Tuesday, May 5, 2009
may day celebration gone bad.
The classical hippie gathering at the ranch high in the coastal mountains was dampened by a steady drizzle, but the maypole was up with multicolored strands dropping from the top crowned by sprigs of blue flowers, and people were gathering, a small but hard core crowd, ready to relive old relationships and tell stories of the heyday of the years of love.
I arrive a little late to erect the pole, one of my favorite activities, 30 foot pine sunk into a 4 foot deep hole, jammed in with rocks, shining in the drizzle and filtered sunlight . I brought a full phalanx of tarps, poles, zipties, stakes, clips and we soon had about 200 ft2 of shelter from the storm. the regulars are all there, people who have remained sequestered on the ranch, the remains of a community of about 100 or so who settled here to save the world in the late 60s and 70s.
I visited several times as i had friends out there , gotta tour of the gardens, after delivering some mattrasses hauled out of a house my future ex brother in law had been fixing up. I got to know Jake, the master of ceremonies and owner of this 300 acre piece of wildness, president and ruler pro tem of the tribe, in the 80s after we appeared together in a fashion show benefit for our favorite political party, the west county mafia, we took over the county board of supes and fought the development interests in the 70s. Hes now in his late 60s, and a reknowned artist, and a figure appearing occasionally at bars now overcome by yuppies and post boomers who have taken over the scene out here. We embrace with a great bear hug and catch up on life, still trying to get him out to the east sierra, to my home there and to enjoy the scene, paint my mountain for me, and hang with the local incredible characters of the high desert. See benton blogs for some of that.
The organized chaos of the commune now manifests itself in a few hardy souls left living off grid and out of sight, continuing the tradition. They chose may day all it means politically and spiritually as the annual get together. My daughter and grandkids came out last week with me to die the fabric with jane and george, one of the longest lived remaining couples on site. their kids all grown and flown to more conventional lives, they have a cozy complex of hand built cottages, living space kitchen, lots of books, and a welcoming place to hang and tell stories of incredible happenings now and long ago, one topping the other. the oral tradition is alive and well with these gracious welcoming people. I swapped stories with george, an old berkeleyite who took geology from john verhoogan at cal, and loves my geological tales, he returns fire with long stories, twisting and turning, unexpected connections and an appreciation for the land and the wierd things humans do to it.
People are getting down, a little wine, but not much alcohol, lots of healthy food an occasional mellow whiff, and i unleash the smoked steelhead with the mango chipotle sauce on the crowd, spread out on my rollatable, help set up the rolla cot for people to sit on and settle in to great conversations with old friends as the rain drums on the roof. We dodge drips from holes in the tarps, and find dry spots to set, raymond brings out his accordian, a mandolin, i drag out my guitar and we are singing and playing and everyone is mellowing out, celebrating the event and revelling in memories of the good old days. True hippies with dreads and colorful clothing, swathed in jackets and parkas. tall john, one of the originals is totally dressed in yellow slickers, knee boots and rain hat. he towers over everyone and holds us rapt with stories of old and new times, his place in the desert at a hidden hot spring campground, and greeting old friends with bear hugs. Silent sam appears from the woods totally garbed in rain gear, he doesnt talk, and stays like a ghost on the edge of the clearing, then dissappears back into the dripping pine forest.
Garbage moss is nowhere to be seen, he is in another one of his depressed moods, after being great fun in the desert, but i had introduced him as " the man who loves to hate" to some people, and he's not talked to me since. he has written so many good people off his list, including me for the last year, for behaviour he deems as inappropriate, such as my comment. so again we were best friends at the springs over pres day, partying, him wearing his dicknose and picking up. he was the garbage man here at the ranch during the heyday, organizing the recycling and garbage control. Oh well, he is severely bipolar, and needs to take time off from the scene.
The grandkids shasta and jevria have found friends and are running around in the rain, roasting strawberries over the fire i've set up in the old weber kettle. they think its great to be playing in the rain, and no cries of anguish have come to pass, so all is well.
