By Andreas Trolf (with additional photos by Dave Franklin)
You know how when you live in a city sometimes all you can think about is getting the fuck out of the city? Life gets a bit too complicated and you just want to run screaming into the woods and forget about things for a while. Or possibly you just feel the overwhelming desire to binge drink, see some bands play in the forest, and set fires. Either way, I imagine that it's pretty common for city dwellers the world over to want to get back to nature on occasion. Every August for the past four years a group of us has been convening in rural Maine on a parcel of land owned by Lowcard founder Rob Collinson. A bunch of folks fly out from San Francisco, more people drive up from New York, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, and the Maine locals dust off their skateboards and head down the road to meet us as well. It's really quite wonderful and each year I make a little zine to give to all the people that made the trip. No one who wasn't there gets a copy, but this year a bunch of first timers trudged up there (9 hours due north from New York), and I don't have everyone's address to send out the zines. And also Trippe asked me to blog it up, and since I'm a self-important narcissist I couldn't turn down an opportunity for exposure and self-promotion. And besides, according to post-modern conceit nothing truly takes place unless you're able to document it and share it, no matter how small and insignificant something is. Everything that will ever happen will live forever on the internet! Hail technology! Hail exhibitionism!
Here's a little preview of what's to follow, just to pique your interest in yet another blog.
Anyhow, as the second weekend in August was approaching we all made our respective plans for getting up to Maine. Some of us gathered in New York first in order to luxuriate in the 100-degree temperature for a few days. I spent most of that time at my brother's house on the beach, where I scarcely left the water. I had planned on renting a 15 passenger van for the drive up since so many people had expressed an interest in attending Rob-stock, as it's affectionately known. But lo and behold, as it turns out some unpaid parking tickets from 7 years ago had finally caught up with me, and the great state of New York saw fit to strip me of my driving privileges. But rather than go to court to have my license reinstated, I just borrowed my brother's truck and hoped I wouldn't get pulled over. It seemed at first that there were more people going on the trip than there were cars, so we had to do some creative rearranging of rides. When our day of departure came, I was in a truck filled with camping gear and my friend Sally Vitello. We decided to break the torturous drive up into two days, so our first stop on the way up was going to be Boston-a city I normally can't fucking stand. We planned on staying with my ex-wife Nicole, so that was at least something to look forward to even though I hate that fucking city. I don't know if I can quite articulate what it is exactly about Boston that drives me nuts, but maybe it has something to do with a classic East Coast rivalry, or the fact that they call roundabouts "rotaries" up there. I don't know. Anyhow, we got there in the evening and while Sally crashed out at the house and watched America's Next Top Model or some shit with Nicole's roommate, Nicole and I headed off into the night in search of booze. Luckily, despite my distaste for Boston, it is a drinkin' city. So they at least have that going for them, right?
We headed over to this one bar that I've already forgotten the name of so as to meet up with some of Nicole's friends. They actually turned out to be a pretty okay bunch for a bunch of Bostonians. Oddly enough, as it turned out Nicole's friend Scott was a coworker of this girl Jen Novak that I went to high school with and hadn't seen in many years. I'm not quite sure how we stumbled upon this bit of information, but I was totally jazzed when Scott invited us to their work the next day to surprise Jen. I asked him what they did for a living and he said, "Oh, that's the best part. We train monkeys!" Needless to say, I almost crapped my pants.
The next morning, bright and early, Sally, Nicole, and I headed over to Helping Hands, the only facility in the world that trains helper monkeys for the disabled. We entered what looked like a fancy southern mansion on a totally nondescript street in suburban Boston, but once inside my head nearly exploded from joy. There were monkeys everywhere! Little Capuchin monkeys! Wearing diapers!
When Scott brought us in we walked right up to Jen and she didn't even recognize me. In my own brain, I haven't changed one bit since high school. Apparently, though, I look like shit. Why didn't someone tell me? After I reintroduced myself to her and we hugged, Jen asked us if we wanted to hang out with the monkeys. As if that was even open to debate. Bring on the primates, I told her.
There's me with my new best friend. I forgot his name, so I'm going to call him Gary.
