I'm Back!: My experience at the Rainbow gathering...

From: Michael S. Lorrey (retroman@turbont.net)
Date: Mon Jul 10 2000 - 17:23:51 MDT

As you all probably noticed already, I'm back in New Hampshire after a week and
a half estevation to the wilds of Jackson, Montana for the 2000 Rainbow Family
Gathering. I road tripped with two people out and three other people back. Julie
Masis (one of Sasha's ex-girlfreinds), I and a guy from the Bronx we found on
the ride share website drove out. The guy from the bronx (Eric), I, and a guy
from Boston and a rapper from Laconia, NH drove back with me, while Julie
continued on to visit a friend in British Columbia. Coming back we drove from
Butte, Montana to New York City in 48 hours, despite playing tag team with a
hail/thunderstorm system all the way back. BTW: We drove my jeep cherokee (the
crappy one with all the previous problems) the whole way out and back, with nary
a problem, burning only a quart of oil in 5600 miles.

I left here Thurdsday, the 29th in the morning, picked up Julie in Durham, then
Eric at his brother's in Danbury, Connecticutt in the afternoon. We took a lazy
two and a half days to get to Jackson, driving I-84 and I-90. Julie is not that
strong a driver, so our pace was dictated by how quickly Eric and I became
exhausted, restricting us to 16-18 hour driving days.

We stopped in Dillon, MT for supplies, then went on to Jackson, a one street
town with a general store, a bar/grill, and a hot springs lodge (which is quite
nice after a week in the woods), and a post office. We parked in front of the
post office, and an old cowboy in a pickup parked behind us as Eric sent off his
tax return before we hit the bush. I chatted with the old cowboy about local
conditions while watching a circus of beaded and tie dyed neo-hippies traipse
around between the store and the bar, waiting for the payphone and picking up
supplies. The old guy had an twangy singsong voice. He asked me what I was up
to, I said that I came into town to do some fishing and camping. He said,"Oh, we
got some great fishing round here, you wanna fish the Big Hole River between
here and Wisdom. Great trout." I said I was going up Skinner's Meadow Road to
fish up in the hills. He said,"You done wanna go up there, thets where all them
wierdo's are campin' at." I said I was camping with the wierdos. He said,"They
done fished everthing out up there." I said I wasn't sure, cause most of them
are vegetarians anyways, which he laughed at. I asked what the bears were like
in the area, if they were as much trouble as at Yellowstone, he said no, they
stay away from people 'roun these parts'. Rattlesnakes didn't come around
either, as we were at too high an altitude for them at 7500 feet. He
continued,"We did have a problem with them black wolves a while back cause them
fish and wilelife idjuts brought 'em in, but they got shot one night, so we got
no more problem."

The day we went in, the population of wierdo's was pushing eleven thousand (to
peak at between 22k and 25k by July 4th), on Saturday the 1st. The Rainbow
Family Gathering is an interesting conglomeration of people. At the entrance is
what is called 'A' Camp, which is where the alcohol drinkers camp at, and who do
the indroductory welcome speil to arriving vehicles, and generally try to
panhandle some beer or other booze off of you (so you have less to get drunk
with inside, if you bring any at all). Then you go up the road to 'Welcome Home'
where other people inform you of whats where and where to park at and so forth,
though they try to steer anyone who doesn't look like a regular Rainbow person
to park in 'Upper 'A' Camp'. At this site, the layout of the Gathering was
kindof like a bush or shrub, where it was situated in a many fingered alpine
valley, with 'Welcom Home' located at the stump, and the access road continuing
on around up the left hand spurr of the valley, up around to the head of the
valley, and around the other side. All in all, about three or four square miles,
I'd say. The center of the valley is a large sage field, with sage slopes on
either side, and grassy stream glens spreading out up the valley, with forests
of lodgepole pines in between the glens.

