Skirting the Edges Series: Joan Baez and the Porta-Potty
It was almost complete. The last stitch slid through the thin gray cotton hem just beside a small pink flower. Annie held it by the waist and gently swung it side to side. Pleased with the swish, she checked the pleats on all three tiers. Done. Annie wrung her sore hands and thought about the night ahead.
A few hours later, Annie tapped her right ring finger on the hard plastic of the Gremlin’s faded red steering wheel. Jane—Annie’s older sister—gave directions to their friend Pink one last time. Then, she popped her bag in the trunk and slammed the rounded glass of the trunk.
Pink had acquired his nickname during a short but memorable stint with the Angels. The Hell’s Angels. He cranked his bike to a rumbling start and nodded, his Marigold locks bouncing the sun around his head.
“Okay, baby girl,” Jane sighed and chirped. “I think he’s got it. Oh, I love that skirt! Let's go.”
“Yip-yip-yippee!” Annie replied, the anxiety of the trip giving way to the anticipation of the coming experience.
“Woo-hoo!” Jane responded. And they were off.
By 1984, being a free-spirited, Jesus-freak gypsy had fallen out of fashion. However, there were enough people still in love with the ideas and music of the “hippie” generation to warrant a Folk tour.
The small outdoor venue near Guthrie, Oklahoma, was set for an evening filled with some of the great Folk singers, like Joan Baez and Eliza Gilkyson. And, Annie could hardly wait.
The trio arrived at the venue, parked, and walked through the temporary aluminum gates. They found a perfect spot by a tree and set out their blankets and gear. Jane and Pink drank some whiskey from the bottle and smoked. That wasn’t Annie’s bag, but she was enjoying their enjoyment.
As the third local group finished their set, Annie heard Jane grumble, “Oh, really. Sheesh.”
“Geez, Janie. I can’t help it if I gotta whiz.” Pink lumbered up, all 6’4” and 280 lbs of him.
“Hurry! My Joan is next!” she scolded.
When 15 minutes had passed, Annie headed to the toilets to look for Pink, sure that he had gotten turned around. Her skirt swished over the cool clover blanket that covered the ground.
She found the row of blue porta-potties and looked around. “Pink?” she called out impatiently.
“Yeah! I’m in here!”
“Last one on the right!”
“What are you doing?’
“Well, Annie, I can’t get my leathers up,” he whisper-yelled.
“What?!!” Annie heard a snicker coming from the stall next to Pink’s.
“My legs are too sweaty, and, well, I’m a big fella in a small space.”
More giggles from the next pot neighbor. “Hey, buddy! Not cool, man.”
Just then, Annie heard the intro to one of her favorite Baez tunes. She started singing along, trying not to get irritated.
A tall man stepped out of the adjacent pot and smiled at Annie. “Wow, girlie. Nice skirt. And a nice voice!”
“Oh, thanks,” she said offhandedly, not really looking at him.
And, then she heard a bellow from inside the last pot on the right.
“Shit!! Is that Joan Baez!! Dammit, dammit.” The potty started shaking around, so Annie grabbed the man beside her and jumped back.
Out popped a giant of a man, his leather pants at his knees as he timbered forward, landing on his face, his large blushed tookish mooning everyone. Jane ran up and screamed. “Holy fuck, Pink. Not again!!”
The next pot neighbor threw his head back, roaring. “Y'all are too much,” he giggled, walking away.
Later that evening, the headliner took the stage. He strummed his guitar and spoke of how he had come to this point in his life, weaving a rhythmic tale. And then, he called out Joan Baez to the stage.
“Joanie?’ he hummed.
“Yes, Arlo,” she cooed.
“There’s a young woman in the audience with a flowing gray skirt and the voice of an angel.”
“You don’t say! How do you know?’
“Well, we met today under strange circumstances that may not be proper for all ears.”
The audience cooed. Jane looked around and then gestured to Annie. Annie just shook her head.
“Little lady with the gray skirt, where are you? We met when your red-haired fella tried to mow me down .” The audience booed.
“Just kidding folks Just fooling. Little lady?” The audience laughed, relieved.
Annie stood up and waved. And when their eyes met, it finally registered that the next pot neighbor was none other than Arlo Guthrie.
“Yes! There she is! Y’all, help her up on stage, would ya?” The audience cheered. Two security guards approached and led Annie to the stage.
“Now, Joan. You listen to this!” Arlo strummed the first bars of “Wanton Soldier,” and the audience erupted in applause.
Annie stepped away from the mic, but Joan patted her on the back. “It’s okay, honey. Let’s hear what you’ve got.”
Annie moaned out the sad lyrics, and Joan provided harmony. When the song ended, the two stars looked at one another. “Well, that was fine, fine singing. And I love your skirt,” Joan said. The crowd erupted in applause again.
When they got home, Annie washed her skirt and twisted it around a broom handle to dry, still stunned by the day. A few days later, she packed the skirt in her hope chest. And there it remained for 12 years.