Sunday, August 10, 2014

How to read the Lark Camp 2014 blog posts from Mark Jackson (Australian Interloper)

My apologies. But these were written in chronological order, each day, at different times. Then all posted when I got online. If you want to develop a sense of what we experienced then you are best off reading the blog chronologically too. Starting with Day One!

Here is a useful contents for it if you like.

Day One - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs – Adapted - (Lark Camp Post 1)

Day Two - Whale Oil Beef Hooked. Lark Camp Day 2

Day Three - Lark Camp 2014 - Day Three – Muscle Memory

Day Four - Day Four Lark Camp 2014 – An early start and wet pocket syndrome

Day Five - Lark 2014 - Day Five - Where are all the young people?

Day Six -  Lark Camp Day 6 - We leave the Camp for the Mendocino Ukestration Workshop

Day Seven - Lark Day 7 - Friday morning - 8am. It's basically over.

Day Seven.1 - They call it Lark Camp, not Sleep Camp - Day 7 - late....

Oh. But wait. There's a contents set of links at the side ----> just over there --->>> see?

They call it Lark Camp, not Sleep Camp - Day 7 - late....

They call it Lark Camp, not Sleep Camp – if you whinge about being up too early, this is what the wise old jazz men from the morning group will quip. A day after leaving permanently, I now know what they mean. The level of fatigue is somewhat like jet lag. Lark Lag maybe. All week it was up for breakfast in the mess, then first workshops begin at 9:30am. But this is after dancing until well after midnight, then listening to some perfect music by the campfire. It's hell. I can't begin to imagine what being a soldier at war must be like.

Friday night we felt like we conquered Camp One. But we didn't really. We made a raid and survived. Almost like they didn't notice us. Except the Lord of the Camp – Mickey Zekley. He saw first hand what we can do and seemed to suitably approve. Put it this way. He didn't use the big ceremonial wooden hook which he was bearing.
Camp Director, Mickey Zekley sitting with his hook.

The ukestra opened Karen's Variety Concert (will put that youtube up soon) and then Jane and I were privileged to close the show. We have a standard closer song, which is Nick Cave's Into My Arms. As usual we forgot to record it (if anyone does have a recording it would be appreciated!). It is suitably lyrically challenging for the God Fearing United States of America - starting as it does with I don't believe in an interventionist God. But quickly redeems itself and becomes endearing.

The Lark Camp Ukestra went really well, and we added some suitable cheese with the heavy artillery of the brass band joining us for the last verse of Sunshine of Your Love. So lovely it were.

Karen introduced Jane and I using our application submission for the performance. The application asked “why do you think you would be good in this concert”. I answered “because Americans think us Aussies are cute, like chipmunks”. So she used that quote to introduce us. Needless to say people started doing chipmunk moves, and when we started talking one audience member interjected “awwww, they're so cute!”.

I also stepped into the breech of inter-camp rivalry - one more comment please - Camp Two rocks!. The suitably Camp Two stacked audience roared in approval (I think).

Into My Arms is a great song for a listening and participatory audience. There was a PA but we stepped in front of it, didn't use it, and went completely acoustic. Always the preferred option. The whole room sang (100? 150? people) in full harmony. That always sends chills up my proverbial. Such an incredible way to finish our time here.

Finally I need to make a comment on the whole cuteness issue. I get it now. We heard around camp that there was another Aussie, so after our performance I chased her down. Myf was working in the kitchen and came out when she heard her name called out in an Australian accent. We had a good chat (turns out she is an ethnomusicologist from Brisbane) but it was so giggle and smile-inducing for me to hear another Australian (I cannot hear my own accent, or Jane's).

I found her accent sooooo cute.  Like a chipmunk.

Lark Day 7 - Friday morning - 8am. It's basically over.

Click this link to hear the accompanying melancholy Lark Camp piano music that I listened to as I wrote this one. 

It's ridiculously and deliciously ironic. I come to hide in a breakfast corner, to eat my last words and breakfast. The computer is on, facing away from everyone. I want to be by myself and write, document. Just as I sit down with a plate of fruit and indescribable leftover concoctions, a man sits at the piano and starts playing melancholy. How strange. How wonderful. How sad. Another opportunity to cry at the imminent end of this camp is easily at hand.

