THE RAINBOW GATHERING
The rain was on and off in the morning, giving the day a lazy start. I remembered one of the announcements at the main circle was that Bear Necessities was doing all you can eat pancakes from 10-2, and by the sound of it, they were getting it in gear. As I was laying in my tent, gathering up the will to move, I heard the rustling of footsteps nearby. They got closer and closer, then came a man's voice, "here's a good spot! Oh shit, never mind, there's a tent here. Damn, almost got lucky!" and then the footsteps faded away. So much for my top notch security bushes...
On my way to the kitchen I came across a guy carrying a stick over his shoulder with a plastic bag tied to the end of it. "Hey, you, with the face! You got pockets? Good! Gimme your pocket-trash! I need your pocket-trash, I need your pocket-hash, I need your pocket-stash!" He looked like one of those classic runaway-from-home kids from the old movies and cartoons, only instead of his belongings being in the bag, it was trash. I felt through my pockets, finding some pieces of paper I'd picked up off the trail, and handed them over. "I knew you were a good hippie! Keep our trails clean brother!" He threw the pieces of paper in his trash bag, and went down the trail, screaming, "POCKET-TRASH! I NEED YOUR POCKET-TRASH, I NEED YOUR POCKET-HASH, GIMME YOUR POCKET-STASH!! HEY, YOU, GIMME YOUR POCKETS!!"
POCKET-TRASH - Trash picked up in the woods, and carried in pockets until such a time as it can be properly disposed of.
There was a reason the pancakes were all you can eat at Bear Necessities. They should've said all you can bear to eat (get it? "bear?" Don't worry, I'll enjoy that one myself). They weren't bad, I just didn't go running up for my third plate. Not that I could make them any better. I wasn't complaining though, I was, after all, eating freshly made pancakes in the middle of the woods. When serving them, Baloo would say, "we don't do one. It's two for a dollar, and three for free!" So you inevitably got three pancakes at a time. If you had bliss with you, you could get what they called "simple serve syrup." I'd never heard of it, so I'm not sure if it's a thing, but it's like a watered down version of syrup. I suspect it may in fact be watered down syrup... If you didn't have bliss, you'd have to eat them dry, because the simple serve syrup would get everywhere otherwise, and attract bees.
As I finished up my second round of pancakes, I saw Happy walking around. I'd decided to try and get a ride into town soon, since it'd been over a week since I'd checked in with family to let them know I'm still alive. I told Happy if he heard of anyone going into town, to let me know, hopefully I could hitch a ride. As chance would have it, he was heading in himself, to refill the kitchen's water supply, and was happy to take me along. I helped him gather up all of the empty jugs, and loaded them into his RV, making sure to bring my empties along as well. We loaded up and headed out. As we rolled through Front Gate, he stopped and pulled out a tall can of beer as he rolled down his window. He handed the beer to a guy named Mouse, who was wearing a leather vest covered in patches, a folded up cowboy hat, and less teeth than he had fingers. He seemed thrilled to see Happy, but even more so when he got the beer. "Greasing the wheels," Happy said to me as we left. A couple of mobster movies popped into my head at that point.
I was a little disappointed to see we weren't actually rolling into town. We had gone less than 5 miles up the road, and stopped at a convenience store. Happy stopped the RV at the hose, and went in to ask permission to use it. I helped him hook up the hose and his filter, which he used to fill up his RV first. He instructed me how to tell when it was full so I could turn the tap off in time, while he did something inside the RV. After filling it up, I pulled out all of the empty containers including my own, and filled them up. "Remember, 'don't touch the thing to the thing,' that's the rainbow way," he reminded me. I recalled a couple of kitchens had said the same thing while serving food. You don't touch the serving spoon to the bliss, or the bliss to the food pot, or anything of the sort, thereby preventing the spread of germs. "Don't touch the thing to the thing." Got it. I took the opportunity with the hose to wipe my dirt shoes off. Happy saw me, thought it was a good idea, and had himself a full-on shower with it.
