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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Adventures with Michael

At first, when he invites us to walk in the woods, I am less than reluctant to accept, though I’m also reluctant to unquestionably refuse because I’m too polite and because, well, I just don’t have the energy to say no and I don’t really have a logical argument against it aside from laziness. Really, there’s no place I’d rather be sitting save for on my ass in the shade right here at our camp, although the heat drastically diminishes my enjoyment of this particular faux-activity.

He’s convincing with his wild-eyed stare and ready, open smile. “I know the coolest place in the woods,” he says, describing it without really describing it, and because I have no excuses and don’t have anything else to do, I accept for both of us.

Mescalito seems surprised – he knows I have spider fears and like hiking only so long as I’m comfortable with my surroundings and company. But I’m feeling a bit reckless and an adventure seems imminent, although we barely know this dude, this Michael, an amateur naturalist who carves smooth, sturdy walking sticks out of near-dead branches and uses them to barter for tobacco, food, goods, weed and whatever else he may need at any given point.
Before I know it, I possess my own, slim staff acquired in exchange for four dollars and good hospitality that Mescalito and I afford him before the hike (we give him orange juice, attempt to feed him and smoke him up just right so as to take the edge off the pain of his injured knee).

So, we begin a very slow trek to his campsite (see above: injured knee), stopping along the way here and there, my annoyance and concern growing only because I don’t know where we’re going and don’t know the dude well enough to judge whether or not his quirky eccentricities are really a front for a violent personality. (He has a rather large and sharp knife that he tried to get me to use when I made sandwiches, and though I assumed it was for carving the walking sticks, I took note of just in case the situation turned ugly.)

We walk and walk, leaving the wide, open path to make our way through the people-free forest. Mescalito occasionally asks where we’re going and receives no response, which makes me more nervous but also a bit angry, because the mosquitos out here are thick and there’s no sight of his campsite.

We walk in a line, me in the back, Mesc in the middle, and Michael in front, and I watch Michael carefully, ready to wield my staff as a weapon if he makes any sudden, aggressive movements. But he doesn’t and eventually, we see his campsite and all is well, save for all the bugs. He sprays us down with OFF, spreads out his waterproof jacket for us to sit on, and then we hang for a little while, smoke, chat, look at the woods, talk about nature. Mescalito gives Michael a few buds and Michael, grateful, has Mescalito pick his own walking stick, a strong Sparkleberry that matches my own quite nicely. Then, he bids us adieu and we head out, making a beeline to the trail in record time. (It really isn’t far but Michael didn’t want folks to know where he was camped, so he took a more roundabout route to get there).

We chat about our fears, both relieved that everything transpired smoothly, and then we spend the next hour hanging like royalty with Ted Freed, the mastermind of the Uphonia festival at which we were having so much fun.

From the Goddess Files