Here you can see some of our new buddies climbing all over Sally. These little dudes are highly trained and can do all sorts of amazing things to assist disabled folks, such as using household appliances, scratching itches, and cooking soufflés, but at the end of the day they still prefer life's simple pleasures like grooming you and picking lice and mites from your hair. Apparently they have a special affinity for blond hair, so Sally was overwhelmed immediately.
Nicole, on the other hand, got felt up. I mean, granted, it was a tiny monkey that touched her boob, but I still felt a bit territorial since she used to be my old lady. It took a lot of self-control for me not to pull a knife on that motherfucker.
After hanging out with the monkeys for most of the day, we hugged them all goodbye and got back on the road to Maine. We drove most of the day and caravanned for a while with Clemoff, Jen, and Denise who had since caught up to us, having driven straight up past Boston from New York while we were busy playing with monkeys. When we finally got to Maine it was pouring rain. And this wasn't any pussy-ass San Francisco rain. This was tropical Maine monsoon rain. We made it to the campsite and couldn't even get out of the cars. Rather than sleep uncomfortably in a truck, common sense prevailed and we got motel rooms in town. The next morning, the sun was shining and I was filled with a buoyant optimism. When we got back to the campsite we found Busenitz already drinking beers and shooting things with his newly acquired bb gun.
After pitching out tents unloading our crap, the first order of business-as it is every year-is to go swimming at Six Mile Lake. It's truly glorious. Nothing but hills and trees and cliffs and a rope swing and one giant lake (completely free of lake monsters and eels and bog-men). This year was the first time that anyone thought far enough ahead to acquire some inflatable rafts for lounging in the water. In years past, we'd just jumped off the cliffs and swum around for a bit. This year, though, the rafts made all the difference. Also, since there's no running water Six Mile served as our only means of bathing.
Here you can see Dave Franklin getting radical on the rope swing. There are also various levels of cliffs from which to jump, starting off with "Pussy Rock," a mere five feet above the lake, going all the way up to "Fucking Shit Rock." Janelle even brought her little dog, which I personally thought was a mistake. I mean, seriously, look at that little bitch.
Would you not think that it would get eaten by a fucking bear on the very first night there? In the end, though, no bears showed up and the little dog was a constant source of hilarity once we all ate our stash of mushrooms (more on that later).
Here's my roommate Mariah. You can never have enough photos of chicks and guns. You might recognize her from fecal face. And since I'm mentioning the internet, I might as well go ahead and articulate what turned out to be a huge theme for us this year: websites! It seems like everyone on this trip has their own website and had brought at least one digital camera with them. The catch phrase of the week was, "Hey, aren't you (blank) from the internet???" followed by uproarious laughter. But it's true. No fewer than five separate websites are covering this camping trip. It's like some sort of cosmic blog convergence! And since I'm probably the last one to write about it, I guess this blog officially counts as OVERKILL (seriously, go ahead and look at www.endlessbummer.com, www.epiclytrife.com, www.slapmagazine.com, www.lowcardmag.com, or www.hightowereverything.com. No really, go ahead. I'll wait ). While we're waiting, here's a really lovely photo that Dave Franklin took of a rope swing and some lake mist. Ahhh, the serenity
After swimming, it was time to head back to camp in order to relayer the miniramp we'd built on our very first summer in Maine. The ramp is excellent, and every year we seem to add another ridiculous obstacle. One year Rob decided that it needed a deathbox, so in the middle of someone's run he took a chainsaw and cut a hole in the transition. The next year we added quarterpipes to the platform. This year we made a janky extension only a couple inches wide at the top. It's truly a miracle that there haven't been any broken bones yet, considering all the alcohol consumed over the course of the trip.
This is Ashley, one of the locals and an all around excellent dude. Two years ago during the campout he got a tattoo of a lobster from Rocco that covers up most of his forearm (you know, lobsters=Maine), only Rocco made the claws a bit too small so technically Ashley's got a crawdad covering his fucking forearm. This year he brought the entire family.
Here he is with his little dude, Cecil. For some reason junior had a busted wing, although it didn't stop him from goddamned tear-assing around camp, playing with power tools and stealing skateboards at every opportunity. When I have kids, I can only hope they're 1/10th as cool as this little rugrat.
Speaking of cool, here's Ashley's other kid, whom he's trained to hold his beer for him. That alone is reason enough to make babies, don't you think? A-dorable!
