Monday morning I debated making a trip over the hill to the Ukiah valley where our watermelons and sweetcorn might be needing water. At the Mosswood Market in Boonville my girlfriend, Jetta (who is carrying a baby on the inside, due any time) and I stopped for coffee. The place was bustling with tattoos on parts of human flesh that are not normally exposed, partially thanks to the heat.
"I've been standing in the same place for twenty minutes. Feels like I'm in New York," said one of my friends, a local.
"I'll be right back," a seven-foot tall fellow wearing a baseball cap, with a scruffy beard, told me.
"Cool," I said, not sure what the guy meant, or why he thought I might care.
"I've never seen so many tattoos on women. Girls didn't get tattoos when I was young," said my friend.
Behind the counter, the baristas, usually chatty, were moving like factory workers on an assembly line.
At the long redwood table, once we'd finally filled our cups, we ran into AVA contributor, Debra Keipp, who was waiting for breakfast.
"So did you guys check out the festival?" she asked.
"Yeah," said Jetta, somewhat dejectedly.
"You didn't have a good time?"
"Well, we enjoyed part of it--"
"It started out a little rough," I interjected.
"He made a big scene at the ticket booth."
On Friday we had stopped by to see about tickets for the weekend, and even with the locals discount it came to $360 for the two of us. So we'd hiked back to the truck, encountered some friends who were partying behind Rossi's Hardware where you could clearly hear the band, "Boontfire," jamming as they say, without paying to get in. That act may have been the highlight of the weekend for some people.
On Saturday, at the same ticket booth, I told the women that we were locals.
"You have I.D.?"
"Yeah, but it's from Indiana. Long story. I'm too lazy to wait in line at the DMV."
"I have to see I.D."
"Well I've got a Boonville P.O. box. I got mail in the truck."
"I'll have to see it."
"For twenty bucks? You're telling me to walk all the way back to my truck for twenty bucks?"
By the time we reached our truck, Jetta was crying. "I don't even want to go in. You say you don't care about money, and you're making a big deal over twenty dollars. This is the second time you've embarassed me in front of these people."
"Hey, if it takes us 45 minutes to prove we're local, that's double minimum wage. All we're doing is walking."
"Easy for you to say."
Not only did I grab some mail addressed to the Boonville Post Office, but rifled through past issues of the AVA because Jetta still was armed with her Indiana ID. I'd written about her in previous episodes.
"You’re wasting your time. They won't believe you!"
"Where was that last one? I know it's in here. Here! See! Jetta! We'll show them the article and your ID."
"This is stupid."
At the ticket counter, I presented to the lady the envelope with the address. I was hoping she would ask to see Jetta's ID only so I could unfold the AVA, but she said she believed we were locals and still got $160 out of us. I gave her the newspaper, anyway, and told her they should all read it, get a real taste of Anderson Valley life.
"They won't read it after you acted like that," said Jetta.
As it was still scorching in the sun at that hour, we migrated to the redwood grove, the secondary stage you might call it, and unfolded our blanket on the grass. Soon Lady Rainbow and her beau spotted and joined us. We passed a few joints and waited for the next act, "Talking Dreads." Due to the current supply/demand situation, a nearby booth was handing out half ounces of premium, fresh, light dep, triple miyagi OG Kush for free. Medicinal. For free!
"They used to say we couldn't have concerts here because all the people dancing would kill the grass," said Lady Rainbow. She went on to describe one of the original benefits the hippies put on with the help of Kate Wolfe, also digressed into other escapades that she and Captain Rainbow had initiated over the decades. In a way, they had planted the original seeds that led to what has now become a commercial music venue.
The shows in the redwood grove like the band from Argentina and the Talking Dreads who did reggae style covers of Talking Heads hits, were the best, in my opinion. I couldn't stand the acts on the main stage. The last time I'd sat in those bleachers had been 2010, watching Anderson Valley Football/Soccer take Mendocino to school. I kept going on about that event as if it was more interesting than the show on stage, and I also started counting how many times the big time rasta guys said "Sierra Nevada!" or "Boonville!" or "Jah!" or "Rastafari!" It got to the point where the icon would inevitably shout one of those four words again, and I would look at Jetta, and she would glare back like SHUT UP! For hours the only discernable words I heard were those four, with the possible addition of "Babylon."
"They're from Jamaica! They have accents!" Jetta said. "So what if you can't understand the lyrics. Look them up!"
"Bob Marley is from Jamaica, and I understand all his lyrics. They come across plain as day. These guys are masking their lack of talent with an exaggerated Jamaican accent."
"You're just jealous. You wish it was you on stage."
"Nope. I'd rather be sitting in the bleachers with you."
"You're so full of shit."
Sparing some details, Jetta and I relayed that whole story to our friends at the long redwood table in the Mosswood. After Jetta had stormed out, Debra chided me. "These last few weeks before the baby comes, it's your job to keep the mood groovy, no matter what."
I agreed. On the pavement outside the Mosswood you could feel the heat of the day coming on. Stragglers from the festival wandered both sides of 128, some of them practically floating or at least spiritually hovering, hoping their parachutes would function when gravity set in. I questioned the wisdom of a trip over the hill to Ukiah, and considered the possibility of putting that off for evening, spending the night in the garden there, working in the early morning. I concluded the thing to do was give Jetta more space and stop into Pic'n'Pay for a six pack of Poleeko Gold, say Hi to Irene who works the counter.
Usually we chat about the weather, or kids, or livestock since she lives on a ranch in the hills. Not today. Already haggard, Irene was dealing with only one customer when I stood next in line with the Poleeko.
The guy in front of me sported sandy blonde dreadlocks that reached his lower back. He wore a black athletic jacket. If not for the jacket, I might have gotten an unsolicited glimpse of his white ass, because the pockets of his oversized blue jeans, I noticed, spanned the backs of his knees. They were crunched at the bottom.
On the counter was a bag of peanuts, two bottles of water, and a shot of bourbon in a plastic bottle. Irene and the rasta man seemed to be negotiating. I gathered the guy might be a little buzzed, but at first paid no attention. Another Valley resident showed up in line behind me, said he was hung over after the weekend. He carried a single roll of toilet paper.
"Peace and love, the good vibes," said this dude in an artificial Jamaican accent. "I know you are smart girl. I know you are kind."
"I don't think you gave me a twenty," said Irene.
By this point several other customers, some locals and some festies, were assembling as an audience.
The guy kept changing his mind about what he wanted, and Irene was now going through the paper roll of receipts. I can't say how much time elapsed, but I did set the 6 pack of Poleeko Gold on the floor long enough to get into a conversation with the fellow who worked at the Redwood Drive-In. At first we were laughing at the lunacy Irene was enduring. To me it seemed like a classic improv comedy scene, almost like Abbott and Costello's famous "Who's on First?" Gradually, though, I realized the dreaded dude was trying to pull a fast one but was so wasted he was botching the job. However, he probably counted on her to let him win what turned out to be seven dollars out of pure frustration.
"Just leave!" Irene finally said. She was crying.
"Oh, you're so beautiful, you're woman smart, like."
"Hey, buddy!" said one of the guys in line. "She told you to get out!"
"Rastafari! Beautiful people! She is good woman! Right!" He looked directly at me through glazed pupils. "Right?"
After the guy finally exited the stage, I felt bad about having Irene ring up the beer. I thought about throwing her seven to cover the till. I wondered what Bob Marley would do.