We were out of bed at 4:00 in the morning (5:00 Utah time - my usual time to get up on weekdays), but it was still a ungodly early. We made coffee, packed a few remaining things in the cars, and headed off to the park – me in the Malkuth-Mobile and Kate in the van. Brace yourself for this shocking news, but…we were the first people to arrive. Someone else showed only a few minutes later, but is was nice to know that the two earth babies were the first to arrive. The setup for our corner of the festival was routine (once they figured out just where we were supposed to be) and taken care of in mere minutes.
After finishing with our site, we pitched in (groan) to help with the big tents. Why don't these things come with instructions, or some sort of color or letter based scheme to offer a few hints on what attaches to what? But it didn't take us long to figure it out. Even with something like this, there is always that little secret to make it work so much better, and there is always that one person who knows the trick and is willing to pass the knowledge along. In this case, what I learned is how to tie a line to a tent stake. Loop the line once, with the tail off the bottom and slide it down over the stake. Hold in place. Loop again in the tail, with the tail coming off the top. Place over the stake. Cinch tight. Now start wrapping the rope around the stake, traveling up and trapping the head of the rope in the coils. Note that this shortens the head as it goes, increasing the tension from the tent. When you get near the top of the stake, very little tension is needed on the tail to hold it tight. One last loop over the stake and cinch, just to keep the tail from unraveling, and you are done. This will hold 3000 lbs – usually the stake or the tent will give way before this "knot" will release.
But Murphy's law still rules, hand in hand with monkey actions from the crowd. Murphy's law is that I learned how to tie down a line in time to do it only once. Monkey in the form of "Dave the Younger". This is a name given by Kate, and it is a cause for some consternation. Back in Utah there were a few Daves, known as The Elder and The Younger, who were ne'er do well's (and who also informed some of Kate's perceptions of the Ceremonial Magician…of which there will be more later). So every time she used the name, I would first think of the Provo version, then wonder if she was using this name as a sort of derisive term, then realize it was just an economy of words, and there really wasn't any other name she could use to separate him from the older Dave. Anyway…Mr. The Younger came along about the time we were finishing up with the last two tents and informed us that they had to be moved.
Kate had a word or two to say, all of them nice, but there is always the message behind the words. In this case the message was, "Sure. We'll move the tents. But we'll also spend the rest of the day casting raw looks at you and mumbling under out breaths when we pass you on the grounds." Lucky for us, another soul arrive, skilled in the art of diplomacy and also in the art of speaking words that have also have a message behind the words.
I don't know the name of our savior, I can't even recall his face, but he was a rare man indeed. He also knew how to say one thing while delivering another message. What he said was something like this: "Man, I agree with you, it should be moved. And if it was an hour ago, we'd move it. But it isn't an hour ago, so I think we're just going to have to leave them where they are." What he was really saying was, "You are NOT going to make these people move these tents, thereby negating their hard work and trashing their good will. Next time, if you just HAVE to have the tents set up 'just so', you better have your ass here early enough to take charge and have it done your way, instead of showing up late then throwing a hussy fit because these good folks didn't read you mind and do it the way you wanted." As it was, the performance stage worked just fine. No one was killed or maimed from things being in the wrong place, the earth did not tilt or wobble on its axis, and this place the audience just that much closer to the belly dancers…and this is a good thing.
There were a few other members of the gang that were there with us, or that put in a brief appearance. Ange was there all day (leaving the old man home alone all day, cruel people that we are). Kimie and her kids showed up and spent a surprising length of time with us. The kids loaded up on enough sugar to stay hyper for a week. There was also an appearance by Kate's Pentecostal (but very cool and mellow) friend (whose name escapes me). He was all bubbly because he bowled a 300 game a few days before. He was also supposed to be there working 'security', but that was little more that mere gesture or appearance. Like garbage patrol, it was mostly wandering around marveling at how little work was needed to get the job done.
The actual purpose for my being there, that of taking care of trash, deserves some mention. The overall layout of the festival was sort of like a mall, with booths (or rather tents) set up along each side, and a long open corridor down the center. The trash cans were set up on each side of the corridor, four to each side, like pillars holding up the roof of a long passage. s one might expect, there was a bit of work expended in hauling off bags as they became full, then placing fresh bags in the cans. There was also a time when we thought the park staff was going to have us haul them over hill and dale to the far end of the park for final disposal. But a lucky break when a crew came in and opened the gates to a closer works area with a dumpster took care of half the problem. The other half was solved when, impressed with how clean and well behaved we were, the park workers reversed themselves and told us to leave the rest of the bags outside the locked gates to this area, and they would take care of it for us. I think we impressed them.
As to picking up loose trash on the grounds, there was almost nothing to be done. The pagans of Phoenix were a very clean crowd that day. In fact I got a complement from the woman who had the same job last year, saying we (that is all 300 of us) did much better than last year. As it was, the wind stealing stuff from tables accounted for half the trash. Leftovers from previous days was also in the mix. I figure I picked up fewer then 6 pieces of genuine litter.
There was more to my day than just trash. For example, there was the polyamory discussion group – yawn. Even ignoring the fact that the topic had this one hobbled from the start, it was pretty bad. It was led by a fat chick. Little wonder. I left early.
The next presentation was by Kate, and was on Runes. Of course, she forgot her notes. And her brain did a big ol' flush as she started. But it was still better than the poly thing.
I made a point of wearing my OTO shirt to the event, hoping that at least ONE person would notice it and comment. I am pleased to say it ended up a bit better than that. In fact, much to my surprise and pleasure, the OTO had a booth there. There is a body in Tucson and the folk at pride day were on the verge of having a Phoenix body chartered. I found out later that they were all but approved and the only item still undecided was the name of the body. The guy in charge of the OTO effort was Jeff Herdee, and he makes a few more appearances in this narrative. Jeff was also the first to notice my shirt and comment on it. When I stopped by the OTO booth I picked up a few buttons (the OTO lamen was one, the other has a quote from the Book of the Law, "But to love me is better than all things…"). On a later trip to the booth I got a pair of short Tarot read from Jeff. I can't recall the cards that came up, but I can recall the questions and the answers.
