How to survive the Apocalypse

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Note: there is no BJJ in this. There is a good deal of running about, which I guess counts as exercise.

Cliff’s Notes version: So my trip turned into the Apocalypse.

Although I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to either weather forecasts or to the PSG Facebook group, I had taken note of repeated warnings of mucho rain looming over the week. After my unpleasant experience last year with the rain, I took it seriously. I packed extra garbage bags, an extra slicker, an umbrella, some extra rain-resistant percussion options, and simply left several rain-fearing items at home. We always get one hard rain- so galoshes are a must anyway.

Kitsune (texting from O’Hare Airport): At curb, lower level, by rental car return. Screaming-orange hoodie with fox ears.

Dru (texting) I would expect nothing less.

I started the week off right by fooking up my very first heralding: I announced the coordinators’ meeting at the correct time but the wrong place. I blame my numbers disability. They have numbered workshop areas, and my brain has a really hard time both retaining those and also recalling which is which. And I’m not the only one. Whenever I announce something happening at “workshop site eleven” I get a dozen people stopping me on the road to ask “Where is workshop site eleven?” So I have to either carry a map with me or be forced to reply “Hell if I know.” The latter damages my air of authority, so I have to carry the map. I really need landmarks instead of numbers.

Harry helped me put up the tent, then I had to set up Dru- who is crippled enough that she can do very little physically. Got both tents up before it started raining. Tried a new tarping strategy this year, since we commonly tarp the tent to within an inch of its life and it always leaks anyway. I figured that if it leaked in the first rain, I could take the tarps down and try something else for the following day. I did not unpack much…. clothespinned a few ziplocked items to to the inside tent seams, and left everything else double-trashbagged on the floor. I extracted items on an as-needed basis, and put them back in the trashbags after use. I was planning to retreat with my double-trashbagged sleeping bag to Derek’s trailer if it got really bad.

The next day (Sunday) was load-in day for the non-staff. I was expecting it to rain all day, but it was beautiful. There was mud, of course.

In bygone times, one of the things I have most enjoyed was community drumming before the welcome meeting. It was the first chance to haul the drums out, and it started the meeting (and entire event) on a great vibe. About six years ago, Groove Troop took over and started doing a performance before the welcome meeting. Then for a couple of years, the sound guys were playing canned music. For the most recent couple of years, neither of those happened- but by then, people had been trained out of bringing their drums to the welcome meeting. I really wanted to restart that tradition. I hesitated to ask a bunch of people to haul their drums down, though…. if someone with more pull than I *did* have something planned, we would have hauled them down for nothing, and I would have felt bad. So I just recruited my twin. We picked up Finn and a couple of others as we went. Harry even came down and drummed on the opposite side of my drum, which was cool. It felt so good to do that, and I’m so glad we did it. Especially as it turned out that that was the only time my djembe got to come out at all.

The end of the welcome meeting was rained out.

We did do the opening rit…. I used a plastic tambourine instead of a drum due to on-and-off rain. For some reason, Groove Troop did not take over the drumming when we got to the bonfire circle as they usually do, so we procession drummers were kind of trapped there for a few hours. Which was okay, but I was tired. Lately I have tended to do processions- and sometimes the rits- and then bail.

Finn (proudly wearing his first real kilt… in the traditional manner): “Oh my God! OH my God!” (hopping about like a rabbit on meth) “Don’t spray your legs with bug spray while wearing a kilt!!!!!!!!!”

Bo was already stressing about the Hunt. Our previous space was unusable because the site owners had built some gardening trellises in the clearing. I wasn’t sorry. I never liked that space. The new space consisted of a section of small-treed woods, a dirt road which abutted the Faerie shrine, and two clearings. There was not enough room in either clearing to contain everyone. The finished Hunters would need to have their recovery space in the clearing #2. Not ideal, but I was okay with this. I just wanted to make sure the drummers would be able to see the kills.

One of the things I hadn’t liked about the previous site was that it made most of the hunters’ hunt spaces inaccessible to the villagers and extremely difficult to access by me and Bo. The Faerie shrine road would allow the villagers to see and send energy to the hunters. (It would also infuse a bunch of faerie energy into the rit, which could be good or bad…. this ought to be interesting….) I wandered in the hunt space a while and found lots of poison ivy, stinging nettles, (some of which we could remove), a stream to cross in the dark, and some disturbing waste. I hauled out some rusty barbed wire, sharp-edged metal signs, pieces of a deer blind with nails in it, and marked the site of a piece of rebar post that I would need Derek to help remove. Resolved to go through this area several more times searching for more hazards before we let the hunters go back there. (And wearing long pants. ow. I am very allergic to poison ivy, and I had to actually lie down in the field and roll in the mud when I came out because the nettles felt like acid eating through my shins.)

