String Cheese Incident - stories about time travel and serendipity ...

Chapter One, written on paper with a pen, on the way down and transcribed verbatim

So, after totally abandoning the idea of getting to Hornings' to finish the lighting project or getting to see the show we had built unfold, I am now rolling down highway 101 in the back of a Toyota RV.

We just crossed the Duckabush River - the 4th time I have done that in the past week. I have no idea if it is the right thing to be doing, but the only way to find out seemed to be to accept the ride that was offered and see what is on the road in front of me.

This involves leaving a lot of stuff up in the air: Crosby's sound system, Devan's website, Doris' heart, my own mess of stuff that's sitting outside waiting to get carried off by thieves or carted to the dump. In fact, my own life is really quite impressively dismantled at the moment, on more levels than I can even address simultaneously nor organize sequentially, and this event seems to have next to nothing to do with solving any of my unfinished business or unresolved stuff, but it would be nice if it helped me to decide or discover what is actually important.

It seems to me (at least right now) that I have been making a lot of mistakes lately in terms of prioritizing my attention. I think quite a bit of that is related to how rapidly it seems that I am changing.

My age is finally catching up with me: consequently, the person I see in the mirror often meets me with surprise in his eyes.

It seems like ever since I crashed my bike, I have been getting slower and weaker and softer and that my level of energy output keeps decreasing, but that I keep taking off assuming that I am still the same old me that I always was, and that I can still just turn up the length of the work-day to accommodate any level of interruption that I let get in my way.

But that doesn't actually work anymore. Maybe it never did, but now it's just become some sort of big lie that I keep telling myself - that I will catch up between now and 3 AM or when

< too bad, the next page of this is missing ... >

The total amount of time I have spent in cars over the past month is totally outrageous! Two trips to Oregon, two trips to Cultureseed in Olympia, two trips to Tacoma, a trip to Seattle ... the only saving grace in all this travel is that I have spent some of it in other people's cars that were going my way, and going other places as well.

And that since my own car broke (on the freeway, in the fast lane, in rush-hour traffic, almost a hundred miles from home, on the way to Olympia) I have ridden my bicycle more than at any other time in most of a decade. The bicycle makes almost everything take twice as long; not because it's slower (it is not really that much slower) but because I run into folks and stop to talk with them because THEY presume that IF I am on my bicycle THEN I must not be in a great hurry and that IF I am not in a great hurry, THEN it must be a good time for us to talk. And implicit in this construction is the unspoken presumption that IF I am not in a hurry AND I don't accept the opportunity to stop and talk, THEN I must be snubbing them in some way. The net effect of this situation is that it takes approximately twice as long to do anything that involves going anywhere.

But the benefit is HUGE! I actually get to talk to people about all sorts of stuff and feel like I actually live in a community rather than just floating around inside a tiny bubble defined by the reflection of my own largely internal adventure. A lot of that adventure has been so completely internal lately that I can now see that I have rarely even taken half the opportunities that were actually available to connect or communicate with other people or refresh my place in myc community, believing as I did that I was too much of a hurry.

Funny - this riding around in cars thing. I have spent literally YEARS of my adult life riding around in cars. I average over 10,000 miles a year in cars and at 60 mph that is more than a full month of 24 hour day and if you don't count days as 24 hours, at 30 mph that's almost 3 months out of every year.

For the record, there is a fascination to it: I have literally lived in two cars - a Dodge 4X4 and a VW microbus, and now my life is trying to be jammed into a 27' Airstream trailer and it is proving to be SO resistant to fitting into it that I cannot help but ask "for what purpose?"

What I really need at the moment, however is a hat. That is the most serious thing I forgot to bring. The other serious thing I forgot is a power strip. A 6-outlet power strip would make setting up a soldering station much easier. And my green CMG LED neck-light does not seem to have made it into the pack. OK - found that and the 8-pack of AA NiMh batteries for the Terralux MAGlights too, but now I definitely regret not packing the glue guns and hot glue - I had a bag of gluesticks sitting on the deck and we could have used them to make light fixtures, but there may be onsite sewing in which case, light-fixture making could perhaps occur there.

This caravan rolls right along and almost nothing can stop it, except the ladies' needing to pee. We just stopped at a 76 gas station at Deer Creek just west of Saint Helens with a row of blue-splash units outside. They were right along the road at the edge of their parking lot.

While the women from the schoolbus lined up I went looking for a powerstrip and asked a local coming out of the store where I could find one, and it really didn't matter if it was dead or alive. He told me about the hardware store inside the pharmacy in town that was down the road a bit, but then pointed inside the junkfood store and offered with an underscore "sweet talk Amelda and see if she will sell you one of hers" but when I got in there, the lady would not meet my eyes.

Chapter Two, written after the event, on the computer

The next 3 days were nonstop work, running as fast and hard as I could to get the low-voltage LED lighting that we had built for Dancing Dragons' Festival of the Forest last fall, and the new "interactive stuff" like the switched platforms in the Blacklight Meadow that we had built at Norm's garage at Cultureseed in Olympia installed ...

