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Monday, October 25, 2004

LEAF, Fall 2004, Part Three

Saturday Night

I had spent the greater part of the morning collecting firewood from a nearby stand of trees. I was proud of myself, walking around with a He-Man-worthy look. The look said, "I bring fire. Bow before me."

It was not, however, fire I brought to Tent City. It was smoke. The wood was old, dead, and slightly wet. In an effort to cover the ashes and embers from previous fires, I'd laid the dead wood around the coals, perfecting my recipe for an absolutely annoying and, frankly, somehwat smelly fire. I was summarily banned from fire duty for the rest of the night.

With nothing left to do in the way of manliness, I played cards and drank until sundown. G-Rob had rallied from his earlier funk and set about encouraging me to fall down more than 2.5 times. A bottle of Jack Daniels had made its way into Tent City to compete with the ever-emptying bottle of Jim Beam.

At sundown, the temperature again dropped to slightly uncomfortable levels and even I layered up. Acoustic Syndicate was set to take the stage at 10pm and I wanted to been fully prepared in every way for what promised to be a fantastic show.

There would be, however, a confusing event before we departed on the hike to mainstage.

As we all sat around the fire (now burning nicely and appropriately thanks to the hands of better firesmiths like Murdock) making fun of unfortunate events that happened in my life and the lives of those I love, an unfamiliar face darkened our already dark door. At first many of us mistook the young face for one of the boys that was camping with us. Soon, though, I foud myself asking out loud, "Who is this kid?"

He looked to be about 12, was knoshing on a bag of beef jerky, and talking like he was on speed. Within a few minutes we heard an unfortunate tale. His mother was there, but he'd left her to her own devices. His father was there, but apparently with his girlfriend and The Kid didn't want to hang out with him either. What's more, he said, someone had broken into their tent and stole several items, including, he said, a very nice paring knife.

Paring knife? Incredulous, we were.

After several minutes of rambling, I suggesed rather forcefully that the kid go find his mom. After several other people joined in the polite "get outta here" chorus, the kid stood and left without another word.

We talked for a while about the kid and his motivation for hanging out with us. If true, his story was a sad one, we said. If false, we feared he might've had more sinister ideas. In fact, later, Cancel's camera disappeared. We can't help but think maybe the kid was involved, as we have never lost or had stolen anything of value at LEAF.

After the kid was gone, someone asked, "What is a paring knife good for anyway?"

Timmy spoke up. "It's good for cutting fruit."

I looked at him in the glow of the firelight.

"You just said that because it sounds like pear."


By 9:50pm, we were all sufficiently prepared for the show (some of us more than others). En masse, we hiked to the mainstage and were pleased to find our spot along the stage open and ready for us.

As prepared as I was for the show, I wasn't prepared for the abrupt departure of a couple of friends just minutes before the music started. I was paying no attention to the conversation, but apparently politics got brought up and things got a little out of hand. Since I had no part in the conversation, I can't comment on what was said or anyone's reaction to it. Suffice it to say, politics and LEAF don't mix.

Dismissing the earlier fears about a crackdown on outside alcohol, I had packed my jacket with what I thought would be enough supplies to last me through the show. It didn't, however, and by the end of the first hour, I was dry. Fortunately someone-- and I can't remember who (sorry)-- was kind enough to bring me a bottle of Newcastle.

Acoustic Syndicate played one of the best shows I've ever seen. In a mischevious act of deception, however, they had scattered differing set lists all over the stage. Perhaps it was an attempt to keep us guessing at what they'd play next. I dunno. Still, while they didn't play a couple of my favorites, they were in top form and really should be recognized more outside of this region.

Sadly, the Newcastle didn't last as long as I thought it might. With still a few songs left before the band would shut down, I was dry again and set out on a mission to re-stock.

I was accompanied by my gaming muse, Lynn. Free from the bounds of babysitting her nephews, she was in as much of a party mood as I. We found a beer tent that had just closed. I was sad.

As we returned to the stage, one remaining vendor was open. A wine salesman.

Let me say this on wine: I'm clueless.

I know many people who know about good wines and bad wines. They know vintages. I only know that when I was in college, we'd head up to the winery overlooking the Missouri River, buy some horribly cheap wine, drink it with our pinkies sticking out, then wait for the headache that invaribly followed.

