Chris Hemy: Nurse, Festival-Goer

Spotted at: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, San Francisco

Occupation: Nurse, Festival-goer

What brought you here to to the festival?

I come here every year for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. I live in Arizona in the winter, and do music festivals all summer long.

Do you work at music festivals or are you an enthusiast?

I'm not working at this one but I do volunteer at a lot of them.

How did you get involved in music festivals?

I love music!

Is your occupation music-related?

No, I'm a nurse. I have a six-month contract out in Arizona—it's a seasonal one.

So you have six months to work and six months to play?

I do whatever I want.

Awesome! What other things do you do on your free time?

Oh, we go hiking, biking. We relax, we read!

Do you travel a lot?

Yeah, because we leave our place down there in May and don't go back until October. We have a little 1971 vintage trailer—it's 13 feet long—and we just travel around in that. We stay out in public access land, national forest land, in between all the festivals.

So what's your circuit? Where do you like to go?

The last few years I've been doing mainly California, dipping a little bit into Nevada, but I think I'm going to head up into Oregon next summer.

When did you get your trailer?

About 10 years ago.

Was it a spur-of-the-moment purchase?

Well, we'd been camping out in tents and it was like, OK, this is getting a little much. Finally we said, we just need a little tiny trailer. And we happened to be at a vintage car show and there was a guy there that had one. This particular one they made in Canada in the 60s and 70s
and I was aware of them because I'm Canadian, and my girlfriend had one. So I said, that would be perfect for us!

What are they called?

Boler Travel Trailers. The guy we ours from built street hot rods for a living, and he said, I'll sell it to you, but I have to put a new frame on it first. because the frames would break. Which they did, because my girlfriend had one that broke—these trailers were known for this. And they're extremely low to the ground. So we said well, since you're gonna build a new frame, lift it. So ours is lifted up high. We actually have to step up into it but we can take it off-road into the dirt roads and we don't ever have to stay in campgrounds.
What do you like most about nursing?

I've been a nurse for 35 years and I do adult intensive care; it's extremely gratifying. What other job is a challenge every day and gives you incredible feedback? You know you're making a difference in people's lives.

In what way?

Any recent stories?

I actually had a lady that was not very old—she was only in her early fifties and I was a strong advocate for her about what she wanted. She knew she was very sick and I helped her and her family through her last few weeks. Family is a huge part of it, I mean they're actually doing more work than the patients are these days. And the hospitals really, really push that as well, that the family really is a part of treatment. This woman eventually did pass, but it was a beautiful passing. I went to the funeral which, in my 35 years of nursing, is the first time I remember going to a funeral. But I went, and I'm really glad I did. The whole family came over to me after the funeral and thanked me for coming. This lady loved butterflies so after the ceremony they went outside and we had live butterflies that we let go. And they also had a pair of wings, you know, that attach—and they gave me the wings.

What's some good advice you've gotten?

My whole philosophy of life, honey, is just keep dancing! That will be on my tombstone. Auntie Chris says "just keep dancing!" 'Cause it just takes care of everything.

What kind of music do you like dancing to?

Cajun, bluegrass, blues, it doesn't matter. I'm a free spirit. I don't do line-dancing, you know, that controlled sort of thing. No, no—I'm in my own little world.

This jumpsuit is fantastic, where did it come from?

It's vintage, I found it in a little store outside of Phoenix. Actually it was a pretty big store!  They probably had 25,000 pieces of clothing. So I was looking around and I was just about ready to leave because I was overwhelmed at how much stuff was in there. And I could just smell it. I knew there was something there for me. I turned, went back in and I could see this color way, way in the back there hanging and I thought, "ooh, that looks interesting!" I picked it up and it fit me like a glove. It's also got a little jacket that fits beautifully. I wear it a lot.

These boots are great too. Did you get these at the vintage place too?

Actually these are new! I got them, I'd say, maybe 10 years ago.

The jewelry looks vintage as well!

Yep! The hat my brother gave me. I have a wonderful brother. This is a crushable hat. So I rode my bike here, and I had my helmet on so I just put this in my backpack. So when I travel I just crush it. I put the vintage fabric in there to cut the orange because it wa

s just a little too much, but I wear it a lot and it keeps the sun out. I don't play music, so my giving to a festival is the way I dress. I was here not even 10 minutes when this woman came up to me  and said, "I'm so glad you're here, because I love your outfits every year."

And people do remember me every year! They'll ask, "What are you going to wear today?" I got two new outfits yesterday on Haight Street. I get kind of tired of the ones I have, and I didn't have that many with me. I bought a one-piece tie-dye jumpsuit that's going to be fabulous. And I just happen to have a hat that's goes with it. People always ask me at the end of festivals when we're camping, “Ok now, how do you fit your wardrobe into that trailer? 'Cause it's just this little baby thing right?" I come out in all the boots and the hats—it's getting kind of problematic. We'll have to start sleeping in a tent again because the trailer is the whole closet.

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