There is a quiet frenzy of sad desperation in the air. The end has snuck up on us. The end is nigh. It is Friday, but if you stay tonight, you MUST be out by 8:30 Saturday morning. We plan to leave after Friday night performances in Camp One, and head on down to Mary Jane n Jovan's in Mendocino to a shower and soft bed.


Two people epitomise something about this camp for me. What that opityme is, I'm not sure. They are just two people. We got home last night on the esteemed 12:45am garbage truck. The fire back at home is still there, the cafe is reluctantly open. We scoff. And we aren't even stoned. Drugs n alcohol don't seem to be a real big part of this camp. Not that we've seen any anyhow. And we are this is in California where medical marijuana laws allows nearly anyone to have a diagnosis that gets you a script so you can grow your own.

Tea and scones purchased, we sit by the fire. It is a trap. After the huge swing party, it is the firetrap that sucks the final bits of life from us. Heath is one of those opityme people. Which is not to say, take pity on him. But opityme who will miss this place and the experience. I will rue the day I drive out of the forest and back into reality, in a country far far away.


Heath is a quiet Virginian, clawhammer banjo player. And teacher. But almost everyone here is a teacher. Jane has had a reserved affection for him since she started taking banjo classes with him six days ago. Heath is sitting by the fire, with three others. They are in a very close huddle, giving the strong message that this is not a welcoming jam. This is a sensitive love affair between two guitarists, a vocalist and fiddle player. The beauty and tenderness of their 1am musical ministrations is indescribable, which must be why I am writing. So much of this camp cannot be photographed or videoed, though tens of iThings desperately try. My word pictures are an endeavour to capture something richer (for me) than digital visuals.

Heath, Carlo, female guitarist / vocalist and female fiddle are singing the very essence of old timey Americana. Fine fine harmonies, tooo beautiful. Texas, lost love, flowers. I stand, with my backpack, for a while, trying to will myself to leave to go to bed. But then my bum is glued back to the seat next to Jane and for that moment it becomes the most beautiful music, most beautiful singing I have EVER heard.

I saw Heath earlier in the night, at dinner time, cajoling people to play with him quietly around the empty Camp Two campfire. Most (including us) decamp to Camp One for the Swing Dance. It looks like he has had maybe 6 hours of success. This is clearly a fin de siecle frenzy. The end is coming. I will play until I die. That is what it feels like. That is one person's act expressing their sadness the end is nigh.A fury of quiet intent playing to last for another year.


The second is Karen – the pain in the ass ukulele student whose character is all that more understandable when you realise she is one of those neurotic Woody Allen New York Jewish types. Karen has turned out to be our greatest ally here. She knows we are newbies, she likes us, she is an experienced hand at this. A very useful pain in the ass. (ass, not arse). She fusses, conniving to include us in the last night Variety concert over which she lords. The ukestra is performing two songs, and it sounds as though Jane and I will close it. Again, it will be at Camp One, which is nowhere near as good as Camp Two. But I would say that. I am an undeviably confirmed Camp Two aficionado.

Karen is so straight up and down she hasn't worn a dress in ten years. Until tonight. Amidst the myriad other swing-ready cocktail dresses, she possesses the microphone, frocked up in front of her own swing band, and a swinging audience. For just one song. There are fourteen vocalists – some novices - all taking it one song at a time, including Jane and myself. We, like Karen, acquit ourselves admirably. The scratch band sort of intelligently makes it up as they go along.

The variety concert goes an hour and fifteen over time so the big band starts really late at 11:45 or somesuch. You've got to be kidding. The trumpet works on my lips, but my eyes don't work so well on the music reading. I can do the bwa da, bwa da bits, but not so well the dibbideedipdadowwhaaadevudabadip bits. But it is fun, and my pocket is suitably wet (see previous posts).

Karen's frenzy is to organise and do as much as possible before they close the road at 9am on Saturday morning. Heath's frenzy was to put off sleeping for the sake of good music until the very very end. Though I cannot see him this morning.