Once we were done filling up, we went into the store, where Happy got some fruit, an assortment of nuts, and a few more cans of beer. "I don't drink, I give them all to Front Gate. That way they don't give me a hard time. 'Grease the wheels.'" I looked around the store, but nothing really grabbed my attention. When I looked at the price of the fruit and thought them to be too expensive, I came to the realization that I hadn't spent any money the whole week I was in the woods. I'd been eating decently well, especially when main circle happened, and hadn't spent a penny. This must be why the gathering attracts so many of the rougher sort. If you played your cards right, you could probably follow the gatherings around the country and live well enough. If you were a local, and the gathering came to town, you'd be hard pressed not to go and take advantage of the opportunity.
I didn't get the opportunity to contact the family, there was no wifi where we were. When Happy was filling up the gas tank he told me his RV only gets 6 miles to the gallon, and that all these water runs were putting a dent in his funds. I didn't feel it right to ask to go farther into town at that point, so we went back into the woods. Maybe I should've bought some food or something. We stopped at Front Gate again, and Happy handed another beer over to his buddy Mouse, and as they were chatting, another guy came up to my window on the passenger side. His name was Trevor, and just like Mouse, he was wearing a leather vest covered in patches. He was only missing one or two teeth, but had a swollen black eye. As I looked around I noticed several more people had black eyes. I really hoped I wasn't about to get a black eye. We chatted idly about where we'd gone, what we were doing, and I complimented him on one of his patches. It was a patch of a skeleton hand giving the middle finger. "Yep, it's just showin' love to everyone all day." It seemed that, at Front Gate, saying "fuck you!" and giving the middle finger was their way of saying "I love you!" as well as punching each other in the eye.
Back at camp, I was relieved to have my water filled up again. I'd been filling up my camel pack at different kitchens as much as I could while not being greedy, so having my own supply gave me comfort. Now that I had a decent source for hydration, I decided to clear out a larger area for my camp, moving farther away from the trail. I cleared out a curved trail around some trees, through some bushes, and when I came up on a young twisted oak tree, I decided it would make a nice entryway to my camp. I cleared out an area bigger than my wagon and tent so I'd have a decent amount of room, and set up camp. Once my tent was up and I was satisfied, I heard Happy wrestling with a tarp nearby. His camp had been just up the trail from mine, but I hadn't realized we were within earshot of each other. I went over to see if he needed a hand.
As I helped Happy set up his other tarp, I happened to mention one of my drawings. He was intrigued. He told me he'd been looking for someone to paint the side of his RV. He wanted to depict his travels in murals. He asked me if I'd be willing to do it. I told him I'd be willing to try, but I had no paints that would work on a vehicle, only water colors. He assured me we could "manifest" paint. Manifestation was a big thing out at the rainbow gathering. People never "prayed" something would happen, they wouldn't "hope" for things they needed, rather they would "manifest" them. "Alright kids, we need to manifest as many tarps as we can for the kitchen," I remembered Baloo saying one day. I remembered Cafe Manifesto which I'd seen on the road. Manifestation was a big thing out there.
I started to head over to Bangerang and Launch Pad to get some dinner, but halfway down there I was stopped by a redheaded guy and a brunette girl who were heading in the opposite direction. His name was Ohbytheway and hers was Zoe. They told me they were heading to the new site for main circle, and asked if I wanted to join them. I mentioned that main circle had been the previous night, and that I was sorry to disappoint them. Ohbytheway gave me a funny look and smiled, "main circle is every night of the gatherin', brother." I looked at him with a clearly surprised look on my face, since he started laughing. "C'mon brother, we'll take you there." Main circle had been moved from Bear Necessities to the place I'd found when I went exploring early on, with the four massive logs set around a large fire pit. I came to find that this was the site for council circles, where the council members would meet to make decisions for the gathering. It all sounded pretty mystical.
We waited around the fire pit, while a few people worked on getting the fire started. We yelled "CIIIIIRCCLLLLLLE!!" a few times every 10 minutes or so, and more people kept showing up. There were more than the previous night. We all held hands, and spread the circle out so everyone could fit. The announcements were pretty much the same, only a little harder to hear, since the circle had spread farther so much farther out than the last one.
"Bury your shit!"
"Bury your neighbor's shit!"
