A-Camp 6.0, Day One: May 30th, 2015
Abby: AT LAST, IT WAS SHUTTLE DAY. I had been having nightmares about this day for months. Shuttles not showing up. Shuttles being at the wrong airport. Shuttles actually being great white sharks that ate all the campers and it was all my fault and no one got up the mountain. So I woke up bright and early and started packing up the car with Bren.
Carmen We were leaving at 7 AM to pick up campers and I woke up at 6, did my best to actually be quiet for once, and thought I was ready to peace out at 6:30 and get some coffee until I realized everyone else was waking up and I didn’t wanna miss out on the fun.
Abby: It was only one minute pre-departure when suddenly, something happened. In that beautiful early golden morning light, came a person running towards us —
Carmen: I chased Abby and Bren to our vehicle and begged them to let me help with snacks.
Abby: “GUYS I’M HERE I’M COMING WITH YOU!!!!!!!” she screamed across the woods, scaring away all the bears that were previously probably going to follow us down to LAX and eat the shuttles. That was when I knew it was all going to be okay and we were going to get every gosh darn camper up that mountain. And yes daddy, we did.
Bren: We stopped at McDonald’s for coffee and “nourishment” and then were on our way to LAX. While being on shuttle duty is very stressful because we have to make triple sure that there are No Queers Left Behind, it is also the best assignment ever because we are the first people to see the campers’ happy, beaming faces. You’d never know these people had been sitting at LAX since 8am. They were just so happy to be with each other and so close to camp! Also, LAX has some really nice art on display or at least it used to.
Back At Camp…
KaeLyn: Morgan, Maddie and I formed “Sleep Crew” ‘cause we were the first ones tucked in for all of pre-camp. Finally on the morning campers arrived I felt like a human, thanks to drinking gallons of that “enhanced water” in Eagle and Sleep Crew.
Morgan: I briefly had been a whiny face to Riese on the first night like, “but I fear change and I wanted to bunk with people I already knew from before camp,” and she was like “uh-huh sure that’s nice dear,” with her adorable face. It turned out that I loved waking up every morning with Maddie and KaeLyn and Cecelia and Carolyn W and Nikki and Laura M and Vivian! I think we were the coolant to each other’s nuclear reactors of excitement and worry.
Carolyn W: The most important thing that happened that morning was my morning ritual with Cecelia where she picked out my snapback hat for the day. The campers are coming!!!
Kai: This was a really big day for me! I came up the mountain with kind of a lot of things going on and more hair than usual. I had too many conversations with far too many people about whether or not I was going to cut my hair. Sounds pathetic and a bit vain?, but it was my top stress factor. Anyway, Gigler sat me down in the A-Camp barbershop and took out her clippers while my mind was still racing to make decisions. We sat there forever cutting off like an eighth of a centimeter at a time because I would not make up my mind. Eventually Gigler just said, “We’re doing this,” and took a big scoop out of the middle of my head so I knew she was serious. Cue the most healing haircut I have ever had. With every curl that fell, I felt myself being freed from so many worries. And by the time she finished I was nearly in tears at how light I felt, thanking her endlessly, and so SO ready to see all the beautiful faces headed up to the mountain.
Stef: One of my favourite things about camp is watching new people who’ve never been before acclimate themselves to this thing we built. I happened to walk by the swings while Jenny, Kristin, Julia and Dannielle were discussing what they’d learned so far, how the cabins all had names and how we’d decorated them, and it was so cute I couldn’t handle it. Sorry for creeping, guys.
Riese: Stef is never actually sorry for creeping.
KaeLyn: I’m just going to say it. Carolyn W and I were totally like, “OMG JASIKA NICOLE!!!” for a good portion of the pre-camper time and, like, strategizing about how to get her to take a selfie with us. We could have just asked her, like normal human people. I mean, Jasika is the most down-to-earth celebrity I’ve ever met and she just seemed shocked that we were so excited to meet her. By the end of camp, she felt like a close friend. But that first day, Carolyn and I were tittering over how to approach her without being totally awkward and it was silly times.
Lizz R.: Riese and I spent like… A lot of time setting up the merch booth. Just a whole lot of time. It got wicked next level when we figured out we could string up some twine and hang shirts from clothes pins. I also made like a sticker collage of the stickers to help sell them. It was my greatest life contribution.
Riese: I love nothing more than seeing all of my things laid out in an organized fashion, whether that be my books, our merch, my staff, or my 13 tubes of chapstick.
