense. Wondering if they’re also waiting a few days before opening mail.
1/29, 1:22pm: Had grilled squid from the lunch buffet. Really liked it, though it may have triggered Sarah’s self-diagnosed Trypophobia.
1/29, 7:30pm: Drivin N Cryin was absolutely phenomenal. Seriously fantastic. Exceeded all expectations. Hootie’s guitarist sat in with the band and the extra guitar really electrified the set. Will post lots of HootieFest clips this week on Instagram.
1/29, 7:51pm: Blues Traveler!
1/29, 9:06pm: Twas the final night of the concert, and a great few days of music. Strangely, despite them closing out three of the four nights, and actually hosting the event, we never actually stuck around for Hootie and the Blowfish. lol. Sarah feels weird about it. I don’t. We got more than our music fill.
1/30, 10:22am: Got our COVID tests taken care of at the hotel. Both negative, though since the results took literally 3 minutes to come back, it’s clear no one’s actually testing those nose swabs. Rubber stamp so outgoing guests are assured a hassle-free trip home. Mexico, y’all.
1/30, 2:03pm: Wrapped up a jungle speedboat tour, with more (and better) snorkeling. Great fun. Purchased drone video of us speeding along the ocean because it looked hilariously Miami Vice-ish. May include it in an upcoming newsletter.
1/30, 4:55pm: Having some online check-in problems with United, so hopefully all will be good at the airport tomorrow. Our resort shuttle to the airport leaves at 5am. Gonna be rough morning. All in all, a great trip. Amazing live music, better than expected weather, and some fun excursions. And there isn’t anyone I would have rather done it with than my wife. She’s the best. Definitely an upswing for 2022.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading today’s Daly Grind.
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