I spot an apparition, a beautiful young woman in a long white dress, never seen her before and am transfixed, she moves like a dancer. now mellow on a little martini cab and some smokables and high on the conversations with a great group of characters. She drifts in with a net bag and sets it down, brings out a 1/2 gallon of segrams 7 whiskey and a big bottle of 7 up and starts pouring 1:1 into a large canteen. Now theres some alcohol, and i watch as she hits off the canteen and passes it to two guys with her. They are immediately tagged as the postmen, in postal service jacket, one tall with a pith helmet and intense eyes and energy, and another shorter with a wet dark curl of hair in the middle of his forehead, same intensity, and it occurs to me these guys are already stoned, on something and now drinking heavily out of the canteen, which keeps getting empty and full again with great rapidity. I m not the only one who notices, and jake comes over, i tell him what's happening and he says "who are those guys, who invited them??" they are definately not in the mellow groove and getting more intense by the minute as they down big swigs of their deadly concoction.
we talk a little and they are kind of interesting and i get a glass of their drink and it tastes good but goes down very easily and they are gulping it. Jake and i get into the same conversation about when to do the maypole dance we always do. he wants to do it now, a slight break in the weather, but i'm sure more people will show up for the big event. "C'mon jake, we want weather! we have the opportunity to do the dance in a raging rainstorm! We gotta wait a bit". He aceeds and we go on with the music playing, i haul out the recorder and start finding it easy to play along and improvise on the tune line.
Finally raymond breaks into the maypole dance tune on the accordian and we flow out onto the field a goodly crowd now about 40 with kids and oldsters, pre, post and syn boomers all ready to dance and play. They select the brightly colored strips and start the dance, in and out, back and forth, winding around. raymond and i lead the band, joiined by a wooden flute and harmonica, and all is smiles all around. People flash by and i telephoto in on the grandkids, heather and jane and jake and even the white dress lady and the postmen are twirling around the pole, a bit unsteady, and still swigging from the canteen.
We wrap it up with a colorful blaze of strips intertwined up and down the pole, people tie off and we play to the bitter end, till the last strip is tied at the bottom and people standing around loving the feeling of community, rebirth and fun we have just had. I move back to the shelter, it starts to rain harder and we huddle together, more smoked steelhead, and i settle into my throne a few drips spoiling my comfort, but nonetheless content to observe play a few tunes on the recorder and talk with passersby. People are packing up, Heather leaves with her gang, beaming smiling at the experience, and both of us rejoicing at what a great time father and daughter can have together.
The crowd shifts a bit and suddenly the postmen are sitting on the cot talking to me. it starts as a banter filled, interesting conversation going in many directions. Pith helmet (PH) is an actor and does voiceovers, bit parts but i ask him where he lives and he becomes evasive, but keeps up the banter. 64 different places in the last year, he finally says. I say wow, you are on the road, now tuning into my latest project, re reading and writing in kerouac style. "i bet you have some great stories, y'know we otta get together and i could write up some of this stuff and maybe publish it". his body stiffens, "not unless you pay me lots of money" "hey no problem, if it happens, it happens," but he cranks it up a notch " i mean thousands", Uh Oh, i'm losing this guy i say. well worth a try. Holding out my notebook and pen "just write your contact info here and well be in touch", he comes unglued "no you're not gonna rip me off for my stories" he says loudly, people start to turn and look to see what's going on. I say "OK, lets forget it" and get up and outta there, passing by Jake who looks at me with a raised eyebrow "pith helmet is outta control, very drunk" "did he insult you? " "no but he's being really weird, and not reacting to reason." I move off and see that pith helmet has come up to the table unsteadily looking at jake, and the short guy is beside him. "Just chill, just chill" jake says in a firm voice. A volley of outrage comes from the guy, while the little guy plunges his hand into the mac salad and crams it into his mouth losing 1/2 of it on the table and ground. Jake cranks it up a notch "cmon you guys, just chill out, this is getting out of hand". The white lady stumbles onto the scene, and Jake starts wooing her, trying to get her to leave, she can barely stand up, i look down and see the segrams bottle is empty lying on the ground next to the empty 7up bottle, they killed the whole bottle in about an hour and are totally out of control.
