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.
The End, except it wasn’t over. Reggae on the River, 2015, may have been finished, but we still had to return on Tuesday to break everything down. I wasn’t sure how everyone else felt about having to do this, but I was all about it. For one thing I was determined to stitch my name a little more broadly across the fabric that represented ROTR, and the best way to do that was to volunteer my time.
I would walk through a bed of hot coals to be able to duplicate next year, what I just experienced this past weekend, especially since there are going to be about ten of us to get ‘er done.
There were two main tasks to be accomplished on this, the final day of our participation: breaking down the two kitchens, and transporting a couple of tons of fresh supplies and water to the base camp for the firefighters combatting wildfires in the immediate area.
Casey and I truck-pooled back up to French’s Camp, though I was going to be retrieving my own truck from the Tosh Lot, and driving it home when the day was done. As we approached the main entrance, the inevitable volunteer was there to check wristbands, and we thrust our arms up into the air so that we could be waved on.
“Happy Reggae, Uncle,” Casey greeted him enthusiastically.
“Mornin’! You guys don’t have the right bands; where you headin’?”
“Kitchen breakdown crew,” Casey responded. “We’ll be going in and out of here all day.”
“Yeah, fine, but let me see if I can find the right wristbands so no one gives you a hard time.” He was Native and getting along in years, his long black hair tinged with gray, hanging down his shoulders, beneath his bright yellow construction helmet. He had a mustache that drooped down past the corners of his mouth, and the overall effect was to make him appear perpetually melancholy.
It just can’t be that much fun to stand out here in the heat and the dust for hours at a time. But it’s what the volunteers get paid the big bucks to do.
As he rummaged through a paper sack, looking for the correct bracelets, Casey inquired of him, “And how is your morning going, on this fine day in Paradise?”
“It’s going good, except the guy said he was going to bring me some food. That was over an hour ago and I’m hungry.”
Casey sympathized with him, saying, “No doubt. It’s hard to be happy in your work when you’re out of fuel. Here, you want sone chips?”
He offered Uncle some of his vinegar potato chips, while at the same time I showed him the can of salted peanuts I was eating and the Baby Ruth candy bar that was on the seat beside me, but he shook his head gravely.
Sending us a lopsided grin out of a mouth that featured only a few straggling members of the original ivory lineup, he wagged his head again, intoning sadly that he was not able to chew anything hard.
“Hard times, Uncle,” said Casey, no pun intended, I am certain. “Sure hope you get some grub soon,” and having gotten at least one wrist band, we proceeded on our way.
I hate it when I’m hungry and there is no end in sight. On the other hand, when you get to our age, you gotta plan ahead.
I felt worse for the old dude than I should have, and something kept nudging at back of my cabbage-brain, making me feel as though I were not seeing the whole picture. We cruised along towards our arena, taking in the mountains of garbage now formed at rhythmic intervals along the route, and pulled up alongside the open cement slab.
I got out of the truck and as I did so, I flashed on the little ice chest in the bed of the truck that Annie had packed and sent with us, and it hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. We had six burritos that my sweetest of Apple Blossoms had assembled this morning, using some ground chicken, some left-over Spanish rice, and a whole slew of accompanying delicacies that made each of the wraps a veritable gold mine of deliciousness.
You got something the other guy don’t got, you chair, Man...
Her intent was that any and all farm hands have something to munch on when the time came, so that included me, Lito, Conner and Rosemary, who was there but in a different part of the site. My intent was to hook Uncle up with one of those bad boys, simply because I could.
I saw that the lads had gathered in the center of the kitchen, and were conducting serious discussions about the machinations of our task. Also in attendance and being heavily utilized, was Casey’s bong.
I went over to the group and addressed Lito and Casey.
“Hey, can I borrow a truck real quick? I want to run one of our burritos out to Uncle at the gate. He’s experiencing technical difficulties ‘cause no one has brought him anything to eat.
“Sure, no problem,” replied Lito, handing me over the key to his truck. After getting a crash course on how to unlock a vehicle via the key (I know, I know) I double-timed out to his truck and got ready to unlock it when I realized I had walked halfway already to my ultimate destination.
I’m almost there already. Sit tight, Truck. You’re off the hook.
Uncle saw me coming from a ways off and by the time I was walking up to him, had connected me to the truck that had come through a few minutes earlier. He made a vague attempt to once more find a second wristband, because he figured that’s why I was there.
“It’s all good, Uncle. Here, I brought you one of Annie’s burritos,” as though he and Annie had been friends for years. “It’s soft, you see, so you can chew it.”
The light went on in the porch of his mind, and his face lit up like the stage when Collie Buddz came on.
“Oh! Let me see if I can find that wristband,” and he tripled his efforts to find the elusive strip of plastic.
“Uncle, no. I don’t need no band, but you need to eat this. Here, I’ll see you in a while when we take the stove to Redway,” and I left him, feeling the same glow that I had been experiencing all weekend.
It felt good to extend that glow a little while longer.
Tomorrow: California Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation facility, Redway, California