Found out, to my dismay, that it wasn’t the lightning that had caused Moonfeather and Selena to banish us to the sweat lodge last year. It was mud. They were anxious about liability if someone slipped in the mud in the hunt area. That upset me because I wanted to soldier on (OUTSIDE the sweat lodge) even if it was raining. This news made it much more likely that we might end up in the sweat lodge again even if it wasn’t actively storming… what were the chances of not having mud in the space, when it had already rained a few times and we were expecting more? I really didn’t want to be in the sweat lodge again…. although Chante was not there this year, so if we had to do it, we could and would. I began to push hard for having the hunter spaces in the field along the treeline as an alternative to the sweat lodge. The top of the field was reasonably dry and non-slippery. Bo didn’t like that idea, and I’m afraid I made myself rather obnoxious pushing it repeatedly. The sweat lodge thing just really sucks for the villagers and drummers, and I don’t want to do that ever again unless the ONLY alternative is to cancel altogether.

The Hunt coordinating team spent much of Saturday, Sunday and Monday having multiple meetings and- er- “discussing” our limited options. The threat of having to cancel altogether was hanging over our heads like the Sword Of Damocles. This was very frustrating to me…. but as Bo rightly pointed out, it would only take one really bad injury for Moonfeather and Selena to put an end to the Hunt permanently.

Monday started with rain, and Moonfeather as usual was extremely resistant to the idea of having the morning meeting in the pavilion. She never wants to do that, I don’t know why. Anyway, we had it in bonfire circle, and it rained on and off, finally deluging us near the end and driving everyone back to shelter. I had the doumbek, so did get to participate in the drumming, although it’s not the same without the djembe. (That thing cost over $100 to ship this year- ONE WAY- it’s getting to the point where it will seriously be cheaper to buy a fucking djembe onsite every year and then give it away at the end of the week.)

I had a dance date with Eric on Monday night, but the rain started pounding in earnest in midafternoon and continued to pick up the pace therafter. An emergency staff meeting ensued. The creek was rising. I am camped beside the creek. I was only mildly concerned. The bank was pretty high, and we had gotten hella rained on before without it getting anywhere near high enough to worry me. Some people sounded worried, though…. I had work to do, but I ran back to camp and got my car keys, my twin’s car keys (which she had given me in case I had to retreat to her car), my drivers’ license, credit card, and the itinerary for my return flight. The drums were safe at Herald Camp in Derek’s trailer. I looked around and decided that life would go on if I lost all the rest. Then set off to Herald- which I did for about the next ten hours almost nonstop, running through knee-high mud and pausing now and then to carry bins, haul tents, and push cars out of mud.

It was raining so hard that you almost had to breaststroke to walk. You couldn’t hear someone standing with their lips touching your ear and screaming at you. I did the best I could, and so did Derek and Dru and my underheralds (of which I had only two…. I had already released the one who was half-blind and had a bad hip, deciding that she was unfit to this challenge). But it was the Apocalypse. When the end of the world comes, that’s what it’s going to look like. I was Heralding The Apocalypse.

They started evacuating hundreds of cars out of the flooding back lot. I don’t know how they did it, but we ended up losing only six cars. Dru was too busy heralding to try to go save her car. (Do I know how to pick my co-coordinators or what? This chick takes her job seriously!) Not that she could have saved it anyway, as in her condition it would have taken her until NEXT Friday to get down to the back parking lot. At some point she threw her keys to Dawnwalker, who ran down the road howling, “What does Dru drive? What does Dru drive?” (This is going to be a new chant in Herald Camp next year.) She ended up turning the keys over to Rhonda, who knew no better what Dru drove. Poor Rhonda was reduced to crosstrekking the back lot, stumbling and skidding amongst hundreds of cars in the downpour, clicking desperately at the key fob and waiting for a returning beep. Of course Dru’s car was in the very back row at the far end. When Rhonda finally found it, she actually dragged a tarp over the seat before she got in- being head to toe mud from repeatedy falling in the parking lot. She saved the car and didn’t even get mud on the seats.

