Tag Archives: Eugene

Rainbow Gatherings

The first Rainbow Gathering I went to was in Oregon. I went with M. I hitched from Santa Cruz. And Met M in Eugene. From there it was east to the gathering. Near the town of Prineville.

We knew little about life at a gathering. We camped near the entrance. At this gathering parking was close. We camped alone. And had a hard time finding food.

At this gathering I didn’t explore much. I did talk to the Van Girl. It was a bit awkward. But it went well. We just chatted about what happened before. She asked about some shorts she loaned me. I had dumped them in the river. But I told her I lost them.

There was a big rainbow parachute at the gathering. People got underneath it. And if you pumped it right it would fill with air. Turning it into a giant cloth bubble. It would shrink back down. But pumping it again raised it back.

During the gathering M and I went to town. We weren’t eating much at the gathering. She sent for money from home. It took all day, and we were feeling down. At last the cash came in, and we bought food. We got food to share too.

One of the last nights we were at the gathering I ate some crackers. It was late near a campfire. The crackers were soft. Then I noticed they weren’t crackers. It was meat. I got sick for a couple days. On the way back to Santa Cruz I threw up. Alone with M in a strange town. Bent over throwing up in the gutter. Knowing anyone passing would think I was a junkie. But then I felt better.

The next gathering I went with Sean. I probably should have gone alone. I ditched him the first day. And didn’t see him until the last day. This time I camped with the Krishnas. There was two groups of Krishnas. Those who have no idea who they are, might be surprised to know there are factions.

The gathering was muddy. It rained a great deal. And there were huge flies. There were two access points for the gathering. Both were a good walk from parking.

I remember one area was particularly muddy. The trail became a muddy mess. I am sure people lost shoes. Maybe other things. And it grew and grew. People tried to walk on the edge, or around. But where ever people walked they killed the plants. Then with the water and no plants it turned to mud.

I ran into China at this gathering. I had met her years before in San Francisco. Another one of the many women in my life on whom I had a crush. But for whom I had no chance. I met her in San Francisco A friend and I were playing a joke on people. We walked up and down Haight Street. Have you seen our friends we asked. They have dreadlocks, were wearing hoodies, had a dog, wearing corduroy pants. They may have been getting into a VW van. Also they might not smell so great. Yeah, it could have been almost anyone on part of the street. Which was the joke.

At the gathering we spent time together with a guy who had some special drugs. He also had kava kava, which isn’t a drug. I took the kava kava and a pill. I felt so liquid an d tired and open. But most of all relaxed.

At this gathering I learned how to dig a spring. And before I left I dug one for the Krishna kitchen. Maybe I should write a chapter about Krishna as well.

There was a stream through the middle of the gathering. Some people were floating down the river. A friend of mine talked me into using her raft. But it was also her bed. I wasn’t sure, but she insisted. I’m not sure if I popped it. But it was a fun trip down the stream. I had to take all my clothes off not to get them soaked. Gathering don’t have laundry mats.

Later while digging a spring for the Krishnas I took off my pants. I was in the hole. They would have gotten wet and muddy. One of the Krishnas came over. He told me I should never be naked, because even when we are alone we could offend the sky.

There was another Krishna group at the gathering. A bigger one. I spend time at their tent too. Their guru was at the gathering. Christians also go to gatherings sometimes. They set up kitchens and talk to people about Jesus. Which is cool enough, as long as people don’t feel pressured. Gatherings really are places open to all ideas.

Towards the end of this gathering rumors started. The National Guard were coming. But they never did. The gatherings attract all sorts of people. The common bond is the desire to escape mainstream society. If only for a while. But some have paranoid ideas.

At the end of this gathering I met Pam. I had met Sean the same day, and he wanted to leave. Later I told him. I wasn’t ready. The time passed. I dug the spring. Then it was time to eat. I talked about our plans with a few people. It was getting dark. And I assumed we would leave the next day. When someone told me they found us a ride. It all happened for a reason.

The next gathering was Montana. This was a dry gathering. Having gone with a bus full of people. I camped near most of them. I ate at their kitchen, but also many others. At a gathering there are few rules.

No alcohol. Not in the gathering itself. I haven’t been in years and don’t know if this is enforced. There is a place called A Camp, next to the gathering where people drink. All the food is free. You are not allowed to trade food. And on the trade issue. There is a trade circle. But the use of money is not allowed. This is in part related to Forest Service regulations. At a gathering the Family Circle makes the decisions. This is a meeting held every day, and anyone can attend. Anyone can speak. And anyone can vote. The model is based on consensus. Which sometimes means the most persistent win. This group votes on where the gathering is held the next year.