As in years past, catching snakes was a highly anticipated pastime for our group of derelicts. Here's Rob with the first catch of the week. Rob sucks.
And here we have Jake Japanese of Hightower fame, holding up the newly minted Hightower bro-model from Coda Skateboards (shameless plug-order yours today at www.codaskateboards.com, God I'm pathetic).
One of the crew of newcomers, Jilleen had a pretty sweet tent set-up. She handed me a marker and asked me to draw on it for her. The "insert wiener here" part is what I came up with. Some might consider that sexist or misogynist, but to those people I say, Could you have come up with a better idea?
And here we have the undisputed King of Lowcard, Chris Lewis. Lewis owns one of only two Lowcard tattoos. He got his while in Maine last year. He also gets the most coverage in Lowcard as well as Maine-iacs of any single individual. Lewis is a wonderful dude, but is also the embodiment of Lowcard. Last year when we picked him up in Connecticut on our way to Maine, he'd just polished off an entire bottle of Sloe Gin and his last words to his Grandfather as he left the house were, "You know what, Grandpa? You're not so fucking tough " He also forgot to bring a change of clothes or a sleeping bag. On the plus side, he brought a bunch of Thrasher back issues and some sandwiches. I love this guy.
Look closely at the above photo. Can you tell why he thought that skateboarding was especially difficult for two entire days? The truck-reversal was courtesy of the fine folks at Water Brothers in Newport, Rhode Island (I love those dudes).
Speaking of Newport, it was right around this time that Demassek arrived! For those of you unfamiliar with this spectacular musical group, there are quite possibly no words that will do them any justice. Suffice it to say that at their last appearance in New York a week prior to our camping trip, there was so much epicness that I ended the night by taking Angela Boatwright to get stitches, while Jake and Lewis both gushed blood everywhere as well.
Here we see Logan and Dods of Demassek arriving with our beverage of choice: Gnarlo Rossi table wine. These dudes, along with Ricky, form the Scottish Triumvirate of Newport. They are possibly the best dudes of all time. If you don't believe me, just go have a look at their daily hijinx on endless bummer.
It wasn't until this point that we really got down to proper rugged woodsman-like activities. This is Logan and Bringer-of-Death (I don't even know dude's real name but with a moniker like that, do you even need a real name?) getting down to it and chopping some wood. Well done. Each year Demassek sets up a shantytown of graffittied tents behind the ramp, and each year the shantytown gets a bit more haggard in both appearance and temperament. This year, for instance, a drunken Chris Lewis crawled into Dods's tent and refused to get back out. So rather than get too worked up about it, Dods simply collapsed his own tent and pummeled Lewis while he was trapped inside. I wish to God I had photos of this going down, because they ended up having a pseudo-fist fight, which Jake tried to break up and for his efforts got thrown in the mud. But like I said, this is already well-covered territory, so go find the photos elsewhere on the interweb.
He we have Dods and Ricky with two invaluable camping accoutrements: the headlamp and the jug of wine. Ricky was especially stoked because rather than the de rigeur Gnarlo Rossi, he'd found some a jug of wine from Livingston, his Scottish home.
This is the kind of thinking that complicates life. I'm sure that before you get up to the woods getting all camouflaged seems like a great idea, and camo beer coozies just complement the whole kit. But what happens if you drop your beer, Dods? How will you find it again? Once we'd gotten all settled and well drunk, the appointed hour for fire pit skating arrived. This ritual dates back dozens of generations, back when Clemoff first hauled a bunch of plywood over to the fire and built a runway.
It always entertaining and I never participate, mainly because it's too damned hilarious when someone doesn't quite clear the fire.
