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.
#18: My Song Now
I suffered my first full-blown panic attack at age ten, and my mom gave me the best advice she possibly could have.
“Think of a place you really like and go there inside your head. Don’t think about the bad; just think about the good.”
She had no idea what it was I had experienced, though I had tried to explain what had happened when the girl in the pew in front of us, had fainted. Standing on the aisle, she had keeled over like a dead oak, and the sound of her head hitting the cement floor, was awful.
The sound and shock of the event seared though my brain like molten metal, causing me to start panting. The blood drained from my face and I started sweating heavily. I felt nauseous and knew that if I did not get out of that church, I would soon follow suit, and end up losing consciousness.
Going to the movies. Let’s see now, back of the theater, left-hand side, on the aisle. Not near the aisle-on the aisle.
At the EGA gathering, Sunday morning before the last day of the Emerald Cup? Where is the nearest exit? And our seats are where? You go on. I’ll just keep an eye on things from back here... Great success!
Reggae on the River? Never. Never. Simply stated, Never.
I did the therapy back in 2010 in only seven sessions, because Dr. Jill was on her way out of Dodge. She had told me I could rid myself of Panic Attack Syndrome, if I were willing to do the work.
I was and I did.
The therapy gave me the tools to go anywhere, even if I could not necessarily enjoy myself, which is why ROTR was so different. From my ability to handle the tight quarters as far as wall-to-wall tents were concerned, to my newly-found ability to stroll through the crush of the crowd, I reveled in it.
I was in uncharted waters and content to be so, because I was there for the music. I was introduced to reggae somewhere in the early nineties, when sixth-grade Chad always had a cassette on hand for me to play any time there was free minutes, and have never looked back.
This kid has a different take on music than the rest. And I gotta say, what he plays makes my feet move a lot more enthusiastically. It’s that lilt to the music I like, the upbeat nature of it...makes me want to dance.
When Casey sailed off to Pacific University, in 2000, the first thing he did was send back to me a whole slew of new music he was picking up. He sent me a Stephen Marley CD, a Collie Buddz, an Alpha Blondy and an Albarosie. I will never forget playing “No Cocaine,” and hearing the refrain, “I love marijuana”:
“Marijuana... ganja farmer...
No coca, no coca, no coke inna mi brain
No coca and no ‘eroin can go inna mi vein
‘Cos I love marijuana
‘Cos man a real ganja farmer.”
‘Cos I love marijuana. Just hearing this artist sing these words is powerful. Knowing that in his world, ganja was the gateway to avoiding far more challenging paths by contemporaries, than that which the sacred herb provides. A twofer if ever there were one...
When I couldn’t understand the lyrics, I googled them. The message is a good one, that cannabis is a better alternative to other drugs. I would take it one more natural step forward, and chime in that using the bong is also a far better choice than alcohol.
That is a key word, choice. I choose, therefore I exist. With the maze of routes possible in life, choosing not so much the correct one, as one which works well enough to proceed, is often the difference between existence and living.
I can’t conceive of an existence comprised of being locked in a profession I hated. To spend a third of my life in an intolerable situation, is to expend a great deal of energy, better spent in other endeavors. Yet people do it all the time, with little or no choice.
It’s mind control, as Stephen sings about. There are many applications of this concept, one of them being the control the mind has over the body. This is the central message provided to me, by Pauline, 52 years ago, when she told me to go to a place in my head, that I wanted to be.
This is also the central message from Dr. Jill, who taught me that only through a clear recognition and awareness of those specific anxiety-inducing elements in my life, could I begin to eliminate the stress. In preparing for my three-day stay at ROTR, I had planned for all exigencies.
It may have been blisteringly hot during the day (Sunday topped out at 94 degrees, twelve degrees cooler than it had been the first day when it hit 106), but it cooled off at night. In the pic of me taken on Saturday night/Sunday morning after Stephen played, I am wearing a long-sleeved heavy shirt, over a tee-shirt, and have a hoodie on top of everything.
In long pants I look pretty bundled up, protection from the same air movement that kept us from sizzling during the day.
Funny how it works, that “refreshing breeze” during the heat of the day, becomes that fiendish wind during the chill of the night. But I am ready for action-ready for danger...ready for anything.
Casey and I headed up to Robbie’s spot behind the Beer Garden, well before the allotted time when Albarosie would appear on stage, and I proceeded to replicate my relaxation techniques of the previous night, and took a little siesta. My ability to sleep, particularly with my headphones on and the music blasting, has always served me in good stead.
Not even Dozer’s raucous barking can penetrate the barrier, bless his pointy little head.
Having waxed on eloquently, if also somewhat repetitively, over my success at ROTR, I will once again assert that it’s all about controlling one’s mind. I believe I can do this, therefore I can. Ask any athlete how important confidence is to his game.
For me it is crucial. In snoozing prior to Albarosie coming on stage, I used my heavy, long-sleeved shirt and my hoodie, as a pillow, and they remained there on the ground as I bounced up at the intro to Albarosie.
Can there be more electricity in the air than there is now? I should be cold-most everyone else is bundled up, just as I was last night, but what a ridiculous notion.
I had glanced earlier that day at the weather forecast so easily obtainable on my computer, and noted that the low that evening for our venue was 55, with a 7-10 MPH wind. In my world, 55 degrees is balmy, so I therefore decided that I was not cold.
The music was galvanizing and my legs kept time to the beat, surgically-repaired left knee forgetting all about that ancient history. Euphoria blanketed me in a protective bubble of self-generated heat, and it may as well have been 75 degrees. In my tank top, sandals and shorts, I was feeling no cold.
Casey asked me at one point, “Aren’t you cold?” and all I could do was grin and say, “It’s all in your head. If you think you should be cold, then you will freeze your butt off. If you know it’s not cold, and you’re enjoying yourself, then that answers that question. It’s mind control.”
“Mind control.” Stephen’s song, even if Albarosie is playing.
But it’s my song now.