Isaac was living in Bellingham with his girlfriend. They were about to move back to Seattle together. Then they broke up. Isaac moved back into his RV and headed back to Seattle. Will he be able to remember the plot of his old life and resume it? What do single people do between 4:00 pm and 9:00 pm? When is it safe to start listening to music again instead of NPR and standup comedy? What are society's current hygiene expectations?
I just went on a fun trip and I want to tell you about it.
My longtime friend, former room-mate, and former/future bandmate Jared McSharry proposed a musical camping trip. This doesn't mean we go camping and randomly burst into vibrato-heavy songs about camping. It means we bring instruments out into the wilderness and try to play and write songs while under the influence of nature and freedom and stuff. We get in my RV, Baleen the Big Blue Whale, and take off for Winthrop, WA.
Along the way, Jared reveals a terrible secret. He hasn't actually broken up with his girlfriend. They are trying to work things out.
Work things out? What the hell, man? You're supposed to be sad and lonely with me!
Sometimes my friends are so selfish.
I forgive Jared his lack of unhappiness and we arrive in Winthrop. Winthrop is a simulation of an Old West town. It looks like this:
Usually I find theme towns depressing. I feel like I'm in a movie set, all the residents are actors, and if I slam a door too hard a matte-painting sky is going to fall on my head revealing buzzing fluorescent lights and a table full of stale turkey pesto wraps. But Winthrop surprises me a little. We have breakfast at an "inn" and their biscuits and gravy contain real biscuits and real gravy. They have a coffee shop that serves the kind of coffee that comes in tiny cups. They have a brewery.
We go to the brewery. They have an awe-inspiring selection of beers, probably over 20 to choose from. Except they are "out of" all of them except three. When I ask the waiter why they aren't serving 80% of their beers, he explains, as if it's obvious, "Because we're brewing those ones." He then starts to walk away, pauses to chew his bubblegum, then keeps walking.
Every floor in Winthrop is made of ancient, hand-hewn planks to give the place that "boots and spurs clattering" atmosphere. The downside of this is that every table in Winthrop is wobbly, and every beer is spilled.
The next morning we activate our primary mission: to play music in a wild place far from any electrical outlets or facebooking facilities.
Picture the following:
Two guys in shorts and t-shirts are hiking along a riverbank. They find a patch of sunny sand and lay out a beach blanket. They stick some beers in the icy river. One guy pulls out an acoustic guitar and starts idly strumming.
Now, ruin this pastoral scene by revealing that the second guy is a keyboardist. He pulls out a synthesizer that looks like the master control panel from Apollo 11. He plugs it into a portable power device that looks like a world-destroying neutron bomb that can also jumpstart your car, inflate your floaties, and play your iPod. (It actually does all those things except destroy the world. It also has a flashlight.)
The scene now looks like this:
A note about my friend Jared: he likes to mess with people's preconceptions. If someone tells him the sunglasses he found in a ditch are women's sunglasses, by God he's going to wear them, just to provoke conversation. If someone tells him his fuzzy lemon-yellow cardigan makes him look like Big Bird, by God he's going to resemble the FUCK out of Big Bird. And if a few people ask if he and I are a gay couple, by God he's going to strip down to nothing but package-hugging red spandex underwear and Jackie Onassis glasses while we're playing music on the beach on a rainbow striped beach blanket.
Our musical duo created quite a stir amongst all the kayakers and river floaters. I have no doubt our
That night we go back to the Old Schoolhouse brewery to catch Jared's friend's band, and since Jared has at least one foot dipped ankle-deep in the hippie world, this band is a full-blown jam band. If you're unfamiliar with that genre, jam bands are often staffed with ridiculously skilled musicians, but instead of using their chops to rock you to your knees or drag raw emotion out of your rusty urban heart, they use them to make you smoke weed and dance and feel like everything is just kinda generally a-ok, man.
Also, their sets last literally three hours.
I'm digging this band as much as I'm able to dig such bands, but beer and emotion and beer-emotions are tugging at my soul and the sun is setting over a yonder hill, so I have to run out and summit it. When I summit, I take this picture of the horizon:
This is not an abstract painting. This is Washington.
When the show is over we go back and chat up the band and somehow the group of hippie chicks that had been leading the evening's dance revolution becomes involved in our conversation. Next thing I know we are invited to go night swimming and I'm drunk-driving an RV on deserted country roads behind a Subaru (of course) full of hippies leading us to a lake somewhere out in the dark.
Everyone convenes in a boat-launch parking lot, and this is where things get fascinating. See, this is a moonless night in the middle of vast country with no city lights for miles around, so we're all hanging out in COMPLETE DARKNESS. I have some idea what one of the girls looks like because back in the light she was arguably attractive and I'd been beer-goggling her dance moves, but the rest of the group I met in the dark and never saw any faces. So I'm sitting there in the dusty gravel making conversation with a bunch of silhouette shadow people, and then it's time to swim.
Everyone stands up. The girls strip. I can tell they're naked because their vaguely defined body shapes are solid white from head to toe. Well, they're either naked or wearing light-colored swimsuits. I choose naked. I also get naked. We all walk down the boat launch into water that feels like a bath that's maybe been drawn a little too long but still pretty cozy. We swim out into the middle of the lake, feeling the cool water caressing our inappropriates.
This is a nice experience. Jared opts out and stays on shore, so I'm in a nameless lake in an unknown town treading water in a circle of complete strangers, completely naked, in complete darkness. Above, the sky is so thick with stars I can see the spiral arms of the galaxy. I go into a backfloat and it's like drifting through deep space. I think profound, cosmic thoughts and ponder the mysteries of life and love and the universe, and also the fact that there's nothing but a few feet of clear water between my penis and five vaginas.
Sometimes hippies are okay.
HEAVY BUMMER BUZZKILL EPILOGUE
Back on land, Possibly Attractive Silhouette #1 suggests we all sneak into a nearby lodge and get in a hot tub together. Wah-wah guitar and saxophone fills the night air, raising my spirits and also other parts. Jared and I get in the RV and start it up, but by the time the engine warms up enough to drive, we're alone in the parking lot. We have no idea where this lodge is or how to catch up with our new friends. We drive back to Winthrop and go to sleep and then go home in the morning and Jared goes back to work and I take my RV to a repair shop to fix the broken propane alarm before I burn to death in a gas fire.