"Bury your dog shit!"
"Everybody wants everyone's everything! Have you given your all today?"
After the announcements, the ohm started. It carried through the air serenely, drowning out the sounds of the forest. Then came, "mamas and babies to the center, get fed first!" as the kitchens did their rounds as Overboard came around the circle with the magic hat for donations. I'd never had so much fun trying to guess what I was eating. I'm not sure I've ever really had to guess before. It really challenged my preconceived notions of what I liked and didn't like. Every now and then I'd find I'd been chewing on an olive, and despite my thorough dislike of them, they weren't so bad when I didn't know I was about to eat one. My cold salad mixed with my hot rice, and my noodles had all kinds of vegetables I couldn't entirely distinguish. I did my best to ask which kitchen was which as they were serving so I could thank them accordingly. After a hearty dinner, which didn't get a chance to come around a second time due to the increased number of mouths to feed, the drums broke out at the fire.
I found out that many people here didn't like or want or allow their pictures to be taken for a multitude of reasons, so I refrained from taking as many as I would have liked. I did my best to stay awake as long as I could, but after all the clearing I'd done at my camp, and especially after the hearty meal, my eyes were closing involuntarily. I decided to head back to camp, and as I was leaving, I heard one person yell, "NIGHTBALL!!" I looked up and saw the moon was shining as brightly as it had the previous night, only with a little corner of it missing this time. I heard a few other people following suit, with "NIIIIGHTBALL!!" and "NIGHT...BAAAAALLLL!!!" and "NNNNNIGHTBALL!!" before they were out of earshot. I made it back to my tent, which was still safe, intact, and untouched, and lay down for the night. I had a nagging itch in my armpit, which I'd thought was just a mosquito bite, but when I turned the flash light on it, I saw it was a tick, with its head buried in my flesh. I pulled out the tweezers from my pack, having had some experience with these, and did my best to pull it off without tearing out any hairs, or losing its head in my skin. I removed it, killed it, cursed it for having found such a tender part, and immediately passed out.
It rained most of the day, so I took a lazy day in my tent. The sounds of the pitter patter on my tarp were soothing and very relaxing, and the cool air kept it nice inside the tent. I took the opportunity to check for any other rogue ticks after finding one the previous night, and was pleasantly relieved to make no new discoveries. I entertained myself by drawing and taking regular naps throughout the day. I worked on Happy's RV drawing, a layout to see if he and I were on the same page about how it should look, and a couple of other doodles of my own. I heard a few people around my camp working on gathering fire wood and logs for building. It was a well needed day of relaxation.
On my way to main circle I found a unique looking piece of wood. It had twisted ripples that came to a point, and one side jutted out. It looked like the makings of a decent dragon head, so I picked it up and took it with me. I came to find out it was called something like "lighter knot," and it had something to do with where a branch came out of a certain type of tree. I didn't really care, I just wanted something to do with my hands while it was dark and we waited for main circle. I whittled. I'd never whittled before, so it was an interesting undertaking. It was slow, it was rough, and it was messy, but it passed the time. It didn't look good, but it was entertaining, and it was something I could do by campfire light. It was something to keep my hands busy while the drummers played, and people danced. It was a good excuse to stay silent, focused, but still listening to my surroundings.
Main circle had even more people this time, and double the amount of kitchens showed up. Overboard happened to be nearby when he was looking for a hat to use as the magic hat, and asked if he could use mine. So my hat was magic for the night, and was used to gather funds to feed the family. I felt an odd twinge of pride for no good reason. The fire twirling after dinner was particularly good this night. On top of the regular poi and fire hula hoop, someone had brought a bo staff. Even more impressive though, was the person who had a different style of poi. His were not balls that were set on fire, but rather chainmail bags with something inside that burned little glowing flakes. The bags released these little flakes as they were spun around, giving off a magical display of firefly type fire flakes floating around. The real treat was when he'd hit the ground with them, and sent up a huge flurry of them that would dance their way up in the air. The drumming had taken on a much more intense beat that night.
