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. I will 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.
Now, of course, you may not consider 106 degrees to be hot, in which case the first day [for me] of setup was just another day in paradise. Having spent ten hours outside on the previous day tending to my garden, I did not need the computer forecast to break the news about the heat. I just needed to put ice in my hat, and ice at the top of my list of items for my survival kit.
Hot? This ain’t hot. Heat is SoCal, in October. When Bro Tom popped out into the world in 1958, on October 3rd, it was 114 degrees in the San Gabriel Valley. Nice and warm.
You see, Tuesday and Wednesday were trial days, and if things went well, I would then follow through on my plan of attending my first “Reggae on the River” festival, along the Eel River in Southern Humboldt County, beginning Friday and going through Sunday.
There was only one artist on the planet able to coax me out of my shell, and into the real world, and that is Stephen Marley, the second son of the late, the great Bob Marley. Stephen is a genius and he rocks my soul. It really isn’t any more complicated than that.
I have found that working while listening to reggae music is a great combination, because the upbeat, lilting nature of the music lends lift to my feet, and I find myself dancing through life, on legs that have become rejuvenated.
Work? As long as I have my headphones plugged in, I am not working, merely listening to my music. If I happen to also be trellising out in the garden, that is purely coincidental.
So why has it taken me thirty-one years to decide to attend the iconic festival? I do not function well in crowds, as is evidenced by my inability to enjoy my favorite pastime on earth, watching San Francisco Giants baseball at AT&T Park. I mean, I have the mental tools to be able to accomplish the feat but I do not enjoy myself.
What is the point of assembling all of my tools and maintaining a high degree of preparedness, to attend a game, only to find that the experience brings no pleasure? Why would I not just stay in the comfort of my living room, and tune in CSNBA, to hear Kruk and Kuip while monitoring the contest on Gameday?
The same has always applied to music. I invested a small fortune in some Beats Headphones, prior to embarking for Ireland in 2011, so I have concert-quality music available at all times. The bottom line is that like watching Kruk and Kuip on the tube, listening to Stephen Marley is a lot more enjoyable under optimum conditions on my headphones, than joining 9,999 others at a festival.
And if ROTR were only about music, I would be on solid ground. But it’s not-it’s about love, family and community, in any order that you want to place them. There is no simple explanation, so I am going to try complex.
Rasta Road, huh? Wall-to-wall tents, reminding me more of a refugee camp than anything else. I mean, I know it’s how it works, but being in the center of all that humanity, for three days? It’s never going to happen.
There were two large, open-air kitchens to be set up, one for volunteers, and the Ambassador Lounge, the chill spot for the cool people. Our first task was to move two soda/juice machines, mammoth upright refrigerators which would dispense much appreciated beverages to thirsty revelers, from one location to the other.
The challenging logistics notwithstanding, we accomplished the task, and positioned the ice-boxes as directed. Unfortunately, they had to be flip-flopped, a less-than-enthusiastic crew grumbling that it might have been nice to have had the right location pointed out in the first place.
One hand has no clue what the other hand wants, except that both hands are struggling for dominance. These guys running the show are clueless, each one waiting for the next one to definitively set the stage.
“Hey guys? I hate to say this but we had the soda machines positioned correctly the first time. So can we move them back?”
We? You got a mouse in your pocket? Oh, you mean us. What a crock. Hey, I’ll put my two days in, like I said I would, but there is no way I am going to come back on Friday. This is just not my scene.
Casey kept things from spiraling out of control through his judicious provision of the vitals: a bong and a jar of high-grade, home-grown goodness. We were thus employed, following the debacle of the musical refrigerators, when head-cook Eric came over, and asked if we were ready to go after the wolf.
All eyes shifted to six-foot-six David, and seeing that he was right there, all eyes said, “Aye.”
Oh boy. What’s this all about? We get to drive to Redway and get a wolf?
Tomorrow: “The Wolf”