I go over to another group with big guys and alert them of the situation "Jake needs some backup for these guys" so we move and form a wall behind him. "You guys better be moving along now"Jake in a matter of fact voice. I grab the heavy screwdriver from the back of the pickup and the long pry bar and set them up so they are visible to pith helmet and friends. Jake looks at me and says "cool it Dean, just cool it let me handle this". I stay put behind him as he tries to reason with these guys to no avail. Jake changes tactics, goes to the woman, and gently wins her over "please, we;ve got to get you out of here, no leave the bottles we care of that, but we've really got to go". She gets led gently off by Jake's charm and the other two follow, not letting up on the intensity. They disappear off up the road, 1 mile hike to their car, and just as tall john and i are relaxing saying "great its over, Jake has taken care of every thiing, now we can party".
Just after he says that, the woman in white appears again with jake and pith helmet in tow. Pith helmet (PH) ranting about needing a ride up to his car, she stumbling around, Jake with a puzzled look on his face, as if to say "i tried, what now"?? I take control, now raging with adrenaline and manic energy. Loudly "All right, you’ve got 5 minutes to get into the back of that red pickup and I’ll drive you up, now move your ass! I don’t have any room in front, my guitar is riding shotgun, so you're riding in back, get down low and hang on, we will be going fast" . PH is up immediately, but white dress is stumbling, jake throws her air mattress and net bag into the back of the pickup. I try to use the big screwdriver to open the tail gate, to no avail, its raining harder now, getting dark and its buried in the boughs of a pine tree. I lead her to a chair and she flops up onto the back and i jump in and take off up the bumpy dirt road at a very dangerous rate of speed. I count the things in my favor: they are drunk, hopefully harmless, but i don't know about ph, and check for the pepper spray tear gas canister, not there where it always is, wtf??, oh well, i got the screw driver if i really need something, left the prybar back there at camp, shit.
I stop and get out at jake's driveway. white dress is lying passed out on top of the job box, and i yell at her to get down. she's not moving, so i grab her by the dress and drag her off the box and hear a resounding thunk as she lands in the bottom of the bed of the pickup. "YOu get down too" i yell at ph, "and hang on for dear life, because if you fly out, you're gonna die". Slam the door, slam the gears into 4 wheel hi range and fly up the road. the big bf goodrich knobbys grab the road and slither a little on the clay soils of the wilson grove formation, i start a drift and determine where the traction is on the center divider and drive with right wheels high on the right bank at a crazy angle. I sing the praises of toyota tacoma engineering staff, bilstein shocks and the extra leaf spring risers in the back and become virtually airborn 1/2 the time off the bumps and ruts and rocks. We make good time, i look back once to make sure they are still there and they seem to be, ghosts in the dark thrashing around to the motion.
i pull into the parking lot, and get out, screwdriver in my hand. white dress gets slowly out, "thanks for the ride," a bit unsteady, but around the corner comes ph, wound up like a clock "im gonna beat the shit outta you" and braces looking at me he is weaving back and forth and i see i have the physical advantage, but don't want to do any damage unless absolutely necessary. I lean against the bed of the pickup and sigh loudly as if bored and say in a quiet voice "I don't think thats a very good idea". He looks at me and backs off a little, I waste no time and run out into the parking lot, yelling "everyone, i need help, this guy says he's gonna beat the shit outta me, come out now, i need witnesses" One lady is walking up to her car, takes one look at the situation, and keeps walking. I see exhaust coming out of a volvo wagon, and hammer on the back window with the screwdriver and rip open the door and yell "get out i need help this guy is gonna beat me up", she is scared, judy i recognize from the party, we had a nice conversation, she gets out, and I start back for the pickup. ph is standing there, weaving, "Hey man its cool, im leaving" "OK, but please sleep in your car for a while before you try to drive, there are other people out there." Jump in the cab, and spin outta there, driving doing deep breathing to calm down, back to jane and george’s and sleep the sleep of the dead. no more adrenaline left. totally manic, mellowness calms me down and i sleep fitfully.through the rainy night.
Copyright 2009 (Dean Moriarity) aka Terry Wright