Sunday, August 10, 2014

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.

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