Jane didn't leave the campfire. I went to bed by myself. She came in another hour or two later. I think it was 4am. (Means more early morning writing time for me). She stayed, recording the beautiful Americana songs and the tight harmonies of the intimate foursome, then threesome, then twosome, then one lonesome, as the bed takes its toll.

On being a respectful jammer

Jane also tells a rather apocryphal tale, a salient lesson in being senstiive to the dynamics of a public 'jam'. Their's was not a public jam, but one rather annoying (I can confirm that feeling from several independent sources, but, as Tim Minchin apparently quipped – if anecdotal evidence was any good, it'd just be called evidence)...I digress....where was I? Oh yeah....the salient point. This one person comes in, with their guitar and insistent voice, desperate to make the intimate circle into a more open jam (wrong! Don't do that!). The intimates gently (and perhaps not so subtly) deny her the room to ruin their feel. The interloper sings her song, then realises the error of her ways and either desists, or leaves. I can't recall, and it isn't important.

What is important is to 'read' jams or sessions, your potential to join, how your abilities and sensibilities match with those already around the fire. That is a learned skill, and an important one.

2nd last dinner, the Marimba band perform
So. Jane has gotten up now. In 24 hours everyone has to be gone. But apparently many cannot stand the thought of being the last one to leave, so many will leave today. We will leave after our final ukestra performance tonight. It will be sad, but we will have a soft bed and good friends in Mendocino. Will we then return? Who knows? Let's talk about that Jane, when we get home. After our f&*%$ing 18 hour flight, via Auckland. Then the 3 hour trip up past Mullet Creek.

Lark Camp Day 6 - We leave the Camp for the Mendocino Ukestration Workshop

Our performance in the dinner line on Tuesday night (Day 4/5?) attracted some new people to today's workshop. They were impressed by our energy and what we do. After that we went into town to prepare for our Mendocino ukestration workshop. 2012 – 7 people. 2013 – 14 people. 2014 – 21 people. Not that that is a pattern or anything. Let's not get too excited.

One person at the Mendocino workshop asked a really critical question. How do we get to keep doing this? Such questions belong with a whole swag of similar queries and comments from people exposed to the prevailing 'ukulele culture'.

We aren't able to improve! We can't learn new stuff! We just sing a song and move onto the next one.

There are lots of people we are meeting at Lark Camp who - as ukulele players - are aspiring musicians. They are not satisfied by the prevailing strum n hum culture of the new ukulele movement.

My answer to the question How do we keep doing this stuff was simple.

Pay someone.

To my mind this achieves two things.

Firstly, it potentially provides a sustainable incentive for someone to harvest, arrange and teach new songs (and hence techniques and music theory), to organise and create opportunities for learning and performance.

Second, when you hand your money to someone you are saying – here, take my fifteen bucks, and you now have the responsibility to organise, teach, and handle the group and personal politics that inevitably arises. This buck is stopping with you!

So we live in hope that someone in the 20 or so Mendocino Coast souls takes up this challenge and thinks about running groups in such a way. It would / should complement the slew of volunteer groups that already exist in the area.

I feel a disturbance in The Force

But going ten miles to Mendocino was a challenge in some way. It made me think of Obi Wan Kenobi, when the Death Star destroyed Princess Leia's planet.

I'm not sure what it is, but I felt a great disturbance in The Force …

Well, I did. I felt a disturbance in my own force, my own equanimity. We got connected back to the internet. To an unwell mother, to daughters who miss their father, to business issues, to payruns, to how much money is in the bank back home, to abandoned Thai-Australian surrogate babies with child molester parents on the news, to the remnants of MH17. But we also had to re-orient ourselves back to a new set of relationships – even if only for one night.

How quickly we have become accustomed to a new set of relationships in the forest. These are now my daily community in my new life environment. The people who serve the food, who have specific musical specialties, the same haircut (is that Leo? Bill? or Radim?), the lady with the pretty (fake) hair braid who gives me the tickets for lunch (Bonnie), the San Rafael woman who I flung around on the dance floor the other night (Janene from Santa Rosa), the diurnal rhythm of the sun through the timbers (of the forest or the cracks in the cabin), the hot chocolate (chocolat caliente as the girls ask me to say in my cute accent), the rudimentary camp bed and dirty sheets, the dirty clothes in one corner, the clean still in the bag. How quickly we become comfortable, and uncomfortable with a subtle change ten miles down the road.

