Friday, March 13, 2015

The Rainbow Gathering pt I



              I woke up early that morning, got out to Burger King and said my goodbyes online. I wasn't sure how long I'd be in the woods, or out of contact, so I figured it'd be good to touch base first. I also decided to post a picture of myself to the Rainbow Gathering Facebook page, explaining that this was going to be my first gathering, and how I'd encountered the 3 Rons who told me about it. I included a link to the blog in case anyone felt like a lengthy read. When I was done there, I found the nearest post office and mailed off my two commissions I'd finished at Anon's place. Then, the walk began.

              It was a familiar walk this time, going back the way I came. The BK I'd just left was where the third Ron asked me about the Rainbow Gathering. I passed Silver Springs, which I'd come through on a flat tire and had met the second Ron riding his bike. I came to the bridge where the first Ron had pulled over to talk about the gathering, and the lady had waited for me with a camera to write an article about my journey. This time though, there were no Rons, no ladies with cameras, and, thankfully, no flat tires. I walked about 5 or 6 miles when I was passing by a BBQ restaurant. I considered going in for lunch. I told myself that if I'd been walking for at least two hours, I would stop in and eat, otherwise hit the next one. I looked at the time only to see I was 10 minutes short of the two hours, so I kept moving.

              As I continued on another mile or two, a pickup truck turned around up ahead and went to my side of the road, riding on the grass. They were creeping slowly as I approached, so I veered completely off the bicycle lane to allow them room to drive back on the road, but they matched my movement with their truck, heading right for me. I stopped. They kept creeping forward until they drove up next to me. "Are you one'a them rainbows?" The question came from the passenger's side, where a weathered skinny older woman sat. In the driver's seat I could see a larger woman around the same age. I told them I was headed that way. "Oh good, we got one of yours, but he don't know where it is." I gave them the directions I was using, heading toward Alexander Springs. "Great, thanks! Hop on in, we'll take you there, too." I thanked them kindly, but told them I was fine to walk. "What?? Walk? Are you crazy? Get in." Again I declined politely, explaining that my wagon was too heavy to load, and that it would only take me a few days to get there anyways. "Well, we're not leaving you here. Come on, we'll get you loaded up." At this point the third passenger and a dog came out from the back seat of the cab, hidden until now. He was taller than I, and seemed strong. He came out, looked at the wagon, then at the bed of the pickup, and said, "We got this, come on, Bear." I rolled the DragonWagon to the back of the pickup, warned him again of the weight, then proceeded to struggle to get it loaded up with his help on the other side. After some awkward movements and some serious questioning of my need for these things, we got the wagon up on the truck. We loaded in and set off.

              He told me his name was Clue as he offered me a tall can of beer. I politely declined the offer as he continued to drink his own. He had been walking and hitchhiking for a couple of years. He said this was the first time he was traveling with his dog, but he'd had others along the way. He said his dog's name was Houdini, which confused me, since I thought I'd heard him call him Bear. "Oh, no. You're Bear." Again, I was confused. "I seen it when we found you, you have the spirit of a bear about you. Din't anyone tell you that before?" I couldn't say anyone had. There had been some jokes with friends while camping that I resembled a bear of sorts, but never told I had the spirit of a bear. Clue started explaining his spiritual experiences, abilities, and affinities. All of it was Greek to me. He was some sort of healer, who was on some stretch of a certain level of his spiritual journey. He spoke of auras and vibrations, and a multitude of other things that were beyond my own understanding. The two ladies up front seemed to have their own knowledge on the subject, so the conversation was mainly kept between the three of them. The dog and I shared a look of confusion to all the noise around us. They had picked up Clue and Houdini at a gas station just up the road, and were really thankful they'd found me because they didn't know where they were going. They had planned to head to the previous year's site and hope for the best.

              After about thirty minutes of driving, we got to Alexander Springs. This was as far as my directions went, other than, "you'll see them when you get there, can't miss it." We weren't seeing anyone, and were starting to feel like we'd missed it. There were a few people in the parking lot to the spring, and a couple of staff members. "Ask him if he knows where they are," suggested Clue, pointing to one of the staff. We pulled up to him and the lady in the passenger seat called to him, "we got a couple of Rainbows, givin' them a ride to the gatherin'. You know where it's at?" You could tell this guy had been asked the same thing quite a few times. He gave us simple directions leading back the way we came about a mile, then turn into the woods.

              We came to a dirt road simply labeled "18," turned into it and drove for about two mile. All to be seen on either side of the road were trees and bushes with no signs of clearings. We arrived at a spot on the road that had five or six trucks parked on the right side. Each vehicle looked more decrepit than the next. There were people standing around in the road, and a few in the bushes by the trucks. There were tarps that were put up over a smoking fire, and a couple of trailers unhitched by the road. There were a few tents set up, boxes of canned food strewn about, a couple of smaller camp fires, and foldable camping chairs were thrown around the fires. The lady driving stopped the truck, "well, guess we're here." Clue and I exited the truck, looking around. Everyone here had leather jackets, torn pants, tattoos on every visible inch of skin, piercings all over, teeth missing, and at least one beer in hand. There were dogs all around, some sleeping, some barking incessantly. Some dogs were tied to trees or trucks, others were roaming around freely. I was a little apprehensive about the sight of it all, it definitely was not what I was expecting. I guess I had been expecting to see tie dye clothes, John Lennon sunglasses, and guitars.

              The two ladies were ready to go, so we went to unload the truck. I went to get the DragonWagon down, and as I opened the tail gate, three of the leather dressed guys followed me, "need a hand?" I thankfully accepted their help, and between the four of us got the wagon down with no problem. I was completely surprised at their willingness to help. As the wagon wheels hit the ground I realized I was there, I'd made it, and a week earlier than I'd expected. After seeing the state of the place and the type of people around, I knew I no longer had any idea what to expect from this Rainbow Gathering. We waved goodbye to the two ladies as the truck drove off in the direction we came, disappearing from sight.

part I


              So, there I was, DragonWagon in tow, looking at the group of people in the woods who resembled a biker gang. The three who had helped me off load the wagon had already dispersed anonymously back into the crowd. Everyone was drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette, or both. I moved around the trailer parked by the road to get a better look at the tarps, and found that there was a structure under them where the smoke was coming from. This was a makeshift kitchen, with a railing made of twisted and curvy tree trunks, a counter top cut out of smaller branches all lashed together, and a Lincoln-logged stove top. I parked the wagon next to the trailer and walked around within sight of it for a bit. Clue stayed by the trailer, trying to get a handle on Houdini, whose nerves seemed to be rattled by all the other dogs around. I talked to a couple of people standing and sitting around a fire, but didn't get much more than grunts or growls. I asked if this was the Rainbow Gathering, "Uh-huh." I asked if that was a kitchen they'd set up, "Yup." I mentioned this was my first gathering, "grunt." Okay... I looked back to the road where the two ladies in the pickup truck had disappeared, only to see an empty dirt road. I turned to the kitchen, but not much was going on there either. I talked to one of the people who seemed to be somehow involved in the on goings of the kitchen. "This is Front Gate," he began to explain when I told him this was my first time out here, "we're like the security for the gatherin'. The real gatherin' is happenin' farther in,  'bout a mile n' a half." With that, he excused himself and walked off to argue with someone who was peeling potatoes. Okay, so this wasn't the main gathering. That was some good news.