This is anarchy in the best way. A girl once shared a story. She was walking along a trail. Some people were trying to trade rice. The girl told them you couldn’t trade food at a gathering. But the wouldn’t listen. We can do whatever we want this is a gathering, the retorted. So she picked up the food and walked away. You can’t do that, they yelled.

“This is a gathering, I can do whatever I want,” she replied.

At gatherings people sleep in tents. Or in cars in some cases. Food comes from free kitchens. These kitchens are supported by a range of people. Some people will have small kitchens. One year there was a ramen kitchen. All you need is water and noodles. It was popular. Religious groups serve food. They use it as outreach. But other groups get involved too. And some Rainbow tribes. I have long felt most of the support comes from a few. People who work all year to be able to go to a gathering. I know some owned businesses. They would close every year and go to the gathering.

Trading was done at the trade circle. Greed was one reason there was no money. But I heard many talk about trading up. How they planned to get an item. Or bragging about their trades. You don’t need money to be greedy.

Law was enforced by Shanti Sena. In theory this was everyone. Say you were being robbed. You would shout, “shanti sena.” Anyone who heard would run to your aid. The reality is a small group did most of this work. They had radios like real cops. They walked around like cops. But there were not bad people. And neither are real cops. And sometimes the shanti sena system worked. I do not know much about process. There was little if any crime.

And then there were the real cops. Most from the Forest Service. They were called LEOs by some. Law Enforcement Officers. The most common term was six-up. When you saw a cop you yelled. It was meant to let others know. Some of these officers had been to more than one gathering.

And where do people shit. Well, trenches are dug in the ground.

One event which stands out from this gathering is a fire. It was a small fire in a tree. But a bunch of people raced to the scene. We formed a line for buckets and passed water. The group of us put the fire out.

Also one kitchen was serving seitan. It sounds like Satan. It was good, but only enough for one serving per person. Let me save you from Satan I teased people.

In some ways Montana was a lonely gathering for me. I didn’t feel close to people. There was a cute girl named Dada from Chicago. Again I had a crush on her. But had no chance. This was also the gathering I stayed at the longest. A small group will come to the gathering early. They set up springs and trails. At the end a small group stays to clean and repair the land. The idea is to leave it like it had never happened.

After Montana I went to Boulder.

The last gathering I went to was in Michigan. I was starting to feel like I didn’t belong. Which is my issue and no one else. At this gathering there was a problem with part of the site. We had been asked to move. Most did. Many did not. There was a stream through the site. We had made a bridge to cross. On one side of the river the Forest Service didn’t want us. They said it was an archaeological site. After people refused to move they sent in cops. They put one person in handcuffs. Then people went a bit crazy. Some were trying to form circles around the cops. Which is a bad idea. No one likes to feel trapped. The cops had ATVs. At one point I recall pulling a guy out of the way of a cop on an ATV. In the end everyone moved.

I find it strange. This was the most recent gathering. But it is the one I recall the least. This was my shortest gathering. I had a job waiting for me at home. It was out in the middle of no where. Land is cheap if you care to live there.

What I do recall is having to truck water into the gathering. The water on site wasn’t drinkable. Though I may have drank some. Of course after the gathering I met my ride and went to Boulder.

Gatherings are always held on Forest Service land. Never in National Park. Or Wildlife Refuges or Wilderness areas. No one can speak for the family. So no one can sign a permit. And no permits are ever signed. The family believes it is freedom to assemble. Forest Service considers in an illegal event. They are always free. Another reason not to sign a permit. The permit would come with a fee.

The First Trip

My first trip started in Santa Cruz.

The plan was to meet M in Eugene. Then we would attend the Rainbow Gathering. It was in Eastern Oregon.

After the gathering I got sick. I think it was food I ate. Hitch-hiking back we stopped in Willits California. I sat on the curb. And threw up in the gutter. It was cold and wet. And I didn’t feel good.

We got back to Santa Cruz the next day. After a short while we got a ride Seattle with James. In Seattle we stayed with her friends. But we didn’t stay long. We hitch-hiked east from the city. We wanted to go to Lewiston/Clarkston. Two towns across from each other on the Idaho/Washington border.

We headed across the desert heat. M wanted to stay on the interstate. But my idea was a more direct route. Almost right away I could see I was wrong. We got dropped off on a road with little traffic. Washington is the Evergreen State. But not the eastern half.

There were a couple small towns. We made it to one about nightfall. I’m not sure where we camped. The next day we were making little progress. Sometimes on the road, under the sun you can find shade. Even a post can help. A sign creates shade. In the dry landscape out there I thought I was going to die. There was no shade. No moisture.

I remember wondering around feeling out of my mind. Thinking there might be shade in a ditch, or under a leaf. One of the towns was Othello. And we decided to never go to a place with the word “hell” in the name. The highway was number 26. And I still don’t like the number.

