Note: I wrote this in a frenzy at 2am last night. At the time, I thought better than to publish this. Now I'm not so sure. Enjoy.
I just returned to San Francisco after spending a weekend in Downieville, Californee. See, my friend was gracious enough to drive two of us Mission kids up to the Sierra Mountains after work on Friday for some 90-degree weather, freezing water, and physical activity that promised broken bones and bruised egos. The problem is that she can't see in the dark, never mind drive, and my other friend decided it'd be a good idea to have a tall glass of cheap booze with dinner. So despite the fact I haven't owned a car in two years and haven't held auto insurance in far longer, I was reluctantly deemed the most qualified to chauffeur the party back to San Francisco after a long weekend in the mountains.
That designation has left me all hopped up on Red Bull and the adrenaline of driving a 4 cylinder Honda at 75 mph through Sacramento, so I'm going to squander this chemical energy on an important lesson learned in campground minutiae.
Downieville has gone through a 160-year slump following the decline of gold mining and environmental legislation clear-cutting the lumber industry, leaving it's 282 residents to rely on being a booze and ice cream-filled basecamp for traveling mountain bikers. Undoubtedly a good thing for the local culture and gnarly city and coastal kids looking for some alpine escapism. The only problem with mountain bikers is that they often have money, and money breeds goblin children that don't know how the shut the fuck up at sunrise. Ordinarily this wouldn't be an issue, but the campsites outside of Downieville are particularly close together and baggy-eyed 26-year-olds that've been awaken at 6:30am all damn week by merciless PG&E goons frolicking up and down Capp Street with jackhammers aren't ones for the barks of unleashed vaginal spawn.
So imagine my glee and surprise returning to camp after a marathon bike ride and a sleepless night on the Yuba River find all but two campsites vacated. One lone man sat in the far corner of the campground engaged in the most epic starring contest with a waning fire. A few sites down were two serious dudes in sleeveless shirts kicking at a fire in a camp surrounded by white plastic bags stamped with Walmart logos.
After observing my glum surroundings, I decided to build a waning fire for myself. Laid down some flammable trash, collected some deadwood I had previously urinated on, and marinated the pyre in white gas while my more responsible friends had their backs turned. But it was no sooner than I had the fire lit before my entire face was covered in welts from blood-thirsty mosquitoes.
This is the problem with San Franciscans. We're so wrapped up in our “going green” lifestyle, we forget that any bug spray with less than 30% cancer-causing poison is salad dressing to hardy mountain mosquitoes, and the lemongrass spray that is sold in compostable packing from Rainbow Grocery is literally salad dressing.
It was at this point that I opted to make friends with the neighbors. The Marlboro Man with an Accord seemed to be getting a leg up in his optical battle royal with the fire, so I figured it was best to leave him be and make small talk with the two other guys.
After shaking their hands, it was made apparent to me that they were from Salinas, were most likely involved in the frequently over-consumption of methamphetamines, and particularly disliked Latinos. I'd generally walk away at that point, but they had The Good Stuff. I could see the big red “keep away from children” bottle sitting right there at the table to my left and all the overpriced eco-safe perfume in the world wasn't going to will away the hurricane of bugs circling above my head.
Making small talk, I offered up that I was from San Francisco. In turn, one of them told a wild tale about crashing his truck up on stoop in the Upper Haight early on Saturday morning while twisted on whiskey, but it was The Haight and they may have or may not have had some primo bud, so that situation worked itself out just fine.
I then explained that I was up in the mountains to huck my aging bike off small rocks. They eagerly suggested that they'd only consider, so save your breath, riding quads in the hills.
My brain pretty much shut itself down around then, but I recall commenting on their pile of empty beer cans and learning they had consumed roughly 15 Coors Light, each, at that point. An impressive feat for any person, especially considering it was hardly past 5pm.
I made a quick grab for their bottle of poison purchased at Everyday Low Prices, thanked them for their neighborly hospitality, and joined my friends for dinner back at camp.
But before I could even get a fork into my pasta, a days worth of booze and various drugs torqued my new friends' minds into the familiar soupy mush of incoherence, opportunism, and bad decision making that comes with the territory of drinking too much Silver Bullet. They quickly recalled that they were in possession of a pick-up truck with a “totally fucking sick” soundsystem, and they had music, so it was Game On as the sun fried us from overhead.
The problem was their melted minds couldn't figure out what the hell they wanted to listen to. First it was Damien Marley, but that was quickly deemed unacceptable, so they put on some terrible reggae track within 30 seconds. That didn't do the trick, so they switched it up to Keak Da Sneak. 45 seconds later it was some nondescript pop rap. After a few more sad hyphy tracks, one of them settled on E-40, which is generally a crowd pleaser, but the tweaker Gregg Gillis couldn't figure out what E-40 track he wanted to listen to.
About 7 cuts into Revenue Retrievin', a picturesque family cruised into the campground at the recommended speed of 5 miles per hour.
“QUIT KICKIN' UP DUST!,” howled the drunken iPod DJ as they crept past.
The van pulled up the spot next door to us and out poured two do-gooders no older than 35 in pressed North Face gear. After seeing what I thought to be a young child in the back seat, I fixed to take my chances sleeping in the hastily-erected tent of the maddened savages from Salinas. But before I had to snuggle with paranoia, the wife took one hard look at the evils of camp #2, said three Hail Mary's, two Our Father's, crossed her chest, climbed back into her $20,000 cathedral on wheels and sped off to whichever nearby bed and breakfast equipped every nightstand with the King James.
Sooner or later, darkness fell over Downieville, The Rockies ran dry, and the campground drifted to sleep.
I slept like a rock that night. Woke up around 8:45. No kids screaming. No PG&E workers terrorizing the neighborhood. Just two meth-heads quietly barbecuing expired chicken breasts over a 3-foot tall fire, Monster Energy Drink in one hand, lit cigarette in the other.