I met a few people in the dark like Sonny Boy, Steven, and Miguel. I knew Knot and Bo from Bear Necessities. We chatted for a while, watching the fire dancing, listening to the drums. When the crowd started to die down around the fire, we retreated to the Bear Necessities bliss fire. Once we got there, Miguel asked my name again, and when I introduced myself as DragonWagon, he seemed thrilled to meet me. "I was hoping I'd get to meet you out here, I've been reading up on your blog!" I had to admit I didn't expect anyone to actually read it when I'd posted it to the rainbow Facebook page, much less have anyone want to meet me. "Yea, everybody knows about you," Knot chimed in. I hadn't realized Knot knew anything about it, he'd never mentioned it before. We quietly shared a few stories of our travels, while sitting around the fire. I could hear the sounds of drumming and people whooping in the distance as I headed to sleep for the night.
I made up my mind to get a ride into town so I could contact my family to let them know I was still alive. 10 days was quite enough of a stretch of radio silence, and I didn't want my parents to send out a search party into the woods. I was ready to eat as soon as I got up, so I walked over to Bear Necessities for some all you can eat pancakes. When I got there, there was little activity, it seemed like the kitchen hadn't quite revved up yet. I waited around for about an hour and a half, but no pancakes were getting made. So much for pancakes every day. I walked down to Launch Pad, and on the found a new kitchen was setting up. Hippie Hill Kitchen or HHK had been setting up just down the trail from Bear Necessities. They were setting up their bliss rail as I walked past, which they were making out of curved branches, so it made a quarter circle. They were really proud they'd managed to find branches that matched in radius to accomplish such a unique bliss rail. There was a girl in the kitchen adding decorations to a branch of her own, "doesn't it look like a phoenix?" It did indeed resemble the head of a bird, with a neck twisting upward.
Bangerang was closed as usual, still being too early for them. When I made it to Launch Pad, they were just about to finish cooking breakfast. I met a guy named Bubbles, and an older lady named Mama Love. I was astounded by the amount of respect the elders garnered out in the woods. Everyone would offer to help, they were brought to the front of lines, served first, and were treated as wise old folk. When elders spoke, people would shut up and listen. The fact that I was surprised by this had me questioning what my previous experiences had been like with the elder. I was used to people dismissing the elderly, ignoring their advice, not listening to what they had to say. I think part of this has to do with the fact that the technology of the world has made older folk seem unknowledgeable in some ways, so they are presumed to be unreliable. If you can't easily handle a touch screen, access the internet, or easily spew off something from Facebook, you are presumed to be unwise. Maybe that's just my take on it. Out in the woods, however, experience ruled. Those who had been around longer knew more of how things could be done well. They could sit back and advise people on how they'd done it in their day, and how it'd failed or succeeded.
Breakfast was ready, so I made sure to wait a little while before getting in line. I wasn't about to get yelled at for not ladies the mamas get fed first. I got in line once it seemed well established, and patiently awaited my turn to eat. While waiting I heard someone behind me, "hey, DragonWagon, right?" I looked back to find Smiley smiling at me. I commended him for remembering my name, "yea, you still gotta show me your wagon some day, I'd like to see it." I assured him I would, most likely when we were heading out after the gathering. We got our food, and he went off down the trail.
I sat down by the kitchen to eat. As I was enjoying my breakfast, I caught a whiff of soap in the air. I look over to see a cute girl sitting near me, with fresh clothes, clean hair, unspoiled shoes. She was eating her breakfast, and seemed just slightly out of place sitting in the dirt. I asked her if this was her first gathering, to which she said it was. She seemed surprised when I told her it was my first as well. I guess I was starting to blend in really well, or maybe I just looked really dirty. She said her name was Amanda, and started talking about leaving the world behind, that she'd been researching the rainbow gatherings for some time, and thought it to be a more natural way to live. It seemed she was in it for the long haul. Mama Rocket's toddler made his way over to her with a bottle of water and a plate of food. He offered her some extra food, then proceeded to try and feed her with his fork. She was delighted by the interaction, and exclaimed what a smart toddler he was. He must have been about two years old. He would feed her, then eat some himself, then feed her again. He proceeded to fill her bowl with his water bottle, and she drank some of it, and he drank the rest. He then took her water bottle, and overfilled the bowl. She laughed, not minding the waste of water, and attempted to pour some of the water back into the bottle. She kept exclaiming how intelligent he was for his age, how tactile his movements were, and how considerate he was. When I finished my breakfast, I got ready to go, and told Amanda I hoped to see her at main circle that night. With that I was off.
