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Monday, June 21, 2010

Worst Night Ever, All Night Long

Posted by Marjorie Skinner on Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 4:25 PM

Congratulations, Blogtown: I had a terrible Saturday night. You overwhelmingly voted for, and I endured, A New Day Rising, the overnight hippie rave in, um, the magickal wilderness, which turned out to be somewhere between Estacada and Molalla—hard to tell exactly where you are when after driving 10 miles into the increasingly unpopulated forest your only directions involve cardboard signs tacked to trees with silver spiral shapes drawn onto them.

I'm not sure what I expected to find after navigating my car around mud-filled potholes in the middle of nowhere, and out of nervousness I consumed an entire bag of peppered salmon jerky on the way up (by the way, yum! new fave snack!). I was less worried about the hippie element and bad music than I was about the prospect of camping by myself for the first time ever. I hadn't tried very hard to coerce anyone to come with me, figuring it would be a liability. I'd have a hard time refusing to let someone else—especially someone not under Mercury employ—leave, and I was resolved to tough the night out. Besides, the paper's Reader Promotions Coordinator, Michelle, said she was going to be there, so I figured having one person I knew there was enough.

I rounded a corner to the sudden sight of several dudes sprawled in lawn chairs at the side of the road, drinking Sessions and choking on a pipe. A tall guy with blazing red eyes and a raspy voice came to my car window, I forked over $25 to him, and he retrieved a colorful piece of gauzy fabric for me to tie on as a wristband. As I parked, another guy, in an improbable mix of tribal prints, rapped lightly on the hood of my car and waved at me through the windshield. Hi... It didn't seem so bad. I grew up clinging to dad's Des Colores chambray as we wended our way through the Haight Ashbury and Mission Districts; in high school I bought acid more than once from a guy named "Turtle" in Golden Gate Park; I lost my virginity to a pot dealer in Santa Cruz; I attended Reed College—I've seen some hippie shit. I was much more concerned about having to figure out how to pitch a tent by myself.

It was hard to tell how big the property was where this all took place, but the camping area was relatively small and close to the road, and there were no permanent structures in sight, though luckily I was getting crystal-clear cell phone service. The terrain was ill-suited to sleep on. It was immediately apparent that using the inflatable mattress I'd brought wasn't an option—I'd need to plug the adapter into my car, which I'd been directed to park up the hill, and I wanted to keep a lower profile than would be possible while struggling to heft a queen-sized mattress down a dirt road. I'd have to do it "cowboy style," with nothing but the tent-bottom and a sheet between me and the knobby tufts of sturdy grass that covered the ground. After one phone call, and a kindly assist from the girl setting up camp next to me (who then smoked me out), I got the fucking thing up:

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Notice that without the weight of an occupant, it kind of hovers off the ground on top of those muppet-grass tufts... cozy.

Tent settled, I wandered farther down the road to the main event. The live music, which—of course—had kicked off at 4:20 that afternoon, was already in progress, and not at all as bad as what I expected. (Kind of a rootsy folk band thing, with a frontman reminiscent of Jeff Tweedy.) A friendly dog trotted up to lick my hand. His owner—presumably too high for appropriate word choice—chided his pet not to "lubricate the pretty girl." I kept walking. The attendees had set up a small village center that included several sub-Saturday Market merch tables of trinkets and recycled sweater assemblages. There were two port-o-potties, a makeshift stage, and a modest bonfire. And not very many people. As I walked, trying to look innocuous, I felt eyes on my back and heard whispers trailing me: "Who is she?" and "There are always cops, you know." Oh great, they thought I was a narc. The last thing I needed were people on drugs fixating on me as a potential threat. Men outnumbered women here by about 10 to one. I suddenly felt very vulnerable.

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After milling about in a crowd way too small to disappear in, and tweeting—even though I knew it wasn't easing anyone's suspicions—I texted Michelle to get her ETA. She responded, "Around midnight I think." It was still light out. I returned to my tent and proceeded to have a minor panic attack. A sample of pathetic tweets from said attack:

This is going to suck so much ass. I'm terrified. Bet you 5 bucks one of these wasted people backs into my car. Worst.idea.ever.

Or BREAKS INTO my car. Fuck I hate this. I'm just cowering in my tent. I wanno go home so bad, this is so sketch.

Note woeful misspelling of the childlike "wanna."

I sat reading books and magazines in my tent for about 45 minutes, calming down until it got too dark to do so without a flashlight. I'd forgotten to pick up spare batteries and couldn't risk wasting my light, so I collected myself, popped a bottle of wine into my knapsack, and headed back down to the stage. I knew I had a wine key somewhere, but I figured asking around for one would be a good conversation starter. Unfortunately the one guy who said he had one in his car was too fucked up to remember what he was looking for when he went to get it for me, and came back empty handed. I moved closer to the fire and struck up a conversation with a comparatively preppy looking guy from Chico who seemed normal and nice. We were soon joined by an older hippie, one of the trinket peddlers, who hailed from—no way!—the Hawthorne district. Then the sky opened, and torrential rains began to fall. Everyone huddled under a hastily erected pair of tents in front of the stage. After several more failed attempts to find a wine opener, I faced facts. The rain was too bad for me to feel safe on the muddy service roads. Boging out wasn't an option; I was stuck there for the night. I went back to find my wine opener and was confronted by a three-inch pool of water inside the entrance of my tent.

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The dark gauntlet of intoxicated drivers and mud between me and the road home.

After forfeiting a pair of long underwear to try to sop up the rivulets of rainwater cascading down the incline of my leaky tent's floor, and lamenting my lack of waterproof clothing, I went back out sans bottle. On my walk back I'd seen some people who were too fucked up to talk or know where they were, and decided I wanted all my wits about me. The music kept going and going, and I was consistently surprised at how decent it was, and that the sound was much better than you find at some local venues I could name...

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Shortly before midnight I gave up. I hadn't seen Michelle, I was soaking wet, stone cold sober, and alone. I figured if Michelle was really crazy enough to drive up here in the storm, she'd send me a text. Until then I decided to try to sleep until it was light enough to find my way back to civilization. Clutching the maglite I was fully prepared to use as a club, I guess I must have slept, but it was so fitful that I was never aware I had been asleep before something woke me—a louder band coming on (they really did go all night), footsteps close to my tent, a pained part of my body that insisted I shift position. As soon as I could see a hand in front of my face—just before 4 am—I started packing up the bedding I'd burrito-ed myself into despite large patches of wet. An incredibly fried fellow outside my tent was trying to get people to help him finish his mushrooms. The young-looking girls in a tent near me took him up on it. (I heard one say, "In the morning?" before being shushed by her friend.) I had to pee, so I headed back down to the stage area, where a DJ played trance-y techno and a small cluster of mud-covered zombies swayed around. I put my hood up and my head down and got out as quickly as possible. It was 6:45 when I got home. I went straight to bed and slept until almost one in the afternoon. And yeah, it was pretty much the worst night ever.

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