Thursday, May 23rd: Camp Day One
On Day One, three team representatives return to LAX to coordinate camper shuttles, while the rest of us stayed onsite to finish set-up, register campers as they arrive, and run drop-in activities. Then campers are subjected to a top-secret Cabin Initiation Process and escorted to the Opening Campfire to be delighted by our singing skills. On Friday morning, camp proper will begin.
I. Hello Morning
Somer Bingham, The Talent: After crossing the country from LGA to LAX via O’Hare, missing a flight while sitting at the gate, discovering my driver’s license was invalid, being stuck on the tarmac for two hours, and driving up winding mountain roads at midnight WITHOUT GUARD RAILS (!), I woke up on the beautiful mountain where 300 A-Campers were about to arrive. Pretty awesome. And that morning started with a glorious hike. I think it’s a strong memory of A-Camp because it was the beginning, when everything was so new to all my senses and time felt refreshingly slowed down.
Sophia: Carmen and I were running off such excited and nervous energy all morning, making shirts and decorating the cabin, throwing streamers at each other’s faces and yelling things like ‘if they don’t love us at least we love each other!’ despite that we’d been in email contact for a couple weeks and everybody seemed like lovely reasonable folks.
II. Call Of Airport Duty
Stef: Once you get to the campsite, the rest of the world seems far away and inconsequential. It seems impossible that you could just jump into a car and jump right back into normal society, but that’s exactly what Daniela, Meredydd and I did – bright and early Thursday morning.
Daniela, Intern & Starjammers Counselor: People make me anxious, and new people make me even more than a little bit anxious. It took me like 20 minutes to leave my cabin and get in the car that Stef would drive to the airport, I kept changing clothes because “it’s the first impression that counts.” I kept changing my A-Camp hoodies, too. Three hours later we arrived to the airport to spend the rest of the day receiving campers that could not care less about what we looked like as long as we showed them the way to A-Camp.
Meredydd: The last time I loved being there when campers first start trickling in, welcoming them and seeing the site fill up with smiling, anxious, excited faces. This time I got to see all those faces at once at the airport.
Stef: None of us had ever been in charge of transportation before, and we weren’t quite sure how this would work, but we quickly transformed into an efficient check-in machine. We gathered teams of bright-eyed, bowtied queer ladies by the baggage carousel, trying to introduce them to their cabinmates when we could. My favourite moment was Jill Stromberg (I see you, Bombshells) sitting on the floor, reading tarot cards for her fellow campers while waiting for the last shuttle – “Ah, three of knights. That means you’re going to have a threesome at camp!”
Daniela: It is intoxicating to be in such a little terminal with so much giddy for a thing you’re a part of. Being at the airport set the mood for the blast that was the rest of camp. Also, if I hadn’t been part of the airport team I wouldn’t have gotten Jill to read me my tarot, so it was like a win/win/win situation.
Meredydd: Running the shuttles to camp was one of the hardest things I have done. I wish I could have spent more time talking to campers but remembering and keeping track of 150 names and flight times was all my brain could handle. Daniela and Stef were the best team airport I could have asked for.
Stef: Once we’d amassed enough queers to fill a shuttle, I’d lead them pied piper style across LAX to the bus stop. Turns out loading 49 babes onto a bus and waving bon voyage as they take off for the promised land has always been a fantasy of mine, and I fulfilled it three times that day.
III. Hello, Campers!
As afternoon descended, the campers started showing up.
Riese: After we spray-painted tank tops for the Runaways and finished up the cabin decoration business, Laneia and I manned the registration table which’s always a TREAT because we get to see everybody’s faces and hug their bodies the moment they arrive. I sorta feel like a stalker when I first meet our new Runaways because I’ve been taking notes on their personalities and printing out photos of them and pasting them on index cards so I could be sure to be prepared for their faces and personalities, forgetting that the moment you meet someone all that shit you memorized is replaced with like — their energy. And other intangible things.
Carly, Contributor & Toros Counselor: For the new campers it was really exciting to see what they were experiencing as they arrived, and for the returning campers it was shrieks and laughter and hugs all around.
Riese: I surprised myself with the degree to which I freaked out every time one of my campers from last time showed up. I can’t wait ’til next time when I’ll have TWO sets of former Runaways to freak out about.
Mary: Meeting all of the new Little Rascals and seeing the returning campers that were in our cabin last camp is always really special to us. They grow up so fast!