At last we got a ride. All the way to our destination. The first day in town we went to a food bank. M went to talk to them and I waited. When they came out he asked us if we were homeless. A question which in most cases results in no food at a food bank. This is because Food Banks don’t stock the foods homeless people need. And homeless people tend to not be able to use the foods they provide.

So a bit nervous, I confirmed we were homeless. To our surprise he put us up in a hotel for three nights. We didn’t have plans to stay, or look for work. We made it clear. But he wanted to help us anyway. It was a good three days. The town itself felt friendly. It had the same feel of a lot of middle American towns.

We did look for work. I still had my ID. But after three days we hitched a ride east. Next stop Missoula. We got a ride from a good guy. But we were hungry. And when we stopped for him to get lunch we ate the whole basket of free crackers. We had no money.

In Missoula I lost my ID. It was rough. We spanged at a store for a while. A woman invited us over for breakfast. And we ate at the shelter. The shelter there felt like ones I have been to in Roseville, California or Santa Cruz, or anywhere. Missoula is a neat town. One place I could see myself living.

We headed out after a few days. Feeling a little more lost. But headed east. It had started to rain, so we left. We went through Wyoming. In Casper someone stopped and offered us a ride to the shelter. When we tried to hitch-hike in town the police stopped. They were friendly. Asked us not to hitch-hike in town. And also offered us a ride to the shelter. The next stop was Boulder, Colorado.

We were there for a while. Took all our things out and dried them in the sun. This became a ritual on our trip. Rain, sun, dry, wet. We spanged on Pearl Street. Slept in a corner by the library. We were happy. Once we asked a cop for money on accident. When we apologized, he replied, “what I’m human too.” He gave us some change. But the rains came and our trip moved along east.

We developed a motto. “Tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.”

Across the great plains was a straight shot. We got at least one ride from a trucker out of Limon, Colorado. There really isn’t anything else in Limon.

We stopped next in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Another friendly town. But not one we stayed at long. This is where our brief shoplifting career started. We went to the store and then slipped things under the garden fence. Outside we retrieved the items. It was an easy scam. And it fooled me into thinking we could get away with stealing.

Ann Arbor is a college town. It had the same feel as Berkeley and Santa Cruz – and Arcata. I recall going to Food Not Bombs. This organization sets up in a couple different cities. It is like the socialist answer to the Christian soup kitchen. They give food and provide political materials.

From Ann Arbor we continued east. We stopped along the freeway in Ohio. It was a spot where the I-80 and I-90 ran close and paralell. M couldn’t sleep, but she managed to sneak us into a hotel room in the morning. She had found a hotel with a key drop for departing guests. When someone exited she grabbed key and we went into the room. She was good at these things.

When we were going through Portland we slept on Jantzen Beach. She went to a hotel and found left-overs from room service. Then brought them back for us.

After Ohio went passed through Pennsylvania and stopped in Ithaca, New York. We tried our tricks at K-Mart, but they were wise to us. Then I was bold enough to think I could walk out with the bag. It didn’t work. I’m not sure what we were trying to steal. But I store security took me to the office.

The police came and put me in handcuffs. I was upset. Worried about M. I remember crying. They took me to the jail. And fingerprinted me. A judge was going to come and talk to me. The judge wanted to know about M. Did we know anyone? Would anyone be taking care of her? She could see we were alone. And she made me a deal. If I promised to stay until Monday, and then report to court I could spend the weekend with M. And not go to jail.

We thought about running. But the wiser choice was to stay. We knew we would be at a bigger risk if we got stopped again. And homeless people get stopped by the police often.

The weekend was good. Another town. They were beginning to feel the same. Like the Simon and Garfunkel song: “every town is the same to me, with their movies and their factories.”

At court on Monday the prosecution pressed charges for disorderly conduct. I wasn’t charged with stealing. The judge released me on a conditional discharge. And it was one of the smartest moves I’ve seen in my life. I could go, but if at any point in the next year I got a ticket for anything – jaywalking – I would spend 15 days in jail. M and I made our way to the city limits as fast as we could go.

But what a smart move. If I had gone to jail the city would have been paying the bill. And M would have been alone on the street. I believe she knew given the conditions we would leave town. So she saved the city money, and encouraged us to leave with one step.

From there we continued east. The goal was Cambridge,¬†Massachusetts. But along the way we had trouble. Just outside the city is a beltway freeway. All the roads were tollways. We got dropped off at a tollbooth between one freeway and another. And we couldn’t get a ride.

We tried to walk off the freeway, but got stopped. The police drove up behind us and yelled, “get the fuck off the freeway.” We told him we were lost and asked for help. We told him we wanted to get off the freeway, but didn’t know how. He told us to go back to where we were at the tollbooth. Which we did.

