If you want the short story of my experiences at Reggae on the River, 2015, it goes like this: I planned; I attended; I enjoyed. There, all done. However, it is my custom to use my blog to not only recount experiences, but to extract from them some sort of sage assessment.
Each episode will consist of a vignette written to stand by itself, but which will also link with all of the others to attempt to imbue the reader with a basic understanding of what the attraction is to gathering with thousands of others along the Eel River every August, when it is most likely to be hot.
#7 Camp Culture
Rasta Road is the name given to the lane that paralleled the high bank, along which campsites were strewn, with the order of the day being Sardine-City. If there were paper on the metaphorical walls of the camping area, they would have had to tear it off, to make room for all the people.
It has never been my idea of “camping,” but then again, neither is sharing the venue with 10,000 others. Fortunately, music and good company are powerful motivators, and there was no shortage of either. I was to stroll, meander, jog or race down this lane countless times during the three days I was on site, and I never made the trek without some encounter of interest with fellow travelers.
For instance, I was sauntering along by my lonesome late one of the mornings, when I heard someone approaching from behind, at a faster pace. A moment later, when a tallish woman passed me on the right, she glanced at me with a radiant smile, and made the briefest of gestures with her left hand, that I should cast my eyes in that direction-just for a nano-second.
WTF? Good Buddha! Eyes front!
I did so, and just as quickly averted my eyes. Inside a tent, with its door flap completely open, lay a woman who might best be described as Rubenesque. She had flopped down on her stomach, while appareled only in the most brief of, well, briefs, revealing a pair of rotund cheeks.
Without a shred of disrespect intended, the fact that a unknown woman had found the sight comical enough to point out to me, a strange man, (Buddha knows...) made it seem all that much more hilarious, and we shared this fleeting moment merrily.
Also along this same route, early in my sojourn, I was accosted by a beautiful woman, relaxing in a lounge chair with a friend of the same persuasion.
“Mr. O’” she hollered out.
“The top of the morning to you,” I responded, all the while ransacking my cotton-candy brain for a name. The visage was familiar, but the sunglasses are throwing me a slider, down and away, and I flailed. “You have the advantage on me, a state of affairs that I find occurring at an all-too-frequent rate these days.”
“Sabrina,” she said, obviously disappointed to have to remind me of her name. The reality was all she had to do was remove the shades.
Of course. Annie and I had run into Sabrina several times in our wanderings around in Willits. A former student of mine in the middle school, we had connected both in person several times, and on face/book. I would have felt like a dick, except that my reputation for being a few cards short of a full deck, as far as recognition goes, was obviously still intact.
“Dude! My extreme and total bad. I am seeing you out of context and I never thought I’d see you here. It’s great though,” I finished lamely.
“I’m working the Beer Garden; come and see me tonight!”
“Oh, I will, I will!” Turning to Sabrina’s friend, I stuck out my hand and introduced myself.
“Hi, I’m Mark.” I was introduced to Beth.
Though I always introduce myself as Mark, most of the kids I encounter still call me Mr. O’. I am good with anything. As I say repeatedly, “Call me Mr. O’, call me Mark-just call me in time for dinner.”
I cruised on back to our campsite, which had been embellished with some remarkable accoutrements. The ground running the length of our designated area, was seriously uneven, as though the carpet along the surface had been disheveled, and not smoothed out again. It sloped gently down, until it met the wall of the bank, and then rose sharply upward, giving us a ten by twenty, or so, congregating area.
Bull had covered this uneven area with several ground-covers, in the form of thick, industrial type carpets. There were a half-dozen camp-chairs, but there were always bodies lounging around on the ground, or in the one hammock.
The hammock was a great success, until some unfortunate youth, set the thing on fire by going to sleep with a burning cigarette. Ruined it, but managed to avoid injury when someone noted said conflagration and sounded the alarm. Moving right along.
Judging from the detritus which greeted us this morning, after a night of serious partying, I guess we’re lucky the fire was confined to the hammock, and not to the rest of the camp. It’s not as though NoCal isn’t already on fire. Highway 20 being closed is pretty epic. Hope that gets cleared up before ROTR unleashes 10,000 guests to join the Monday-after traffic.
To portray the flavor of our brand of camp-mates, I can only give it the old college try. The recipe consisted of vast, unlimited portions of humor, with liberal doses of discussion about music, drugs, alcohol, philosophy, religion, some more animated palaver about drugs, and some more rambling on about the music.
I have mentioned Casey, Mid-Sized David, Bull, Yvonne, AnnaBryn, and a few others. One said other was Minnix, a fellow with whom Casey went to Pacific U, who studied video production. Trying to adequately describe this guy’s mind, is like trying analyze a tornado, while it is in full swing: riveting, twisting, tumultuous and above all else, hilarious. OK, tornadoes are not necessarily all that funny, but you get my drift.
The dude has his game-brain on, no matter how many mind-altering substances he has ingested. He could be providing expert backup beats, through the creative use of sounds best described as farts, to back up Casey, as he spit some impromptu verses, or he could be discussing philosophical intangibles of existentialism.
To chill with two minds as unique and intelligent, as those of Casey and Minnix, is to send me into paroxysms of enjoyment. You just have to be prepared to roll with the ensuing tsunami of entertainment; above all else, you must expect the unexpected. Otherwise you will want to sidle away, or in Annie’s and my case, slide down the bench.
Take Casey’s graduation from Pacific U, please. Annie and I, sitting in the stands of the school’s gymnasium, in the immediate vicinity of Minnix, and cringing from the bellowing voice next to us. Easing our way down the bench, to create a little space...he’s following us! Embarrassed until we just simply joined everyone else, and pretended we did not know this guy. Or maybe I am embellishing.
Farcical, whimsical, droll and brilliant.
“Mark, hand me your phone for a second.” Minnix was trying to figure out a way to get a pic off his phone, and onto mine. He burst out laughing.
“I’ve never seen a phone with 279 text messages on it before.”
“Dude. If I could figure out how to delete them, I would. Maybe you can stop by the mountain and tutor me.”
They’re not texts-they’re notifications from f/b. I don’t know how to turn them off, so that they don’t ding on my phone. Minnix could teach me more about tech in an hour, than I have learned in the past five years. Says he’s coming in September, for harvest. That would be epic.
Like all of the kids, Minnix was delighted to see me at the festival. They were all overwhelmingly supportive, even the ones I had never met, prior to this event.
Take Ollie, for instance. He is from Colorado, and has been taking in festivals since he was thirteen. His mom was justifiably concerned about Ollie’s involvement in techno-music, and the crowd he was hanging with, so she bought him thirty passes to music venues of all genres, in the Colorado area, in an effort to get him to expand his horizons.
“Dude,” Ollie said to me, “She saved my life.”
At one point he went off on a tangent about Collie Buddz, something along the lines of the band feasting off the success of one album. Is it possible this is a dis?
Negativity? No way. Granted, I do not know enough about reggae to intelligently discuss it, but I know a dis when I hear it.
I interrupted him in mid-harangue.
“Gotta say, I don’t know as much about the genre as you. I started listening to Pandora a little over a year ago. Everything I hear by these guys [Collie Buddz] rocks, so take me out and have me shot, if I am enjoying a politically-incorrect artist.
Not only did Ollie instantly back the truck up, but a short while later, when I returned from my tent [ice cubes...], he got up out of his comfortable camp-chair, and insisted I take it.
As a conciliatory offering for his disparaging comments about Collie Buddz, it was first-rate, and I happily accepted.
Gotta take life’s victories when they appear, in whatever form they assume.
Tomorrow: Brandy and Vodka