A-Camp 5.0, Day One: May 21st, 2014
Chelsea: Carmen and I got up at 7:30AM, probably running on four hours of sleep, and made our way down the mountain fueled by coffee and Drake. On this epic road trip, we discover that we are basically sisters from another mister, and it is glorious. #SherylCrow
Carmen: I made her listen to a lot of Sheryl Crow. We ended up spending a majority of the day there, because the Lesbian Gods actually refuse to let the A-Camp shuttles get to camp on time.
Riese: Honestly I think that’s the best evidence NOM has that gay people are disliked by G-d.
Stef: Wednesday morning, almost everybody in Cabin 16 woke up super early, but Cara was the first one dressed and ready to greet the day. She declared that she was going out for a run, and took off, only to return just a couple of seconds later, furrowing her brow with concern. “There’s like a million coyotes out there,” she announced, before pausing thoughtfully and announcing, “I’m going to learn their secrets.” Then she disappeared into the morning fog.
Cee: I spent the morning making a flag for Klub Deer. Carly and I projected the deer logo onto a sheet which Alice Motes had picked up for us on the way up the mountain. We then painted it with the help of Carolyn and Meredydd.
Gigler: Kaylah and I hung up the A-Camp bat by the entrance to greet campers, thanks to my friend AJ Sharkstar who also made lots of other cool critters for Rhythm Nation and the 90s Pool party! She’s a punk rock feminist street artist who donated her time and talents to make us custom critters. Let’s hear it for the Grrrl!
Stef: Before the campers arrived, several staff members were completely enchanted by the presence of several anole lizards just partying out in the sun on some rocks in front of Wolf. I was perhaps the most enthralled, probably because one of the lizards kept doing push-ups and smiling hopefully up at me. Apparently push-ups are the male lizards’ preferred method of impressing females. I was pretty impressed, but not enough to give him my phone number.
Chelsea: We got to LAX around 10:30, and we expected that maybe a handful of campers will be there. We walk in and like, 50 campers turn to stare at us. So many adorable excited faces! I get immediately terrified that we’ll fuck up and leave some adorable queer stranded at the airport. SPOILER ALERT: we didn’t.
Laura Mandanas, Contributing Editor & Outsiders Counselor: Right before the campers arrived, Rory and Taylor decorated the windows in Wolf. I watched them in awe for a good five minutes.
Robin: The best part about the first day of A-Camp is watching everyone coming down that hill. Since this is our fifth camp, its fun to see that mix of familiar faces, friends greeting each other after not knowing each other for so long and the nervous faces of first time campers.
Crystal: My role during registration is usually to hang out in the car park and greet campers who drive in. It’s the best job. I really love being able to see things like first-time campers being dropped off by family, and returning campers arriving with a car full of friends that they’ve made at previous camps.
Riese: I love the first day of A-Camp — sitting at registration with Laneia, meeting all the new campers, hugging the new Runaways, hugging the old Runaways — it feels like a caffeine-and-Xanax fueled dream.
Laneia: Registration is my FAVORITE! You know, the only time anyone ever licks my face is at A-Camp.
Robin: I love watching new campers arrive because I know within a day they will be adjusted and feel part of our camp family and leave camp with so many more friends! The trick to the first day, especially for first timers, is to keep an open mind and embrace the awkwardness of meeting new people!
Mary Tully, Panthers Counselor: Meeting the new campers on the first day is always so much fun! Kai and I were so excited to finally meet everyone and it was obvious, very quickly, that The Panthers were the best campers at A-Camp.
Soph: There is no feeling like waiting for campers. the best folks you’ve haven’t met. And meeting them is even better! Incomparable camaraderie you know will last.
Crystal: I’d been waiting 5 years for Autostraddle to sell black t-shirts and this was the day that my dream came true. I purchased several, justifying that it was very on theme for The Con cabin.
Chelsea: We started loading campers onto shuttles, but the shuttle company fucked up and sent us the wrong sized bus.
Riese: It never ceases to amaze me that companies charging us $1,200 per bus manage to fuck up every time!
Chelsea: We ended up with five campers and Dani RDS, who bravely volunteered/was forced to wait with us until the final shuttle. Despite telling them to just send a van, they send a massive shuttle bus for five campers. I briefly consider tying the campers to roof of my car and driving them up the mountain. It wouldn’t be camp without a struggle bus scenario.
Carmen: When the final shuttle had finally departed the airport, Chelsea and I left with Daniela, the most wonderful addition of all to our staff vehicle, and went to In-N-Out.
Meredydd: Because I was at the merch table all day, I didn’t get to see my campers (The Outsiders) till later that afternoon/dinner time. I was so unbelievably excited that everyone fully committed to wearing denim vests. They all looked so good! #hotcabin But The Outsiders didn’t just look good – they were all amazing people. Fun, kind, caring, competitive and ready to be absolutely ridiculous about everything.
Laura: Rae climbed up between two bunk beds and started planking… and from that moment on there was near continuous planking by the Outsiders for the next four days. I hear they didn’t even stop when they went to bed.
Stef: Every camp, I feel like the campers are sort of desperate to unravel the mysteries of how Riese puts the cabins together and figure out what their commonalities are, why they’ve been brought here, what greater purpose they were put together to serve. The best the Firebrands could figure was that some of them were medical professionals and all of them were pretty good drinkers.
Riese: (it was the latter)
Brittani Nichols, Comedy/Sports Editor and Firebrands Counselor: Our first time in the dining hall, I noticed the hot chocolate machine was not available for our use. And by not available, I mean they unplugged it and put a sign up. I believe that hot chocolate is a year round beverage and so I found Katie and complained because I’ve learned that’s the only way to get things done in life. It didn’t actually work but at some point during the week, the temperature dipped and the hot chocolate machine got turned on and I showed my take on excitement which is completely internal and not obvious to the naked eye.