In the center of the sage field is the Main Circle, where the 'Heartfire' is
kept lit, and a non-stop drum circle is maintained, which reaches quite a party
pitch in the late evenings. A little up the valley is the 'Trading Circle',
where people trade everything from incense, crystals and jewelry, to camping
supplies, candy (anything candy-like is called "zoo-zoo's" in Rainbow parlance,
and being generous with your zoo-zoo's can make you a popular person), to any
sort of drugs or drug paraphernalia, with the exception of alcohol. Alcohol is
frowned upon at the gathering by many people, and A Camp is relied upon to
filter much of it out. I heard one story about last years gathering where a guy
was packing in a case of beer when he got clubbed and knocked out, to awake to
find out the A Campers had taken exactly HALF his beer...

There are these people who are dedicated Rainbow-ites that are basically
political correctness police, but which everyone calls the 'high holies',
because they are so big muckity muck about people doing things the 'Rainbow
Way', but most people generally ignore them when out of sight if they choose to.
Its a nice sort of spontaneous anarchy that goes on, with the only real
organization or leadership that happens is by individual initiative or by
someone who is whats called a 'focalizer' basically announcing that something
needs doing by so many people, and people generally just volunteer to help out.

The only real hard and fast rules that everyone is militant about are sanitation
rules, using the trenches everyone calls 'shitters' properly, and handling food
properly. Having so many people in a wild area without modern facilities is
obviously a risk to health if not managed properly, but I didn't hear of anyone
contracting anything, even though the local water did test positive for e. coli
(all water used by people is either boiled, filtered or treated with bleach or
other chemicals, or both).

While most Rainbow folks are vegetarians, the local Montana Rainbow Family do
have a militant meat eating contingent, and run a decent free range meat
kitchen, which brings us to the subject of kitchens, which are one of the few
real points of organization at the Gathering, besides the clinic, central supply
(which handles and distributes all donated supplies), and the info center. There
are Kitchens and there are Cafes. A kitchen basically cooks large quantities of
food several times a day, and offers tea and/or coffee on a near 24 hour basis.
They have a dedicated core group of 6 or more people who organize and supply the
whole kitchen with its food prep equipment, tarps and other camping stuff, and
generally move into the site two weeks before July 4th to construct their
'kitchen', including a shitter, a compost pit, water supply and water treatment
stations, rock and mud firepits and grills/ovens/stoves, and food preparation
and serving areas. The normal bulding technique is to collect fallen wood and
fashion structures, counters and shelves out of the wood with twine, a la Swiss
Family Robinson. Nails are not used, and any wood cut with a blade must be
burned by the end of the Gathering. Trails are all delineated with other fallen
wood, and people are encouraged to only use the trails to minimize the impact
upon the rest of the environment. Cafes are smaller, more occasional setups.
Eric, the guy from the Bronx who rode with us on the way out, had a two burner
white gas stove with pots and pans, and a lantern, while Julie had an 8'x12'
tarp, and I had my camping espresso machine, a shovel and a 5 gallon bucket, so
we formed our own Cafe, called the 'Hot and Wet, Sometimes Warm and Dry Cafe',
or "Hot + Wet" for short. We only made large dinners a few nights, ususally just
serving coffee or espresso to the ocassional person or to our camping neighbors
who would come over to hang around our campfire at night to stay warm (you could
only have a fire if you had a shovel and a 5 gallon bucket of water, and it
tended to get quite cold at night in those mountains).

While there are typically one or two leaders in a Kitchen or Cafe, they must
rule by a motivational/volunteer/consensus method to get any cooperation and
assistance running things. There were quite a number of Kitchens, from Kiddie
Village (where most Rainbows with kids camped) to FERN, BARF, ARF, Love'n Ovens
(which built these huge ovens out of rock and mud and baked bread and other
goodies all week, while performing at least one marriage a day), Aloha (which
had some great 'authentic' hula dancers), Teepee Village (mostly Montanans),
Granola Funk Express (which built this awesome stage and put on comedy/fold/hip
hop shows, and has spawned the hip hop group Granola Funk), Ohana, Jerusalem
(the Kosher Kitchen), Montana Mud, Musical Vegetarians, Serenitea, Tea Time,
Brew-Ha-Ha, Sprout Garden, Kickdown Cafe, Beansteam, Hari Krishna Camp, Dancers
for Peace, etc. All told, there were 146 Kitchens and Cafes. The kitchen I hung
out at the most when not operating Hot & Wet or not hiking around to other
kitchens or partying at the Main Circle (or fishing), was called Milliways, the
Restaurant at the End of the Universe. It was located near the head of the
valley, about a hundred yards beyond our Cafe, and was one of the cooler
kitchens. A younger bunch, more inclined to party, but who ran a great kitchen.
They banned tea from the kitchen in responose to the ban of coffee by the tea
cafes and militant vegan kitchens, and while many Rainbows are militant about
recycling everything possible, the motto around Milliways is 'fug it, burn it'.

