On my experiences at the Big Summer Classic at Camp Zoe in the Ozarks of Missouri—part deux…
I left off mentioning the lack of access to substantive and reliable information sources (either through limited technological means or simply unknown to them), as expressed by the attendees of the Big Summer Classic (BSC). Heaven forbid that some of these folks (kids) would read blogs or review source materials on the internets. I could only imagine that for many of the parents of the attendees watchingamerica must be perceived as the most evil and communist (Stalin and Mao rolled into one) of sites, daring to present anti-US propaganda from furren gummints.
Among those willing to challenge and acquire the best sources, the keys to a larger world-filled library, I particularly remember a couple of students from Ole Miss in Oxford, MS, and a half dozen from the University of Kansas in Lawrence, all of whom stopped me over the course of the weekend to get more references.
I will not mention their names, but I will offer some anecdotal referents. The couple from Ole Miss approached me late (early in the morning) after the show on Sunday to discuss their needs. Approached may not be the correct word, more like cornered my old tour buddy (also our tour bus chauffeur) and myself in the back of a vending booth, and pulled out paper and pens and had us try to write down URLs and other site resources for them.
They had also agreed to visit one of our Otter Clan projects (a massive rebuilding program of homes on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi) and needed that contact information. They really wanted to do something powerful, creative, active, and good, and when they made their requests in the most beautiful Southern drawl eva, I could not even begin to say “later.”
The University of Kansas contingent was led by a young woman graduate student, who had grown up in the Midwest, but had been able to attend a prestigious East Coast university. She had graduated with a degree in environmental studies-permaculture, and then spent the next two years living within two different intentional communities (in two different states) that practiced permaculture and commercial organic farming. She had returned to graduate school because she felt passionate about being able to disseminate to broader audiences her avocation and vision for how to survive into the future.
The crew that had come to Camp Zoe with her (interestingly all guys, and yes she was a very beautiful young woman), and who had volunteered to participate in the nasty work of developing, implementing, and completing a massive recycling effort (as not yet previously undertaken in that festival space—seriously they didn’t “do” recycling nor knew much about it), could at best be described as naïve about issues of ecosystems, watersheds, and long-term global climate crises.
She encouraged me to talk with all of them about my perceptions of the problems and to provide numerous resources for internet links. Although clearly a leader among them, it appeared to me that her femininity was still an issue for the males with respect to her “authenticity and authority” on these matters (sad, sad and tragic).
My elder male status (my gawd how awkward that was given my background and experience) seemed to be something that empowered her to open up publicly about her own background and work; and that just sucks - more of the tragedy of it all - given her intellect and maturity, to have to be subsumed into an ass-backward, provincial Midwestern anti-feminist environment, even in a graduate program at a university. Hopefully she will become a great teacher and leader and given the respect she richly deserves from males as well as females.
As she spoke up and offered insights and asked many good questions, other young women felt safer to do so as well. It was as shocking and surprising to me, as the lack of awareness of what is happening in the world, to discover that middle-amurka is still (or perhaps re-becoming) a patriarchal anti-feminist realm. It may be the AM radio, it may be the 91 churches (and big-ass ones at that) in a county with a population of under 20,000, or it may be that stubborn conservative GOP electorate really can’t let go of the 1950’s.
Whatever it is, it is a serious problem and a tragedy for this nation. As Van Jones pointed out early in the Summer at the Harmony Festival, we (the environmental activist community and those for whom those views are considered important) comprise only 20% of the country at this point. And now, having actually ventured into that middle of the rural realm, I have come to understand just what he meant when he said, we haven’t got a chance until “they wake up, too.”
Now I know this is getting long in the tooth, and I could go on and on, boringly and tirelessly just to describe those three days (casual Lucinda Williams referent), but I will try to shrink wrap some of it into a few tidbits more of anecdotal sentences about the top and bottom of the bell curve.
Well, there is the food of Missouri; and thank all the glorious spirits of luck and good fortune that encouraged the moneyed interests to hire a backstage caterer from Denver who knew how to make healthy, amazingly excellent meals. You can only eat barbequed pork, chicken, and beef so many different greasy fatty ways; hell you can only prepare it so many ways, and yet they serve it three, four, or five times a day to each other—with cigarettes of course.
Counter that with a fresh water river, fed by artesian springs pouring out of the porous limestone hills, whose temperature was immaculately perfect, that allowed you to choose any sort of comfortable position you chose to enjoy the water—whether it be head-deep pools, soft sandy shallow sloping beach, natural rock chaises across different depths, multi-layered flowing rapid currents to massage the aches, and so much more. Then, late at night, under the appropriately named Echo Bluffs (a hundred foot limestone face with a slightly concave, erosion-sculpted surface) five hundred people could stand or lay, in or out of the water, and watch HD-DVD videos projected across more than 50’ (and without much damaging distortion, MVP), and listen to a stereo sound-system that had been intentionally placed and tweaked to create full surround sound using the limestone surface. Looking up you could see the trees at the top of the bluffs, then the stars, then the moon and realize that you were experiencing the best drive-in movie experience ever!!!