              I walked back to the trailer where Clue was still trying to calm his dog down. I told him what I had just learned, and said I was planning on walking the mile and a half to the main site. He asked if he could come with, so we got ready to go. There was a haggard old man sitting in a fold out chair near us who, as we were about to leave, said, "ya'll have fun out there, but remember, you gots to leave your alcohol here. No alcohol past this point." I noticed Clue had stuffed the last two beer cans he had into his pack, and seemed not to hear him. Off we went, past Front Gate, and on to the gathering.

              We walked a deserted road for just over a mile, with nothing to be seen other than trees and bushes. We eventually came up on some parked cars in the distance, and a few people walking up the road. As we got closer, I got a better look at them. There were about five people walking together, a couple of them with dogs on leashes. Their clothing was torn, worn out, patch-worked together, and full of holes. It seemed like the threads were wasting away, right off their bodies. They had unkempt, somewhat dreaded hair, and an assortment of piercings between the five of them. The first things they said when we came within earshot was, "loving you, family!" Not something you'd expect this group to exclaim out on the street. "Welcome home, welcome here," was the next greeting we got from them, as we stopped to let the dogs get acquainted. The two dogs of theirs were very keen to get a good whiff of Houdini, but he had different ideas. Houdini got his guard up, becoming very aggressive, to the point where Clue had to pick him up like a baby to keep him calm. "Sorry, he ain't used to other dogs." We asked if this was the main site, but were told we were almost there. We'd have to get to the corner of the road, and we'd be there. One of them claimed to be part of Nick at Night, and offered us a cigarette each. I declined the offer, while Clue took one for himself.

              As we went farther down the road, we began to see more cars and RV's and people. Everyone seemed to have the same look as front gate and the group of five. Torn clothes, patches on pants and jackets and vests, chains hanging from belt loops, big heavy boots, piercings, tattoos, etc. We got to the corner of the road to find a small camp fire with a small circle of people around it. Some were sitting on fold out chairs, others on blankets and tarps, and some were sitting right on the dirt. As we came closer, one of them turned around to greet us, but his face was familiar. It was Priest, whom I'd met in Ocala before heading over. "You made it," he said to me, "you hungry?" Clue and I both nodded our heads, and Priest lead us back up the road a few yards, and into a trail in the woods. I followed the best I could with the DragonWagon in tow, which was not designed for rough forest trails. I maneuvered tight clearings, struggled with big roots on the ground, and did my best to not run over people heading in the opposite direction. Just as I was about to call it quits and go back to the dirt road, we got to a clearing and Priest said, "welcome to Bangerang Kitchen."

              Looking around I saw a few tents, a couple of burned spots where camp fires had been set up, and a big tarp overhead waving in the breeze that had "Bangerang" painted on it. We passed under the tarp, which you had to bend down to avoid getting clothes-lined, and stepped into the kitchen. There was a Lincoln-logged stove, just like front gate, but no railings or counter tops. There was a tent a few feet away from the stove where their food supplies seemed to be stored. They were cooking something, and it smelled delicious. We were offered fried bread with tomato sauce, which we graciously accepted. "Where's your bliss?" I was asked when it was my turn to receive the food. Crap, bliss? What the hell is that? I must have had a dumb-founded look on my face, because he went on to say, "your bliss? you know? Something to put the food into. A plate or bowl or something." Ah, of course, bliss. I guess I should have somehow known... "Here, just hold out your hands," and as I did, he used his tongs to put the bread in my hands, and ladled some sauce right on it. As I bit into the delicious bread, I was looking around at the people around me who were also eating. Some, like me, were eating straight out of their hands, while others were using plastic travel bowls, empty food cans, pieces of cardboard, and an assortment of other random things as "bliss."

              After a couple of pieces of bread, Clue came up to me and told me he'd heard there was a river around the corner and up the road. He said he wanted to camp there, maybe do some fishing the next day. I liked the idea of being near some water, so I agreed. Priest told me it was about 3 or 4 miles up the road. At this point it occurred to me that this was not the same Priest I'd met in Ocala. Here, he was different, kinder, more in his element. He didn't come off as rude or boastful, just kind and helpful. It was a curious difference to find in someone in such a short time. Clue and I finished our bread, and set off towards the river as it was nearing sunset. I wondered how many people had had the same idea we did of camping out there. I wondered if we'd have any room to camp somewhere decent.

              During the walk to the river I kept having to slow down to Clue's pace. Houdini kept stopping to sniff things next to the road, and Clue was just walking slower than I was used to. He seemed to tire by the second mile. This was a little irritating, since it was almost dark, and I wanted to get my camp set up soon. When we did finally get there, there was absolutely no one around. The river was completely desolate. Not at all what I had expected. I assumed this is where people would want to camp, but I guess the 4 mile walk worked as a deterrent. We walked down a couple of trails which eventually had just become completely overgrown, and found no clearings to camp in. We decided we'd have to set up next to the road and figure something else out in the morning. We set up camp, and started a small campfire. Clue offered to cook some rice he'd brought, and I offered him a couple of the hard-boiled eggs Anonymous Artist had given me before heading out. He shared his portion with his dog. The conversation that followed was unnerving and unsettling, and had me rethinking my companionship with Clue.