Dannielle: OMG WE HAD RATATOUILLE FOR LUNCH RIGHT? BEFORE THE CAMPERS GOT THERE. LAST BEAUTIFUL MEAL.
Kristin: OMG RATATOUILLE YOU ARE RIGHT DANNIELLE GOD IT WAS SO GOOD.
Marni: I’m always the most nervous on the first day/night that the campers arrive. By this point, after six camps, there’s a good mix of new and returning folks, but I still spend the whole day nursing this quiet, anxious, excited anticipation of knowing how great it’s going to be and just needing you to trust us and that it’ll all make sense soon. Even the dining hall.
Gigler: There’s such an incredible anticipation all day leading up to the first big wave of campers. Then when the shuttles arrive there’s this blast of 300 unique presences all mixing together for the first time. There’s nothing like the first day of camp.
Riese: As per ushe, Laneia and I manned the welcoming table — our job was to check in campers, give them pronoun stickers, and hug everybody who seemed receptive to a hug.
Laneia: I never feel prepared for check-in, like in an emotional way. It’s just one minute you’re eating ratatouille in an empty dining hall and the next you’re marking off names on a printed spreadsheet and downing Emergen-C like it’s your [second] job and it all happens so fast! I feel like I’m in a Louisa May Alcott book. I love it inside and out.
Kai: I was part of the welcoming committee that yelled and clapped really loudly as you walked in the door. I might’ve started you. You’re welcome.
Maddie: Waiting for campers felt like when I was like 6 years old and my grandparents would visit and I would sit in the driveway counting the cars that passed the house before they got there. So many of us were stationed at Wolf, at the ready to spring into welcoming action. I brought out my bubbles and bubbled for a while.
Ali: I’ve been to five camps. This was my fifth camp. That means I am SUPER PUMPED when I see my camper friends get off that bus AND there are a lot of you after five camps BUT ALSO I had crazy cramps that day, so if I excitedly grimaced at you in a manner vaguely reminiscent of a violent offender, my sincere apologies. I promise I was just real glad to see you.
Yvonne: I was so excited to greet the campers because my girlfriend, Gloria, was coming to A-Camp for the first time and so was my very good friend Kathryn. I told them all about A-Camp so I was thrilled they were going to experience it with me.
Gabby: My favorite job at camp is greeting campers at the entrance. First, I get to be in the natures, away from all the hectic stuff happening at check-in, and I usually have a small but fun group with me. And second, but most importantly, I get to be one of the first faces the campers see and I get to see them. There’s lots of hugging and cheering and I don’t have to be the base in any pyramid, y’all. This camp it was me, Heather, and Trent waiting for everyone.
Gabby: Heather taught us how to throw rocks at trees like softball players. Trent made about a million videos. And I just had to use the bathroom so bad but I HELD IT IN FOR THE CAMPERS. And then the first van showed up and we cheered and it was glorious and then I raced down the hill and handled my bizz. Anyway, all of you are so shiny and beautiful when you land and so, I hope I get to greet you all forever.
Heather: Trent and Gabby were both naturals at throwing rocks at trees. Trent, especially, could be a major leaguer if such a thing were a real professional sport. They also made me EVEN MORE EXCITED about being at camp because they were SO EXCITED about being at camp. Every time a new bus came, it was just more and more fervor. Like even people who’d never been to camp before seemed to feel like they were coming home when they got off the bus.
Kristin: Jenny and I sat in registration and sold merch for awhile and I saw that there were FREE BBQ POTATO CHIPS FOR THE CAMPERS… my stomach was not yet adjusted to timed meals (to be honest, it never adjusted, I like to eat all the time always), so I went up a person I’d never met (who happened to be sitting next to the giant box of potato chips) and was like “Yo, hi, hi, can I have some chips, hi?”
Brittani: I always work the release form table during registration and little did I know this camp would be the camp I fell in love doing it. To my left was a box of bags of BBQ chips and for some reason, Kristin thought I was the master of the box. (Which I might be but certainly not in this context.)
Kristin: Turns out “that person” was “Brittani Nichols,” and she gave me serious sass about my chip request.
Brittani: Anyway, Kristin came to ask for chips and because my default way to interact with pretty, nice women is to behave like a 3rd grader named Dylan that calls your shirty “fugly” even though he doesn’t quite understand what that word means, I gave her a hard time about the chips.
Kristin: Luckily I had sass to return, and that is how we first fell in love. Brittani and I, that is.
Brittani: Then, minutes later, Jenny came over with her hands clasped in front of her face in a manner far too serious than called for (I call this move, Jenny Hands) and requested chips as well. I don’t know you guys. Those two knuckleheads filled my heart with too much joy the way those bags of chips had too much air.