Gabby, Writer & Foxfire Counselor: I volunteered for what is now one of my favorite things in the world: greeting campers when they make it to the top of mount feelings! Holy crap, me, Vanessa, DeAnne Smith, Marni and Jill at one point were all huddled together up there just waiting. I felt so goofy and happy. The thought of being the first face ya’ll saw up there filled me with super amounts of geeky joy and excitement. I even made a video that we posted to tumblr starring Marni, DeAnne and Vanessa. Literally that’s how excited we were even after like ten utility trucks and construction vans passed by and we waved to the men driving them even though we all wished they were you but it’s cool.
Gabby: So so so, then y’all started arriving in your cars, some of you with your parents and that’s when I really started to geek out. You rolled down your windows for us and gave hugs through passenger side windows and I felt that you were just as excited to see me/us as we were to see you. It was so sweet to see some of the returning campers in cars with newbies and ya’ll were blasting Tegan and Sara, Robyn, Frank Ocean and it just felt like all our queermo playlists were riding up the mountain with you. And then, and then the first bus of campers came up and I think my heart exploded. A gaggle of you rolled out of that bus like motherfucking champions ready for todos los feelings with your boxes of beer, guitar cases, floppy kitten hats, wicked side shaves w/ designs and big ass beautiful smiles. Ahh! Best job ever.
Lizz: Greeting campers on the first day was such a rush. Intern Grace and I hid out in the woods waiting for the bus. I had on these really cute white seersucker shorts and literally three minutes before the bus arrived I sat in tree sap! And then Intern Grace told me it looked like I had pooped my pants!! So when the bus arrived I told all the girls the only rules of camp were the rules in the binder and no making fun of my ass! The grrls got of the bus and practically ran to check in. It was quite a sight!
Kristen, Contributing Editor & Scissor Sisters Counselor: I wasn’t excited or lively enough to be nominated as an Official Bus Greeter, so I just got to sit around Wolf for a few hours while everyone else Did Things. Intern Somer, Hansen, Julia, Ali, Whitney and I sat on slightly jagged rocks, eagerly awaiting all of your attractive faces and greeted campers with a fervor normally reserved for Justin Bieber, Tegan and Sara or some other lesbian icons. We were Second String Greeters so of course we had something to prove. You guys made me swoon by how stylish and QUEER everyone looked, even after a hair-raising three hour commute. So many rainbows! And bowties! And clever homosexual pun shirts! I was equally impressed by how much luggage and booze people could carry over rocky, downhill terrain. Even in heels! I had never seen so many handles of vodka before! You guys arrived like rockstars!
Carrie, Community Managerette & Tiger Beat Counselor: Our campers arrived in tiger-themed gear on the first day! Thankfully tween magazines have about one hundred posters in so many pages so the walls of Cabin 5 were quickly filled with One Direction, Bieber and Selena Gomez (for better or worse). Sidenote: Did you know that Intern Grace has a subscription to Tigerbeat? Real fact.
Jill, Wild Things Counselor: Haviland and I’s Wild Things were so friggin’ cute. I mean, cuter than the Little Rascals cute (who were pretty cute, but just not quite Wild Things cute).
Marni: On the first day everybody is arriving at different times and registering and getting oriented, and it’s a sort of magical in-between time when there are queers in little pockets all over the place, jamming and talking and getting haircuts and playing on the swings.
Cara, Contributing Editor & Bombshells Counselor: As the shuttles poured in, Whitney, Somer and I led a rotating group of very talented campers through renditions of popular favorites from the “You Know How I Know You’re Gay” XM Station.There were shoutalongs, melodicas, harmonies, and cardboard tube percussion.It was a great way to transition to A-Camp Life, where you can be as quiet or as loud as you want and everyone sits in the same circle.
Crystal: I walked outside of Wolf Lodge, where campers were registering, to see Somer, Whitney, Cara and some of the more musically inclined campers having a huge jam session. At one point Whitney lead a rendition of Michelle Branch’s “Everywhere” which was spectacular even though no one knew the words to the verses.
Stef: When we’d assured ourselves that Operation No Homo Left Behind had been a thrilling success, we jumped back into our trusty rental car and booked it back up the mountain with just enough time to greet our cabins before heading to the opening campfire.
Marni: The first time we’re actually all together, though, is the first dinner. It’s always a little bit strange at first, since everybody’s excited and on edge, and some people haven’t been to camp before and some have. That moment is always really special for me, because I know that while lodge names and meal hoppers and trails are still this foreign concept, in a day’s time we’re all going to be this big crazy family and it’s all going to make sense. It’s an exciting feeling, that knowing anticipation. Robin and I got on the announcement microphone at the start of the meal and I just said “Check one” into the mic, and the room erupted. Across the room I saw DeAnne Smith looking at me like “This is the craziest, most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed, what even is this.” It blew me away.
Next: Night-time activities!