This is the second installment of ROTR, 2016, in which I describe setting up the volunteer kitchen, still eight days out of the start of the festival. What a difference a year makes.
On Tuesday afternoon Lito, Robin and I crossed over the Eel River on the site of Reggae on the River, 2016, and then drove parallel to it until we reached the site of the volunteers’ kitchen. This unit was already up and running, despite the fact that we were there to help facilitate that process.
As we pulled up, nothing around me looked even vaguely familiar and that was disconcerting. Is the kitchen in the same place this year as last year, or what? I then realized there were no orange netting fences up yet; the overhead awning was not yet in place, and of course, there were no throngs of revelers, streaming past.
It’s intriguing that I found the physical scene so vastly changed, in light of the fact that I also found the psychological aspects of the upcoming music festival to be vastly altered in my mind.
“We can never know about the days to come/But we think about
them anyway… An-ti-ci-pa-tion,”
sang Carly Simon, back in the seventies. There was a time when this same line would have had ambiguous connotations for me. Anticipating an event can produce anxiety or euphoria, and “euphoria” really does seem the proper word. If you are past the anxiety portion of the show, then you are free to feel as giddy as you please in ruminating on the endless possibilities for enjoyment.
As is invariably the case, one does not remember the downside to past events; one remembers only the high points, pun intended. Maybe “highlight” is a better word than “remember.” When I reminisce about ROTR 2015, I do not focus on the heat, the uncertainty, the logistical challenges or the discomfort.
I zero right in on those tears that were cascading down my face when Stick Figure broke out into “The Rocky Road,” ** or later on Saturday night (Sunday morning) when the first strains of Stephen Marley’s “No Cigarette Smoking in This Room” drifted through the cool night air, and reached us up on the side of the hill, back behind the Beer Garden.
|Sabrina and I|
I zero in on the hug I exchanged with Sabrina, who was working the counter of that same oasis-in-a-desert, and how, well, euphoric I had felt that I had pulled it off. I was there at the festival, strolling around as though I were at Harwood Park, amidst thousands of like-minded partiers, after spending weeks trying to decide whether or not I could actually do it. Finally, I zero in on the torrent of support from my community, which made it all possible.
It was a drive-by classic case of overthinking something.
I mean, all those festival-goers, the heat, the challenges of sleeping in a tent amidst thousands…tell me again why would I want to do this? Well, last year it was the music. Somewhat cosmically, there were a half-dozen or so artists who were amongst my favorites performing at ROTR.
I’ve already mentioned Stephen Marley and Stick Figure; in addition there were Collie Budz, Alborosie and Fortunate Youth, among others. In stark contrast, this year, there are only two artists I even recognize, and neither has one-tenth the emotional appeal to me, as any of the five artists I have mentioned.
Hey, you may be sitting there looking at this year’s lineup, and salivating, your feet already twitching at the thought of Anthony B or Sizzla. All the greater the success! I enjoy them also, but neither is on my top-ten list of favorites.
I enjoy all reggae music, finding that the work goes better when the feet are already pleased enough to keep up with the jaunty beat of the music. I prefer a more lilting bent to my reggae, though, and that would not describe either Anthony B or Sizzla.
The flip side is that there will be artists who are performing in front of their biggest crowd ever, and they will want to put on their best show. Last year there was a band from Columbia and one from The Sudan. If you got a chance to read the bios, you got your money’s worth.
I got my money’s worth last year, my first ROTR ever, which is why I was back ten days before this year’s extravaganza; I wanted to be counted amongst those who were present from the beginning.
Our mission was to take a small stack of green lumber and convert it into four tables, two of them mirroring the three that this same crew had assembled two years ago.
“You mean we are duplicating these tables? The ones we just hauled over from the Beer Garden? Making two more?” I asked the question of Lito and David, and both nodded accordingly.
“Exactly the same,” Lito said. “We’re also building two others, but I’m not sure what the dimensions are.”
“So then I can go ahead and get a pencil and paper, take a few measurements and cut a kit?” It would take me less than five minutes to measure and record the dimensions on a scrap of paper, of the six different components involved, not counting the four notches for the four-by-fours on the lower sheet of plywood.
I have a task! A quick survey of my wallet produced the required piece of paper for copying down my measurements, this one a receipt from none other than Geiger’s, carefully preserved in my wallet along with fifty others.
David had brought a chop-saw that was set up on a stand. This saw was the Ferrari of miter-boxes, with bucket seats and four-on-the-floor. I was impressed.
I was also ready to start chopping and sawing.
“Do you need a square to draw a line?” Lito asked, already starting over to the bed of David’s truck, when I stopped him.
“No lines on this job.” I got the obligatory laugh at the oldest construction joke on record. “No need for lines so long as I make sure that whatever I am cutting, is pushed firmly back against the back of the saw, so that the cut is square. The choppie does the rest. You just have to remember to cut outside the line because blade is a strong eighth-of-an-inch thick, or greater if the blade is worn.
David had unloaded the device and set it up parallel to the front of the kitchen. The stack of lumber was off to the left, fortuitously placed in the shade of the big oak tree.
The big oak tree. I looked at it again, saw the path that led down the incline to where the truck was parked, and it all came back to me, and I was right at home from last year. It was a warm and fuzzy feeling.
I glanced over at the lumber on the slab in the shade; I turned and looked back out to where the chop-saw sat, waiting for us to get our act together, the steel bars on both sides already hotter than Sizzla.
“Is there any chance I can cut in the shade?” I asked no one in particular. “I mean, I like the heat and all, but not that much that I want to cut in it.”
A quick check of the kitchen staff, which is when I connected with Anika, a former middle school student, revealed that we should do whatever worked best for us. They were thrilled to be able to get the tables and did not mind in the least where we did the deed(s).
Lito fed me four-by-fours until we had eight, 31-and-a-half-inch posts, stacked neatly to the right. I cut four, two-by-fours at 79 inches, four at 89 inches, four at 31 inches and four at 38 inches.
There were four required sheets of three-quarter-inch plywood, two of them simply full-boats for the table-tops. There, I already had half of the necessary four sheets completed and ready to install, and I hadn’t even made a cut.
That’s Howie, all right, “how we” do.
I’m done writing for today, but at least I have left with you, a gift. You now have the blue-prints for your ready-to-make table, and all you have to do is cut the pieces and assemble it.
Tomorrow: Stranger in Strangely Inviting Land