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.
#2: The Wolf
This being my first Reggae on the River, I was on site two days before the festival was due to kick off, ostensibly for the purpose of putting in enough volunteer time to earn a pass to the entire festival. Being there early was a key component in my plan, because the two days would allow me to acclimate myself to the venue, so that I would not have to do so, with 10,000 of my closest friends hovering. I figured if I knew where I was at all times, then the crowd would not be a factor.
The real reason for the early arrival was to set up the two kitchens which would be supplying quality food for the three thousand volunteers, plus the performers. It was a massive undertaking, one that folks have been trying to perfect for thirty-one years now, and for the most part, it’s based on volunteer help. Therein lies the potential rub, in that there is much postulating for control.
This person has been organizing the kitchen since ’97; that individual has high status for his connections with performers; and that dude over there has been a part of ROTR since is was still “Electric on the Eel.” And they are all bound and determined to get “their people” whatever it is that is needed.
At the moment in question, though Casey was nowhere to be seen, and Lito, Conner, Mid-Sized-David and I were delegated to go to the Mateel Center to get the Wolf. David is anything but mid-sized, sauntering in at around six-six, and weighing whatever it is that a burly, rugby-playing, six-foot-six dude weighs, but he was dubbed mid-sized by Minnix, on site from Hawaii, and thus it stood.
I am so glad I do not have to think; all I have to do is follow directions. Set up another carport? Easy-peasy. Cart the chairs and tables for the Ambassador Lounge from point A to point B? We’re on it. Move the Wolf? Uh, let me get back to you no that one...
Four of us headed up to the Mateel Center in Redway, with David towing the utility trailer behind him in his pickup. Lito filled me in on the way there, explaining that our mission, since we had chosen to accept it, was to load up the mammoth cast iron cook stove from the kitchen at the center, and bring it back for use on the site.
He said that they had done it last year and that it was tough, but that we were hoping to get some help on the other end from any dudes hanging out at the Mateel. In either case we would have to find a way to get ‘er done.
Unfortunately, when I came face-to-face with the enemy, a behemoth that tipped the scales at a minimum of 500 pounds, I took a second think. Then a third, a fourth...you get the idea.
Whoever it is that expects us to move this beast, is either delusional, high on the stuff, or unclear on the concept. Take your pick. This stove looks more like a Sherman tank. I am functioning, more or less-and more less than more-with only one arm these days, because my dang right shoulder keeps popping out of its socket, or labrum as I have long since come to know it. I am about as helpful as a fish is, in a three-legged race.
Luckily, there were two dudes on hand who were willing to lend us their backs. The five-and-a-half of us manhandled the aircraft carrier onto two coasters we had brought with us, and rolled it carefully out onto the landing platform. We went slowly so as not to accidentally bump a wall, thereby demolishing it.
Because of the position of the curb and the ramp, there was a sizable gap, over which we had to convey the stove. There was no way to maneuver the truck closer to the stove, because to do so was to elevate the rear end higher than it already was, which would necessitate lifting the ship’s anchor even more. We needed something more than what was on hand.
The lads sifted through the detritus alongside one of the buildings, seeking various methods to get the stove from the curb to the trailer. There was a thick piece of plywood that they were contemplating using, but I firmly steered them away, noting that mid-sized-David, who probably weighed at least half of the stove, had bent the plywood to a precipitously hazardous angle.
All I could envision was getting that stove halfway up the ramp, and having the plywood snap, sending the stove over sideways, crushing any unfortunate individuals not quick enough to dodge a speeding stove.
I wasn’t feeling too nimble right about then.
Have they lost what little of their minds they have left? The plywood buckles with David on it; how will it ever hold up to the stove? This is ridiculous because there is only one way that six dudes are going to get this bad-boy up on the trailer.
“Look, we don’t need a ramp. All we have to do is roll the stove up to the bed of the trailer, lift the front end up and slide it onto the bed of the trailer, and then lift the back end and wrestle the whole shebang towards the front of the trailer to better balance it for the ride back to French’s Camp.”
An hour of scratching our heads and two minutes of exertion, and then the lads were ready to chow down. We ended up at Deb’s Diner, where I perused the menu and settled on what I thought was the lightest meal on the menu, a turkey and swiss sandwich on sourdough bread.
Whereas a gut-bomb was most appealing after having had nothing to eat since the breakfast of potato patties and poached eggs early this morning, I resisted the impulse to order a cheeseburger, or anything fried. I did not want to overload my system before even knowing the layout of the camp; I am not an adventurous fellow.
Unfortunately, what I got was a grilled ham and cheese with a small mountain of French fries.
WTF? Nice choice: Either I eat what I decidedly did not order, or I assert myself and have them correct it, thereby possibly holing up the progress of the group. To put something as foreign as this into my body, makes me fear the worst. Well, it’s nice to have a choice.
And that choice includes deciding whether I am up to camping at French’s Camp over the weekend to hear the music, or not. Lito goes home tonight and I know he would take pity on his old, confused and doddering dad, and give me a lift home.
“Pass the mustard, please. Who ever heard of eating a grilled ham and cheese without mustard?”
Next: “The Fumble”