If you were wondering how we got such an incredible fire going after it had rained so much the previous night, this is your answer. We actually started cannibalizing Rob's shack, where he spent five years of his life living with his Dad. At one point when I was completely mushroom-addled and Rob and I were pulling shingles off the shack to feed the fire, I got really introspective and philosophical and asked Rob how he felt about destroying his past (the shack) to fuel the present (the fire; the camping trip). It seemed really deep to me at the time. Something about how nothing truly exists aside from the moment that you're in-how the past disappears with each passing moment and all we're left with is relics of something that's gone forever, just as with each passing moment we lose a part of ourselves that lived in the past and how we're all on this unavoidable, ineluctable collision course with our own mortality. Fuck man, I was getting deep there for a minute. Anyhow, the next morning we were all quite haggard and hanged over, so we jumped in several cars and drove a ways down the road to our Maine restaurant of choice: Helen's! August in Maine is blueberry season, so everything (everything) is packed with freshly picked blueberries. Pancakes, pies, hamburgers, and especially fresh blueberry juice. You truly haven't lived until you've had a sip of freshly squozen blueberry juice; it's like life is exploding inside of you. It's wonderful.
After breakfast, Six Mile was once again calling us.
On the way back from the lake, you have to walk past this little trailer in the middle of the woods. We've always just walked right past it, but this time Ricky decided that his curiosity was too great not to have a quick peek inside. He even left two cold beers in the trailer's fridge for whoever might come along to discover them (although we all placed odds that it would be either Lewis or Dan Pensyl).
After swimming we found some yard sales.
Here's Bringer with his giant gauntlet.
Logan bought himself a sheepskin rug and a mailbox incase anyone wanted to send him a postcard. The next morning he checked the mailbox outside of his tent and he had two postcards. I'm not kidding. I bought a leather vest covered with patches from the Bangor, Maine chapter of the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.), which I gave to my brother, Alexis, because he owns a Harley and is tougher than I am (even though we both have sissy names).
When we got back from the yard sale, it had started to rain again. Not everyone planned ahead with tarps, and even some of the tents ended up getting quite soaked (city slickers ). Most of us just crowded underneath the ramp's platforms and waited out the rain.
Of course, some people didn't mind shattering the illusion that we were actually in the wilds of nature. Davey and Pat hung out inside the shack, which I guess is actually more of a proper cabin than it is a shack. It's got three rooms and the main room still contains Rob's Dad's collection of books, magazines, and VHS tapes upon which he recorded quite a collection of episodes of National Geographic Explorer as well as episodes of Manimal and Simon and Simon.
When the rain finally subsided, people were stoked. Everyone came out of hiding and just sort of rejoiced and thanked the gods of the forest for blessing us with a lovely day on which to drink beer and cook sausages.
Stupidly enough, no one remembered to bring a grill for the fire. Someone was dispatched posthaste to the nearest supermarket to steal us a shopping cart. It worked perfectly.
People were once again in high spirits and we knew the rain would never stop us! Pat Smith started shooting things again and Hightower and Demassek started setting up their gear in preparation for the evening's show.
Jilleen, however, discovered the summer's first sign of the impending vernal equinox. I asked to take a photo of her, and she obliged but only after covering her face out of fear that she'd be featured on "some dumb website." I hate to tell you this, Jilleen, but there's already a photo of you with your tongue hanging out of your mouth next to a drawing of a wiener on this website.
These two dogs were running around camp all day trying to hump. Well, to be fair, one of them wanted to hump and the other wanted to not get humped. The one that wanted to do the humping had his little rocket out and was gyrating his hips for ages in anticipation of some hot coitus. The other dog kept growling at him, but in the end (with a little help from Logan and his giant beer) relented. The funny thing though was that everyone thought it was the single greatest thing that had ever happened in the history of the world. Everyone had their cameras out and was documenting for all posterity the image of two dogs getting it on. The truly funny thing wasn't that two dogs were humping, but rather that when they separated Logan happened to get a bit too close.
I had no idea that dogs pulled out early. Sure beats doggie rubbers, though. It was about this time that everyone started dipping into their satchels of mushrooms. Man, I'll tell you, nothing beats hanging out in the woods and eating psychotropic drugs. Last year I ate too much and tore my shirt off and ran through the woods screaming, "Valhalla!!!" It was awesome.
Here's Brian, who happens to be a bit on the sensitive side sometimes. This was his first time up in Maine, although it was hardly his first experience with mushrooms. Only a few months ago Brian, Pensyl, Tim Vander, and I ate a bunch of mushrooms and went skating around Brooklyn on a Saturday night. I ended the night curled up in a fetal position on the floor of Pensyl's bathroom. Nude. Brian ate his mushrooms and felt like picking a lovely bouquet of flowers. Awwww. His judgment must have been seriously impaired, though, because he didn't think anyone would make fun of him for carrying around a bunch of wildflowers-for 18 hours. His new nickname is Wildflower, so please address him accordingly from now on, okay?