              As we ate, Clue seemed to become more comfortable around me, and began to share more about himself. Since I tend to stay silent most of the time, this seemed to give him more opportunities to speak. There was a lot that was said that I can't remember, but the basic gist of it was that Clue was on the run. According to him, he was being tracked by the government for his spiritual abilities. He said there was a branch of the military that wanted to use his mind as a weapon, and that he was constantly under psychic attack from people around the world. He told me he had a hard time maintaining his sanity over the years, and wasn't sure what to do. I'm no psychologist, but he seemed to possibly show signs of depression, narcissism, superiority complexes, and illusions of grandeur. He stressed the idea that he was very powerful, and that people were after him because of it. At one point he asked me to make sure Houdini was okay if anything should happen to him while we were out here. On that note, I told him how tired I was, and headed into my tent to sleep. I did not sleep, however. All I could do was wonder what Clue was going to do that night, and what the hell I was going to do the next day. To add to my worries, my sleep deprivation was ensured by the wind rustling my tarp, and a couple of cars that drove in and out of the area. I was certain at this point that I had arrived to the gathering far too early, and wondered if I should just leave the next day. It was a long night of listening to sounds from the tent next to me, wondering what was going to happen, knowing we had walked three to four miles away from the nearest people.


              The morning was cold, and though I didn't sleep much at all, I was up before the sun. I walked around ruminating on the events of the night before, and made up my mind to relocate my camp, somewhere closer to where other people were. I walked around the area as the sun came up, and found the river was a beautiful copper color. This was a really nice place, all things considered. As I started to pack my camp, Clue woke up. I told him my plan to move, and he said he'd do the same. As we were packing, two ladies drove up with their kayaks on their car. As they were off loading their vessels, Clue asked them if they had any "extra supplies." They seemed confused, and when one of them asked what sort of supplies he needed, he vaguely said camping or food supplies. She said they didn't have any supplies, but were willing to give him some of the food they had packed for their trip. I tried to say it wasn't necessary, but at this point they insisted, obviously thinking from his request that we were desperate. They gave us ziplock bags of nuts and cut up fruit, and a couple of bottles of water. Again I insisted it wasn't necessary, but they weren't backing down. They asked if we could pray together, so we held hands in a circle, and she asked that God watch over us. I felt silly. We didn't need the food they had packed for their trip, and felt bad that they thought we did. I was a little upset with Clue for guilting them into thinking that we did.

              Once the two ladies set off on their kayaks, I finished packing the rest of my stuff, and got ready to head out. Clue followed along with Houdini at his side. His walk was slower than the night before, and he kept stopping for one reason or another. Eventually he told me he had to stop, but for me to keep going. I was glad to. I felt a little bad for abandoning him, but not enough to do anything about it. As I kept walking, a couple of cars and pickup trucks drove past in the direction of the river. After some time, one of the pickup trucks came back in the same direction I was going, and as they passed I saw Clue and Houdini in the bed of the truck. He seemed to have gotten himself a ride back. "We're headin' into town, what kind of supplies do you need?" He asked as they drove by. I assured him I was fine with what I had, and he said we'd meet up later. A little guilty part of me hoped we wouldn't.

              As I got close to the corner of the dirt road where I had seen Priest, I came across two people scribing something in the dirt. It seemed like some sort of map they were drawing out, and were deep in discussion over it. I decided not to interrupt, and meant to walk on by, but as I passed one of them greeted me. He introduced himself, "my name used to be 'Lucky Joe,' but after the accident they just call me 'Crazy Joe.'" Good to know. The other guy's name was Cosmic Wonder, or Tim for short. Interesting. I liked Crazy Joe, he seemed like a nice guy. Tim, on the other hand, was a little mentally unstable. He kept explaining the same thing over again because he'd go off on tangents, and kept interrupting himself to tell Joe and myself not to interrupt him (even though neither of us made a sound), and then explained why he had such a hard time explaining things when he's interrupted. At one point, Joe explained that Tim was an empath, and could sense what people were thinking and feeling, so just feeling something was like interrupting him. Again, interesting. After a couple more niceties, I excused myself, telling them I was looking for somewhere to camp, and went up the road towards the corner.

              As I reached the corner, I found the same little campfire from the day before, but the circle of people was more abuzz than before. They had blankets and handkerchiefs in front of where they were sitting, with a seemingly random assortment of objects displayed upon them. They had patches, pipes, beads, tiny tools, clothes, shoes, pieces of metal or plastic, and a number of other random things. This was what they called the Trade Circle. Anyone could come up, secure themselves a spot around the circle, display their wares, and offer barters to other people who walked by to peruse the goods. I sat around and watched for a few minutes. The people who were here weren't exactly the sort that I'd feel safe around though. They were rough and aggressive. One guy, sitting at his tent by the corner, had demon horns tattooed on his forehead. Another guy, standing around the circle, was inserting 4 inch nails into his nostrils. It occurred to me by then that if I was going to stay at this gathering, I'd have to set up my own camp, and maintain some privacy. It was my hope that if I gave it some time, the more appealing sort of people might arrive.

              I started walking up the road, back towards the river, to find a secure location. I walked past a tent with a sign that read "Cafe Manifesto, while supplies last." I walked by some RV's, parked cars with sleeping bags set up inside, and several campfires that were dug right next to the road. Eventually I reached a part of the road that was deserted, far from other campers. I picked a distinguishable dead tree near the road, and used it as my landmark. This would be my camp. I parked the wagon on the road, pulled out my hatchet, and began to clear a path into the woods. I made it about 20 feet into the woods, then turned a corner to be out of sight. I cleared an area big enough for my tent and my wagon. I had to chop up a few hefty logs to roll the wagon through the path, one of which I stuck in the ground as an entrance post to my camp. I thought I might carve something out of it, or hang a sign from it once more people had arrived, who knows. By the time I got the wagon in, it was time for some food. I decided to head back to Bangerang to get something to eat. I remembered, though, that the last time I was there I was lacking in the "bliss" department, so I pulled out the plastic container I'd had the boiled eggs in, and attached a string to it so I could strap it over my shoulder (Thank you Belva for the lock-top container! Sorry I didn't get the chance to give it back). As I walked through the newly cleared path, I set some of the bushes back in place to hide the entrance to my camp. Paranoid? Maybe... but after the rumors of theft I'd been hearing, and after meeting some of the colorful individuals I had so far, I felt it was justified.

              I was walking through the trail to Bangerang which had given me such trouble while pulling the DragonWagon, when out of nowhere some guy asked, "are you DragonWagon?" This came as a surprise, since I didn't expect anyone other than Clue, Priest, Tim, or Joe to know the name. "I saw your post on the Facebook page. I was wondering if I'd get to meet you." He didn't look like the people out on the road. He had a beard and long hair tied back in a pony tail, but his clothes weren't dirty or torn. He seemed well spoken, too. He introduced himself as Overboard, and explained a few things about the gathering. He told me there were going to be about 12 kitchens setting up, and that this would be one of the biggest gatherings they'd had in Ocala. He assured me most people would show up a couple of weeks later, and that this was going to be a great year for it. I thanked him as he left, and I set off to Bangerang. 12 kitchens? That's quite a lot.

