Up and down the I-5 I go. Passing fields of sunflowers and strange scrap metal sculptures of cows and dragons. (Sorry no sculpture pictures you’ll have to find these for yourself) There IS a picture of a field of sunflowers. Driving slower and starting to recognize familiar evangelical signs and warning for the end of time, I journeyed to my next destination, Camp Tipsy. http://camptipsy.com/ This camp was quite different from the camp I’d be working at later in the summer. That camp is a classic “Moonrise Kingdom” camp. This camp sets up a little tent village on Lake Ladoga in the East Park Reservoir, California makes boat creations. Out of ANYTHING. And OF anything. The boats mainly consisted of wood, barrels, PVC pipe and Styrofoam wrapped in plastic wrap but there were also boats made from trampolines, trash bags, water bottles, milk cartons, tractor wheel inner-tubes, tarps, scrap cloth, car seats, plastic playground slides, roofing tin, netting and an infinite assortment of other materials. Then of course on the last day of the one weekend event, there is a contest with categories such as most likely to float… for a second, most likely to kill the captain, least likely to float, but it does and least effort. There’s a kids division as well as adults. Some of the entries included a canoe with a see-saw built on top, a stage with full drum kit and sound system, a bridge to nowhere, a trampoline/living room and a three seater bicycle peddled Ferris wheel.
I arrived a day before the masses and set up camp on the first hilltop from the main camp. A couple friends from high school in Greenville, Alita and Kelly, had been working to set up the event and so I settled in near them. Alita lives in New Orleans now and Kelly is in San Francisco, but to me they still live in my neighborhood just REALLY far down the street. That evening I took a stroll on the beach. I heard someone say “Get on the boat.” I realized he was talking to me, “Uhh…” was my reply. “Just, get on the boat.” So, I said, “OK.” and hopped on. I then realized I hoped onto the floating Ferris wheel. At first this was an exciting discovery. Then the builders started talking to the about 15 of us who were aboard. “This is a test to see how many people we can have on here, Once we push off everyone be very still. When the Ferris wheel is in motion everyone be even MORE still.” I looked around the boat. Lots of seemingly experienced with sea faring danger folks. I looked at the boat… and this was where I started to get nervous. The structure was almost certainly top heavy. Much taller then it was wide and with a strong, metal, spinning structure. I heard mention that they had considered putting on wooden box floats to extend the sides out more… but hadn’t yet. Basically the next hour of my life consisted on my fear of capsizing paired with the thrill of experiencing this new creation first hand. After a few “tipsy” moments while equally distributing the weight of passengers, Three brave volunteers boarded the peddle seats in a complex balanced system of climbing, buckled up and started to peddle ’round. The giggles were delightful and the wheel turning over our heads in the starlight was magical, until the stars started to tilt sideways and I realized we were a split second reaction to capsizing. I was sitting in the middle of the back and felt in that moment that me and the two campers around me played a key roll in righting the boat again. So much of me wanted to leave the boat. I considered jumping and swimming but the thought of the cold water and my roll in keeping the riders safe kept me on the boat/raft. Pretty soon these riders departed the wheel in another complicated orchestration of climbing. Then a second group ascended the spinning structure. This time Greenville’s own Kelly Galamore among them. There was the same “stone still” request to all aboard. At some point one passenger moved from a standing position to seated and the whole thing started to topple again. The feeling of reaching a point where we all knew that if it went any further there was no turning back was too much. We swayed carefully, slowly and yet with quick reflexes side to side until the danger had mostly passed. Soon after the riders climbed down and my heart started beating at a slightly more normal rate as I no longer feared that the boat would capsize with my friend strapped into the seat. I wondered how deep the water was here and a comment was made that no one was quite sure if we were in deep or shallow water. I wonder which was worse. The next day I noticed that the sides had been extended 4 feet and they whole “ride” had been attached to Chicken’s two story, sound structure, loft boat. It remained there for the rest of the weekend as the crowds grew.
The weekend is orchestrated by a bay area entertainer, curmudgeon and organizer of oddities by the name of, or rather nickname of, Chicken John http://chickenjohn.com/ along with the help of countless volunteers. At night Chicken had booked some wonderful music acts to entertain us. Night one we all gathered ’round with shanty-master Benjamin Wachs to belt out songs of the seas. Night two we danced and dipped to flamenco band Trio Paz http://triopaz.com/. Night three was one I was particularly excited about as old friend Sean Hayes http://www.seanhayesmusic.com/ from my San Francisco House of Love days performed some serous booty shaking tunes with a full ensemble which included lovely lady back up singers, a drum kit, synth organ and a four piece horn section.
The final item of the weekend, I’d like to share was the Camera Obscura built to simulate the one that was once at the Cliff House above Ocean Beach in San Francisco’s 1950’s tourist days http://books.google.com/books?id=S0gEAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA9&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=1#v=onepage&q&f=false. I was honored to get to paint a sign to invite campers to enter the giant walk in camera structure of a series of mirrors reflecting images from outside onto a table adjustable for focus.
There’s certainly more I can say about this weekend. Catch at a show when I return to Greenville in about a month for more stories. I had a great time floating in the lake and now my journey up the I-5 would continue…
Next up: Portland