|Susan Buck: RPNY's Roving Commentator
As published in the Harley Rendezvous Express, 2005
Rhythm on the Mountain
When the universe seems misaligned and the tempo of our lives becomes erratic and arrhythmic, the blessing of music seems to fall more easily from heaven. Most of the time, I think it's really just God's way of showing us that we are all spiritual beings who carry a spark of divine magic, and reminding us to be grateful for every form of beauty around us. It's like the great conductor of the universe says, "Hush up now and listen to what's really going on."
High in the mountains of upstate New York, there's a hilltop spread where the wind whistles and the sun smiles and the magic happens as often as we open our minds and our hearts to it. Indian Lookout Country Club isn't a place for golf clubs, cleated shoes or high powered business deals negotiated in the buzzwords of the day. This "country" club has been the home of the Harley Rendezvous Classic, a Harley-Davidson biker's rally, since 1984 and, along the way, hosted several of the area's premiere music festivals. I've found my way to Rendezvous every year since '85, and, in '98, was invited to join their legendary Staff, a few hundred idiosyncratic personalities, possessing myriad scars, quirks, skills, limps, and a plethora of mental and magical powers. As members of ILCC's elite, it's our job to make sure everyone has a good time and no one gets hurt. Our primary means of traversing the 200-acre property are naturally, by Harley and, ironically, by golf cart.
Camp Creek, the Max Creek band's three-day music festival, is one of everyone's favorites. The crowd ranges from twenty-first century neo-hippie kids somewhere between voting age and their parent's watchful eye, to aging boppers, bikers and beatniks who've followed Creek's 30-something year history. They couldn't be happier, looking forward to this faire of aural bliss. Even before the first band's taken the stage, speakers are humming with sweet folksy guitar chords and tender harmonies. More than twenty bands will take the stage this weekend, playing from before noon 'til way past midnight, culminating in more than three hours of Max Creek's own mystical jam.
I patrol the grounds either on foot or by Harley (I don't own a golf cart), watching people set up campsites on the grassy meadows. Here and there, children of all ages are tossing frisbees, hackie sacks and flying kites. Balding, paunchy dudes in faded tie-dye shirts drink beer.Twenty-somethings in dreadlocks, patchwork corduroy and body paint circle their drums, echoing the cardiac rhythm of the universe. Music-acoustic, electric, improvised and rehearsed-plays all weekend, onstage and off, as the dancers stride and strut, some, it seems, to music that only they can hear.
Sometime before 11 a.m., I see a golf cart speeding along the campground's dirt road. Mark Mercier, Max Creek's professorial-looking keyboard player, is an earlier riser than most musicians. He's also about as easily disciplined, so I ask him ever-so-sweetly to remember the five-miles-per-hour limit, and to at least keep it under ten. He laughs, and in the language of ILCC, hugs me, then rolls off, perhaps just a little bit slower.
Between sets, throngs of colorfully dressed revelers traipse between the campgrounds and the hill which forms the natural amphitheater above ILCC's stage. They carry blankets, chairs, sustenance and the occasional flag, banner or homemade puppet, bobbing to the beat. Wandering minstrels impart musical measures of everything from fugue to funk.
By Saturday afternoon, I'm dancing through the liquid crowd as the bands play. The sun is shining; the day's as perfect a July can be in the closest place to heaven on earth. A thirty-something guy in baggy khaki shorts and Teva sandals is dancing with two children at his knees. He tries to show his 8-year old son how to move from one foot to the other. The poor kid's frustrated; it just isn't clicking, but you can see his father's love in the trying. Close to the stage, a couple is swaying to the music, kissing, and a grayer couple is dancing enthusiastically. Little Mikey is pouting. All his dad wants is for everyone to enjoy the show.
I smile at them, and reach into my bag, digging out a little plastic egg filled with beads. Waving it lightly to the dad, I gesture to his son. He smiles, so I kneel down closer to Mikey. I shake the egg gently next to my ear, then close to his, in time to the music. Smiling at his puzzled face, I take his hand and curl Mikey's fingers over the egg. He looks at it, beginning to shake it next to his ear. Two or three beats later, his feet begin to move, almost in time to the music, not that it mattered and his little sneakers floated on the grass.
Dad beamed at Mikey's epiphany, lovingly tousled his straw-colored hair, and danced on as I bowed and danced away. From the top of the hill, I could see Mikey shaking his new maraca next to his head; smiling crookedly, happily and most adorably dancing. Like so many others here, Mikey was moved by the blessing of the music.
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