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Monday, October 16, 2006

LEAF

The previous post was sort of an inside joke.

Seven years ago this month, life didn't require a great deal of responsibility. The little lady and I were not yet married. We'd not yet even considered having a kid. In fact, taking the dog to the kennel was about the only stressor that preceded us driving up into the North Carolia mountains to join some new-found friends for a weekend of autumn camping and music festival goodness.

It was already dark when we arrived and set up camp. The forecast called for rain, but the downpours hadn't started yet. In fact, that Friday night was as relaxing as anyone could want. By Saturday morning, though, the skies opened. The converted soccer fields turned to a post modern Woodstock homage and previously clean hippies got dirtier by the minute.

We weren't hippies in the historical or revisionist sense. We were outdoorsy types who lived music. We were the kind of folks who liked to sit, drink beer, and strum guitars. We didn't even mind a little rain. This day, though, the rain defined relentless. We woke to cookies that had soaked in the humidity and camping chairs that would be wet until they were thrown away. The engineer among us had quickly constructed a fine rain shelter, but even his sense for high-minded angles and water distribution channels was no match for what the North Carolina clouds had in mind for us that day.

One thing was clear, however. We weren't leaving. No sir, we were most certainly not. And so we sat under the shelter, laughed, ate soggy cookies, and waited for the rain to pass. What began as rain slowly turned into more. We were about halfway up a small mountain. Like the wind tunnel experiments you see on car commercials, the earth's broom slipped over the top of the mountain and did its best to destroy our shelter. As the rain pooled on the top of the tarps and the wind struck, it seemed certain we would soon be without sheleter. Every time a gust hit hard, those of us on the edge of the shelter would grab the poles and intone, "Hold. Holllllllld."


The flag that marks Tent City with our shelter in the background, circa 1999


Since then, our tactics have changed. We camp in a different place and have become quite skilled at protecting ourselves from the elements. Still, we we head up the mountain and it looks like rain, we build a shelter, and when it looks like it might blow down, we still intone, "Hoooollllllld."

The past two weeks have been, in a word, bad. Even if I have done my best not to express it to most people, I've been wrecked. Apart of from letting loose over beers with Uncle Ted on Friday night and nearly losing it with my wife on Saturday, I've been rather quiet about the whole thing, despite being more than a little fucked up. It's the kind of fucked up that's kept me from buying beer for the house because I'm afraid I'll develop a problem. It's the kind of problem that made me forget to call my friend Su (at left) back on Sunday (sorry, Su-choo). At the root of all the problems is professional concern that doesn't really involve anybody else. The problem is, even though it's a rather personal issue, it affects my relationships with other people. To wit: Friday night, after beers with Ted (I limited myself to two drinks for fear of dropping over a dark edge), I found myself in Emilio driving down a dark highway. I knew the wife was asleep. Ted was headed off to do some other stuff. My other friends were busy with family or otherwise unavailable. The next thing I knew, I was in a town 20 minutes away and sitting next to a man named Snake (I know because it was tattooed on his throat). He had tats all over his body, including six-inch-tall renderings of Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, and Elvis on his left shin. It's a card game I'd vowed not to re-visit, but did anyway, because it was the only place I knew to go. And Snake didn't know that I was all fucked up.

Last night, my wife and I tried to remember the last time we went to LEAF. It was either 18 months or two years ago. We don't remember. We know we've been once since our son was born. However, that's a far cry from our old schedule under which we went every May and October.

We're going back this week. Over the weekend, we went shopping for necessities and I felt the old times coming back. Propane, hand warmers, and whiskey. It's a recipe for getting away from everything. I can sit by the lake, listen to music, and not give a damn what my e-mail inbox holds.

If you just don't get it, I understand. I didn't really get it until I went either. It took me forever to find some old pictures online that sort of tell the story. The one on the left is my wife and I at the main stage. Both of us have that look in our eye that tells me we didn't really care if we made it back to camp that night or not. As long as we could hang on to each other at that stage for a while, we'd be cool. At the right is my buddy, T, involved in a high-stakes Euchre game. That's one of the things we do. Instead of playing poker for hundreds or thousdands of dollars, we sit back and play Euchre for the pride of saying the other guy sucks eggs at Euchre. In fact, a little known fact here, my wife once was just as exasperated with the amount of time I spent playing Euchre as she sometimes is with the amount of time I play poker. That said, she endures it and has since taken up playing Gin with me. That's just the kind of woman I'm fortunate to have found. And when I settle in for 48 hours of Euchre this weekend, she probably won't say much. Much.



Oh, and while we're looking at pictures, let's check out Uncle Ted in his less hairy, younger days.



At LEAF, they have this experience called Contra Dancing. The only way I've ever been able to describe it to people is, "Like sqaure dancing, but cool." I've tried it, but am usually too far into the day to make it into the night. It requires a certain level of concentration that I don't normally have at LEAF. Ted, however, is quite good at it. I suspect my wife will follow him to the dance hall one night this weekend. And, yeah, I'll probably be a little jealous, but not enough to get off my ass and go myself. Oh, and Ted's expression there has nothing to do with contra dancing. He is, in fact, throwing up what we call the Wootlers. That's a story for another day.



And then there is the drum circle (pictured above the way most people view it). This is the experience that most outsiders hear about and say, "Yep, a bunch of fucked up hippies with their drums and their tree-hugging outfits." To a degree, that's true, but only on the surface. For us, it's about the 1am hike up the mountain. During the day, it would be a pretty easy climb, but at night, it's trecherous and enough to make some people say, "Maybe tomorrow night." For us, it's a point of pride to make it all the way through the day and night and then make the long walk and long climb up the mountain to the bonfire. Once there, you can do whatever you want. Me, I like to climb up a small rise and watch everything from above. Of course, making it back down to camp is a point of pride for me. If I can do it without stumbling and crashing to the ground, I consider it a night well spent.








Yeah, that's pretty much how it goes and it is exactly where I'm going. Come Thursday, you won't reach me by IM. You won't reach me by e-mail. You might catch me on my cellphone, but only until it the battery dies off from the cold. I'll be sitting along side this lake, watching the sky for rain, and telling my head to "Hold. Hoooollllllld."




Oh, and by the way, somebody I...know...has started a blog that should keep you pretty entertained if you like passionate rants and the like. Check out, In Search of Walden.

4 Comments:

Blogger Drizztdj said...

We had Edgefest.

But unfortunately those concerts now lean towards a younger crowd.

I miss the cooler full of Wop complete with fruit that we'd make and the all-night Euchre games for pride as well.

4:57 PM  
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10:35 PM  
Anonymous Su said...

It's ok, Bradley. I know where to find you.....
Love ya!

12:22 PM  

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