              When I reached Bangerang, they were in the middle of cooking some sort of rice. As I approached I saw a group of people around the stove. Two were using hollow poles to blow air into the fire to keep it lit and hot, while three or four others were breaking up crab legs. There seemed to be one person in charge of cooking the meal, instructing the others, while two more worked with spices and other supplies. I stepped in and offered to help. They gladly accepted my offer, but said I had to wash my hands first. One girl handed me a plastic gallon bottle of water which was labeled "HANDWASH," and proceeded to pour it on my hands as I scrubbed. I realized very quickly that this was a diluted solution of bleach from the smell of it. I then went over and started breaking crab legs with them, pulling all the meat out and into a big pot. I was impressed at this point, crab legs in the woods? Very unexpected. It was some kind of seafood rice jambalaya. After some waiting and chatting, the meal was ready, and those who helped make it were the first to be served, and were served well. That's when I noticed that my bliss was of the larger variety, so it seemed to encourage a larger portion. No complaints here, and only a twinge of guilt.

              I went back to my secret camp spot to find the bushes undisturbed, and the DragonWagon untouched. I set up my tent, and passed out just before sunset. It'd been a long day.

DAY  3

              I awoke before sunrise to the sounds of dogs barking, people howling, drums beating far away, and even some guitars echoing in the distance. I lay in my tent, soaking it in, managing to get a few more winks of sleep. At one point I heard some people fairly close by yelling, "GOOD MORNIN' VIETNAAAAAAAM!" followed by, "IT'S VIET-FUCKIN'-NAM!!!" I was up early, so I decided to clear out a larger area for my camp. It was thoroughly overgrown, so it was no simple task, but it kept me busy for a while. I cleared out an area next to the tent where there was a huge log on the ground, which quickly became a bench. After a considerable amount of weeding, cutting, and chopping, I was ready to eat again. I was tempted to just eat some of the food that I had on the wagon, but decided that it was strictly for my "escape." I wanted to make sure, if anything happened, that I had what I needed for the trip out of the woods. It would make no sense to leave myself with nothing, just for the convenience of snacking here, when there were supposedly 12 kitchens being set up around me. I tarped my tent and wagon, reset the bushes at my entrance, and checked the road for any potential witnesses. When I saw I was clear, I set off.

              Walking down the road I saw Crazy Joe and Cosmic Wonder by an RV with a campfire dug out next to the road. I greeted them politely as I passed, and went on to Bangerang. When I reached the kitchen, though, I found no fire going and no people. Everyone was passed out. I didn't think it was that early, judging by the sun it might be 9 or 10 o'clock. I decided to go exploring for a while instead. The trail was long, and ran parallel to the road. This meant I was going in the same direction as I had for the river, so I was moving towards where my camp was, only I was farther into the forest whereas my camp was closer to the road. I'd basically walked in a "U" shape. There were tents and tarps set up all along the woods. Some camps had signs at their entrances. I passed "F You Camp," and "Good Morning Vietnam." So this was where the screams were coming from earlier in the day. That meant I was close to my own camp. Exploring one of the trails, I found some 30 foot logs set up in a square shape around a fire pit. This looked like quite an undertaking since the logs were two or three feet wide at their narrowest. I saw some decorative structures made from branches and rainbow colored strings, and even a raised platform built from logs and branches with a hammock on top that resembled a tree house. This was more like what I had hoped for this gathering. I was learning quickly that the gathering happened in the woods, so whatever was going on in the road was something completely different.

              Once the camps started becoming rarer and rarer, to the point where it seemed no one was camped around, I turned back and headed towards Bangerang again only to find them in the same state as I'd left them. Just across the path from this kitchen, though, there was another. They had a big tarp like Bangerang's that read "LAUNCH PAD, WELCOME HOME."

              This kitchen was awake and bustling. They seemed to be cooking some breakfast. I offered to help however I could, but they said they didn't need any, breakfast was almost done. I sat down nearby and waited, listening and watching. The kitchen seemed to be run by a lady called Mama Rocket, and her husband (I think) named Biscuit. Listening to the conversations around the kitchen, I was hearing some unfamiliar terms or words used in different context, like "aggro dog," "satellite," "kickdown," "homebum." I decided it might be best to keep a list of these terms for my own reference. I did the best I could to extrapolate their accurate meanings out of their contextual use, so some may be wrong.

BLISS - A container for food to be eaten. A can, bowl, leaf, piece of cardboard, or even one's own hands.
BLISS WARE - A tool used to eat food with. A fork, spoon, chop sticks made out of twigs, or even one's own fingers.
AGGRO DOG - An aggressive dog, usually unwelcome around regular dogs.
SATELLITE - To send something to someone else. "Satellite some food down to the people over there."
KICKDOWN - Something gifted to someone else (Think "hand-me-down"). (Not to be confused with "KICK IT DOWN")
KICK IT DOWN - Command for a dog to sit or lay down.
HOMEBUM - A homeless person who stays in one place. A local vagrant.
DOG OUT - Command for a dog to leave the immediate area.
NICK AT NIGHT - An organized group of people with some sort of hierarchy who supply people with rolled tobacco cigarettes, run on donations. Highly sought after by most people.
SCHWILLY - Aggravatingly drunk.
NOTMYDOG - Name given to a dog that is not yours, usually accompanied by DOG OUT.
OODOG - Command instructing a dog that they are doing something they shouldn't be. The "oo" is sometimes growled and/or extended to denote severity of misbehavior. Usually accompanied by DOG OUT.

              Dogs and toddlers seemed to roam free, and it was apparent that it was everyone's responsibility to watch them. If a dog or child was doing something they shouldn't be, it was up to whoever was around to correct the behavior. "DOG OUT!!" was heard regularly in the kitchen, as well as "OOOODOG!" and "NOTMYDOG!" As I was admiring the unspoken communal agreement of responsibility, a bicycle rider rode up to the kitchen yelling, "MAILCALL!" He pulled a folder from the basket at the front of his bike, and pulled out a scrap piece of paper with some writing on it. He read off some message about another kitchen needing some supplies. Mama Rocket told him to respond with her own message, which he wrote down on a scrap piece of cardboard and put it into the folder. He then asked if anyone had seen someone by a name I can't remember, because they'd found something of hers. When his business was done, he hopped back on his bike, offered to take out a bag of trash for the kitchen, and rode off. So there is a mail system in the woods? Very impressive.