Jenny: This staffer named “Brittani” became extremely important to my overall camp experience.
Hansen: Real talk: I am not much of a hugger off the mountain, but on the mountain, I am ALL ABOUT IT. I generally try to overwhelm my campers as much as possible from the moment they set foot on A-Camp territory, which involves a whole lot of enthusiasm.
Elicia: Mey and I and an interchanging group of staffers spent most of the afternoon holding down the podium at the entrance to Wolf greeting campers, or staff, or ourselves, or the staff again. As a new staff member, most of the time I wasn’t really sure what I could do that was the most useful, but thankfully Mey assured me podium duty is a legitimate job no one would think we were using as an excuse to stand in the same spot and eat BBQ chips off and on. I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself if Mey hadn’t been around to give me guidance and/or affirm my choices.
Jenny: THE CAMPERS WERE ALL SO EXCITED AND IT WAS SO SPECIAL. We talked with a camper named Rose who had come from the UK and was a theoretical cosmologist (or physical cosmologist?) — whatever her title, her field of study is the very first fraction of the very first second that the universe began to exist; she also didn’t know who Taylor Swift is, which instantly became my favorite quality in any person anywhere (and I like Taylor Swift just fine).
Chelsey Petty, Editorial Assistant & Blackhearts Counselor (4th A-Camp): I was so excited that the campers were arriving and that we were all on the mountain that I decided to thrust myself to the ground and forcefully hug the mountain aka I fell down an incline and Nurse Viv had to patch me up in Marni and Robin’s cabin while everyone offered me snacks and Megan and I giggled uncontrollably about how there ended up being rocks in my underwear. Overall everyone made me feel so much better about falling and took such good care of me because they are all just the best humans.
Chelsey: For future reference, the best place to fall is camp because everyone will be really nice to you about it, but it is also the worst because Redlands is far and Viv’s nurse kit is only so expansive.
KaeLyn: LOOK AT YOUR FACES!!! So many first time campers and I loved that because I was also a first time camper! Organized chaos is kind of my favorite thing, so I was in the zone when ya’ll started coming down in waves.
KaeLyn: We made every Shark Week group of arrivals take a pic in front of our BEAUTIFUL PERFECT DOOR. And you all looked at us like, “Hey lady. We’re f-in tired and this is a lot of people. Please go away.” But I could feel the love behind the exhaustion and you were all such good sports.
Cecelia: You are all so beautiful and your hair looks so nice after long periods of travel. These are the things that I yelled to you, aggressively, as you walked down the mountain towards us.
Carolyn W: I was TERRIFIED! And I don’t get terrified. I was scared to meet all the campers. I camped out with various staff members at Wolf and waited for your smiling faces. Well maybe not smiling cause I know that walk from the bus with all your luggage and snacks is HELL!
Whitney: It’s always so wonderful to see everyone coming down that hill with their arms full of their luggage and bags of Trader Joe’s snacks. It’s always like a family reunion when everyone arrives.
Stef: While a line of campers were making their way to Wolf for the shuttle, my jaw dropped as I spotted one person wearing a black t-shirt with a banner reading A-CAMP across the front. ”
“Did you make your own t-shirt?!?!” I demanded. “No,” they told me, “I found this at a thrift store and couldn’t believe it!” You guys, did you know that Nina Persson from The Cardigans used to have a solo project called A Camp? Ever since Riese first told us the name she’d chosen for our weirdo mountain summit, I’d been waiting for there to be some sort of intersection between the band and the thing, and at last it finally happened. The band was terrible. The camp remains amazing.
Riese: I love seeing all the new enthusiastic and even somewhat panicked faces of humans who have no idea what’s in store for them. Will they meet their future wife? Will they cry in public? Will they read a poem in public? Will they decide they hate Autostraddle and never want to see any of us ever again? Of course I always freak out to meet the new Runaways, who usually seem frightened of Laneia and I’s overwhelming enthusiasm and Blackhearts lurking waiting to make blood oaths.
Elicia: I think I may have gotten a little too into shouting ‘Welcome to Camp!’ because there were a few people that looked concerned at my seemingly overwhelming level of enthusiasm. I had like three cups of coffee and two bags of BBQ chips. You weren’t wrong to feel concerned.
