North to Mendocino

IMG_1375Berkeley has its tribes and several of these tribes have very specific summer rituals.  For many tribes, camp of some sort–whether daycamp overseen by YMCA staff or sleep away camping at Gold Lake, or with the Chrysallis enviro science peeps–is part of the season. Parents and kids head together to Our Family’s camp option.The city even owns its own family camp. Today’s the day that the youngest of the adults (who would, in the minds of some of their folks, be the oldest of the kids) from Fred’s tribe head to its ritual summer meeting ground, Camp Winnarainbow, a land where dancing on stilts, big- and small-wheel unicycles, flying trapezes, fire juggling and singing the hit songs of 1968 are de rigeur (as is, of course, the emblematic tie dye).

After serving a perhaps unparalleled three years as teen staff (due to the lateness of his birthday), Fred’s finally graduated to adult staff.  He hasn’t missed a summer since he was seven and although he experimented with other tribal camp grounds as well during the first three years of his summer camp life, including one he disdainfully still calls “meat camp”, Wavy Gravy land seems to have been his preordained tribe. So much so that as of today, he and his contemporaries–slick modern college students who live on FB and Skype ten months out of the year–willingly, eagerly click close their laptops, unplug their cell phones and start humming the Fifth Dimension.

He cruises up the highway today with a girl/woman he knows only from camp, although I knew her parents for years during and because of the schoolyear.   Yesterday, in an ironic double rite of passage (tantamount to getting baptized and confirmed all within the same hour), he visited his first deathbed and then Syped for help filling out his first tax forms. And although he’s promised a postcard during the duration, I expect to hear nothing more this summer; he’s gone off with his tribe for the season.

He was wearing an old shirt of mine yesterday, I noticed as we were Skyping, an iconic olive drab one, emblazoned with a red star and “Berkeley,” given to me by a friend who gave me several other things across the years, including her story of how her own summers at camp were the best months of her life, the time she could most be herself until adulthood. She also gave me the t-shirt I’m wearing today (swatched at the header of this entry), so I’m giving it double duty today: memoriam, as she died last year, and send-off, as Fred heads off with his tribe.


2 Responses to “North to Mendocino”

  1. Al Goldsmith Says:

    My condolences.

  2. halifaxing Says:

    Thanks, Al. Always good to hear from you!

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