Or take the absolute mindlessness of attendees who constantly ignored how packed the amphitheater was for the shows, while choosing to launch all manner of fireworks off from the middle of the crowd (and without any conscious thought about where they ended up). If that weren’t enough, a few truly stunningly stupid folks decided that fire dancing, with poi and wands and staffs, was also an appropriate thing to do in the middle of hundreds of people. That only one poor soul was lit on fire by the idiocy could be considered a miracle, seeming to be beyond the pale in terms of human disregard of others and complete lack of conscious will to care for anything.
If that isn’t sufficient to prove the bottom end of the curve, consider the following. While cruising around one mid-day, I was stopped by a patron demanding that I use my “authority” (as if being an old guy, with a radio and golf cart had authority—and there were at least a half dozen of us who fit that description), to stop two young, urban black men from selling heroin and cocaine in the campground. Since the person expressing this problem to me was a young white male (and I was in Missouri, where confederate flags fly all over the damn place) I wasn’t particularly alarmed by the request.
It also wasn’t my role to interdict anyway, since we had paid for a security company to come in from Kansas City to do that (and they were a huge part of the problem as well—what a goon squad of former collegiate and professional football players bent on shaking down the clientele and selling the drugs and alcohol back to them at night), but I drove over to see how obvious the two sellers were. I found them, more obvious than they needed to be, mentioned that if I was getting a complaint, then others were as well, and that maybe they needed to either leave or close up their enterprise. They were quite nice about it, and relatively soft spoken (though I later learned they were popped by the security boys, who swore that the two were East St Louis gang-bangers yada yada), and agreed to lay low. But that wasn’t the real problem.
That they were selling heroin and cocaine (and mollys) at a rather remote rural music festival represented the existence of a market among our nation’s youth, and one that was already becoming prevalent and costly. There had been some OD’s and deaths at music festivals this summer from mixing of opiates and other pharmacology. Not more than three hours after I had talked to these two, a young white woman was found unconscious in the river.
She responded to anti-OD drug therapy, and was revived; she was also subsequently arrested. In trying to discern her identity, it was discovered that her backpack contained more than an ounce of high grade black-tar heroin, a large supply of small zip-lock baggies, a digital scale, and nearly $2000 in cash. Forsaking the rule of all dealers, she was obviously strung-out on her own inventory, and had seriously misjudged the quality. And she was not the only one; two other OD’s occurred, both white males, both in their early 20’s. The only obvious junkies I observed all weekend were young, white, apparently affluent youth, male and female. It was clearly apparent to me that the two, urban-street, black males were at a competitive disadvantage in this downer market space; it belonged to the white “hippy” kids.
Yet, the other end of the curve was just as amazing and exhilarating. Following the Saturday night main-stage set and a day of great performances by musical legends, the owner of this wonderful site led a large contingent of drummers in a quite well performed drum circle gathering.
This took place next to a huge bonfire and was graced by three stunning women (two from Africa) who led those willing in the most inspiring of tribal dances. The joy and wonder that was on the faces, and in the minds, of the four or five hundred people assembled was awesome. It was a rare and beautiful moment, rich in connections to all of our primitive tribal roots, no matter our genetic heritages, and to have had that moment over the weekend was a thrill and high for me.
Or consider that members of bands, who had traveled all over the world over many years, were awe struck by the reception they received in this very out of the way, lost in the Ozarks, world. The trumpet player of the Wailers, wandering around in the throng being thanked by folks for coming to their world and playing for them, smiling hugely as he walked along the banks of the beautiful river late at night to discover the film theater. Del McCoury and his band, a decidedly classical bluegrass group, enjoying the reception they received from people who were dancing at the rave scene, a contretemps moment made whole by the discovery that a world-renowned DJ could quickly mix some of Del’s music right into the trance-zen-house flow he had going. Not often do you get that sort of awareness and shared acknowledgment in this business along the backroads of Amurka.
I was also mesmerized by the Kaivalya Hoop Dancers from Boulder, Colorado; a group we had brought in to teach basic and advanced modern hoop dancing (up to but not including fire hoop dancing). To watch three or four classic farm kids, males and females, learn to dance quite skillfully with mylar-lasered, day-glo & glittered, large dance hoops (new style hula-hoops) over the course of the weekend was really special. Even the more athletic types, two swimmers from the University of Missouri, got into the serious dance study, and ended up buying hoops to travel with over the course of the next swim season. It is the little moments and promise of things to happen in the future that made the weekend great.
Responses to “Summer tour impressions, continued.”