I'd love to say that Lewis was in rare form this day, but this behavior is way too common for him for it to be considered "rare form." Dave applied a temporary tattoo to Lewis's forehead, which Lewis proceeded to forget about for a while and when he took it off finally he had the letters sunburned into his flesh.
We had not one, but two sets of twins with us! What are the odds?
Pensyl ate mushrooms, too. Only he accidentally ate waaay too many and proceeded to inhabit a magical land of hilarity for approximately 48 hours. I'm not kidding. In fact, I'm still not sure if he's ever fully recovered. Everything was hilarious to this dude.
Speaking of hilarious: here are Dan's Lowcard toes.
Then it was time for Hightower to go on. And by "on" I mean "set up their gear on some plywood and do their best to not fall over. Lewis got the best seat in the house. Actually, it was much more than that. This was a dream made into reality: an easy chair with a beer holder in the arm, set up only six feet from where Hightower was playing. He was in Dude Heaven.
Things got even better for him when he got an impromptu Hightower lap dance courtesy of Dave Fallis.
The plywood stage was not working to Shane's advantage. People kept running up mid-song and setting his cymbals back up for him. That's what's so awesome about life, though-people working together for the betterment of all mankind!
Let's check back in with Pensyl:
Yep. Still hilarious.
Some local hippies even showed up and hung a giant tapestry from some trees. It was kind of an odd moment realizing that Rob-stock had taken on a life of its own. Rob kept on saying, "The more, the merrier!" but then also offered $10 to the first person who'd pull the tapestry down. Lewis jumped at the chance to earn $10 and ran over to where the hippies were congregated and proclaimed his intentions of laying the tapestry to waste. I thought they were going to start crying or something, but their leader calmly asked Lewis to not destroy it because they'd worked very hard on it all year.
For some reason, the hippie's gentle plea for mercy really struck a chord with Lewis and he proceeded to get sucked into a 20 minute lecture about how the tapestry was a pictorial allegory for the U.S.-led war on drugs. And granted, everyone there was probably on drugs, but no one wants to get lectured while actually on drugs, especially so in the woods, and even more especially so when Hightower is playing. Dods turned everyone's attention back to the issues at hand by attempting to skate down the fire pit runway.
...which did not work out the way he'd hoped.
The set ended somewhat abruptly when Jake realized that he was entirely too wasted to continue. You should have seen the look in his eyes when he came to this conclusion. It was the 1,000 yard stare. The lights were on, but nobody was home. Mid-song, he simply took off his guitar and dropped it on the ground and with a jug of wine he wandered into the woods like some sort of enchanted forest creature that was being called home by some sort of siren song.
Then something magical happened that none of us will ever, ever forget. This one dude, Louis (who is this 40 year-old local that Rob and his friends have known for years and had picked a bunch of fights with people last year, prompting Rob to kick him out, but who came back this year but only under Rob's strict admonition that he remain calm and courteous under threat of an ass-kicking of biblical proportion), got incredibly wasted and fell into a pile of lumber. Head first. When he stood back up, he had a rusty nail entering his cheek and exiting inside his mouth! I wish, I wish I had a photo of the nail actually sticking out. The truly funny thing is that he didn't even quite realize what had happened. Apparently (I didn't see it) he stood up and tried to get his balance, and things dawned on him as he put a hand to his wobbly head.
Immediately, everyone there pulled out their cameras and started documenting the bloodbath. I was standing with Rob when Susie House ran up to us (Rob's a paramedic) and told us in a very calm voice, "Excuse me, Rob, but could you come with me for a moment? There's a man with a nail in his face." Rob calmly replied, "Well how did that happen?" It was priceless.
We ran over and found this media circus. Clemoff was videotaping it and even asked the dude if he could turn his head a bit to one side because the light was better. Again, priceless. Rob started yelling at him, "It's always something with you, Louis. Every fucking year you do some dumb fucking shit " To which Louis, much to his credit, replied, "Look Rob, I don't need to tell you that I have A NAIL IN MY FACE, so I would appreciate it if you didn't criticize me right now."
