Intrepid inquirer that I am, I am off to Reggae on the River, 2016, first to help set everything up, then to partake in the four-day festivities, and finally to help clean it all up. Having posted 23 pieces on last year's ROTR in August, after I returned, I am going to begin writing this year's saga before the show even starts.
This is the first episode, a triumphant tale of monumental significance, said no one ever.
Danger is My Business
The temperature was a manageable 98 degrees, Wednesday afternoon, when Casey and I waltzed into French’s Camp with Tom Sawyer on our minds. We were assigned the task of painting the two new tables that had been assembled on Tuesday, each of them eight feet long by three feet wide, with a second full storage area, the same size as the table top, located at ankle level.
|The tables under construction Tuesday afternoon.|
What is the game?
Reggae on the River. That would be the Eel River, the source of countless summer excursions and camping trips over the past 35 years for me, and the site of one of the most exquisite reggae music festivals imaginable. The music is what draws everyone together, but it is the vibe that takes that drawing, and creates an artistic masterpiece.
“Happy Reggae!” as in “Merry Christmas!” is the most commonly overheard phrase over the course of the four days. No matter how wasted one is, no matter how much lack of sleep has impacted you, no matter what the time of day or night, when those words come out of the blue, you serve them back, “Happy Reggae right back at you! Another day in Paradise.”
Because Paradise is where you are, even if the scorching temps are generally associated with that “other place.” When we were setting up ROTR 2015, a year ago, the temperature on the first two days was 106 degrees. It’s always nice to have a little historical perspective.
106 degrees? Hey, 98 sounds…what was the word I used? Manageable.
As always, I had three ice cubes in my fisherman’s hat, which causes the hat to sit a little higher on my head than a hat normally would sit, to accommodate the ice cubes. The effect of the ice is twofold, both equally important.
The first is that I stay cool; the second is that the melting ice creates the impression that I am one industrious individual. “Look at the old dude sweat! He MUST be working hard!” Amazement abounds.
Heat is all in your mind, just as the cold is. I was raised in the San Gabriel Valley, down in the heart of SoCal, where the term “hot” takes on a whole new meaning. Ask my mom, Pauline, who welcomed into the world my brother Tom, in October of 1958, while the temperature outside was 114 degrees.
Tell me again how 98 is anything to write home about. It’s all about perspective. Vendors on-site are well-stocked with ice, and it is reasonably priced, so everyone has the same access. “Stay hydrated” is the second most commonly heard phrase after “Happy Reggae!”
There are many advantages for me in doing the volunteer thing prior to the opening of the festival. I can acclimate myself to the venue and find out where every one of the seemingly hundreds of port-a-potties are located. I then etch out in concrete, or at least as firmly as possible considering the nature of my cottage-cheese brain, a mental map of said facilities for future perusal as the need arises.
It’s what you have to do when you get to the advanced age of 63. I like to think of it as one of the many requirements of the aging process, because it’s no big deal, ferris wheel, same old stuff, you know.
A second advantage to the volunteering thing, besides free access to the four-day event, is that we have a group campsite that is not a part of the jungle, or mass of humanity that descends on French’s Camp. Last year we were situated on Reggae Road, an avenue which runs parallel to the raised bank of land upon which the main stage sits.
This year we will be across the 101, in the camp located back behind the hippie gas station. “It’s shady, flat, has running water and showers,” explained Mid-sized David. Standing at six-foot five or six inches, he’s a big ‘un. He is also an integral part of the crew and a stellar individual, with whom to enjoy the festival.
Last year we were camped on a patch of land that featured a small gully running through it. Small or not, a gully is an inconvenient detail to have to factor in when it comes to setting up a tent. Thus the promise of “flat land” had a great deal of appeal.
“Bucket seats and four-on-the-floor,” was my happy response.
As much as Casey and I were ready for action-ready for danger-we found that we had to overcome some minor logistical impediments, before we could Sally Forth into the project.
Though we had paint and enthusiasm, we were missing some key accoutrements. There were roller brushes without the rollers; there were four gallons of paint with no way to open them and there were two “brushes,” or what were supposed to pass as paint brushes.
I sauntered over to another cluster of volunteers, who were working on the far side of the kitchen pavilion, to see if they might have a flat screwdriver I could borrow for a minute.
“No,” said one of them, “but if you have a quarter, you can use that.”
Without missing a beat, I quipped,”If I had a quarter, I would sit up and watch it all night. May I snag one of your ten-penny nails? That will do the trick quite nicely.”
I left them sputtering with laughter, nail in hand.
“Let’s flip the tables over, and do everything we can, first, and then flip them back over and do the two main surfaces,” was my suggestion.
“Great success,” agreed Casey, and so we did. The heat dried the paint almost on contact, so we were able to do the two coats without pausing. I started on the sunny side and did the first coat, and then we swapped, so that Casey did the second coat in the sun.
We applied still a third coat to the four-by-four posts and the table top, to make cleaning them forever just a little easier.
I had checked in with the kitchen staff-on-hand prior to starting the construction job on Tuesday, being as how we were in their space, to inquire as to whether or not we could work immediately alongside where the materials were stacked.
|Collie Budz performed last year|
Holding out her hand, she said, “Anika,” and I was looking into the eyes of a former student from the middle school. Instant recognition and an automatic hug.
“This is my sixth grade teacher,” she enthused to the group. I noted that she did not say, “one of my teachers.” I was Anika’s homeroom teacher, which meant she was in at least three classes with me, and a fourth if she were in my elective class.
I am always thrilled to make these connections, because it heightens my level of comfort to know that those around me are aware of my past role in my community. I have a mildly unorthodox appearance, and I like to set minds at ease as early in the game as possible.
I guess a middle school language arts teacher is about as dangerous as a piece of milk weed.
|Nate, also known as Bull|
Danger, however, happens to be my business, as Casey and I proved quite emphatically Wednesday afternoon. The danger was that Nate (aka “Bull”) was seriously salty. His terse text earlier in the day to Casey said simply, “David called an audible. Bad move.”
Casey called Bull and found out that David had phoned earlier that morning and said he, Lito and the crew would not be able to show up that day. Bull’s collar was hotter than the metal bar supporting the awning.
“He picked a bad day to call an audible. I have Mel on my back because she wants her f**king tables, and I’m about to step into a meeting where I am lobbying for all these improvements over last year.”
He was referring to Casey’s quasi-demand that Casey be equipped with all of the necessary tools to take care of business: vehicle, walkie-talkie, day-parking pass, night parking pass, dancing girls on the side… What the heck? One shoots for the stars and settles for a Mercury Comet.