The next morning, the 30th, I found eggs mixed with cheese, onions, and green peppers at Iris kitchen. My stamina felt like it might be returning, and that afternoon was a pleasant one. A camp of Krishna devotees set up a kitchen they called Sundar (“beautiful” in Sanskrit”) in the lower part of the Shining Light finger not far from Info. They served yellow curried rice and I was able to spend about two hours singing the Hare Krishna led by a man with a mridanga drum – something I had not been able to do for years. Then I heard, “Free burritos in the woods” coming from uphill, and I went over and discovered the “Jesus Camp Bread of Life Outer Circle Co-op”, a union of remnants of several Christian kitchens that had been at previous gatherings.
At about ten minutes before six on the morning of July 1st, I heard a lot of noise out on the main meadow. The door of my tent has a secondary flap that you can unzip from the inside and drop to show a screen that you can look out thru. I opened it a bit and saw out on the meadow 30 to 40 people all hollering “triangle” over and over amid whoops and cheers. In between I heard other people saying, “Who wants some donuts?”. My thermometer said 38 degrees, and I was wrapped warmly in my blanket and not too ambitious about getting up, so I laid back down.
But more and more people came onto the meadow and the noise continued. Finally I decided to see if there really were donuts out there, and I got up and walked out towards the crowd. The people out there were almost all young, looking under 30, and all dirty kids in their manner of dress. There was indeed a large cookie sheet with a big pile of bits of dough that had been deep fried in cooking oil. (They weren’t in the ring shape that you get in a commercial bakery, just little blobs.) There was also a big pot of coffee with a ladle.
I asked someone what this was, and he answered, “It’s something that Fat Kids started a few years ago, and they do this every year.” Then I saw Raye, and she explained it to me. “We have this at sunrise on July 1st, to officially open the gathering. Instead of standing in a circle, we stand in a triangle. We serve coffee and donuts, and instead of saying “om” we say “yum”.
People were calling “triangle” in the same way the old folks call “circle”, and going around greeting each other with “happy triangle”. This was all breaking what would have otherwise been the silence that surrounds the camp near dawn after the last of the drummers and partiers have gone to sleep. One older man walked around protesting, saying that he thought it was rude to be making such noise at that hour.
But I knew that the more he protested, the more the younger people would have been motivated to more noise. I saw what this was: an outright spoof of the older Rainbows and their sometimes pretentious circle ceremonies. The whole idea was rebellion against the Rainbow establishment, and the noise when the high holies wanted to sleep was central to it. I was told that this whole activity had actually started about a half an hour earlier with a boisterous parade starting up at Fat Kids and proceeding down the hill to the main meadow. The sun rose and bathed the meadow in its light, the coffee pot was emptied, and the commotion died down about 45 minutes later. I knew that if I came to the gathering next year, I would be sure to be up early on July 1st.
On that day I had planned a trip out to my van in Bus Village to get some more food and clean clothes; even tho I was feeling so weak. I was running out of clean socks and private stash food, and I wanted to reassure myself that my van was still where I had left it now that it was filled with people I didn’t know. I left shortly after the people had dispersed from the main meadow. As I passed the Hobo Alley kitchen, I saw the sheet of donuts that had been been in the main meadow, with about a third of the pile still left. I asked if this was where they had been cooked, and I was answered yes.
They also had a deep iron pan full of fried potatoes, eggs, and bacon that they were serving out to everybody who came up to the counter, and the line was never more than about three people long. I decided to come back the next day to see if this was going to continue. The hill up to it from Welcome Home was also not as bad as the one to Kid Village.
There were no shuttles running at that hour of the morning, and I had to walk both ways on the road between Handi-Camp and Bus Village. The latter place was now almost completely covered with vehicles, and there was evidence that some people had been trying to organize the parking into straight rows. This was the first time I had tried to make the trips back to back, going and returning without interruption. All the previous ones had been just one way at the beginning or end of the day. When I got back to my tent I felt totally exhausted.
I lay down and wound up sleeping for about two hours. I managed to walk to Iris after hearing a “free food in the woods” call, and make it to the shitter and back, but for the rest of the day I barely had the energy to get out of my tent. At about 4 in the afternoon I made a slow and agonizing walk over to Info and tell Marken that I didn’t feel well enough to pass the Magic Hat, and I watched Dinner Circle from my tent. This was the first time since one evening with the stomach flu at the Wyoming gathering in 2008 that I hadn’t been out there. My morale was at it greatest depth that evening.
The next morning, the 2nd, I made my way back up to Hobo Alley at about eight in the morning. There was a pot of coffee made, but no food started yet. I got to talking with the brother at the coffee pot for a while, and he told me that many of the people in the camp were really modern versions of the 1930s hobos who traveled around the country by hopping aboard freight trains.
Not far down the trail was a tripod of sticks with a cardboard sign on top that said Kannibal Kanyon Kamp. Another sign below said, “Drop your booze and kids off here” Another near the bottom said “No brawlz in the woodz, please!” There was also hung from the tripod a rope with an old sun-bleached femur bone and an empty plastic half gallon bottle with a label on it saying, “Admiral Nelson’s Spiced Rum” A few days previous I had also seen hanging from it some sports bras of various colors. Now someone had removed them and integrated them into a long chain of tied together bras that was now over the trail stretched between two trees. A brother was asking for more donations from women who passed by on the trail, saying he wanted to get enough to make a triangle of chains with them.