But always through this I have another planet with whom I revolve. It is so reassuring. Jane and her ways. And an accent that I cannot hear.

Tomorrow is our last day. It will be a big one. And in an hour or three I perform for the first time in my life with a Jazz Swing Big Band on the trumpet. Wish you could be here Mum. You'd be proud of my rather appalling music reading abilities and occasionally ok trumpet playing. You could keep company with Carol, who is 78, from Atlanta Georgia. She seems quite straight compared to all the recalcitrant 1960s hippies and draft dodgers. Yet Carol has embraced singing, marimba and all manner of other workshops. And stood on benches around the edge of the dance floor. And you could also then take the due credit for the cascade of compliments for all my lovely sweaters.
Her last swim. The footbridge just below our cabin

Lark 2014 - Day Five - Where are all the young people?

You don't mess with US Border Security services. Such a contrast to the Hanoi airport security guard who joked about me having a gun in my ukulele case. He smiled at me, laughed, said 'joke!', and waved me through. At the US Customs entry you don't make such jokes. Any jokes. Or banter of any kind. You don't even dare crack a smile. Just be straight up and down and hopefully keep walking.

Its sorta similar with me mouthing off at gigs – I often tread a fine line with what quips comes out of my mouth when I perform (or host a performance). Our debut Lark Camp Ukestra performance (to the dinner queue passing through the hall into the kitchen) went off a treat. The dubious hundreds who stayed away from the twice-daily Ukestra workshops were instant converts.

“You did that with the ukulele? You got everyone playing parts??!!! You mean you disciplined people? That sounded fantastic!! You guys have such a great time!”.

And the master musician / mentor ukulele teacher here at Lark, he came up after and very solemnly shook my hand saying what a fantastic job we had done – I think it was Mum's colourful woollen Fair Isle vest and Jane's beautiful dress, big hair and our very large quantities of happiness that helped give a good show too. Catch My Disease, My Girl, and Way Down in the Hole – all resulted in hoots of approval from the audience. The last one in particular, with big American (hungry) hoots of “Yeah!”, Bring it on!”. And the solos, introduced by yours truly, dubiously; and deferring to geography (as is appropriate).

I have worked with Skip a little, in the big band, a fellow surfer (crazy Mendocino kind of surfer – water temp is never above 14deg C), a kindred 64 year old spirit who looks 49. Ladies and gentlemen! Give it up for Mr Skip Stand Up Paddle Boarder from Mendocino County!. And then it was Julie's solo – a better uke player – except I don't know her last name either, or even worse, her geography.... uh oh … here goes mouthing off improvisation. Ladies and Gentlemen! Give it up for Julie! An American! God Bless America! - I'm just glad a bunch of straighter people weren't there, or US Border control. I think it worked. Sitting around the campfire later a passing stranger whispers to me - God Bless America.

My 6:30am start yesterday finished with a campfire performance by myself to about 3-4 people – maybe 3-4 songs in 45 minutes, in between chats. My standard folk song – Gloria Gaynor's I will survive rocked the house, with Jim, proud new owner of a Low C charango joining in with soulful backing vocals. It went off, probably much to the morning chagrin of the seven closely parked RV's.

The Ignoramus

The campfire conversations also included respectful discussions about Rolf Harris (yes, they do know about our tortured Australian childhood souls), and succession planning at such Folk Camps. I asked where are the young people?

My ignorant question was answered at midnight, and in the kitchen. Us oldies are there in the kitchen, plates at the ready to be dished up our slops. Behind the counter, slaving in the kitchen are a bunch of young people – working for their ticket entry. Then at midnight the bus disgorges all the pretty young people, (they say they mostly reside in Camp One). They are ready to party and are here in spades. On our wander home to bed at midnight we pass a erstwhilely abandoned marqueed dance floor. Seems barely used in the daytime, albeit for an occasional practising piper. But why the very long electrical cable connecting it to mains power? Ahhhh!!!! now, at midnight, it is heaving with dancing to contemporary songs played by traditional instruments played by young people. Here they are! They are vampires! Only appear late late at night, or in the kitchen!