Rob simply walked up to him and snatched the nail right out and told the hapless drunk to go and get a tetanus shot in the morning. Here's what it looked like:
And here's Susie's reaction to the whole thing:
Hilarity! We're a bunch of heartless monsters. And just then, the hippies decided to pack it in and take back off to their secret underground lair. As their leader was getting on his motorbike, Ricky asked him in his thick Scottish accent if he could get the thing up to a hundred miles an hour. The guy said, "probably," and Ricky said, "Well then, hoo aboot given m'eh a ride then?"
And away they sped into the night!
Then it was time for Demassek to go on. They've got a reputation as consummate showmen, all of them, and on this occasion we were not let down. not one goddamned bit.
They'd planned giant torches and Scottish flags well in advance. Here's Tooth holding up one of the torches. Bringer and Lewis held up the others and Lewis even managed to set himself on fire very briefly. No one seemed at all concerned about a bunch of drunks holding up giant flaming tree branches. Ricky got so stoked that he held a giant Scottish flag aloft for well over an hour. What a dude! It was glorious!
Here's Pete and Dods, making life happen.
Logan is an animal behind the drums. You could actually see the steam coming off him.
And on lead guitar is Antone! What he does on a guitar can only be described as miraculous. His fingers fly over the frets, the strings sing, sending praise to ancient Norse gods!
And in the middle of it all, Rob fell asleep while standing up.
Shane had the best Uncle Creepy hair going. But even so, he was raging. Maybe more so because of the hair. Demassek made people spontaneously combust.
The night came to a close with our annual ritual of having a friendly wrestling match on the ramp's flatbottom. It happens every year. People get covered in beer and mud and generally cannot stop laughing. This year, though, there was some unpleasantness involving a first time camper from Michigan, who's name I won't mention but who is generally considered to be one of the biggest dipshits in all of existence (Jerry Mraz), who managed to pick not one, but two separate fights. The night ended on an up note, though, when I swung Mariah around by her ankles and used her to knock people over! Maybe I'm a dipshit, too. Who can tell?
The next morning everyone was in complete disarray. People were passed out all haphazard everywhere. It looked as if a booze bomb had gone off. Body parts strewn about, empty beer bottles, discarded clothing left to soak in mud puddles like eagerly discarded prom dresses or Christmas trees in January. And then there was Lewis. Passed out warm and comfortable inside, reclining in an easy chair. He's got this terrible affliction when he sleeps that I'm termed "the suffering."
He doesn't so much snore as moan. I've slept in the same room as Lewis before and it's really quite terrifying. First he'll stop breathing, which is terrifying because you're first thought is, "Holy shit! He's dead!" Then, slowly, he'll start to take in air again, but it's all gurgling and bubbling, like he's breathing through a layer of mucous. Then he'll start to shiver and convulse, slightly at first, but with growing violence. Then the crying and moaning starts. It's horrible; enough to give you nightmares. All of this would be enough on its own, but the whole mess in concert is truly horrible to behold. God bless you, Lewis. I just don't want you to die, ok?
When he finally woke up, Lewis found the decapitated head of this giant teddy bear we'd bought for a dollar the day before at a yard sale. He emptied it of its stuffing and wore it around like a mask for a while, completely scaring the living shit out of each of the little kids in attendance (yeah, I know. Not the best environment for the kids, but don't judge anyone. I plan on bringing my kids when I get some). The kids would catch sight of him and start screaming at top volume and take off running. Finally, I had to tell Lewis that he was mentally scarring the children. That every time they see a drunken bear in the future, they'll have horrible memories of their childhood. Finally he took off the mask.
Then we all went home.
All in all, it was a lovely time yet again. Friendships were forged that will last for a lifetime. Brain cells have disappeared that we'll never get back. I have a pretty nice scar from a human bite. And we're already planning for next year. Just please don't ask to come with us, okay? This part of rural Maine has no more vacancy in August.
I'm not sure if I've got any deep parting words or anything. I could probably get away with just spouting some platitudes, so here goes:
This too shall pass...
so I'm going to live it up while I've got the time.
There, is that good enough for you people?
|< Prev||Next >|