I walked out to Front Gate, figuring that if I was going to get a ride, I'd have better chance out there. It was, after all, the one way to get out of the gathering. I walked the mile and a half to get out there, only seeing a couple of cars roll by, all full with hippies in every seat. I figured it might take a while for someone to ride with. As I approached Front Gate, I could hear some excited shouting and cheering. When they came into view, I saw Mouse wrestling with some guy I hadn't met. When I got closer I realized that the one guy was trying to put a pink blanket around Mouse's shoulders, trying to make him wear it as a cape. It was an aggressive scuffle out in the middle of the road, Mouse seemed hell bent on not wearing it. The other guy was laughing, as were the people surrounding them, all clearly excessively drunk. There were more black eyes than the last time I'd been out here with Happy. It seemed there were few people who didn't have at least one black eye. One of the guys in the crowd stepped in to hold Mouse down, while the guy who was wrestling with him took the opportunity to put the pink blanket on him. There was an uproarious cheer from the crowd as he managed it. Mouse tore off his cape as soon as he was released, threw it to the ground and stomped on it a couple of times. The crowd dispersed with some excited chatter and laughter, and people went back to drinking.
One of the people in the crowd saw me and walked over. It was Travis whom I'd met on my way in with Happy. He was still wearing his patched vest, but his black eye's severity had lessened. I greeted him by name, which he seemed surprised I knew. His demeanor seemed to have changed as soon as I said his name, his shoulders had dropped, and he began to smile, asking what I was doing out there. I mentioned I was hoping to catch a ride into town, and he said there was already someone else who'd been waiting for one as well. He asked what I needed to go in for, so I mentioned I was just hoping to get into some free wifi to contact my family. "Oh, you need to get on Facebook or somethin'? Here, use my phone." He handed me his cell phone, to my complete astonishment. I thanked him profusely, as I logged in and sent a quick message out. I let my family know that I was on a borrowed phone, so I was just sending out a message, I was still alive, doing well, that I'd made it okay to the woods, and that I loved them. I thanked him again when I handed the phone back, and made my way back to camp. I didn't really want to stick around too long, lest I come out with my own black eye.
Back at my camp, I decided to sit outside the tent and draw for a while. I tried sitting down on some palm fronds I'd cut down, but spent more time brushing off ticks than drawing. They would crawl up under my pant legs, but I would feel them until they were past my knees, resulting in a periodically awkward jumping and flailing to get them off. Ticks are apparently very stubborn creatures when they think they are about to be flicked off. They curl up their little legs and hunker down, making it very difficult to remove them, even when they haven't bitten into flesh yet. I concluded, after jumping up the fourth or fifth time in 10 minutes, that it was pointless. I gave up on sitting and drawing, and decided it would be a better use of time to make a new shitter, just in case the situation arose. I cleared out a trail away from my camp, into some thicker bushes, turned a corner with it, and cleared out an area. I dug a new small trench in the dirt by the time the sun was beginning to set. It was almost time for main circle.
I gathered up my bliss and the lighter knot I was whittling, and made my way to the main council area, where main circle was again being held. There were less people there that night, and it seemed fewer kitchens had cooked. I whittled by campfire light while we waited for people to show up. When there seemed to be no more coming, we formed the circle, heard the announcements, ohmed, then ate. There were no fire dancers that night, unless they'd shown up much later. I'd left pretty early in the night. I decided to go see what was going on at other places, and found my way to Shut Up and Grow it.