Carolyn W: Some of you I knew from facebook or last year. Some I knew but never met. Many many looked excited and nervous not knowing what to expect at their first camp. This was enhanced by the throng of staffers that yelled on cue “WELCOME TO CAMP!!” like crazy people every time a knew crew rounded the corner. I was live-streaming the whole thing on Periscope and it was so cool to see the reactions of Straddlers at home who wanted to be exactly in your shoes. Like Charlie who won the golden ticket to the chocolate factory! Then my campers/camp best friends came down the driveway and I almost broke my phone running to jump them.
Maddie: Meeting the Firebirds was REALLY exciting and also pretty intimidating because like, all of you humans, including Carolyn and Vivian, knew each other before camp and it was just me and Sol who were the newbies, and I thought maybe you wouldn’t really talk to me because you already had your camp family thing going, but I WAS SO WRONG. Y’all were so nice and enthusiastic about being Firebirds!
Lizz R.: I try my hardest to psychotically friendly when my campers arrive! This year it was super easy because my Witchblades were soooo cool. Like just so cool. Did I mention cool? Also this year’s grey shirts were super flattering just saying.
Stef: The very first thing I did when I saw returning camper Gilles Stromberg was drag them over to Eagle, where I grabbed Marni’s acoustic guitar and played the opening chords to “Kiss Me” by Sixpence None The Richer. Gilles sang to me and we danced alone on the stage. It was very romantic; you’ll have to trust me.
Morgan: So many hugs I had to dish out. I loved scooping you all off the ground! I hugged many of you repeatedly consensually because I love your warmth and it was so nice to be with y’all in the lovely hectic electricity of Day One. My free Hug ‘n’ Backrub Business is open 24/7 to y’all from here to eternity.
Riese: Periodically I would text Abby or Bren for updates from the airport, expecting to hear about the usual broken-down shuttles, human beings lost and never found, baby butches crushed by anvils, straight people accidentally getting a ride with the gay people, delayed flights, shuttle drivers with internalized homophobia, jet-lagged high femmes forced to sit six to a seat and luggage coming to life and eating campers. But… um… nope. It was just a lot of “second shuttle is on the way.” I WAS SO HAPPY. THINGS WERE OFF TO AN AMAZING START. !!!!!!
Carmen: By the time two buses had left for camp from LAX, we got a second to relax and I wandered inside to find Abby but found Mal Blum instead, which was wonderful. Then Mal Blum told me how they had just met Sinbad, and I was like no fucking way you met Sinbad and they were like no seriously I met Sinbad and NOBODY CARED!
Gigler: Carmen texted to tell me that she saw Sinbad at the airport! I was so excited!
Carmen: So then we started talking about Sinbad and how he mattered to us but maybe we were too old and nobody else knew who he was, and basically calling him washed up, and I was so into it that I didn’t even realize Sinbad was within earshot the whole time. In short, Mal and I roasted Sinbad. Watch out for our Comedy Central debut.
Nikki: I just want to point out I saved shuttle #2 from taking the wrong turn to camp. I had a folder with me that had directions & map because when you ask me to help with camp, I HELP WITH CAMP. As soon as I saw we were heading down the wrong Jenks Road, I fumbled my way up to the front to talk to the driver to tell him he made the wrong turn. Then he made a very intense turn around maneuver that I thought for sure we were going to get stuck, but we did not. So this is my lesson: You never know when you will need directions to camp. I think I earned my always prepared badge that day.
Carmen: I had volunteered the shuttle crew to wait around at LAX for someone’s misplaced luggage, so we ended up getting stuck in Terminal 1 for two hours longer than we’d planned to even be at the airport. Along the way, though, I stole an abandoned mixed-media piece depicting Marilyn Monroe in leather carrying guns and got into a really loud argument with a grown-ass man who should have known better than to fuck with me. So really, it was a typical day. Afterward, we stopped at In ‘n Out, where Abby emotionally outstretched her arms in the drive through in hopes of getting a burger and we all got freaked the fuck out by the planes that looked like they were landing on us. To chill out, we later went whale-watching at Von’s so I could buy some Coors Light like a salaried professional.
Carmen: I am proud to report that Abby, Bren, and I got all those campers up the mountain at their scheduled times. We got all those good-lookin’ folks onto shuttles, y’all. We also ate peanuts, acted like weirdos, and did our best to survive LAX for six hours.
Stef: If you were at the first camp, you know firsthand that this whole thing has been a wild experiment from the get-go. Every time, we polish things up just a little bit more, and this time I really felt like we’d nailed it. This was the first camp that all of the camper transportation went 100% smoothly, and everybody back on site was in awe of Bren, Carmen and Abby for accomplishing the impossible.
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