              After a couple of pieces of fried donut, I headed back to camp, and did some more clearing. I cleared a path behind the big log, a little ways out, for my own private bathroom. Sounds fancy, right? I thought so. I dug myself a little trench back behind some thick bushes, and then sat down to draw for a while. I decided to work on the cover of my new sketchbook, and worked on it for a while. I've developed a preference for sketchbooks that have a blank cover so I can design it myself, because who wants a sketch book with the photograph of a pencil on the cover? I mean really. After some time, I realized that all I had to eat were those couple of donuts, so I set off to find a different kitchen. I walked down to the corner and turned in the opposite direction of Bangerang and Launch Pad. I passed a camp called "Wolf Pack 13," and came across "Old Man Camp." I heard some music and drumming coming from somewhere in the woods, and followed it. It was dark by now, so I couldn't see anyone's face. I came to a campfire next to what looked like a kitchen, but was informed it was not one. These folks had definitely set themselves up like they were, though. They had the same Lincoln-log style stove, branch built counter tops, and huge tarps set up overhead. I'd heard there was a Bear Necessities Kitchen somewhere, but when I asked where it was, no one seemed to know. That's when a tall guy came over and said there was another kitchen farther down the path that was currently cooking some beef stroganoff. Excellent. He offered to guide a couple of us who were hungry over to the kitchen, so I followed. His name was Phoebe, and had a very effeminate voice. I started to wonder in the dark if it actually was a guy or not. Not that it mattered, I'd just have to avoid saying "he" or "she."

              After about a half mile of walking in the dark, we came up to the kitchen. I kept hearing different versions of their name, "Shut Up and Eat," "Grow it and Eat it," "Shut Up and Grow it." It seemed no one could decide exactly what it was. They had just finished cooking when we arrived, and were setting the giant pot of food on the counter top. One of the guys getting ready to serve it said, "'free food' on '3.' Ready? 1, 2, 3," and then everyone around yelled at the tops of their voices, "FREE FOOD IN THE WOODS!!!" Then the serving began. I sat down near the kitchen to eat, and it was delicious. I waited for the line to die down, then went up for seconds. I quickly discovered this was frowned upon. They seemed to wait a long time before serving anyone seconds, just to make sure they feed as many people as they could. I was learning. After my meal, I thanked the kitchen and headed back over to Launch Pad, but they seemed to be closed for the night. I heard commotion over at Bangerang, so I went there instead. They were trying to set up a counter top, so I stepped in to help.

BLISS RAIL - A makeshift counter top constructed out of logs and branches to serve food on.

              As we were building their bliss rail, someone came around to satellite some salad and fried onion rings. As he was serving people, he saw me and asked if I was the one pulling the wagon. I was really surprised he recognized me in the dark, even though I had no idea who he was. He told me people had been talking about me, and then a couple of people from the kitchen chimed in saying what a good idea it was to travel with a wagon. I discussed a few pros and cons with them, but when I went to eat my salad, I found my fork was missing. I must have left it at Shut Up and Eat, so now I was just left with my spoon. Eating salad with a spoon was a challenge, but doable. I stuck around for a while, chatting with some people, until they started cooking hotdogs, and arguing about how to cook them. Three people seemed to have their own methods of cooking hotdogs, and the argument became a little heated.

              On my way back to my camp I found the campfire at the corner of the road was having a drum circle. I sat around and listened for a while as a few drums laid down an enjoyable beat, which were eventually joined by a didgeridoo and a triangle. It was getting cold out, and I could see by the campfire light that, since I'd been wearing my flip flops the whole time, that I now had my dirt shoes on.

DIRT SHOES - When your feet get so dirty from walking around barefoot that you look like you're wearing shoes made of dirt.
POCKET TRADE - A trade that consists of objects inside the pockets of the two making the trade.
RANDOM POCKET TRADE - A trade whereby the two making the trade don't know what they are about to receive for their own object.
SNUFF - A form of ground up tobacco (I think), which is snorted.
SNUFF PUSHUPS - A rite of passage to become a Nick at Nighter. The candidate recites the alphabet, doing a pushup for each letter, and snorting snuff for every pushup. As I understand it, few make it through the whole alphabet, and respect is given to those who do.


              "GOOD MORNIN' VIETNAAAAAM!!!"
              "IT'S VIET-FUCKIN'-NAM!"
              Another morning waking up to my neighbors' call. I was curious if I'd been waking up around the same time or not, so I decided to make a sun dial. I stuck a stick into the fallen log, and put a notch at the tip of the shadow. I didn't know what time it was exactly, but I at least got a frame of reference as to when I was going to be waking up every day in relation to today. It felt later than usual, maybe around 9 or 10 in the morning. After some time of clearing a few more roots and bushes in my camp, I walked over to Launch Pad for some breakfast. On the way I passed by Priest's camp, where he and a couple of others were sitting around a small campfire. "Free tea in the woods?" Priest offered. I sat with them a while, and chatted. I came to find out that Priest and his companions did not like being around civilized society. They did not like rules, or law enforcement. They were also against technology.

BABYLON - The (somewhat derogatory) term for towns and cities outside of the woods, "civilization."
BABYLONIANS - The (somewhat derogatory) term for people who live in houses or apartments, working full time jobs. Non-hippies.
L. E. O.'S - Law Enforcement Officers
SIX UP - A warning shouted out and echoed by those who hear it, to warn others of incoming L. E. O.'s.
DRAINBOW - A participant at the gathering who somehow ruins it for others. A selfish, rude, or unruly person.
WINGNUT - A crazy person, usually under the influence of one or several sorts of drugs.

              Though I found some of the same qualities in Priest that made me dislike him back in Babylon, he was admittedly different here. I guess because he disliked Babylonians so much, it gave him an air of arrogance out there, but out here, he was different. He was nicer and selfless, while still cocky and a little arrogant. I guess people's demeanor changes depending on what element you find them in. While we sat around chatting, Priest invited a couple that was walking by on the road, "free tea in the woods?" They joined us somewhat hesitantly. They sat down next to me and asked, "is it JUST tea?" I looked to Priest, who nodded. Damn, I probably should have asked the same thing. Who knows what they put in food or drink out here. Her name was Jennifer, and this was her and her husband's first time at a gathering, which they brought their teenage son to. He was somewhere with someone doing something. She admitted this wasn't exactly their scene, but they'd been willing to try it. Admirable. After some more conversation I excused myself and went on to Launch Pad.