Questionus Ingnoramus Answerus.

Everywhere there are dumped instruments. Looking abandoned, they litter strategic corners, far away from their sleeping owners. Some are probably really valuable. Who knows. When you return to your own strategic corner – your instrument is there. No doubts at all.

There is a lost property box. I had a peep for my water bottle (eventually found in my trumpet case). In there I found Jane's Shower Gel that I had left in the shower, with about a centimetre of juice in the bottom. No finders keepers culture here. Just a downright honest and loving culture. My God this place, this culture, this week. It is amazing and wonderful and I will miss it in a few days when we leave.

Day Four Lark Camp 2014 – An early start and wet pocket syndrome

Dust is a feature of Lark Camp - Camp Two at dawn.
I am up at dawn. Let's see what is going on at this hour. The volunteers are cleaning the tables. Creating dust storms with brooms, but no-one has lit the fire yet.

I thought I'd crawl out of bed early to see how it feels. Wandered down to main camp, and hope no-one disturbs my writing. All the other early people (two I can count) are taking advantage of the return of daylight to read … books. And to have their first coffee.

Now (obviously) I am writing. But before I was practising and arranging St. Thomas. In the distance, at the coffee house, a loudish guy (a great drummer who always wears a tall hat), is telling jokes about Betty's Bitter Butter. I didn't hang around to hear how it ends, or even progresses.

So now I write, we are behind in the manual, but the affirmations are flowing thick and fast. Like the quote we got yesterday (see Day Three post). I don't feel like visiting the manual, but I may try. But I do have just one observation in relation to that writing task.

Jane has observed that I haven't been 'ukestrating'. Documenting what we do is taking a lot of energy and focus, so arranging for ukulele is down the priority list.

So this morning I sit on a song that I heard last night. I first heard it from a bass player in Bendigo 15 or so years ago. St. Thomas. A simple modern jazz tune. Yeah. That can work. What teaching principles can I pull out of it? Is it an engaging tune? Can we write simple sensitive accompaniment parts that still teach beginner uke players something? Can we provide a challenge for more advanced players? Bob the Builder can we fix, I think we can. But I need a little help from the internet. The Internet!!!!! I WANT THE INTERNET!

...not really. I am coping well. In reality, engaging with this computer is really difficult when every day and night is consumed with engaging with music and people.

Mum, you'd be proud. 

I've been playing heaps of trumpet. Wonderfully generous people here. Mardi from Grass Valley responded to my request on Facebook and pulled a long lost trumpet from her cupboard, took it to a fixer shop, got it serviced and has loaned it to me for the duration. It has had good use. But that means I am now caught up in the 9:30am obligation to play Glen Miller tunes. 'Play' is only one part. I have to 'read' music. That is a challenge, and I am not really up for the task or the commitment. But again, the affirmations and praise flow thick and fast. This time not because of ability, but because the band is desperately short of trumpet players. The competition for 'students' is pretty fierce. I could be at a uke workshop instead. But it is lovely to be reacquainted with my first parentally imposed musical obligation.

All the praise for my trumpet playing. I know it is primarily because they want me – Second Trumpet – to hang around. I warn some of my praising brass colleagues about wetting my pocket too much. I have to explain the lovely Australian metaphor, and tell them not to 'piss in my pocket' too much. Their praise is somewhere between praise, and fear that I will not return. So far so good though. I am hanging around.

I might leave this blog now and go visit the manual. Or maybe the fire (now started) is calling me. I think it's the fire. And the guitar. It's 7:12am.
The main action at Camp Two is in this area. The (small) RVs are circled in an defending action against the outside world.

Lark Camp 2014 - Day Three – Muscle Memory

Dancing in the dining room at Camp Two - Lark Camp 2014

Jane and Janene (from Santa Rosa), Camp One - the last night
3 nights of dancing. I think. Is it Monday? The lunch menu board says so, so I believe it is. Which makes it four nights of dancing, but three whole days. I can't keep up with Jane, who wants to keep dancing – tonight it is Cajun / Zydeco. Tomorrow's theme is Balkan, the next Swing or Contra or....