... and the brand-new stuff  that I was still putting together for Peak Experience up in the production barn, like the lights for the Tarot cards and the interactive controller for the light-tunnel that was set up across the lake from mainstage. I finished my light setup work at around 11:00 PM Saturday night and in my last struggle to get a large tarot card sign across from the beer garden illuminated with one of the small car-battery-powered spotlights that I had built by covering .5 Liter water-bottles with matte-black gaffer's tape and mounting 5 watt halogen pin-spots inside, I lost both of my favorite knives - my Klein Tools electrician's knife with the paint spattered blue rubber handle and my vise-grips Leatherman Crunch, which I took to mean that since my tools had been swallowed by the night, I was finally done being a "worker".

So after watching the epic combination of choreographed fire-dance (warning - this link is a big movie file and it's NOT to the event I am about to describe ... at least not yet) and I don't even know what to call it when about 100 people holding really enormous panels of glowing fabric illuminated by thousands of watts of black-light assemble themselves/panels into parts of a huge animated sculpture that includes 5 huge (think over 30 feet long) balloon structures filled with helium, and then IT - the thing they have made - starts to do a dramatic dance all to the accompaniment of a very large and very loud rockband ... anyway, at that point, I joined the party.

The 5 hours that followed between then and daybreak was about as interesting as any period I have ever been alive: an enormous battle raged between forces that I am sure are just reflections of what is going on inside of me, projected onto others who were providing screens for me to illuminate as much with my confusion and my clarity. But these people appeared more than willing to provide me with the canvas and sets for my drama, and to meet me inside it, over and over again. Basically, I thought that I was looking for a chance to really let go into making music, or at least I think that is what I thought that I was looking for ... but what I found first was beauty - some of the most intense physical beauty I have ever seen.

A woman appeared clad in a bodysuit made of a stretchy and perfectly stretched black and fuscia fluorescent fabric that had solid-color fuscia panels that wound up her legs and around her torso. I suppose that it must have been designed by a master pornographer because the presentation of her derriere was riveting beyond anything I have/had ever seen. She was totally covered in this pants-suit and yet when she walked through a crowd, literally everyone in the vicinity turned to follow her, astounded.

And her friends were equally archetypal. I already knew her name from earlier in the evening when we ate dinner together at Get Fried and I had followed her to a meeting where she and her bandleader had halfway tried to recruit me to play in their orchestra and I knew some of the rest of them at least faintly from the previous evening when we had paraded around with Robin making music together - they are Dahoo Chorus, a troupe out of Portland who do street theater and marching band, and they had come to Hornings prepared to perform Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" album and a few other Queen songs as an a cappella opera - and every one of them appears to wear costumes and makeup all the time and to spend HOURS a day getting ready to go out and by then is styled to the point where there is no way I can imagine any of them having jobs in any real-world environment other than perhaps dishwashing or websites unless they have developed other ways of looking.

dahoo chorus at SCI Hornings hideout 05 I believe this image is by Carlton Ward

The net effect being that her male counterparts balanced her perfectly and she spent a lot of the evening walking around with a gorgeous fur-and-spandex-clad male on each arm. This was a major theme for me in this event and it found to be an extremely clear illumination as my own personal battle: every step forward revealing the ever-more-rapidly-growing gulf between myself as I am and my sense of who I have always been but will soon no longer be, and the lure of the physical beauty of youth and my own waning part in the dance of male and female.
I followed them around for a while, engaged in a 4-way conversation of mostly low-grade banter because we had made very good music the night before - people had salsa danced to our stuff - which had all been based on them playing my stuff - and the singers were really good and had jammed cool and clever words on top of my melodies and I wanted them to do that again but it eventually became apparent that they were done with that part of the adventure and were now on parade ... and eventually I had to let them go, around 4:00 AM down by the lake, where the highest and most spectacular of the party animals were gathering for the blowing of the gigantic bubbles for sunrise, an annual tradition at these events.
another Carleton Ward picture from HH05 And within 100 feet of letting them go I found the other band, the one that was waiting for me. And almost at once we became the house band for the still-seriously-tripping crowd that was gathered on the hillside above the lake, waiting for the bubble man to call up the sun.

The bubbles were incredible! It was impossible to comprehend how we were all locked into a feedback loop where the music and the bubbles and the audience were all sharing one mind, but it sure seemed to be working that way. Was the music controlling the shapes the bubbles took, or were the bubbles controlling the music? I really cannot say ...


The band was composed of a cellist from Portland code-named HiJinx, a djembe player named Elijah, my guitar, at least 4 singers, and a small high quality sound system playing an ambient mix. We played duets with the vocalists enveloping us, or making counterpoint to us, and the ambient mix supporting us and the enormous shape-shifting bubbles guiding us for approximately an hour until in perfect synchronicity with a bubble's bursting the cello's neck snapped completely off its body making a huge noise. It was astonishing. The recording I made on my digital camera catches the snap and the aftermath clearly: people around us are saying "oh my god oh my god that was so intense!"  and it certainly was.