I didn't get a chance to inquire if there was any philosophical reason for the
use of the name Milliways, such as any extropic or omega point philosophy going
on, as they usually had gotten me quite smoked out by the time the idea occured.
I had become quite a hero of Milliways one day by going into Dillon and packing
in two gallons of neapolitan ice cream (with ice), and promptly donating it to
the kitchen for their after dinner enjoyment, so consequently, I never had any
trouble finding herb after that... ;) One of the Milliways crew lives in Mass
and comes up to Hanover to visit his girlfreind, so I'll ask then if there is
any connection.

THere was also a Libertarian Party camp at the gathering.

While there was definitely a contingent of permanently blissed out hippies, or
those stuck in the groove of all that meaningless flowery new age rhetoric, I
found most of the people to be very typical people. I struck up a few
conversations around campfires, injecting extropic memes in to mitigate the
negativist 'fuck the government, fuck free enterprise, fuck technology, fuck the
human race, etc' sentiments some people had, and was able to conduct some
significantly deep conversations with people, much like we have here on the
list. I even made a few business contacts, one of which said,"Don't let the tie
dye , beads, and dreadlocks fool you, some people here are phenomenally rich."

Frankly, I think the Rainbow Gatherings would be a great place to propagate
Extropic memes. While boom boxes and such are banned, there is widespread use of
'appropriate technology'. I counted a number of solar panels in use along with
laptop computers, while the areas where buses and RVs camped, called the (lower,
middle, and upper) Bus Village were veritable hot spots of high tech use. People
loved my camp espresso machine. The Gathering is a veritable stew pot to mix
memes in, and send them out into the world, but only the radical
environmentalists/vegans and Krishnas actually try to take advantage of it
(though there is a growing Jesus Camp, and as I said, there was Libertarian
Camp there).

The morning of the 4th was the big peace ceremony, where most everyone went down
to the Sage field and formed a pair of Om circles, the inner one 300 yards wide,
and the outer one over a mile in diameter, across the entire valley. After the
prayer for peace, there was a drumming and dancing party like I've never seen.
Widespread nudity, acid trippers, and everyone eating watermelon to stay
hydrated. A couple I had made some espresso for a few days prior when we were
setting up our cafe smoked me out and gave me some shrooms, so I sat back,
tripped, and got a significant sunburn while I observed the goings on and
thought deep thoughts...I know that I had some great ideas and breakthrough
concepts that afternoon, but I JUST CAN"T REMEMBER!!! ;)

The evening of the 6th and morning of the 7th we worked to 'dissapear' our cafe,
and helped Milliways do the same with their huge ovens. Everyone tries to
eliminate as much evidence of human habitation as possible when they leave.

The ride back on the 7th was stressful and interesting. We were on a tight
schedule, as I and Justin, the rapper, both had to work today. The guy from
Boston, a retired nuke missile/sub engineer turned hindu/buddhist
nomenclaturbationist who is active in the New England Rainbow Family (NERF,
which ran the FERN Kitchen) had trouble with his ATM card, as his bank was just
bought out by Fleet and consequently his PIN was changed while he was away.
Eric, the New Yorker, was sure he was just scamming a ride and that we should
dump him. I talked to his bank and verified that there was in fact a problem, so
we carried him all the way, and he sent me off a check today, according to the
call he made to my office. It will be nice to send Eric a check for his part of
the bill to show that not everyone is a New York con artist.

Oh, and BTW, I caught some great trout...

Mike Lorrey

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