This night, however, it was the best source of re-stocking I could find.

I strode confidently to the wine salesman, looked at the winelist, and plopped all the cash in my pocket down on the counter in front of him. I looked at him expectantly, knowing if I could speak coherently, I would say something to the effect of, "Wine, sir. Forthwith. Your best vintage. Uncork that mother and lets commence with the pouring."

Instead, I looked at him, smiling. He looked back, wordless.

I looked down at my cash. Fourteen dollars, sitting lonely on the counter.

"Um...?" was about all I could say.

"The bottle is $20, sir."

I saw the look of disdain in the man's face. He, I'm sure, was one of those connoisseur types. The people who look down on old drunks like me. The type of people who would say, "I'm sorry, sir. We don't stock MadDog 20/20 in this cellar. Perhaps you'd be more comfortable on a street corner."

I might have said, "But that's all the cash I have." Frankly, though, I don't recall what I said. I only know that that gaming-now-party muse Lynn came to the rescue, making up the difference and sharing a look with the salesman that said something like, "I know. He's just a gauche heathen. I'll make sure he appreciates this."

"How many glasses would you like, sir?"

A more sarcastic and defensive Otis might've said, "Look asshole, I don't need any glasses. I plan to drink this swill straight from the bottle." But I didn't. I grabbed four plastic glasses and headed back to the stage, followed closely by Lynn, who probably saved me from myself more than once that night.

I think everyone at the stage, including the hippy that my wife later described as "scary," enjoyed the vintage very, very much.


After the show, the stronger among us decided it was a good time to head to the drum circle.

That's where things get a little gray for me.

I know me made it up Tricky Trail without incident. Upon our arrival, I sat on one of the split-log benches, bobbing my head to the rhythm of the drums and watching the embers from the bonfire catch the wind and dance in the air. The embers are always a source of fascination for young and old. The best description of them came from a toddler named Maggie, who upon her mother's urging that the embers were fireflies, said definitively, "No, mommy. They're electric noodles."


I took a short nap on a hill before standing and joining my compatriots near the fire. I sat cross-legged as Timmy, C-Fate, and Lynn joined us.

Timmy said, "Where's Otis?"

The rest of the group looked at him incredulously. "About one centimeter from your leg, T."

True, I could've licked his knee from where he stood.

By way of explanation, C-Fate offered, "So, guess how we got to the drum circle."

There are a couple of obvious ways to get to the drum circle. You either come up by way of Tricky Trail, or you can take long way around through the soccer field campground. After we had exhausted those options, C-Fate said, "No, we arrived in a Range Rover."

Again, we stared with a lack of understanding. By way of further explanation, C-Fate said, "Well, we were following Timmy..."

That was about all he had to say.

See, while Timmy has nearly the most festival experience under his belt, he has a depressing lack in directional ability. While he'll tell you where to turn when you're driving, following him anywhere is an act of sheer folly. More than one group of drum circle-happy travelers has found themselves terminally lost when under T's direction.

And it was so on this final evening of the festival that Timmy again led his crew astray. As the story went, Timmy said he had a shortcut. That's usually how it starts. After quite a hike, C-Fate and Lynn noticed they sounds of the drum circle were coming from the wrong direction.

"Maybe we should ask someone for directions," Lynn suggested.

T's response was in the negative and again they began walking. And walking. And walking, until such time they were, in fact, terminally lost.

Within a few minutes, a Range Rover pulled up. Inside was one of the festival directors, who inexplicably offered to give our crew a ride. Later Timmy would tell me the director continually threatened to whip him with a glo-necklace. That just made the story a little stranger, if you ask me.

Had it not been for the guidance of G-Rob's wife, I may not have made it down Tricky Trail in one piece. However, her literal helping hand guided me to safety and to a $30 win on my bet with G-Rob that I would fall down less than 2.5 times.

Strangely, though, when we arrived back at Tent City, I had a fairly deep gash in the palm of my hand.

I don't know how it got there.


And so ended the LEAF, Fall 2004. By Sunday morning, most of us found ourselves packing up and getting out early to go home and see the kids, family, or football games.

Fatigue of the LEAF variety is a funny thing. It doesn't fully set in until after you're home.

This time, it took me three days to fully recover from a weekend of sheer bliss.

And I can't wait to go back.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


4:43 PM  

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