We started evacuating the people along the creek. At some point I found myself with an extra few minutes on my hands and decided to see if I could save any more of my belongings. Since almost everything was still sitting in double trashbags, it was the work of only a few minutes to pull down the ziplocs clipped to my tent seams and toss all the stray items into the trashbags. I ended up with four trashbags stuffed with all of my gear and belongings. I hauled two of them to the road, and there was Brian in his golf cart. He took them, and I went back for the others. There were Talon and my twin- they each took a bag and disappeared. All four bags later reappeared in Herald Camp none the worse for wear. I was now a bona fide refugee- fleeing the destroyed remains of my home with all of my worldly possessions in trash bags. I bid a bitter adeiu to the case of Dr Pepper and two cases of Slim Fast sitting beside my tent.

Thank Gods for Finn. He’s Derek’s son, eighteen, young, strong, and he’s desperately in love with me. He was one of my Herald minions for the day, and I ordered him around like a serf- heralding, hauling, fetching, message-carrying, he did everything I asked him to with a cheerful and waterlogged smile.

We moved my twin out, and everyone else along the creek. Then everyone on that side of the pond. The staff brought trucks and carts up and we just flung everyone’s crap into them and hauled ass out of there. The smaller tents, once empty, were being picked up by teams of four- one on each corner- and marched down the road held over their heads.

By the time I got a chance to go back to my campsite for a look-see, it was under two feet of rushing water. The tent was gone. I later found that someone(s) had collapsed it and dragged it up to higher ground- along with (to my embarrassment) a pile of Slim Fast bottles and Dr Pepper cans. People’s cars and entire camps were being washed away, and someone was running around picking up my Dr Pepper cans.

Harry, Finn and my twin went back hours later (without me) to see if anything else could be salvaged, and my twin- since she reads my blog- was able to instantly identify my wreckage by the presence of the Dr Pepper cans piled on the mounds of soggy detritus. To my further dismay and shame, the three of them actually loaded up all those fucking Dr Pepper cans into Dru’s wagon along with the tarps and hauled them back to Herald camp.

Dru got stranded at the pavilion and ended up stuck there for most of the night- triaging the people who had lost their campsites and had nowhere to go, and babysitting for people who were trying to move campsites and needed the sprats out of the way and safe while they did this. Others donated extra tents, bedding, and took orphan campers back to their own camps with them.

Kitsune: “Your son’s been my heroic slave for two days. I may sleep with him after all.”
Derek: “Tell Rhonda that.”
Kitsune: “No.”
Rhonda (shouting from down the road): “Tell me what??!!!??! TELL ME WHAT??????!!!!”

By around midnightish, we had everyone moved who desperately needed to be moved, and all the cars moved that were able to be moved out of harm’s way. It was incredible. This was a campsite of a thousand people. We moved at least 1/3 of the campsites and probably 3/4 of the vehicles. The staff was a well-oiled machine, and everyone was running around helping others before they even thought about their own needs.

A huge live tree fell on a (fortunately unoccupied) camper in the middle of the night and totalled it.

NO ONE WAS KILLED. NO ONE WAS SERIOUSLY INJURED.

Usually our rainstorms at this site have high winds screaming across the pond. If there had been winds thrown in with this storm, people would have died. No question.

If this had been anywhere else, the Red Cross would have been deployed. Maybe the National Guard. We had a thousand people- more than in many small towns. Many of them elderly, disabled, etc.

I have a new respect for the homeless. It’s difficult to keep track of your stuff and stay organized when you are living out of trashbags.

Dru (over staff channel radio): “Are you coming back over here?”
Kitsune: “No. I’m moving in with Harry. I know it’s sudden, but it just seems so right.”

I was fortunate enough to have the choice of moving into Derek’s trailer, my twin’s car, or Harry’s camper. I picked the camper. I love Harry, but I hate living in close proximity to even people I love. Yet, desperate times and all. And I just wanted to put on some dry underwear because I couldn’t remember what that felt like. I spent all of Monday in a sopping purple velvet tank dress with a torn and knotted-together transparent rain poncho over it.

Tuesday morning: Harry helped me hang up six clothelines full of my wet things, then made me scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast. I was dry and felt like I was living in the lap of luxury. As I was about to do the dishes, yet another staff meeting was called.

My thoughts: a lot of people had already flown the coop, and we would probably lose a lot more today. But the ones who stayed were going to have the party of the century. After what we had accomplished over the previous evening and night, I was feeling ten feet tall and raring to do the Hunt. I sidled up to Bo and said, “So, about that edge-of-the-field idea….”