              When I got to the kitchen, they were just about finished cooking some scrambled eggs and potatoes. When it was finished, we lined up. I was somewhere towards the front of the line, but when it was my turn to get served, Mama Rocket looked at me and shouted, "IS THERE ANY MORE MAMAS AND BABIES WHO AIN'T EATEN YET? WE FEED MAMAS AND BABIES FIRST HERE, THAT'S JUST HOW WE DO IT IN MY KITCHEN!" Shit, now I feel like an asshole. I looked around and saw a couple of ladies farther back in line. They were hesitant to come up, to which Mama Rocket said, "come'n up, mamas. These guys ain't gonna eat 'til you have. They'll just be standin' here waitin' on ya." I stepped aside allowing them to come up, after which the rest of us got served. Mental note for the future: Stay away from the front of the line. I sat down to eat near the kitchen, where I met an older guy named Boon. This was his 8th gathering. He explained it takes some time for people to get used to you, that, over time, they get to know who you are. He went on to say that this was going to be a big gathering, that a lot of "alumni" were returning this year.

              As I got ready to leave, another guy with long hair and a bushy mustache walked up to me while pointing at the ground and said, "hey man, you dropped something." I looked down thinking I was about to lose my spoon this time or something, and he said, "it's your smile." I smiled, almost laughing, "oh no, wait, there it is." He had a name tag on his shirt that read "Smiley" with a happy face next to it. That's how he introduced himself, as Smiley. I introduced myself as I had been at the gathering, as DragonWagon. "How'd you get a name like that?" I explained it was a play on words, since I'm "draggin' a wagon" on my travels, plus I really liked dragons. He was curious about my wagon, asked me to describe it, and was hopeful to see it. "You'll have to show me that wagon one day," he said as I was leaving. I assured him I would, but I didn't want to show anyone where I was camped, so if I did show it to him, it'd have to be under different circumstances. I was still weary of trusting others with my camp's whereabouts. I wondered if I had trust issues, or if it was justified.

              I was walking back to my camp, and there was a kid walking ahead of me. He had bushy blonde hair, and was wearing nothing but his shorts. He was dirty and walking barefoot. When he realized I was behind him, he stopped to say hello, and started walking with me. His name was Cody, and had a very soothing voice, calm and soft spoken. He told me he had just broken a vow of silence the previous night after three weeks of not speaking a word. It was his way of stopping to listen to his surroundings. Apparently they'd partied hard the previous night, and he had decided to be silent no longer. I was one of the few people he'd spoken to since. We talked for a little while, and then he asked me where I was camped. My defenses went up immediately. I answered vaguely that I was moving around camps a lot. He then asked where I was headed. I lied and told him I was headed to the river up the road. We walked right past the entrance to my secret lair. I didn't trust him. I didn't trust anyone. I was wondering if I really was becoming paranoid out here. Maybe I should be more public with my camp. Maybe I should trust others. Why did I feel the need to lie like that? Why did I feel the need to hide my ever so precious stuff? We walked past a rainbow flag that marked the entrance to the trail for Good Morning Vietnam. They really were close by. We were going pretty far down the road, and I was wondering if he was just going to walk with me all the way to the river. I didn't actually want to go to the damned river, and we were just getting farther and farther away from my camp.

              We approached the last set of cars on the road for a long stretch ahead. Cody said this was where he was camped, and that he was with Bear Necessities Kitchen. I was surprised to learn that this was where they were setting up, since I'd heard they were down the other direction where Shut up and Grow it was. I told him I was hoping to help them set up, and he was glad to hear it, saying that they could always use help. We walked up to one of the cars, where a girl was getting stuff out of the back seat. "Hey, Cody, is it true? You talkin' now?" He nodded and said, "hello, Ryan." She seemed thrilled to hear his voice for the first time. I guess he was telling the truth about his vow of silence. I'm not sure why I was so skeptical about it. He introduced us, and then led me into the woods, away from the road, towards Bear Necessities.

              We came out of the trail into a clearing after the woods, where there were about 6 or 7 people gathered around an older man. There was no kitchen or tents set up anywhere, it seemed they had just arrived. The elder was explaining his vision for the kitchen. He wanted to clear out a large circle to build a Roman coliseum style seating area. He said this was going to be the biggest build they'd ever undertaken. There'd be tarps set up in the round with benches under them, a massive fire pit in the center, and up front by the kitchen there'd be two stages under tarps where musicians could play. Everyone around him got really excited, and were ready to work. We started by clearing tall grass, weeds, bushes, and palm fronds. We made one piles of dry stuff to burn and another of soft stuff to make the ground more barefoot-friendly. A couple of people were digging out a fire pit for the kitchen and setting up a grill above it. After a short break, we hauled loads of pots and pans and various cooking utensils from the car. It was like ant work, hauling stuff in while others went out to pick more stuff up. We cleared a larger area, and finally stopped for some dinner. I came to find out that the elder was named Baloo. Now it made sense, Baloo was in charge of the Bear Necessities Kitchen. I met a guy named Batman, who played the trumpet, a girl named Aunt Jemima, who made us peanut butter sandwiches, and a girl named Panda, who seemed to be striving to be Baloo's right hand girl. After we ate, they started setting up their tents. It was getting a little chilly out, so I took the opportunity to go back to my tent to dress a little warmer.

BLISS FIRE - A campfire, usually next to or near a kitchen, where anyone is welcome to relax, eat, and/or play music.
BLISS OUT - To take a break.
HEAD CHANGE - The smoking of pot. "Can we get a head change for the kitchen?"
GROW ROOTS - To stay still.

              On my walk back to camp I found there were more people arriving. The place was starting to get a little crowded, and I began to wonder how long my secluded location would remain undiscovered. After putting on a couple more layers to stay warm, I headed back to Bear Necessities. When I got there I found they'd started a fire, and there were people playing drums and guitars around it. A few people even joined in with some singing. This was more like what I was looking for. This was the scene I was hoping I'd find. As I sat there, I saw Crazy Joe talking with Baloo. He was telling him that his area was getting overrun, and he was looking to move somewhere up the road, closer to this kitchen. I realized that he'd changed his name from Crazy Joe to Happy. So, his name was Happy now. I stayed by the fire for a good while, listening to drums and guitars and occasional singing. When I got back to camp, cars were constantly rolling by on the road, making it a loud night.