The first question was whether or not to make an internal commitment to Kate. Not that this was NOT the flip side of the question, which is whether to break off the sexual commitment. In other words, do I formally forsake the possibility (and, if can be done, the actual desire) of sex with another woman, with the idea in mind that she and I will some day be living in the same airspace and having a more formal relationship. The answer was "No". So I guess this means to leave the relationship as it is, and accept that if some sweet young thing crosses my path and leads me to her bed, I should not allow thoughts of Kate to stop me from following. (Note that this doesn't mean I should just go without thinking. There may be a dozen good reasons not to be led down the primrose path, and they should be heeded. But Kate should not be among those reasons. On the other hand, and going back to the dozen valid reasons, I better be able to defend my actions if and when Kate levels the inevitable charges of insanity against me.)
Tarot read number two was on the wisdom of seeking an initiation with the OTO in Salt Lake City. On this on, I do recall the cards: Ten of Swords reversed, Ace of Swords reversed, then Ace of Cups (not reversed). In other words, do it. You'll have major trouble in the realm of intellect as you pursue this course (10 swords). You really WILL have trouble in the realm of intellect – trust me, you will (Ace Swords). But it will have a payoff (Ace Cups). Jeff didn't say anything about the fact it was the ace of CUPS (emotion, love, etc), only that is was an Ace. So I filled in the gaps (insert here a clip of Animal, drummer for Dr. Teeth, saying "Woman!"). Am I right? Then again, it could be Nuit and not a woman of mere flesh and blood.
Then there was the cast of characters, taken in order from ridiculous to sublime. Somewhere around the middle of the day we were graced with the brief presence of a gentleman I have chosen to call Mordachi The Foul. This man was dressed a robe of gold and black, flowing and regal, with a hood that even Crowley could envy. The image crossing my mind was of the top ten grand poobah's of the Golden Dawn, all pump to full brim of ego, with broom handles suitably inserted in ass, rolled into one person, and sent to pass judgment. He swooped onto the grounds and proceeded in regal if solitary procession in a single grand circumambulation of the grounds, starting at the southeast corner and proceeding widershins (of course), stopping for nothing yet acting as all that he passed paused in awe and reverence of his noble person. (They didn't – I doubt more than a dozen people even noticed him, and I am equally sure that each of us sniggered at the sight.) Then he passed out by the route by which he entered and was gone. I am guessing that we all managed to pass the scrutinizes of his judgments, for the earth did not open and swallow any booths, people or venues – as surly must have happened had we proved unworthy.
Then there was the usual collection of baby bats. What surprised me was how many of them knew Kate, seeming to hold her in some regard. I am told that this was largely the result of one remarkable young man who dragged his friends to a Rune class taught by Kate. I have some photos of a few of them playing a rousing game of slap and tickle, although it looks like they are dancing. I guess the difference between the two can be blurred at times.
Then there was the booth of The Astrology Shop. This is where I purchased a shot glass. On it was the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. The caption was, "Did the wizard ever get back to you about that brain?" Alas, this started a pattern that plagued me through the visit, resulting in a small collection of shot glasses following me home. Better than the shot glass was the two men running the booth, and owners of the shop. They were obviously and painfully gay. They were also from Utah, having moved out of Zion some 20 years previous.
Another memorable character, even though I studiously avoided her, was this little old lady, grizzled and wrinkled, who had the appearance of being the crone's own crown. The few times I crossed her path I found it hard to make eye contact with her, preferring very much to adopt a duck and run response. There was no visible reason why she had this effect on me. Under the surface of my psyche I think it felt like she could see through me, and that made me feel uncomfortable. It took me while to figure out that she also belonged to a guitar case sporting a flurry of stickers on the outside and housing a gorgeous 12 string on the inside. (of course this surprised me, because old people aren't musicians, right?). During Kate's Rune presentation, this woman took over the acoustic stage and started playing. At first it looked like she was just playing for her own pleasure, but then she waved a few people over to listen, and before long she had a small collection that included most of the baby bats. Whatever she was performing, it obviously captivated them. Every once in a while there would be laughter or some other response, indicating that she was playing well to her audience. Were is not for my fealty to Kate, I would have gone over to join her audience.
I learned later that the woman grabbed Kate's friend Rowan near the end of the day and stated flatly, "You. I'm going to teach you everything I know about the craft." Who could say no? Rowan is a member of the women's group Kate has been doing ritual with, having moved to Phoenix about a year ago. She was in a bad situation where she was living. Her children, living on dire straits themselves, did all that they could do for mom in buying her a one way bus ticket to Phoenix and sending her off to her future. She stepped of the bus without a dime and started a new life. It appears that she has done well for her prior resources and situation, and should be proud. So it may be that the crone could see through souls, took a look at this one and said, "Yes. This is good. This will do."
The day went pretty fast – one of my fears was that it would drag and leave me silently begging for an end to it. But it pleasantly enough, just the right pace, and over when I was ready for it to be over. Tearing things down went faster and more peacefully than setting up. We had plenty of helping hands, all of us feeling very good about the day. One of the helpers, still dressed in her dancing garb, reminded me very much of Willow. It was quite invigorating, distracting and frustrating, all at the same time. We pulled the last stake, emptied the last trash can and took down the last table with perfect timing,, finishing exactly when it was too dark to go on. I call that good timing. My car pulled out of the park at 7:20 – for a 14 and a half hour day.