Marni: I had a grandiose vision of presenting the flags to each house in the opening campfire/ceremony down at Firecircle 1 (which, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the A-Camp site, is a big and picturesque campfire amphitheater lit up by strings of lights around its circumference at night), but the weather was so cold that we just couldn’t bear to subject the campers, on their first night, to huddling in frigid temperatures. We decided to run the opening campfire in Eagle Lodge, and presented each district with their flags in a manner that I hope was theatrical enough to befit the artistic effort that went into them.
Riese: It makes me SO SAD when we have to do the opening ceremonies inside instead of at the fire circle because IT’S SO MUCH BETTER AT THE FIRE CIRCLE.
Robin: Riese and Marni convinced me to do an opening night sketch which I’m pretty sure didn’t really land, but Marni thinks differently. Regardless, it was a good way of showing newcomers that trying things at camp, even if you don’t do them perfectly, is a great way of experiencing getting our of your comfort zone in a safe and supportive place.
Marni: She’s right, it didn’t really land.
Riese: Basically the idea was that the Owl and the Shark were seeing A-Camp for the first time, like walking through and seeing the different types of people and activities there, and I think one of them was actually gay but hadn’t like, come out to themselves yet? It was complicated. My part involved writing and drinking.
Crystal: Whitney and I were asked to represent the introvert meet-up activity during the opening ceremony skit. By standing on stage. In front of thousands of people. And doing a ‘bit’. I still can’t talk about it.
Bren: The skit was the best! I could listen to Robin “Hoo” at people for hours. And Marni makes the most wonderful shark.
Owl: Where you from?
Shark: The ocean.
Mary: The puns were just so good. I loved it.
Melinda: I had to wear an animal onesie. Kip was assigned the same part. We kind of ruefully looked at each other in our respective costumes. He said little, wisely handing me a full whiskey flask. I performed my part well enough.
Chelsey: I loved being a cheerleader with Kai, Hansen, Laura and Soph in the opening skit. Mostly because I realized that 2-4-6-8 rhymed with validate.
Stef: So before camp, Cara and I were geeking to each other about our respective goofy crushes while also worrying about how we would survive camp without the sweet dulcet tones of DeAnne Smith and her ukulele. Somehow, this evolved into us writing a romantic duet entitled, “Why Are We So Gay?” We presented it to the team as a potential new song for opening ceremonies, and we were thrilled when the powers that be allowed us to perform it in front of a room of very enthusiastic weirdos. I sort of black out every time I have to perform on that stage in Eagle, but I feel like it went well and people laughed in the right places and now everybody at A-Camp knows about how Cara and I are just a couple of bros in friendlove.
Riese: Honestly the best part of every opening ceremony is just being there in the same room as all the campers. Knowing that we had five whole days ahead of us to fall in love and that so much was in store. I was especially nervous this camp ’cause we were trying so many new things and didn’t have Hosts (a role previously occupied by Deanne Smith, and before her, Julie and Brandy), but everybody seemed to jazzed from Day One to HAVE A BUNCH OF FUCKING FUN. I feel like that was the vibe throughout — we’re here to let go.
Cee: Mere and I unveiled our Klub Deer flag during the opening ceremony, sadly right before Carmen got back up the mountain to join us.
Carmen: As fast as we rushed up that mountain, it wasn’t fast enough. When I got a text from B about how awesome the Klub Deer flag unveiling had gone at the opening ceremony, my heart broke into various pieces. But eventually, I learned to love again.
The Initiation Ceremonies
Carmen: The Gladiator super-secret initiation (JK) quickly turned into a knighting ceremony. I obviously went with Lil C as my Gladiator name, but others got more creative.
Rory: It was like, “I hereby dub thee [Sir][Clarecles]” etc. … knights and gladiators are something different I guess but whatever, we had fun.
Carmen: Also, there may or may not have been a fraternity paddle involved.
Riese: Laneia and I are two of the busiest humans at camp, which’s why we didn’t assign ourselves a cabin at the first camp — but after our first camp as socially inept weirdos, we decided to start counseling a cabin together to make it easier to meet more campers! To help ease the pain of how packed our schedules were, however, we started putting all the Runaways alums into the same cabin (The Blackhearts) and assigning everybody “bigs” and “littles” to make everybody feel cared for and womb-like while the two of us ran around camp attending to catastrophes and running shit. (While making as much time for our campers as we possibly could outside of that.) The initiation ceremony involves the granting of littles to bigs, amongst other pagan secrets. It did NOT, however, involve an indoor fire cauldron, because those were too expensive. Eventually we’ll get to the blood-letting.
Kai: People made fun of me for dragging in a huge piñata that looked like it was barfing gay from all of its orifices, but HA the Panthers know what’s up. We started camp by banging in the cabin until the room exploded in rainbows and candy. Jealous?
Crystal: For our cabin initiation, Hansen had this genius idea of asking campers to sketch each other, because our cabin was called the Con and this activity would make them artists. Con Artists. Geddit? They did a really good job of humoring us.
Yvonne Marquez, Associate Editor & The Craft Counselor: Liz Castle and I were co-staff for The Craft Cabin and we had so much fun planning out our cabin initiation. In the spirit of the 1996 cult classic, we created our own “spell” initiation (…most solemnly swear that I will ever abide by the queerhood and friendship of The Craft Cabin…) and marked our campers with a triangle inside a triangle to represent our cabin within the larger Autostraddle community. Look how cool we are!
Liz Castle: We had little triangles within larger triangles which was symbolic of each of our individual little queer hearts being a small but integral part of our larger Autostraddle community on the mountain. Also black triangles are super gay which is just fabulous icing on the queer cake.