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Boats and buddha

One of the things that piss me off about this country is that whenever a group of people gathers to express an opinion, a dozen other groups show up to tell them how wrong they are. Such was the case at Hempfest, the US’s largest confluence of stoners and lay-abouts since Woodstock. Scattered among the lofted signs of “Legalize it!!” and “Vote yes on I-75!!”, were directions to “Repent!” and “Fear God!”, like ball bearings in the gumball machine. The former were born by tie-dyed freedom-lovers with fake pot-leaf leis around their necks, the latter by buttoned-down evangelists trying hard not to look scared. Even worse was the 40-foot sailboat cruising slowly up and down the waterfront, their sail emblazoned with “GOD MADE ADAM AND EVE, NOT ADAM AND STEVE.” For a group of people supposedly spreading love and forgiveness across the world, they seem to rely pretty heavily on fear and hate. It’s Christians like that who give the rest a bad name, who do more harm than good, and who make people like me hesitant to reveal our own faith lest we be associated with them.

Hypocrisy and intolerance notwithstanding, Hempfest was a lot of fun. Marta, Kelly and I made the mistake of driving to Myrtle Edwards Park, forgetting how hard it is to find parking in our part of the world. We ate a package of smoked salmon that Erin gave me in the car, and somehow I ended up spilling the juice from it all over my lap. When I moved the CD case and noticed, I groaned and said, “say hello to salmon crotch,” then was mystified by Kelly’s unstoppable laughter. I can never tell when people are going to think I’m funny until it’s too late.

The park was fenced off except at one end, to control the traffic and make searches by authority figures more expedient. I don’t know why they bothered – I could have been concealing upwards of a half-pound of weed underneath my tee shirt, and no one stopped me. And of course, the marijuana made it in despite their lip service to prohibition. Not far past the police stations, all manner of new-age hippies smoked out of every device imaginable in broad daylight; beautiful hand-blown bongs and glass pipes glistened like treasure underneath their price tags; the red-eyed crowd giggled and munched from booth to booth, carefree and unconcerned about the men in blue. We didn’t bring any money into the event for fear of our own materialistic tendencies, and so we could but ogle the rows of wares peddled by dreadlocked vendors. Fortunately, this made for an entertaining afternoon, even for the non-stoned. One store specialized in wooden frogs that croaked when you ran a dowel up and down the length of their spine; Marta found a tent that stocks apparel and accessories for the modern belly dancer; Kelly actually bought some hippy-clothing in one of the few boutiques that accepted anything but cash. I browsed, but decided that the style wasn’t my own.

Slipping between tents, down to the waterfront, we made up for the lack of water fountains (no cash meant no water, sadly) by taking a quick swim in the Sound. While we were basking on the rocks, all our worldly possessions drying a few yards closer to the waterline, we made conversation with some stoners who’d gone swimming right before us. One of them had forgotten the pipe and baggy in his pocket and lost them to the waves, and so they were pretty bummed out. As enterprising as any stoner you’ll meet, the trio of teens had hitchhiked to the festival from Olympia, and were unused to seeing the Sound rather than the Pacific. “How big do the waves get?” they asked. Right as I opened my mouth to enlighten them, a big swell from a passing barge pushed its way over the low rocks and swirled among our stuff. We scrambled down to retrieve it, and luckily nothing electronic got wet enough to cause permanent damage. The worst loss was Kelly’s cast, which she removed before swimming. Never mind the fact that the cast should have stopped her from entering the water in the first place – Kelly has never been one to let something like medical advice stand in the way of her good time.

Yesterday we added Chris Baker, Jacob, and Ryan to the group and journeyed to Magnusson Park. I hadn’t seen Ryan in almost a year, since living together in the dorms. Back then we all called him “The Admiral,” because his posture and attitude reminded us of an officer on the high seas. Fittingly enough, he brought a toy boat with him, which he piloted from the shore in a beeline towards Kelly, Marta and I as we floated on Kelly’s day-glo air mattresses. We had just run out of beer, and an air mattress on a sunny lake without a beer to accompany it is like a sweet guitar lick without a bass line.

I swam back to the shore for more beer, taking Kelly’s Nalgene bottle with me. As the boat’s whirring motor sped it away from me, I figured I would take a shot at it for fun with the hefty water bottle – there was no question in my mind that I would miss the tiny target, forty or so feet away. Of course I struck the boat dead-on, knocking off a plastic piece and causing Ryan to yell “You sunk my battleship!” I dove to retrieve the missing plastic, then swam back to shore with bottle and toy-part in hand. Marta and Kelly were still waiting expectantly for me to bring beer out to them, but the alcohol blended with my engineering training in a moment of purest inspiration. I removed the length of chain from Kelly’s keys and ran an end through the uplifted tabs of two 16-ouncers, then tied that with a piece of shoelace to the back of the boat. As Ryan and I carried our beer-delivery solution to the water, beach dwellers looked on in envy and laughed. The boat moved slowly, burdened as it was by over three pounds of cargo, but in the end delivered its malted payload without a hitch. As it drove away from the air mattresses, we waved “bon voyage”, as if the deck were crowded with tiny people, each of them waving back and feeling proud of a job well done.

Posted in Musings.

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