              Yet another morning started to the sounds of "GOOD MORNIN' VIETNAAAAM!!" and "IT'S VIET-FUCKIN'-NAM!" It was amusing to hear this ritual take place every morning. As I sat on the big log, I heard quite a few people walking the road just outside my camp. I found it intriguing how many things I learned from just listening to people's conversations as they went past. I learned that it was Super Bowl Sunday. I also heard that there was a hydration station down one of the trails I hadn't been to yet. Also, something called "main circle" was supposedly starting within the next few days. My water supply was getting low, so I decided I may want to find this hydration station. I keep three water containers in my wagon to refill my camel pack, and I was down to the last container. I decided that, like the food supply I was keeping, I needed at least one full container of water for my walk out of the woods. I grabbed the two empty ones, and set off. This time, though, I was spotted while leaving my camp. Someone was randomly walking by whom I hadn't heard come up, and saw me setting the bushes up to cover the entrance. I felt silly, trying to play it off like I wasn't doing anything. The time to move camps was approaching quickly. I really liked my set up here, but not if it was going to be this crowded. I passed by Joe, or Happy now, who was getting ready to move over closer to Bear Necessities.

              It was about 2 miles to get to where the hydration station was, after asking several people on the way where it was. It was about halfway down the road towards Front Gate, down a trail that ran parallel to the same trail Bangerang and Launch Pad were on. This trail was headed up by an area called "Welcome Home" which hadn't been set up yet when Clue and I first came through. So you would normally come through Front Gate, then hit Welcome Home. That seemed more like the experience I would've hoped for. When I got to the hydration station, however, I was disappointed. It was just an empty Gatorade cooler and a few scattered half-empty gallon jugs of water. There were a couple of people filling up their plastic bottles, so I didn't bother with my own. I walked back to camp with the two water containers still empty. I found even more cars and RV's on the road, and even more people walking around, and they were encroaching on my camp.

              After dropping off my containers, I went around to the kitchens for something to eat. I hit Bangerang, Launch Pad, and Grow it and Eat it, but none of them were serving when I was there. I headed back up to Bear Necessities, making that walk somewhere around 6 miles with no food. In that time I'd randomly gotten four different compliments on my beard from four different people in four different places. That was odd, no one had mentioned it at all the entire time I'd been there, and now suddenly four people said something? Strange. I wondered if there was something different about it. Maybe I had a cowlick or something on it... I took a picture to check, but it didn't seem like anything was different with it. Strange.

              On my way up to Bear Necessities, I caught up with Aunt Jemima on the road. She was walking with a guy who claimed to be Nugget Night. Apparently Nugget Night worked the same as Nick at Night, only with pot instead of tobacco, but he was the only one I'd heard of, whereas Nick at Night were all over the place. On our way up to the kitchen they were having a rainbow joke battle. "How many hippies does it take to change a light bulb? What's a light bulb?" "What's the difference between a rainbow girl and a washing machine? A washing machine doesn't follow you around after you dump your load in it." "What's the difference between a rainbow girl and a joint? A joint won't make it around the whole circle." Colorful stuff.

              At the kitchen we chopped firewood and logs for building. We set up tarps, and built their stove in the same Lincoln-log style as the others. The grill they had was 8 feet long, so the stove was rectangular shaped, unlike all the other square shaped ones. They spent the night celebrating by deep frying Oreo cookies and a random assortment of confections they could get their hands on. As a large enough batch was made, someone would satellite a portion to other kitchens. Stunt Double seemed to be Baloo's second in charge, the guy who got stuff done. He was quiet and reserved, but worked hard, nonstop. Overboard had come round to visit the kitchen, with a guy named Elf by his side. They seemed to be checking in, communicating information between the kitchens about this main circle event I'd heard of earlier. I met Frank, Lorax, Staggah, Bo, Ro, and Zak. There were people from all over, each with their own stories of the rainbow. Many of them were traveling with Baloo and his kitchen, who had come down from Maine. Apparently Maine has its own regional rainbow gathering, which they call "Mainebow." I saw Happy at one point talking with Baloo. He had apparently picked out a spot on the road for his RV and had moved away from the corner of the road. He was telling Baloo the reason was because of aggro people and their aggro dogs. He didn't feel secure that close to the corner. I decided I would do the same. I spoke to Happy about where he moved, and asked if he would mind me moving in as a neighbor, to which he was delighted. So the next day I would break down camp, and come over to Bear Necessities.


              I woke up early, and broke up my camp, packed it all into the wagon, and was ready to move. I looked around for a minute. It was a shame to leave this spot. I'd put in quite a bit of work to clear it out, and I really liked my bench log. I had a pile of wood at one corner I'd planned on burning at some point, but never got around to. On my way out I threw the bushes aside which used to cover the entrance, leaving the path exposed to anyone curious enough to explore it. This was going to make a very nice spot for anyone who found it. Area already cleared, log bench to sit on, fire pit already dug out, and even a pile of firewood ready for use. I hoped whoever found it would enjoy it. As I was heading out, I passed by the rainbow flag to Vietnam's camp, and heard them shouting "GOOD MORNIN' VIETNAAAAM!!" and "IT'S VIET-FUCKIN'-NAM!"

              My plan was to cut a trail behind Happy's RV, and set up a camp hidden behind it. I may be starting to trust a person or two, but I wasn't diving into it with everyone. By the time I reached it, though, Happy's RV was gone. I walked into the woods and up to the kitchen, and found out Happy was on a town run, to refill water for the kitchen. I parked the wagon by the kitchen, and got to work. They needed longer logs than they'd gotten, and Bo had already scouted a spot a little ways away where there were some. I volunteered to help them, so a few of us went out to the road and got into Baloo's jeep. They seemed to be in a hurry to go, until we got into the car. Once in the vehicle, they took the time to pack a bowl, smoke the bowl, roll tobacco, smoke the tobacco, before they were finally ready to go. It might have been about a 20 minute process before heading out. When we took off, we drove about a hundred feet up the road, and we were there. Hmmm... That felt silly...

              We went into the woods on the opposite side of the road and got to work. We cut logs from 8 to 16 feet, loaded them up on the jeep, drove them to the kitchen trail, then walked them into the kitchen. We did this a few times. Every time we'd show up with a new batch of logs, someone would yell, "HO for the wood run!" and then everyone would respond in unison, "HOOOO!!!" This was an interesting celebration of labor, because it didn't seem to celebrate the person doing the work, but the work itself. This was one of those subtle differences I might not usually have noticed, but it seemed constant. It seemed to me that celebrating the work done, as opposed to the person doing it, promoted the motivation for anyone else to do it as well. "HO for the firewood!" "HO for the stove getting built!" "HO for the wood chopping!" The day was quite productive. We built a second stove and put up two bliss rails. More loads were brought in from the road, and some sort of organization of the kitchen was taking shape.  

FIRE TROLL - Person in charge of keeping the fire lit and hot, usually by using a TROLL POLL
TROLL POLL - A pipe or tube used to blow into the fire to keep it hot.
MARCO - "I'm giving this away."
POLO - "I'll take it."
SKANK - Head wrap or bandanna.
SPLIFF - A rolled cigarette with a mix of tobacco and pot.