After that, I played with the singers, and Elijah the djembe player got out his blue guitar. And because Elijah is in some incomprehensible way golden and his music is totally and unhesitatingly attractive, people flocked to us and lay down around us like flower-petals and as the sun warmed us, people undressed layer-by-layer until most of them were at least half-naked or at most lightly covered in the morning sun.

We tuned our instruments to the backup chime on the sewage pump-out truck that was servicing the sanicans across the lake and harmonized it into our music.

photo of Joe Breskin waiting to play by Carlton Ward

There is still a lot more to this tale.

On Monday morning I allowed myself to get trapped taking the path-lanterns down and dismantling the interactive lighting in the Evolution Camp UV meadow installation, and when I finished the removal and went dowmn to the bus camping meadow with my gear, I found that my "official" ride back home had left without me, so at around noon Monday I was hitch-hiking the lines of vehicles stuck in the giant traffic snafu exiting the site with PORT TOWNSEND WA written in big letters on my small thermarest sit-pad.

Don't know why they left without me; donít really care: it was obviously what was supposed to have happened. Because I ended up getting a spectacular ride that only appeared when almost all the cars had left the site.

A guy with an essentially empty late model Dodge minivan on its way to La Conner offered me a lift to PT and so I did not even have time to say goodbye - just toss my gear in the back, hop in the passenger seat next to the driver, and go. The 2 people who he had been expecting he would have to deliver to Tacoma and Seattle had both disappeared and he had spent over half an hour looking for them w/o success!

So it was just the two of us ... and in the end, I had a ride most of the way home. It would have been even more perfect (maybe) or at least gotten me clear to here except for the fact we were running way too late for the last Keystone ferry out of PT, and he thought that he had to get to La Conner before he truly surrendered to sleep, so we stayed on highway 5 to 526, took the Mukleteo Ferry to Whidbey Island and I got dropped at the Keystone ferry landing around midnight, and slept under the picnic table in the parking lot next to the beach and rode the first boat home at 7:15 AM.

Perfect, really.

Perfect because I rode back up here with Chris Vaughn, a new-media prof from San Francisco who is a reformed investigative journalist with a doctorate in history, a guy who I expect to be staying in touch with for a long time. Actually, I had some of the best conversations I have had in years on that drive home, though I am afraid that I was in better physical shape than he was at the end of the event and I may have overpowered him a bit.

His dissertation was about what was going on in the US in 1898 - very close to the area of US history in which I have enough depth that I could just about write a dissertation off the top of my head - but his specialty is/was the Spanish-American war and the birth of Corporate America and co-opting of Jefferson's Democratic fantasy by the Corporation.

But it turns out he is VERY interested in the apparent differences between the timing and unfolding of the settlement of Washington and Oregon, and naturally, my specialty in US history is about 50 years earlier: the Homestead Act and the Indian wars that followed it, and the interweaving of the characters in this drama. I remain especially fascinated by Major Issac Steven's pivotal role in the Mexican-American war and then the Wilkes' Expedition and then the survey of the Great Northern Railroad, and then his transformation into Territorial Governor with a side-road through Leschi's barely-failed attempt to galvanize the tribes into an effective resistance force, followed by the medicine show of the Stevens' Treaties and the almost simultaneous discovery of gold and ensuing gold-rush on the Cowlitz land, and how General Wool, one of Stevens' enemies from the Mexican American War (in which Stevens had played him like a pawn in a need-to-know strategy that was hidden from the generals) was stationed at the Dalles crossing, in charge of troops positioned there to deflect westward flood of settlers' wagons south into Oregon: all these serendipitous forces that shaped the early settlement of Washington.

And then I explained the unfolding of the controversy about meaning of those treaties (conducted in the Chinook trade jargon) that led to the Boldt Decision and ultimately the co-opting of the tribes by development interests (TFW) that followed the Supreme Court's rejection of Slade Gorton's arguments.

And that was just the beginning of what we covered. By the end of the ride we had uncovered 3 levels of connection where we are barely one person apart!

He was at Hornings' cuz he is a jam-band camp-follower who was doing interviews down there at the event and has been sort of puttering on a book about the jam-band scene for years. We experienced and talked a great deal about serendipity - probably my single deepest interest in my life at the moment - and his wife did her masters dissertation in library science on the role of serendipity is research.

The main laboratory I use to study serendipity at this point in my life is the Oregon Country Fair, because it is someplace where I have almost enough time and almost enough freedom to do meaningful experiments involving the fit and the overlap between what might be called "deterministic" versus "probabilistic" and "solopsistic" versus "destiny-based" models of "causality" and to experiment with the impact that holding one or another of these beliefs in my mind has on my own personal effectiveness in my role as "building inspector" ....