In the end we got a ride. But it was the wrong direction. And it was raining again. The ride dropped us in Worcester. We tried to sleep under some trees but we got wet. We sat under the roof of a gas station.

In the morning the lady who opened it was friendly. She gave us some food and hot chocolate. Our things were piled by the door. Once someone looked at them strange. “Their mine, got a problem?” the lady said. She let us sleep in her car for a couple hours. We needed the sleep. Then before we left she gave us some donuts.

M had no sweatshirt because it had gotten soaked. I took mine off and gave it to her. We started to walk to a smaller highway to catch a ride. Someone offered us a ride but M didn’t trust them. Then a guy driving by stopped and gave me a jacket. Later we made it to the on-ramp, the same car stopped again. And M said she didn’t trust them again. So we had to spend the night in Worcester again. It was still raining.

There was a garage or shop of some kind near the road. We walked around back where there were a couple old cars. One truck had the door unlocked. So M and I slipped in and slept on the seat. I felt more in love with her than ever. She was on the side closest to the seat. She was so warm and soft. And I had the stick from the clutch in my back half the night. But we slept and stayed dry. It was a bit of a risky move.

The next day we saw the car from the previous day. We just let it drive past us. In the end we got a ride to where we wanted to go. Cambridge is a cool area. We hung out in the park. And Harvard Square of course. And read at the bookstore. I have M roses. She put them under the shelf and left them. I guess we couldn’t have taken them with us.

In the park we met some odd people. One guy said he once blew a blood alcohol level higher than .50. This means he added, his blood was more than half alcohol. I don’t know if it could even be true. But I did see them mixing ingredients in a bottle to leave in a hole. They were making their own alcohol.

We slept at a park with a fountain. I recall it waking me up when it sprung to life every morning. We went to a Catholic service. It was a good time. We even ventured into Boston. Walking along the street we saw an amazing church. A sign mentioned tours. So we asked for one, and got one. It was so grand and large. We walked around the sanctuary. Then when it was time to leave, the door out seemed so small.

We dried out things here, well mostly. Then it rained and we started for home. In Rhone Island I recall checking one of my notebooks. It had been damp the whole trip. It was so upsetting I just pitched it into a tree.

“There are important things in there,” M told me. At the time I didn’t believe it was true. But now I wish I still had the notebook.

We hadn’t made it far before we stopped to get food. We stashed our things in the bushes and went to a restaurant. We kept a small bag with us. When we returned everything we had left was gone. This meant we now had no blankets. And it was starting to get colder. We wondered for a while confused about what to do next.

Then we met some odd junkies who said they were going to Utah. The woman was friendly. The guy wasn’t so open. They gave us a ride through New York City. We hopped it would be a ride all the way. But they guy kicked us out in Pennsylvania. It wasn’t easy four people in one car.

So we were out again. No blankets. We tried to sleep. When you get so cold you want to stay close. But also to roll up tight. And you can’t do both at the same time. I know I slept little.

The next day a lady gave us a ride. It was a good long ride all the way to Ohio. I was in the front, and M was in the back. This is normally a safer situation for M. But this case was odd. I was talking to the lady. Then trying to talk to M. But at one point she sat back and I knew she was upset. I figured we could discuss it later.

The lady gave us some blankets. She dropped us off at a gas station. As we got out she came and gave me a big deep hug. And turned and just patted M’s back. I knew I was in trouble.

“Fuck me or buy me a hamburger,” she told me. Turns out I hadn’t noticed what was going on in the car. Every time M tried to talk the lady turned up the music. I was flirting with the lady. Not in the hopes of scoring with her, I was with and loved M. But in a more natural relaxed way.

While still in Ohio the police came while we were hitch-hiking at a tollbooth. He suggested a path to another exit, with more traffic. But it wasn’t passable, so he gave us a ride. We told him about the cop in Massachusetts. “No wonder they get shot all the time,” was his reply.

Crossing Ohio we actually got a short ride from another friendly officer.

In Indiana we stopped in Gary. The truckers got us scared to go outside. They said we would get shot and killed. The road had left us with little energy. So we believed the hype. Instead of going out we curled in the bottom of a phone booth in the building. It has a lock. I locked the door and we slept there. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as it sounds.

The next day we got a ride from a trucker. All the way to Reno, Nevada.

It was the first time I crossed the salt flats. Waking up in the middle of them is odd. You know it is summer. And it is warm. But it looks like the ground is covered in snow.

From Reno, to Sacramento, to Berkeley. I believe M took the bus home from Berkeley. And I went home to Santa Cruz alone. More alone than ever.

This trip may be the highlight of my life. I learned so much about the country. Some places were smaller than I imagined. And some places were bigger. We live in an amazing country. And it is full of amazing people. Every where we stopped people were friendly and helpful.

This trip emboldened me to take on risks later in life. And it still does.