I remember Warren Coleman saying backstage at a Castanet gig in the early 80s that he loved America because if there was any minor craze somewhere in the world, then in America it was a whole big movement. That's what it is here. They've got the density and diversity thing going on big time. A different style of dance each night. If you move between tables or tents or fires then there is bound to be some different cultural form being expressed, with a whole bunch of people doing it. And this is just Camp Two. Camp One is apparently bigger – we still haven't strayed from Camp Two. There is plenny diversity here, without introducing too much Irishie Celticie streams to make matters even worse.

Around the fire I was joining the Mexican trumpet player doing Mexicanie sorta stuff, lead by a female accordion player. I have never seen so many hurdy gurdies, or guitarrons, or, or.... then back inside for some more Cajun dancing. I get told and bossed around by various women, including Jane. This is how you dance – not like that.... Cajun seems to really use my calves more - they hurt.

Workshop Area 1 - our teaching home for 7 days
The trudge home from dance, in the dark, is now more familiar. Muscle memory is kicking in. Dodge that overhanging limb – turn left at the giant sequoia tree stump – swing past someone's cabin – up the hill to the loo. Down the hill, I'm home, with minimal or no lighting.

We keep teaching people about muscle memory, for fingers on frets. We assure them that, if they practice and play then the muscle memory will soon take over.Thank God for auto-walking and auto-fretting.

We're on a mission from the Blues Brothers

People are really loving what we do, and today I think we snagged the quote of the trip...

I thought ukulele was boring til I met you guys.

And that's the point exactly. Too often we are hearing stories of newly minted, musically curious ukulele players feeling that hum n strum on the uke is the only form of music on offer. Many of them then leave disenchanted because they feel there is nothing more to it.

Our Ukestration webpage sets out some of our mission - to allow people to be simple on the uke whilst continuing to learn; to introduce them to musicality, initially through their nostalgic curiosity; and to enable audiences to hear the ukulele as more than just hum n strum.

The cultural difference between this folk camp and uke festivals and camps to which we have been is enormous. Utterly enormous. So many ukers have an exciting journey ahead of them - engaging with and learning about musicality. But to achieve that one needs leaders who are musically literate and curious. Music is about so much more than nostalgic reproductions of songs. Yes the uke is introducing thousands upon thousands of new people into a life of making music and is creating new communities. But experienced leaders and musicians need to help those inexperienced musicians to know that we need a diverse set of skills so that music can help us celebrate life and help us personally mark its joyous and sad passages.

This is our mission, our mountain. That should keep us amused for a while. It's good to have a mission. And it is places and events like Lark Camp that help keep that mission focussed.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Whale Oil Beef Hooked. Lark Camp Day 2.

Day Two – Sunday.  No weather information, no communication with the outside world. Electricity only in limited places. Toilets are clean, food is reasonable. Someone else cooks it. I front up and am happy.

But tonight I am ill, ever so slightly. Means bed by ten. The walk home is dark. The useless relic of my city life – the iPhone with no reception – serves as a reasonable torch.

Words like that – torch – cause some laughter – it's 'flashlight'. But not as much consternation as my name. Hi Mike! Pleased to meet you. Or jokes about the 'cute aussie accent'.

Whale Oil Beef Hooked.

Thanks for that.

So I'm home alone. I hear a rare sound across the creek – an electronically produced noise. It's a transistor radio of some sort, playing … I mean ... replicating a sound. Voices, singing.

It is a rare sound because it is not being produced live.

Everything happening here is live. Not virtual, though I did briefly see one kid today with a gameboy (or somesuch).

All the music, all the conversations, all the learning. It is all happening face-to-real-face. I leave to go home (sick) and cannot pass up the chance to play with two of the most incredible improvising musicians here at camp. Both of them are Czech-American virtuosos – Radim and Leo - respectively - jazz mandolin and melodica. I trot back to get my trumpet and join in. I can join in, on the instrument and in spirit – I am welcomed. It is wonderful creative stuff – I help them turn Santana's 'Europa' into disco hit “I will survive” vocally, and then its back to Europa. And there is another song, that sounds like Piazola's 'Libertango'. It's all fabulous.

