Tuesday, September 11th
Team Camp (minus Vikki, Fonseca, Ali, Brittani, Sara Medd & "The Talent") prepares, prepares, prepares.
II. Be Prepared
Robin, Camp Co-Director/Photographer: Pre-camp was one of the greatest ideas we've had yet!
Laura: Saying Pre-camp makes me think of the word "pre-cum" which makes me shiver, so instead I'm going to call it Team Time. It gave me space to settle in before the roller coaster of joy that is real-camp began.
Marni, Camp Co-Director: We had teams prepping craft materials, assembling gift bags, organizing registration materials, folding tshirts, making the step-and-repeat (which looked amazing), setting up tech equipment, decorating cabins, and generally doing anything and everything to get the place ready for all the campers the next day. It was so much more relaxing to have that time to get ready.
Rachel: This is sort of what I imagine Santa's workshop looking like, except colder and with elves.
Crystal: Carly and I had spent the past few weeks brainstorming cabin-decorating and gift bag ideas for our Thundercats cabin, and so being able to finally put those plans into action was super exciting. I got my craft on and spent the entire day in Wolf Lodge, making t-shirt stencils and posters and mix tapes.
Carly: Most of Tuesday was spent decorating cabins, realizing we were running out of tape, carrying things, and asking Team LA to bring things with them.
Daniela, Unicorns Counselor/Intern: I spent a long time trying to find literary quotes involving unicorns. Annika and I then cut eleven paper unicorn heads and planned cabin decorations that involved way too many markers and tape. There was a shortage of tape in this mountain.
Rachel: Co-counselor Geneva and I meditated deeply on what it really meant to be a Jetpack and/or Jetpacker, and tried to arrange cabin decorations and plans for cabin initiations accordingly.
Carmen: Since the Alpine Meadows staff made it clear that this time really was Bear Time, I was already freaked out about the possibility of being killed by a bear and demanded that Cee allow me to exact revenge on that feeling by making a bear stencil we could all use for tee-shirt cutting and stenciling. Cee is a genius and the Badass Bear was thus born that day.
Riese: Since I was on like six panels, I had like seventeen meetings about panels.
Laneia: I did my very best to organize supplies and find enough tape and markers to satisfy the masses!
Laura: I wrote all the campers' names on name tags and told everyone about the real good ones; was introduced to King Taco by Annika, the Mexican food whisperer of southern California; and voted on which of Cee's designs would become the official A-Camp crest.
Rachel: We stuffed gift bags with bandanas and love notes and tiny presents.
Carrie: The tote-bag + binder assembly line - never were so many queers so efficient!
Whitney: We hand-wrote everyone's name, organized campers by color and cabin number and doled out colored bandanas accordingly. I was on a team with Morgan and Mary — Morgan and I danced a little bit, I got to hug Mary, who is the sweetest person ever.
Rachel: Once the bulk of cabin planning had been done and panels had been planned, it was revealed that Stef had a jar of apple cinnamon moonshine, so that was an exciting development, and there was much rejoicing.
III. The Campfire of Tears
Carly: Tuesday night was one of my favorite moments of camp: the Campfire of Tears.
Robin: We sat around outside of Eagle in a big circle. Marni and I welcomed the staff and chatted briefly about our expectations for them and our schedules and then asked the staff, "what does A-Camp mean to you?"
Megan: I could barely handle how real this was.
Stef: I talked about joining Autostraddle at the very beginning, how I'd definitely drifted from the site over time but how the rush of feelings I'd experienced at the first A Camp gave me a strong sense of my community and made me want to be 100% involved with the team as much as I can be from here on out.
Crystal: I opened my mouth and all of these words tumbled out about how Autostraddle turned my life around and I guess I hadn’t acknowledged how true they were until that moment.
Daniela: I had this concrete, short story I wanted to share about what A-Camp meant to me but by the time it was my turn to talk I was filled with so much excitement and gratitude all I managed to do was squeak "you make me feel beautiful."
