I had camped out with Sultana Fatima Ali at the Orlando Fringe box office in order to get a ticket to go on Brian Feldman's overnight primitive camping trip, "Fringe of Nature." Sultana got the first ticket and I managed to get the second ticket. I was going to join Brian and Sultana on the first night, but Terry decided she would like to come along for the camping trip so we changed the date to my birthday, May 22. Only two people are suppose to go out on the hike each night, and only 10 tickets are available to this unique Fringe performance. On the trip to the Shakespeare Theater Terry stopped at a Publix and got a coconut frosted birthday cake. I thought this was a strange item to try and bring on a 3.5 mile hike into the woods. We sat down in the patrons room and waited for Brian to arrive. Terry cut up the cake and set all the pieces out on paper plates. Sultana stopped by with her mom, Mary Beth, who is an artist herself. We kept offering cake to people who walked past our table and soon Dewey Chaffee, Douglas McGeoch, and Anna McCambridge, Sultana, Mary Beth and Terry were all singing "Happy Birthday." Their voices resonated and echoed in the patrons room and this workaday song suddenly sounded angelic. When I hear this song in a public restaurant I always let out a groan. But when the song has my name in it, the song is suddenly beautiful. At home, the amazing number of Facebook birthday greetings left me humbled wanting to cry.
Outside, Brian drove up in a brand new 2010 MINI Cooper Clubman which had been supplied by Orlando MINI for the project. Matt Simantov joined our group and we soon had everything packed and set off into the wild unknown. I knew the drive was only maybe 45 minutes so I rushed to get the sketch of Brian driving. His hat hid his eyes and he said, "This is the first time I get to look like Beetle Bailey." I really like the circular flowing lines of the MINI Cooper. Since my Xterra is starting to age less than gracefully, I need to start thinking of a more fuel efficient alternative.
When we all arrived at Wekiwa Springs State Park, we parked the MINI Cooper and Matt's car in the parking lot. There was a restroom but it was way in the distance, about a quarter mile away. We arrived at about six or so and it was still very hot. A small dirt service road soon branched off into a narrow path through palmettos and shrub. Matt and Terry joked about walking through the deserts of Tatooine from Star Wars. Terry started singing, "I'm happy when I'm hiking, pack upon my back..." This was an old Girl Scouts song and none of the three guys knew it. At one point, a large animal made plenty of noise as it rushed into the palmettos. We shouted and tried to look big, which is advice given if you should startle a bear.
The sun was starting to turn orange and was very low on the horizon when we reached "Camp Cozy." Brian and I set up the six person tent and Matt and Terry started gathering wood for a campfire. I managed to light the fire using maybe six matches. A large log which had been eaten by termites offered a nice starter. Matt and Brian put headlamps on and I had a cheap one which stopped working after half an hour. We didn't cook anything but just ate sandwiches we had bought at Publix. Then we roasted square vegan marshmallows.
Matt kept using a huge bowie knife he had strapped to his leg to cut up a log which helped keep the fire burning. I sliced open my left thumb by tugging at a dry palmetto frond. The palmetto stem had jagged edges; thank god I had my Jesus bandages, which had been a gift from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I also bought along a very flat LED light which Brian placed inside the portable marquee which allowed it to illuminate at night since we couldn't find a darn plug. Brian had a package of square vegan marshmallows and I tried one. It didn't burn like a regular marshmallow and I took my time waving it in the open flames until it was a perfect golden brown. It actually tasted really good. It was as good as the real thing without the animal by-products.
As I sketched, I heard the high pitched whine of millions of mosquitoes all circling around me and waiting to find an opening in the insect repellent that covered every inch of my body. I was the first to get in the tent for the night. At three in the morning, I ventured out and marveled at the bright half moon with pitch black pine trees sweeping up to meet it. In the distance, a mist made the far trees a subtle blue gray and the stars were bright and clear. I understood why Van Gogh painted Starry Night.
At sunrise, I convinced Brian to join me for an eight minute run along the trail. The sun was just piercing the verticals of the trees and the path weaved left and right. Huge dew covered spider webs would cross the path forcing us to duck in order to avoid them. Running along a tight path with trees flying by makes it feel like you are running a lot faster than you are. We all agreed to go to the springs when the camp was broken down. On the hike back, Brian lost patience with the slow pace of the person at the end of the hiking column. He named this hiker iPod, since the hiker never went a moment without listening to and sometimes singing along to the songs on their iPod playlist. Brian marched out at a quick pace. I stayed with the slower hiker and suddenly the three of us were faced with a fork in the trail. There were no trail blazes on either trail. I called Brian using my cell and got his answering message. I said simply, "Left or Right?" A few minutes later Brian called back and said, "Left." The parking lost was less than a quarter mile down that path. A parking lot never looked so enticing. The air conditioning in the MINI was delicious.
On the drive to the springs, a beautiful deer silently strutted across the road in front of the MINI Cooper. Brian stopped to watch her and she tilted her head to the side to look over her shoulder at us. The silent staring contest lasted just a moment before she quietly walked into the woods. At the springs, the water was a refreshing 72 degrees and I was in within minutes. I swam across the springs once and then got out to do a quick sketch. Brian and Matt floated around in the middle of the springs for a long time talking. There are two more chances to experience this unique Fringe show for yourself. Get a ticket before they are all gone.
Thursday May 27, 5:30 PM
Friday May 28, 5:30 PM