Moonfeather and Selena had different plans. They had decided to shut down the entire event and boot everyone out.

Disbelief. Dismay. Grief. Frustration. Anger. Bitterness. Tears. Arguing. Resignation.

Half the portajohns were in accessible, and the showers were down with no hope of resurrection. If nothing else, the health department would shut us down just for that.

Morning meeting: Just because the universe is perverse in this way, it was a gorgeous sunny morning with butterflies spiralling, birds trilling, and a whole bunch of triumphant, relieved people dancing and singing and laughing because they had survived the Apocalypse.

They told everyone.

Disbelief. Dismay. Grief. Frustration. Anger. Bitterness. Tears. Arguing. Resignation.

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(This is not a photo of a lake. This is a photo of a campground.)

My voice was an aspirated croak- but miraculously, Dru (whose day it was to be in charge of Heralding…. I had been in charge on what was officially the Worst Day Of PSG EVER) had all three minions show up for work, and a couple of extra volunteers besides. I was able to rest my voice for the first half of the day, which was fortunate as there was a buttload of Heralding to do all day long and the next day as well.

We found ourselves pressed into counseling and diplomatic negotiations as well. I was thoroughly cussed out BY NAME down in Rainbow Camp. Knowing emotions were high, I didn’t really take it too personally- but it was a bit wounding to be cussed out BY NAME. I also had to (several times) herald a long list of people whose cars needed to be moved NOW because they were blocking others in. One woman ran up to me bawling her head off. She and her family were packing up as fast as they could, they were traumatized, and because she was on this “naughty list”, she felt as though I was reprimanding her. I had to stop and talk her down.

Zero (going in for a hug)
Kitsune (holding up hand): “I’m really sweaty and smelly.”
Zero (husky whisper): “Good.”

We got a lot of people out that day, but there were just too many- and too many vehicles stuck- to get them all out. Fred had to winch upwards of 100 vehicles out of the mud, one by one.

All of the workshops, riutals, concerts and other programming were cancelled- but every musician on site converged that night to perform a “bardapalooza”- the best part of which was when one would start a song and the rest would join in as best they could, winging it. Wonder of wonders, Eric appeared. So we got our dance date after all.

That night, the people who were left set determinedly to work to dispose of what had been intended as an entire week’s generous supply of alcohol. Between the pavilion and Herald Camp, I was accosted by three separate people weaving along with a bottle in each hand, weedling me to help them finish it off. I got invited to a half dozen Bacchanalias. Harry had to be half-carried home by some buddies. I think Dru and I were the only sober people within a two mile radius.

In the morning, Moonfeather sent me out to herald. The message boiled down to “Get The Fuck Out ASAP”. It was not even 8am, and most of the remaining campers were hung over in bed. I did not use my pot lid and spoon to bang. I did not linger. I yelled and then fled.

I had to help pack up my twin, which was bitter as this is going to be her last PSG for at least a few years- and what a finale! Glad we got that one drumming session in at the welcome meeting.

Kitsune: “I had a dream about you last night.”
Zero: “Are you going to tell me about it?”
Kitsune: “Nope.”

I would like everyone to know that- even after being told that I had just gone through a bona-fide natural disaster- United Airlines raped me an extra $200-plus to change my ticket so that I did not have to spend the next five days sleeping on the floor at O’Hare.

Before the fest, I had actually been pricing camper rentals due to the (now minor-seeming) trauma I had had with the rain last year. They are all of course way out of my budget. When I got home, there was an envelope waiting in my mailbox. It contained an escrow refund check for (what is to me) an eye-popping amount. Normally I would funnel such a thing straight back into the mortgage (If I make only minimum payments, I will be paying that thing well into my eighties), but the timing would seem to be a clue-by-four that I should use this money to rent myself an actual hard-shelled six-sided structure in which to weather PSG next year. So I will. (Even a small cargo trailer would suffice to keep the drums and sleeping bag dry….. and I no longer own a tent!)

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(The sign says “to water”. Just in case you can’t find the water.)

So now I am feeling mostly depressed, with anger edging in. I know this is nobody’s fault, but this is my one vacation of the year- I count on it to fuel myself up for the rest of the year, and it costs me literally thousands of dollars which I can ill afford to flush down the toilet. It was quite an adventure, and a miracle than nobody was seriously hurt, and seeing the way everyone pitched in to help one another was almost enough to restore one’s faith in humanity. But yeah, these next few weeks at least are going to be emotionally tough.

Applying copious “purring cat therapy”.