They were serving some delicious pasta which actually had some sort of meat in it. It may have been some hot dogs, but it was the first meat I'd had in a while, so I was more than happy to eat it. I joined the people at the bliss fire by the kitchen. They'd dug out a decently sized pit for their fire, and even had a beat up couch next to it. There was a middle aged couple sitting on the couch, with their kids running around the fire. There were a few more people scattered around the fire. I sat on an empty spot by the fire, and ate my pasta. The kids were running back and forth from the kitchen to the fire, bringing back whatever cardboard boxes and scraps they could find to feed the flames. They seemed to be less than 10 years old, but were very adamant that they knew everything about fire, how to start one and keep it going. They were certain that adding as much cardboard as possible was the way to go. When they added a few too many boxes into the flames, we were all forced to draw away from the fire pit due to the sudden bursts of heat. The kids were really proud of their accomplishments.
On my way back from Shut Up and Grow it, a few people were standing around the trunk of a car. It was dark, so I couldn't make out what they were doing, but as I was walking past, one of the girls said, "show me your butthole!" I have to admit, I was completely taken aback. I don't think I've ever heard those words in that order, much less be asked to do so. "If you don't show me your butthole, then you're probably a cop." I laughed and assured her that I was not a cop, and she said, "that's what a cop would say." I told her I would rather not expose my butthole to such vulnerability, to which she answered, "then you must be a cop. In that case, we're not giving you any cake!" I marveled out loud at the fact that they had cake in the woods. I apologized for disappointing her and her friends, "whatever, can I get a hug, then?" That I could do. We hugged it out, and I told them to enjoy their cake as I continued on my way. This was, by far, one of the odder encounters I'd had.
On the way I saw about seven sheriff cars patrolling the dirt roads. The echoes of "6 UP!!" were constantly being repeated across the trails. I made it back to the Bear Necessities Kitchen, and began to whittle by the fire. There were several people just casually sitting and laying around the fire, with a couple of guitar players taking turns playing. The crowd was very appreciative of the music. Every time one of them would finish a song, people would thank him for playing. I realized that was something I hadn't really seen much of in my life. Appreciation for the musician. Maybe I've been so oversaturated with music that is perfectly recorded and instantly available that I forget to appreciate the efforts of the actual musician behind it. Live music has always turned into something happening in the background at a bar or a restaurant, but out here it was important. There weren't any radios or speakers in the woods, only the efforts of the people sitting in front of me, and they were flawed, which made me appreciate it even more. Hearing them make mistakes reminded me of the difficulty of their skills. Watching them stumble and continue on showed me their determination and strength of character. I felt a little silly when I came to understand that if they hadn't brought their guitars and mustered the courage to play them in public, running the risk of witnessed failure, we'd have no music by the fire in the middle of the night, in the middle of the woods. The music attracted more people over, just as much as the light and warmth of the fire did. No one seemed to really be talking. Most people's eyes were affixed on the flickering flames. Others had their eyes closed. A couple watched the guitarists' hands. I whittled. We were all just there. There was some unspoken sense of community among strangers. I'd met two or three of the people around the fire, the rest were completely unknown to me, but there we all were, sharing the same fire, listening to the same music, living the same moment.
The morning started with picking a tick off my waist line. This new camp site seemed to be filled with them. It was a hot morning, and I didn't feel much like going anywhere just yet. I stayed in my tent, in the shade of the tarp, with the tent door wide open. I decided to work on Happy's Chariot to pass the time. It was a battle to find comfort over time while working in the cramped space allowed by my one-man tent. When I got the design done, I tracked down Happy to show him. I found him in his hammock, and he really seemed to like it. We threw some ideas back and forth, and I got a better idea of what he wanted. He mentioned he'd be going in to town later, and I asked to ride along. He told me it'd be fine, but he was waiting on Tim to show up in order to go. I decided I'd kill some time by getting some food.
I walked down to Launch Pad Kitchen, and noticed many more cars and RV's parked out on the road. This place was getting filled up quickly now. I made it to the kitchen, but they weren't serving. I checked Bangarang, knowing they wouldn't even be awake anytime soon, and found that I was right. I walked back to Happy's camp to check if Tim had shown up yet, but he hadn't. I went back to my camp to sit down and draw, but the ticks were especially swarming by that time. I couldn't sit for more than 20 seconds without at least three of them trying to crawl up my legs. After some time, I went back to check on Happy, but Tim still hadn't arrived. The Cosmic Wonder seemed to be quite unreliable. It was getting to be late in the afternoon, more than 4 hours later than Happy had planned on leaving, and he was done waiting. He decided we'd head out without him.
