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Thursday, October 21, 2004

LEAF, Fall 2004. Part 2
(Part 1 can be found below)


Early birds get the breakfast burritoes.

Fortunately, my 2am bed time made for an early rise. Tent City in the morning, even on a windy morning, is a beautiful thing in the fall. Fog hovers over Lake Eden and obscures the mountaintops. The sunrise paints the fall colors with even better oranges and reds. Dozens of people are making coffee and firing up camp stoves.

I was pleased (and, frankly, a little surprised) to find I felt pretty good, all things considered. After some caffeine and a walk around the lake, I felt fairly solid. I, however, was one of the lucky ones.

Many Tent City ramblers--about 16 strong this year--had made the decision to go to the drum circle and stay late. I had no independent verification of the events, so I nodded as stories filtered in and out of tents. I was a little ashamed I didn't go and made a mental note to make every effort to make it to the drum circle later that night.

Boston Jay was among the first of the late-nighters to taste morning air. The thing about Jay is that, even when he's feeling his worst, he puts on a good face. He had been one of the drum circle stalwarts. I thought briefly about not including the already-mentioned story below, but it was the first good belly laugh I had in a while.

Saturday morning, as the winds started to whip whitecaps onto Lake Eden, tent doors opened one by one and the weary campers dragged themselves to chairs beside the campfire. Friday night had been a rowdy one, beginning early on with a tremedous show by Billy Joe Shaver.

Boston Jay sat fireside Saturday morning, his BoSox jersey soaking in the smell of the campfire smoke, thumbing through the show schedule.

"Damn, I missed Billy Joe Shaver."

One by one, tired heads turned toward Boston Jay, toward his shaking head, toward his assertion he'd missed Billy Joe Shaver.

Finally, someone said it.

"No, you didn't."

The giggles started immediately. Not only had Boston Jay been there, he'd danced his ass off for the entire show.

After a couple of moments, Boston Jay raised his head from the schedule.

"Did I enjoy it?"

Perhaps it was the laughter, perhaps it was the increasing winds and campfire smoke, but eventually G-Rob crawled out of his tent. He, too, had been a late-nighter and, unlike Boston Jay, G-Rob looked the part. His hair pointed in different directions, his eyes were puffy, and he had the distinct look of a man who had been a part of a very rough morning.

He plopped into a camping chair and, upon some urging, explained.

He'd risen at sunrise, after having barely been in bed for a couple hours, and discovered he wasn't feeling well. He decided to take a walk in the morning sun, down a road where he found a rock worthy of sitting. He sat, sucked in the morning air, then deposited everything in his stomach onto the fall leaves.

"That's when I looked up," he said, "and saw a group of kids watching me lose my dinner."

Poor kids.

Normally, I would've taken this opportunity to launch into an impossibly harsh critique of G-Rob's constitution, in which I would lament his inability to hold his liquor, his advancing age, and offer the suggestion that maybe he should just go home and spend time in his recliner watching Matlock.

But, G-Rob looked bad and I was sure that any amount of needling might result in his either actually leaving and going home, or more likely, serious retribution the next time I found myself in a sickly way.

So, I figured I'd help. I had the cure. Nothing cures a hangover like caffeine and cheese balls. I offered my can of Planter's Cheese Mania balls, from which G-Rob took a handful. Ted offered a plain bagel, which G-Rob took as well.

Two cheeseballs and one bite of bagel later, G-Rob stood and said he had to go.

We didn't see him again for several hours.

When he returned, he looked better, but a little embarassed. He'd taken a walk (to places unknown) and eventually fallen asleep on a fairly populated hillside. When he awoke, two children were standing over him, poking at him like he was a corpse.

"Mister?" Poke. "Mister?" Poke.

I guess they thought he was dead, which--a reasonable person might figure--was pretty close to the truth.


By early afternoon, most everybody had rallied to a degree that allowed them to stand, walk, and converse. Only Mrs. Otis (who had been without a good night's sleep for nine weeks) chose to sleep into the afternoon hours.

After an aborted trip to see Enter the Haggis and some poetry slam, several of us happened upon an unfortunate incident. The unrelenting winds had blown an entire tent into the lake. A portly firefighter had rescued the tent using a tow rope and a canoe, but getting the temporary home out of the water was going to be quite a task.

Before we could accurately assess the situation, G-Rob and I were working hand in hand with two cops and the firefighter to pull the waterlogged nylon out of the lake. The tent was full of sleeping bags, luggage, and such. It must have weighed more than 150 pounds.

After ten minutes of pulling, stretching, cursing, and yelling, we realized that our methods weren't going to work. Somebody had to get in the water and lift the tent from its bottom.

Previous reports had the water temperature at about 50 degrees. The wind was blowing at about 20mph. There stood a hungover G-Rob and an increasingly tired Otis. The look we shared indicated that neither he nor I were going to be getting in the lake of our own will.

I turned my head just slightly to look for more help. When I turned back, the portly firefighter had stripped off his shoes, socks, and pants. He stood in nothing more than a flannel shirt and baggy (much too baggy, in my opinion) pair of white briefs. It was all I could do to keep my breakfast burrito in my stomach.

That's when I heard the firefighter say the one thing I knew a hungover G-Rob didn't want to hear.

"Grab on to me here."


Ten minutes later we were back at camp, shuffling up for another marathon Euchre session. I can only hope G-Rob washed his hands.

Part Three--Saturday Night--Coming soon


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