The 25th Anniversary Farm Aid concert was one that I was really looking forward to. I grew up on a farm in Indiana and, before that, my parents had a small hippie farm consisting of a garden and a chicken coop.
Each morning, it was my job to collect the eggs that would be eaten for breakfast and used for the day’s baked goods. On television, collecting eggs is a pastoral activity with a smiling farmer and generous chickens. My experience was far from that.
I dreaded the chicken coop because it contained the primary antagonist of my childhood; a cranky rooster that my father called Cogburn. Later, I learned that the name had something to do with John Wayne, but the wittiness was completely lost on me.
In real life, the coop doesn’t welcome the little boy who comes and harvests the babies. In real life, the poultry fights back. Each morning, in a cacophony of clucking and crowing, the hens pecked at my hands as Cogburn raked my flesh with his talons.
It was an epic rivalry; sometimes Cogburn would win. At other times, he wouldn’t win by as much.
One day, I saw my father remove Cogburn from the coop, take him to a stained stump and cut off his head with an axe. As his severed head squawked in the dirt, his body ran blindly in my direction as if in a final act of defiance, and collapsed at my feet.
We later ate my vanquished foe, and made a wish while we snapped his clavicle. Even a human child is at the top of the food chain. As such, we can use our power for good or for evil.
Farm Aid is a cause for the former.
It is the champion of the little guy; the family farmers toiling in their modest patches of soil. Let’s just say there are no Monsanto t-shirts and booths giving away Archer Daniels Midland key chains at Farm Aid.
I, too, believe in the family farm. Which is why I was so excited to attend.
My wife surprised me when she came home from work and said that, not only would we be going, but we would be watching the concert from one of Miller Park’s Luxury Suites. Poorly versed in the ways of luxury and the suites that accommodate them, I was woefully unprepared for the company I was to keep.
The demographic was late 20’s to early 40’s, men and women. I don’t know if they were wealthy or not, but I’m pretty sure that they all got cars on their 16th birthdays. Whenever the conversation came around to what I did for a living and I said “comedian,” it was like I had just told them that I was a chimpanzee. In their faces, I saw every thing from fear to amusement to pity.
Oh well, at least we got free beer. As it flowed, the tongues loosened. After earning the trust of one man, he confided in me how the stupid liberals were bringing down the country. I played along.
“Bastards,” I said.
“Right?” he said, and hit my arm a little more enthusiastically than was comfortable. “Damn Libs and their entitlements.”
“But,” I said, “The current administration has done a lot for veterans in this country.”
He eyed me suspiciously and went to get another beer.
Farm Aid was in full swing on the other side of the plexiglass, and, inside the luxury suite, the natives were skittish; nervous that a laborer had somehow infiltrated their ranks.
After the bar had been restocked a second time (3 total), the suite had the electricity of a hot fraternity party before a fight breaks out. There were a lot of sleepy, bloodshot eyes, raspy throats and bro hugs that were more about status than affection. The women were making their spine-shattering, interminable “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO’s” with greater frequency.
Tavis Smiley introduced John Mellencamp, and when they pumped their fists in the air during “Pink Houses,” they created enough irony to power an entire neighborhood of pink houses for a month.
When the beer ran out, the mood got uglier. My partner from the earlier conversation said “Hey! Where’s the beer?! What kind of luxury suite is this?” And he spit on the floor.
He. Spit. On. The. Floor.
So here he was, free $100 ticket to Farm Aid, free booze and free food, private bathroom and yet somehow he had been cheated.
I guess he was right; I guess we do live in an entitlement culture.