I just made some new friends.

I was standing by the beer fence (Is that what you call the rope divider next to a sign that says, "No beer beyond this point?" I don't know. That's what I'm calling it.) 

Anyway, I was standing next to the beer fence at the Mississippi Music concert — even though I wasn't drinking beer — when Lorraine said, "You know the words."

Hold on. Let me back up.

This actually all started last week when I decided to go to Bemidji by myself.

I hadn't planned to go alone. I'd originally booked the hotel in Bemidji thinking it would be a nice before-school-starts getaway for my family. But then one of us had to work and one of us had an appointment that couldn't be rescheduled and, let's just call it what it is here, one of us didn't really want to go.

I was none of those people.

So instead of canceling our reservation, I decided to turn our family getaway into a solo writing retreat — or, in other words, a few days of quality time with a laptop, a yoga mat, and a lakeside room for four with a balcony and sunset views.

And also, it turns out, a Six Mile Grove concert at Paul Bunyan Park. Because, as my tremendous luck would have it, one of my favorite Rochester bands was playing in Bemidji.

So there I am last Wednesday evening, walking down the lakeside trail from my hotel to the park, watching the waves hit the shore, on my way to hear a band whose music I love.

I'm tempted to say that life doesn't get any better than that.

But it does. Because once I've settled in by the beer fence, the woman in front of me says, "You know the words."

And that's all it takes for the two of us to start talking and sharing stories. I tell Lorraine — Lorraine, I learn, is her name — that I'm from Rochester, so I've seen the band perform before. She tells me she lives about 50 miles away, but stays in Bemidji for work several nights a week. Most notably, we find out that our seven degrees of separation number is really three — the dad of one of her friends was my junior high art teacher. So we're pretty much family.

Lorraine points out a couple people in the crowd who are also from Rochester. How she knows this, I have no idea — she's apparently some kind of a social wizard. But that's all it takes to meet a couple more new friends. Because when those two gentlemen get in the beer line, I chase them down.

"You're from Rochester?! So am I!"

They tell me that they retired a few years ago, and moved up north with their wives — who are also at the concert, and who come find me (and Lorraine, naturally) a few minutes later. Because nothing bonds people with a common town faster than being away from that town together.

My new Rochester friends head back to their chairs, and I'm happily chatting away with Lorraine when a woman in a cute navy blue dress walks by. And because you should always let people know when you think they're in a cute navy blue dress, I say, "Nice dress!"

Which prompts this woman to stop dead in her tracks, turn to look at me and say, "Thank you! I bought it at a thrift shop for $10!"

Which pretty much means we're soul sisters.

I grab my shirt in my hand and say, "I bought this at a thrift shop for $4!" And then I tell Mary — Mary, I learn, is her name — that she and I have to be friends.

To which she says: "Yes! We can go shopping!"

We literally talk for the next hour and exchange phone numbers. Which is not at all how I thought that night was going to go down.

When I get back to the hotel that night, I think: What if I'd decided not to go to the concert because I had to go alone? Or what if I did go to the concert … but didn't talk to anyone because I didn't know them?

What a loss of an incredible evening that would've been.

So, here's the truth: My Bemidji getaway was not what I had planned. And for a while I'd been pretty disappointed about that. But it ended up being really incredible, anyway.

I think there's probably a lesson in that.

Jennifer Koski is associate editor at Rochester Magazine. Her column appears Wednesdays. Send comments to jkoski@rochestermagazine.com.

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