              It'd gotten dark before I realized it, so I decided to go for a walk to the other kitchens for a while. I was using my flashlight to get through the trails, and kept passing people going in the opposite direction. Some people also had flashlights, while others were just walking through in the dark. At one point, a little girl walked by me. She may have been at most 10 years old, completely confident of where she was going and absolutely unafraid. Most little girls I've met who were her age would have been terrified to be walking alone in the dark in the middle of the woods. I guess there's something to be said for these rainbow kids.

              After a bite to eat at Bangerang, I stopped over at the corner of the road to listen to the small drum circle again. While I was there, someone rolled up in their car and dropped off a stack of Little Cesar's pizzas. They said it was dumpster pizza, still fresh. They passed the boxes around the circle and everyone took a slice. Sharing seemed to be a big thing out here. I headed back up to Bear Necessities, set up my tent near the kitchen where the rest of the kitchen staff had set up theirs. I was a little nervous about being out in the open, but I comforted myself with the safety in numbers theory.


              I woke up in the morning to find Happy cooking breakfast in the kitchen. Apparently he'd worked his way into the inner staff. I broke down my tent and packed up the wagon so it was ready to go. I then realized that this was the first morning in a while I hadn't heard the shouts from Good Morning Vietnam, and was a little disappointed. I sat down for breakfast and started talking to one of the guys I'd been working with. His name was Ian, and he'd been traveling for some time. He told me he had met up with his girlfriend, who then broke up with him, and dropped him off in the middle of nowhere in Florida. He walked into the woods, and was just getting by, when suddenly the gathering started setting up around him. So he hadn't come to the gathering, the gathering had come to him. I shared my story of the three Ron's being the reason I'd come. We started discussing what all had been set up around the gathering, and that he hadn't yet taken the opportunity to explore, so I offered to show him around what I'd found. Having been there for about a week, I'd had a chance to watch certain things go up. I came to find out Ian was carving bows for trade, and was in search of arrows. I took him to where the trade circle had been, and showed him around the kitchens I'd found. We heard from several people that main circle would start at sundown, and that everyone should be there. After a while, we split ways, and I went back to set up my new camping spot.

              Happy had set himself up a small area in the woods near the kitchen with a hammock and some tarps, and planned on using the RV for town runs for the kitchen, so it was unfeasible to hide a camp behind it. I decided to set up in the woods, away from the road. I went past the kitchen on the trail, to an area where I didn't think people would go, and cut my own trail into the bushes again. I cleared just enough for my tent and wagon, and lay down some palm fronds under my tent. On my way out, I set up some bushes to cover the entrance again. I guess some habits die hard. I'd started seeing signs around the kitchens instructing people how to shit in the woods.

              The sun was starting to set, and it was almost time for this main circle event everyone had been talking about. As luck would have it, they didn't have a spot cleared out for it, so they chose to do it at the Bear Necessities Kitchen since we'd cleared out such a large area. We collected some firewood for the bliss fire, as more and more people trickled in. While the fire was getting started, Overboard shouted, "'circle' on 3! 1, 2, 3!" and then everyone around the fire shouted, "CIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRCLLLLLLLLLLLLE!!!!!" More firewood was collected, and more people trickled in. We shouted "circle" a few more times every ten minutes or so. Finally someone said to circle up. Everyone who was sitting around the fire stood up, backed up, and held hands. "Thumbs to the left!" Everyone held hands, aiming thumbs to the left, so there was no confusion about who held their hands how. Once everyone was pretty much in the circle, with only a few stragglers coming in here and there, people began their announcements. It seemed like Overboard was somehow in charge of what was happening since he was the one giving the instructions on what to do. Then a flurry of announcements came from random people in the circle:

 "Bury your shit! Bury your neighbor's shit! Bury your dog shit! Bury your neighbor's dog shit! If you see shit, BURY IT!" 
"Bury your neighbor's dog if they don't bury their shit!"
"Not burying your shit gets everyone sick! It goes from your shit, to the flies, to your food, then to you! Bury your shit!"
"If you don't know how to shit in the woods, ask someone, ask your kitchens. Everybody shits, it's only weird if you don't do it right!"
"Remember, everybody wants everyone's everything! Have you given your all today?"
"Bear Necessities Kitchen is doing all you can eat pancakes from 10-2!"
"Help your kitchens!"
"Kitchens need firewood, ALWAYS!"

              With that, laughter broke out, and people started ohming. It took no time at all for the chatter and laughter to subside, and suddenly the entire circle was humming an ohm in unison. It was incredible to experience a group of 50-100 people, all holding hands, ohming. People from all walks, from all over, of all ages, races, genders, all together in one place, making one sound. I was humbled as I joined in. It was a moving experience. We hummed for maybe a minute, until the ohm just sort of faded away without instruction, until there was just silence. Suddenly, almost as if on cue, everyone threw their hands up and gave out a long and cheerful "WHOOOOOO!!!" in celebration, breaking the hand holds. With that, a loud chatter broke out, people sat where they were in the circle, and took out their respective blisses, ready to eat.

"Stay where you're at, the kitchens are going to come around to feed you!"
"Mamas and babies to center so you can get fed first!"
"Magic hat is coming around the circle! Your donations feed your family!"

              I sat down where I was, and the four kitchens came around with huge pots of food after feeding the women and children in the center. They moved around the circle, serving one person at a time. One kitchen served a sort of rice jambalaya, another had rice and stew, another served salad, and the fourth had stir fried lo mein. It was pretty dark out, and we had spread quite a distance from the bliss fire, so it was hard to see what I was eating, and everything was mixed together. By the end of it, everyone was fed at the same time, in the same place, and everyone seemed happy and satisfied. Once people had enough to eat, they'd break out of the circle and move towards the bliss fire. A couple of the kitchens came around a second time to empty their pots. One drum started playing by the fire, shortly joined by one, then two. Eventually there was a drum circle around the fire. I sat down near a couple of the drummers, and people started dancing with fire poi, and fire hoola hoops. There was a xylophone somewhere playing choice notes in beat with the drums, and a couple of guitars broke out in songs here and there. I looked up to see the moon was full, as fire dancers moved to sounds of drums, people laughed and talked, others vocalized in beat with the drums, and others just basked in the beauty of it all. What a magnificent event.

GROUND SCORE - Something found on the ground. "No ground scores at main circle."
SHANTESINA - Peaceful warriors, keepers of the peace. A word one could shout in case of emergency to call for help from anyone who heard it.
NIGHTBALL - The moon.