Stef: This took several hours and by the end everyone was hysterically crying, especially when Riese presented Whitney with a check to use towards her honeymoon.
Riese: At dinner I'd asked Whitney about what her and Jessie had planned for their honeymoon and she said they were trying to scrape together enough money to drive down to Boston from New York for a weekend. In my head I was like, This won't do. We just had this campaign, and after everything they've been through...
Carrie: I seriously still cry when I think about Riese giving Whitney that check for her honeymoon.
Whitney: While we were sitting Riese stood up to give a speech and gave me a gift for my honeymoon — it was totally unexpected and it bowled me over completely and there were so many tears. I'm getting married on October 6 to my fiancée, Jessie, and the whole thing has been so hard and heart-rending. My relationship with my family has been difficult and tenuous for so long, and we've gotten a lot of negativity for getting married, for being gay — I was estranged from my parents for years and Jessie's grandparents disowned her. Getting the gift from Riese was lovely, mainly because I had never experienced that kind of support for my relationship until then — the kind of "we love you and are so happy you're getting gay married" support.
Jessie and I didn't know if we had enough money to go on a honeymoon, and we hadn't planned one yet. We were thinking about something small — taking a drive out of town to a bed and breakfast or taking a train down to Boston for a weekend. With the gift, we could plan a honeymoon that was just that — a honeymoon. It wasn't an event we had to pick because it was the cheapest or the most convenient. We can choose where we want to go now, and we can choose where we want to stay, who we want to see. And that is the best gift I have ever received.
Riese: I think that's when Alex started almost-crying (ALEX NEVER CRIES) — just to think where we were in 2009, broke, and that now we were here and were able to do that for somebody. All night there was so much people talked about that I didn't even know. It was possibly the most profound experience of my life.
Rachel: In order to process my feelings I clearly had to share a paper cup of whiskey with Laneia and Megan, don't tell Adam.
Alex: We don't see each other in real life very often, so I feel that these things are super important for team-building and also crying while saying "we're doing it, you guys" which is a very popular activity at pre-camp.
Laura: One of my favorite parts of Team Time was the campfire, obviously. The crying campfire.
Stef: It was so emotional that by the time we made it all the way around the circle, even little Alex Vega was a bit teary.
Malaika: If I recap this properly, I’ll probably start crying again, so…that’s all you’re getting from me.
Crystal: I cried the entire time but then I think we all did.
Robin: We cried quite a bit.
Carmen: I don't know how many tears are left in my body after this, to be honest.
Laneia: We just cut out our hearts and showed them to each other. It was life-affirming. Mountain-affirming.
Rachel: It sounds super corny (because it was!) but also felt like the most important thing I had done in years. I had already known that for many of us, both staff members and readers, Autostraddle gave us a family and a home. But it was heartrending to be reminded of how many of us call Autostraddle their only family and only home, and how central to our lives an imaginary slumber party on the internet has become. It was an opportunity to be so grateful and so happy that we've finally made it here, that we've even managed to make a camp on a mountain for all of us to be together, a physical space for us to belong in — and that we could share that space with you, too.
Stef: Just when we eventually finished our Most Lesbian Campfire Of All Time and headed back into Wolf Lodge, Haviland, Sara Medd and Sarah Croce arrived. They must have been super confused by all the sniffling, smeared mascara and weepy, dramatic hugs.
Riese: Gabby made me cry again after the campfire too!
Marni: I think it really helped bring us together and remind us why we were there, what A-Camp means, and how lucky we all were to be a part of this.
Riese: I want everybody who comes to camp to feel that way, too. That's the big idea.
Robin: Standing there Tuesday night listening to the staff responses on what A-Camp meant to each of them solidified my belief that our love for each other and for our readership will always guide each decision we make. And because of this, I don't believe we can ever really fail. We really all want what is best for each other and that was a very powerful thing to learn. I have so much gratitude to the staff of A-Camp for donating their time and energy once again for this very important experience!
NEXT: The first day of camp!