It was a quick trip into town to gas up the RV and get some groceries. We stopped at Walmart, where I got some cheap acrylic paints and brushes so I could paint the outside of the RV. To keep it cheap I only got red, yellow, blue, black and white paints. It would make an interesting challenge to have to mix all the colors I'd need. On the way back to the woods, Happy was telling me about his travels, as I navigated for him. He'd been on the road for a few months, riding alone, until he picked Tim up in Gainesville on his way to Ocala. Happy called Tim his "road dog." They'd apparently agreed on an arrangement where Happy would drive, and Tim would finance the trip. It seemed the Cosmic Wonder got some sort of disability pay, and would use it to fund Happy's travels as long as he were allowed to ride along. Happy seemed pleased with the financial backing, but was struggling with Tim's characteristics. He was unstable, erratic, argumentative, unreliable, and seemingly very selfish and inconsiderate. When we stopped at a red light, Happy turned to me, and asked me if I'd like to come along. He told me I would make a great navigator, and that I seemed like a cool and chill guy to balance out the Cosmic Wonder's crazy. He wanted to travel the Rainbow Road, going from gathering to gathering. Ocala was one of the regional gatherings, and there were two happening every month in different parts of the country, until the yearly national gathering happened, and then the international one. He explained that if he timed it right, he could travel around with it for at least a year, and with Tim's financing, he'd have no troubles.
ROAD DOG - 1. a friend one travels with. 2. an actual dog one travels with.
I had to think about it for a bit. This was a scary invitation. One the one hand, of all the people I'd met at the gathering, Happy seemed to be the most level headed and trustworthy. On the other hand, Tim was not. This would mean getting in a vehicle, and living in close quarters with both of them, possibly over long periods of time. This would mean, somehow, fitting all of my belongings into an RV where they would be easily accessible by them. This would mean trusting strangers. Then again, it would be an adventure. It would be an easier form of travel. It would be more experiences I'd not had. It would open up more doors than I'd had, and if Tim really was willing to finance the whole trip, it would be an affordable way to travel. The Rainbow Gathering had allowed me to live for almost two weeks spending a minimal amount of money, and eating well. There had been shady characters along the way, but avoiding the wrong ones seemed to be working out alright. I'd heard enough times that the Ocala Regional Rainbow Gathering had a bad reputation, and was not necessarily indicative of what a Rainbow Gathering could be, so experiencing another one could be a better experience. I decided to tell Happy I'd think on it a while.
As we returned to the woods we noticed there was a noticeable increase in the amount of cars parked in the road. They were starting to stretch as far as we could see, parked bumper to bumper, but luckily still not making it out as far as where we were settled. On the way in Happy stopped to talk to a guy named 6-8, presumably named so because he seemed to be 6'-8" tall. He was quite drunk, his speech was slurred, and I was quite impressed he managed to stumble the few feet towards the RV. He asked Happy if he had any beer he could have. Happy asked me to go in the back and bring out one of the tall cans he'd just purchased. Once 6-8 was appeased, we continued on. Happy explained that 6-8 was one of the people who helped him out when he had some trouble in his original camping spot. Apparently there was a group of people who let their aggro dog run loose on the road, and caused some trouble for Happy. I can only speculate how 6-8 helped the situation.
I missed main circle that night, but didn't mind so much because it was so cold out. I was used to my old flip flops keeping my feet somewhat warm since they were shaped exactly to the form of my feet. These new flip flops were stiff and slick, allowing cold air to flow under the bottoms of my feet. I hung around the fire by Bear Necessities, whittling by the flickering fire light. At one point Happy was in the kitchen, announcing that he'd brought ice cream and cones. "FREE ICE CREAM IN THE WOODS!!!" was repeated a couple of times until it was all gone. That night, as I was lying down to sleep in my tent, I heard the echoes from distant groups shouting, "WE LOOOOVE YOUUUUUUUUU!!!" I picked another tick from the back of my leg, and went to sleep.