Life here at Lark – will I survive seven whole days?

The sun ...

I miss the sun. It does eventually penetrate through the perpetual sea fog, which doesn't quite rule this far inland, but still has an effect. It is mainly the trees that block the sun. We sunbathe in bed, between 3:30 and 3:55, the light streaming along the opening in the canopy caused by the creek. And then it is gone again, for perhaps another 24 ish hours.  The only time it really shines down is when it can shine straight down, between the giant sequoia trunks.

I now understand the comment by the previous Mendocino Woodlands caretaker who lived here for ten years, but then had to leave. It was just too dark. She now lives on a treeless ridge top with 360 deg views. I can understand that. I get that.

We are looking forward to home. But are learning and enjoying so much.

God Bless America. Well at least this tiny little bit.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs – Adapted - (Lark Camp Post 1)

Stardate – August 2nd, 2014. Now entering the second full day of life without the internet. But forge onwards I must. Everyone else has succumbed, consumed by the cavernous maw of community music. Everyone is interacting with each other, learning, copying, playing, joking, laughing, struggling. There is no hope. I'm not sure that I can last – another full six days to go before I again will have access to life's basic sustenance – a wireless internet connection. If you don't get a Facebook posting from me by 10 August, please send in the ghost of Steve Jobs, for I will have been eaten up by the non-virtual.

As an anthropological piece, and as some form of Internet Replacement Therapy, I shall type on this computer, smuggled through border security.

It's a Lark

I am trapped deep in hills and valleys, somewhere behind Mendocino, Northern California. California, ironically birthplace of the internet and all things I. Here in the giant sequoia forests there is no I. There is us. There is music. There is no internet. No Facebook. Just Faces, bodies, instruments, music.

Lark Camp shows no mercy for those virtually committed. No respect whatsoever. They have blatantly ripped off the graphical work of Jurassic Park, and made stickers and t-shirts to create Jurassic Lark. Here be hobbits and Morris Dancers, swaddled in music, from communities around the globe.

Camp One

I'm not sure I'll venture there. I believe much alcohol is consumed therein, with Irish sessions 24/7 (literally 7. This is a 7 (seven! SEVEN!!!!) day camp). Legend has it that a tunnel / time port exists there (perhaps only for the ale lines), directly through to the Temple Bar district of Dublin. As a mere tippler I fear I do not have the fortitude to enter this land of beer, Celts, and many headaches.

Camp Three

Somewhere lost betwixt One and Two (strange I know, but that's how it is). They have no dining room or hall, only a reverentially whispered cafe, which cooks mystical pastries and sweets, and ferries said contraband to Lands One and Two. I hear they play mostly Balkan.

Balkan, Eastern, 9/8 time signatures. Erghhhh....dare I enter that strange non 4/4 world?

Camp Two

We are here. Cabin 32. Our Cajun tutor flatmate ordered a transfer out as soon as we arrived. We have the cabin to ourselves. A refuge from the constant sounds and learnings of the main camp area.

Guitarron. Amazing. I want one.
Camp Two has Aloha Ville. The JF Center (note American spelling for a brief moment). A fire. Tents. Cabins. Toilets (sorry, my bad... Bathrooms) on the hills. Communal showers. Even hours for men. Odd hours for women. After ten is a shower free for all. No sex. Delineation. Contra dancing. Mexican bands. A giant guitarron (beautiful!). Exactly roughly executed Mexican trumpet. Massages. A jazz standards tent. Ukulele everywhere.

The smokers
And the strangest strangest thing. Galician pipes, who play in the gulch, so they and only they, are permitted to smoke whilst playing, for one hour, each afternoon, permitted to assault us with their smoke belching excuses for bagpipes. From the Gulch no less. In Australia we'd call it the dry creek bed. But this is California. It's the Gulch.

Our home for 7 days and nights

The bed

The sleeper

The dark at night is ink. But that is the only way home.

It's 4pm. Time for a shower. I'm not going after ten.