Back in Hobo Alley, Change announced that she had a bunch of potatoes, and that if someone could help chop them up, they could get breakfast started. I thought back to my thoughts of three days ago about how chopping vegetables was one of the things elderly people could still do, and I asked Change where the hand wash was. It was a plastic bottle with holes drilled into its lid that hung from a string that let you sprinkle bleach water on your hands. And for the first time since the 90s, before I started being involved with Info and the bank council and supply and not wanting to display any favoritism toward any one kitchen, I helped out in a kitchen by chopping the potatoes that I was ultimately going to eat. There was a brother named Zachary who fried up a bunch of bacon in a second skillet as I was giving him potatoes.
After the batch of potatoes, eggs, and bacon were on the serving counter, another sister came into the kitchen and starting straightening things up. She had with her a bottle of Admiral Nelson’s Spiced Rum that still had about an inch of liquid left in it, and she took a few nips as she was hanging out. She seemed to be only at the onset of tipsy, and much more giggly than belligerent. Nobody protested or tried to chastise her for her drinking, and I was again impressed at how little agro energy I experienced at this camp compared to the classical A-Campers. (And at this time it felt like they were treating me better than the Kid Villagers.)
When I arrived at Hobo Alley at about nine in the morning on the 3rd, it was almost devoid of any activity and I eventually wound up at Fat Kids, where they were having their calzone movie that morning. The mornings of the 4th thru the 7th I found or made breakfast at the place where my privilege has been unquestioned for the last 14 years, Info. Eggs, pancake makings, and salsa were available in the Info supply tent, and there was a propane stove on top of a folding kitchen table outside.
The Silence was mostly well maintained on the morning of the 4th. The previous afternoon someone had taken a simple log about six feet long, left the bark on it, and buried one end of it a posthole in the ground, and by the time Dinner Circle had arrived the talismans and trinkets had started to accumulate around it. The people assembling this morning and sitting down grouped themselves into a variety of different patterns that changed and blended into another. First there was a circle of people that didn’t center on the new peace pole, then some others did start to form arcs that centered on it, then new circles formed in new places that then expanded to meet other ones already formed. Finally there were concentric circles around the pole.
I walked around for a bit while this was going on, but then I started to feel sick in the stomach again and went back to my tent, and I wound up watching the Om and the climax thru my screen door flap. People got up, started to hold hands and walk backward to form a large circle around the meadow, and it backed up to where it could go no further than the trees that surrounded my tent. The portion of the circle nearest to me was standing about eight feet in front of my door.
The Om didn’t start until 12:03, and was rather quiet, and after only nine minutes there was the whoop and holler and it was all over. I found it rather disappointing after remembering that 30 minute long Om of last year in Montana, or that especially resonant one when we were all crammed together in the small meadow two years ago in Tennessee.
The meadow afterward had as many naked people as last year, and there were at first no watermelons, because the shipment that had arrived the previous afternoon had still not made it up Heart Attack Hill from the supply depot. But a sudden mass effort first inspired by a local who brought a few of them to Info on his pack horse got them all in in about two hours.
After walking around the meadow for a while (my stomach was feeling better) I returned to my tent, and found three men dressed like locals sitting together in the shade provided by the trees around it, looking out onto the meadow, watching the show and talking to each other about it. They were maybe five feet to the right of the tent. One of them even said, “Sorry to be sitting so near to your tent”, and I said I didn’t mind. Then I noticed that all of them were holding aluminum beer cans, and I said, “But some of the people around here might be giving you some shit about that”, as I pointed to one of them.
One of them answered, “We can’t smoke pot. We wish we could. So we do this and keep it low key. We really wish we could do some pot, but we can’t.” I didn’t ask why they couldn’t; I first thought they might have some kind of medical reason, but later I thought it might have something to do with keeping jobs or church positions. I didn’t talk about it any further with them, and they indeed didn’t start acting drunk and rowdy.
Later that afternoon I determined to visit Granola Funk before they took it down after their last show, so I could describe the elaborate structure they build every year,. This year’s was at the extreme end of a trail that led up the finger that included CALM. It was at the top of a hill that overlooked another upper meadow almost as big as the main meadow, and was quite possibly the highest camp on the site. They built a big black box made to look like a 1950s television set. There was on opening on the front for the stage that was shaped like the picture tube, a volume and channel dial painted on the wall by the right side, and an aluminum foil covered set of rabbit ear antennas on the top. I never made it up that hill for any of their performances after dark.
I had been planning to start taking my stuff back out of the gathering starting on the evening of the 5th, but this evening the thought of spending another night amid all noise was enough to make me start doing it a day early. I took all of my heavy bedding back to the van and spent the night in Bus Village. I had to move my van to get away from some people who had parked a school bus nearby and were using a loud Honda generator to power their TV set inside.to be continued