You drive on roads that split the granite mountains. You pass through a stone railroad bridge tunnel. Very suspicious. You follow a non-visible river then turn right off the main road, past the sign advertising an event in 1960. There you enter the Valley. It all seems normal enough. The people riding bicycles are smiling. Why am I so edgy?
On your way to the far end of the Valley, you pass luxury golf-n-ski resorts, luxury in middle-class terms, that is. You pass summer homes designed by architects and a few older ones built by the folks who discovered the Valley generations ago. The original Squaws? Is this thin air safe to breathe?
I walked inside the big hall, took a second to get my bearings, this long-hair comes up to me and, grinning, asks: Did you find yourself yet? Okay, so that’s the way this thing is going to begin. He meant did I find my information packet. Oh, not a philosophical question. Well, yes, that too. I already doubted everything anyone said as possibly metaphorical, double-meanings would be everywhere this week.
Soon the calliope started to play and the mirrors spun right, colored lights flashed, and everyone jumped on a horse and the carousel moved us all forward towards somewhere no one knows. I'm not sure we were truly going in circles. Some folks rode unicorns, which should be imaginary animals, but in Squaw Valley are real. Some grabbed at the rings; I never got that part figured out. Maybe I was on the wrong horse. In fact, it wasn’t a horse at all, or a sea monster, but a darling deer. Highly symbolic.
Just so nobody tries to take my clothes off and pour bourbon down my throat. Wow, I’m dizzy anyway, where's the blur? And as the week progresses a few people start floating off into gravity-less space like the words spinning off in all directions. The big words. Lovely language goes sailing away into the air like eagles, like freed elevators sail in space. Pictures seen with closed eyes fly dangerously outwards too to, presumably, ricochet against the Valley walls.
The merry-go-round is so thrilling, so electrifying that we all laugh for a week. We join hands to dance the hokey pokey while we twirl. And there are voices amidst the circus music. Voices of words you read back inside and outside of Pleasure Island, where we all have come to become proud donkeys. We all bray, but still hear the voices. Familiar as mothers, reading fairy books aloud, putting us to bed, thank you, sleep tight.
I hated leaving the Squaw, the Valley, the Cradle, the Nest. I never wanted off that ride. The voices will always echo in my head and grow like sunflowers up from the words (Ron’s, Karen’s, Gerry’s, Brett’s, Amy’s, Alex’s, all the others). And we can always be donkeys together, I guess, because we put on our disguises when we left the Valley, covered our long ears, noses, tucked in our tails, but we all know each other’s secrets now. That's what it was all about, I think.
You might suspect the lemonade was spiked in order to subject a group of eager scribblers to a giant mind-bending experiment, but you’d be wrong. We brought our own bentness. We subjected ourselves. And it was glorious.
Happy trials, Martin
Mutt: Okay. Here’s the best joke I ever heard.Jeff: Shoot.
Mutt: A woman goes to the zoo and is completely taken by the beauty and power of the gorilla. She cannot take her eyes off him. He is sleeping against the bars of the cage, and even though a sign says not to, she reaches her hand in to stroke him. Instantly, he awakes and goes berserk, tearing the bars of the cage open to get at her, mauling her to within an inch of her life. Finally, the zoo personnel manage to hit him with the tranquilizer darts. The woman is taken to an ICU, barely alive, but slowly, slowly she pulls through. After four days she is finally allowed visitors. Her best friend arrives. The woman can barely open her eyes. “God, you look like you’re in a lot of pain,” the friend says, and the woman sighs. “Pain,” she says. “You don’t know pain. He doesn’t call, he doesn’t write …”
Jeff: You stole that from Anne Lamott, didn’t you?
Mutt: Word for word, buddy, word for word.