At 4:30 p.m. Friday afternoon, all is calm inside my fourth-story apartment on Main Street in Bethlehem.
Normally, I can say the same of the street down below. The most action I ever see or hear outside my windows is a morning rush at Johnny's Bagels.
But this is no ordinary Friday afternoon. In fact, ordinary is on vacation for the next nine days.
Musikfest has infiltrated my 'hood. And, as the hours pass and the sun begins to set, Main Street transforms from small-town U.S.A. to something I can only describe as a combination al fresco food court, bar, open-air market, concert and high-school hangout.
The smell of fried food wafts into my windows and the annoying sounds of an incessantly rattling tambourine and squealing teen girls disturb my peaceful existence.
I can't resist the smells, nor tune out the sounds, so I grab my plastic mug and set out on a quest for beer and funnel cake.
I fall in line with the mass of mug toters, filing down the road toward the beer tent like zombies.
Making my way down the strip, I'm nearly trampled by teens, scurrying about in search of their cliques. As far as the eye can see there are short, short denim skirts, but, thankfully, no breeze.
Perhaps I look like a person in need of counsel; a psychic leaps off the sidewalk to ask if I'd like my fortune read. I politely decline, aiming for that powdered-sugary prize.
Walking down the winding path down to Handwerkplatz, I watch in wonder as women try to keep their balance in heels and wedges.
In flip-flops, I'm not exactly dressed to impress. But at least I won't fall on my ass before I've even begun drinking.
At the bottom of the hill, I make my way to the ticket booth to trade my greenbacks for another form of paper currency. I struggle to decide how much money I'm willing to part with for an evening of excessive eating and drinking and settle on $15.
Even though I know I'm here for the beer and funnel cake, I tease my taste buds and make myself earn that gut-busting meal by walking the festival grounds first.
At Volksplatz, I practically run into everyone I know. I make small talk, but move on quickly. I stop briefly at the Olympus tent to pick up a free paper fan, which I inappropriately use to pretend-paddle passersby in the butt.
I cross over a bridge lined with Y-chromosomed 20-somethings scoping out females. And I'm almost disappointed when I don't get holla'ed at.
Walking alongside the railroad tracks on my way to Festplatz, illuminated balls hang overhead in trees and it actually feels romantic, a nice contrast to the meat-market atmosphere on the bridge.
In Festplatz, I pause at the polka tent. I edge closer to the floor, hoping a little old man will pull me on and twirl me 'round till I fall over with dizziness.
Instead, a college-age guy sporting a Polo shirt with a popped collar is pulled from his posse by a woman who insists on showing him some steps.
He struggles but tries to play it cool as she spins him. His boys look on and laugh hysterically. Judging by the guy's blushing cheeks, that dance might have been the longest four minutes of his life.
Next, I stroll to Plaza Tropical, where I'm tempted to get a henna tattoo, climb a fake rock wall and bounce high in the air, harnessed to bungee cords. Instead, I keep focused on the task at hand beer and funnel cake.
As I head back toward Volksplatz, my favorite food area, eerie music blares and I'm pleased that the musician with the creepy phantom-of-the-opera mask is back again for another year. Though I could stop and listen, I know my brew-guzzling time is ticking by.
I press on and reach Volksplatz again. A Celtic rock band called Enter the Haggis is on stage and a mixed crowd is moving to their music.
A woman nurses her infant, while frat boys throw down beers beside her. Among the crowd, there are also goths, guys who look like they were in an '80s hair-metal band, preppy boys with button-down shirts bound for Steelgaarden post-festival, girls in flowing hippie garb, conservative types dressed like school-teachers and a number of people with looks too hard to categorize.
Everyone has turned out for this party, but strangely, it doesn't seem like any of the different personality types are mixing. The scene, for being an enormous community festival, isn't all that social.
Still, within the different enclaves of fest-goers, people are laughing, talking, eating, drinking and dancing.
Lead singer Brian Buchanan makes an announcement: ''The good news is we'll be back in 10 minutes; the bad news is the beer tent closes in 25.''
What? How could I have let this happen? My situation is now dire. I only have 25 minutes left to complete my mission.
I head to the beer tent and fill up my mug with Hoffbrauhaus, then make a pit-stop at the Aw Shucks stand before finishing up with funnel cake.
It's sweet and messy and everything I hoped it would be.
By the end of the night, I am in disbelief that I've only imbibed one brew and minimal junk food. And I wonder if maybe, just maybe Musikfest means something more than gorging yourself and getting wasted.
At 11, when the police blare their sirens and shuffle everyone off the festival grounds, I cut through Liederplatz, where there is a mass exodus of older people, and head to Starfish Brasserie to make up for lost time.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun