iEat: A Day In The Life Of The High Life Lounge – Des Moines, Iowa

High Life Lounge in Des Moines, Iowa

High Life Lounge in Des Moines, Iowa


Guest Post by Mark Haley

If it weren’t for a small Miller High Life sign outside of the front door, I wouldn’t have known I was walking into the right building. As it was, I walked into the wrong door – all of the locals walked into the side door.

I walked straight into the bar at the High Life Longue in Des Moines, Iowa. I mumbled a question to myself. “Should I just sit anywhere?” The bartender (upper 20’s female, short blonde hair, tattoos) asked what I said, I repeated my question at an audible level this time, and she said yes.

I’ve blown my cover.

The waitress asked what I’d like to drink. Miller High Life? I went with its Milwaukee mate, Pabst Blue Ribbon. Pretty much everyone in the restaurant was drinking a beer, even though it was 1 PM. The menu boasted that it didn’t serve any beers that were founded after the 1970’s. It didn’t need to boast about its broasted chicken.I already knew my order before walking in the door. Mac and cheese and two pieces of broasted chicken. I asked the waitress what pieces of chicken I should get. She wisely used the ol’ dark or white quandary to help me along. I said dark, she said thighs and drums are dark, I said one of each, and that was that.

Chicken Broast at The High Life Longue in Des Moines

My meal came much sooner than I was expecting. The first bite I took was mac and cheese. Almost burnt my mouth. The crumbs on top

Chicken Broast in the High Life Longue in Des Moines , Iowa

Chicken Broast in the High Life Longue in Des Moines , Iowa

were a nice touch. I wish there were more of them, though.Then my first bite of chicken, the reason I came here in the first place. They pressure fry their chicken, which nowhere else really does, and it gives the crispy outside a different taste and less greasy finish.

The waitress came back a couple of times to see if I needed anything. I didn’t. She was in her lower 20’s, messy brown hair, T-shirt with an angel design that filled the entire back and stitching on the back pockets of her jeans. I imagined she enjoyed being able to wear casual clothes to work.

After the original excitement of trying the foods, I settled into enjoying the rest of my meal while observing the people in the other booths. The rest of the mac and cheese was pretty good. Very creamy. Three people sat down with white button down (button up?) shirts. Mormons? The chicken was best while it was still piping hot. The blonde bartender stopped working and went to the other side of the bar to sit on a stool and eat.

Good sign.

High Life Longue in Des Moines Iowa

High Life Longue in Des Moines Iowa

Then the brunette waitress returned. When she took my empty plate and set down the bill, I asked if I could give her my card. I then put down my credit card to pay for the meal. I wondered if she thought I was going to give her my business card.

I don’t have a business card. Do guys ever give business cards to waitresses? I bet guys would put their phone number as the tip if it didn’t cost millions of dollars (billions with the area code). These are the thoughts I had as she ran my card.

But I didn’t strike up a conversation with her, so she’s still another unknown in my head. The girl from Des Moines who works at the restaurant that all the locals go to. I bet she’s lived there all her life. I bet she’ll never leave.

My receipt says her name is Rafaela. I like to lie to myself and pretend it’s a place from the 60’s that never changed. I will never go back, I decide. I hope the High Life Lounge gets closed down so the locals learn to fully appreciate it.

Is Rafaela wearing those same jeans today? Get a new job, Rafaela. Get a new life.

Quit your job, everyone. Move where you’ve always wanted to live when they close down the High Life Lounge.

Packing For Travel: Essential Items for Third World Travel


Packing for Travel: What to bring to el Third World.

When you travel to the third world, you will be faced with–WHO’S TO KNOW WHAT!–No one–not even the friendly Oracle on Franklin Street, has any idea what you are going to be faced with on your crazy trip to who knows what part of the world’s backwoods. But I do know that you are going to want to be prepared by packing what you’ll need to survive that encounter with the alligator.

Indiana Jones would agree that when packing for travel, having the right things will not only save your life, it will impress all the South Korean tech kids staying at your hostel. So travel light, pack wise and make sure that your next trip to el Tercero Mundo has at least some of these items.

This is an advanced packing list, which means, you won’t find Swiss army knives on here kid. I’ve left off the obvious third-world items for your grandma.


1. Own your trip with the Paracord Survival Bracelet

Paracord Survival Bracelet

Paracord Survival Bracelet

Don’t make me tell you about the time I unexpectedly found myself on the side of a mountain I didn’t mean to climb in Morocco. Fact is, you never know when a day that starts with smoking hash in your hotel room is going to end with a climbing expedition. The Paracord Survival Bracelet is not only a badass looking accessory (kids, always accessorize). It is for whatever “Certain situations may require a length of cord.” Can you even name all of the situations in the last year in your life that required a length of cord you did not have? Exactly. Pack this. I mean, order it and wear it all the time, because who knows mita sensei


2. Packing Hack: Turn The Eagle Creak Bra Stash Into Scottevest Boxer Shorts Underwear Stash

Eagle Creek Bra Stash Being Used As Underwear Stash amid Indiana Jone's Approval

Eagle Creek puts out a product known as The Bra Stash. What does she keep in there? Whatever she wants kid! Fellows, do you want do know what the ladies don’t want you to know? You can turn the bra stash into an underwear stash and keep all your secret things in there! Cause ScotteVest makes a pair of travel boxers that has a pocket whose dimensions fits the bra stash! IS THIS THE BEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE YET?!

3. Ward Off Insects With The Help of a Friendly Badger

When badgers meet bugs, they do not fear them. Weilding their magic honey sticks, arthropods do not even see them coming. They stand no chance.

When badgers meet bugs, they do not fear them. Wieding their magic honey sticks, arthropods do not even see them coming. They stand no chance.

Haven’t I told you a million times not to taunt the bull? Don’t you know you can get chiggers behaving like that? Son, if that don’t teach you not to play in the poison ivy patch, nothing will.

Remember what grandpa said, “Bugs are no match for badgers.” You may be too young to understand what I mean, but on the way from hither to yon, you will face many bugs along the way. Many of them will try to sting you. Some will covet your blood. Others will lie with your body in bed. Their appetites only multiply, and as soon as a malaria-ridden mosquito flies away without leaving her number, her first stop is to start a brood. Badger Anti-bug Balm is all natural, so you won’t have Gore breathing down your neck over this one.

4. Pimp Out Your Pepper Spray With A Mace Brand Pepper Spray Gun

Pepper Spray Indiana Jones

It’s the midnight hour. All your friends have turned into pumpkins. You’re wandering back to your hostel, wondering if it is safe to walk alone at night. OF COURSE IT AIN’T SAFE KID! Are you crazy, in this neighborhood? This is the neighborhood where wild bandits cruise the street on stolen ponies, and even the cockroaches are running something illicit on the side. Criminals have come to expect that gringos will be armed with oft-backfiring canisters. But are they prepared for your pepper spray gun that looks like it’s either going to send a flare their way, or it’s something you stole from Lieutenant Worf after he downed his second bottle of blood wine?


When macing up your mace gun, always used ace mace.

When macing up your mace gun, always used ace mace.


From our friends at Mace Security, “The Mace Pepper Gun is one of the most accurate defense sprays available. The OC pepper spray formula is contained in a replaceable cartridge. The cartridge utilizes advanced bag-in-a-can technology that allows you to spray a constant stream, reaching up to 20 feet, from any angle.The trigger-activated LED light disorients an attacker’s vision and helps to accurately aim the Mace Pepper Gun in low-light situations.” 

Amy Gridley, it comes in pink. 

5. Give The Locals Something To Look At With a Portable Smartphone Photo Printer

Indiana Jones and Kids

Make photo taking a two-way street by leaving more than Facebook albums and Instagram contributions. Leave physical photos with people who live wherever you’re going.

With a portable printer, you can take portraits of families in the park and give them a copy right on the spot. If you took some shots of the local sites, you can also give these away. Bring the benefits of the first world to the developing and leave them there by packing one of these mini photos with you.

Do it for the kids, kid.


On Harboring Hope While Traveling

Beach in Ometepe

Then there is a moment of clarity that illuminates what you must do. It is not time to write a poem. Not time to take in the nighttime scenery breezing by the drive from San Salvador to El Tunco. It is not time to think back over the past week and pinpoint where misguided thoughts went wrong. It’s time to get drunk, and in the back seat of the car, before the inescapable vision of Juan and Stella holding intimate hands, you raise the bottle of Rum to your lips.


The last week had been filled with magic possibility. I’d met someone whose presence was like having a butterfly with a wrecking ball fluttering around my heart. I’ve mentioned in a previous post how she reminded me uncannily of a character of my novel “How One Guitar Will Save The World.” It’s not often, nor very believable that you meet a character from your novel. It sounds like a stretch, but if fiction is to have any meaning, we must believe that the muses work in this way.

The characters created in fiction are parts of ourselves and those we know. How often do our pens and typing hands harness some mysterious someone whose essence seems assuredly real? I’d spent five years on the manuscript she lived within and the parallels between the fictional and the real Stella were so uncanny that I still haven’t caught my breath from the experience.

When my protagonist, Liam, sees the fictional Stella for the first time, he narrates:

There is something so eerily familiar about her—intimate, like a part of my past has tripped over my future. Everything that’s not her has faded. She glows. A table has just cleared up and she sits down alone, smiling at no one in particular. She’s smiling at us, at the bar—happy that we can exist—happy that all this rabble rousing can exist in places like this, in countries like this, in a world like this.

Beach in San Juan Del Sur

In Nicaragua, Stella would sit with me all day on the beach and sing songs along with my guitar. She was interested in my writing, and not just to placate me, would ask me to read her my fiction and poetry. She would share with me a beautiful vision of inhabiting universal love and sharing that with the world. We hiked together. In San Juan del Sur, we bought balloons and stickers and handed them out to kids along the beach. We talked to strangers. Made friends. Shared drinks and sunsets.

On the unrelentingly romantic island of Ometepe, Stella and I spent every day since we’d met together. Together we’d travelled to the surf town of San Juan del Sur. Arm and arm we’d walked the beach. Be still my heart, I told it. I told her about my life in Antigua and everywhere, and she told me about the open-ended travels she was six months into. I told her about my mountain with cabins outside of Antigua and she told me about her lows, mental illnesses and being trapped in Austalia’s mental health system. She’d come out the other end of this with a wistful optimism, not broken or jaded, but careful and committed to being grateful for each moment.

I knew I was falling too far too fast, so I kept these flaring emotions as contained as I could in a box marked “hope” and endeavored to simply enjoy the unexpected instance of her company before the road took me back to Antigua and Stella to Costa Rica where she planned to enroll in a school that taught surfing by morning and Spanish by afternoon.

On our last night in San Juan del Sur, we were talking about our failed attempts at going on a week-long cleanse while eating sushi and sharing a mojito. I was preoccupied as had become my custom, not used to my heart doing backflips over my head. Then Stella said, “I’m coming with you to Antigua” and I did not tell my heart to be still.

On what would have been the eve of our separation, an embrace served as a conspiring pact to continue to share the air for the never-determinate future.


El Tunco Salvador

So we embarked from San Juan del Sur on a two-day journey to San Salvador where Stella had a friend who would pick us up to take us to the surf town of El Tunco, where we could stop for a few days on the beach before busing it the last six hours to Antigua, Guatemala.

I’d spent the last week arguing with a growing hope and someone who seemed like a good teammate for life. I told that hope often to shut up. I told it that hope that it was shallow and only existed because Stella was so lovely. I told that hope that it was distracting me from my work. I told it that I was lucky to have made this incredible friend and that it was greedy to want something more.

With Stella next to me on a North-bound Central American bus, the way she grabbed my arm when she spoke, the light manner of our interaction and her smile, the freeness of her spirit, I couldn’t help but hear the hopeful voice that asked me to look at Stella and see past the moment and wonder what I’d be like to keep traveling that road together.


When Juan came to the bus station it became immediately clear that he and Stella in their previous meeting had been more than friends. When he met her with a kiss at the bus station in San Salvador, when they held hands in the front seat of Juan’s car, I felt the Zen of resignation and the bottle of rum that Juan was passing around the car. Juan was kind and welcoming, and I wonder if he didn’t understand the predicament I was in. There was no reason to dislike him, only reason to drink rum. I needed that rum that night to find a dreamless darkness that would pull the curtain across the moment’s thoughts at least until the morning’s clarity.

At one fuzzy point in the night, I planned to leave a note early the next morning and continue north alone. But this was just the rum plotting. We arrived in El Tunco. There is a memory of playing guitar in a restaurant. Then someone—maybe Juan—is leading me to a hotel room. Then there is a bed and then nothing.


Rock in El Tunco


You wake up wet and the mind searchers for reminders of who you are, where you are, and what has led you here. It is 7a.m. You are in a hotel. There is a stone pool outside. Not a soul but you stirs. A black Labrador runs to greet you, shedding his affection. You find a pila and throw your bedclothes in it, reminding yourself that you are now twenty-nine-years old. You pull apart a half dozen cigarette buts and make something smokable from it.

Morning Puppy

You remember your plan last night to flee alone. You won’t be doing that. There is an acceptance, and it feels like relief with a sprinkle of joy. You think about your new friend Stella and accept that word. Friend. You are not the victim of anything, and if you are not the luckiest guy, then you are maybe the second luckiest guy to be traveling with her—your new friend. You can still be her friend, and be the best friend that you can be to her. And this realization feels like finding a lost puppy. The black Labrador retriever lays at your feet.

You pick up your guitar and write this song:

You are naïve enough in the moment, looking out towards the rock-lined sea, holding your guitar like a life vest, to think this is where the story ends.

The Most Encouraging Story You’ll Read Today: Mombasa’s Luna Home

Camel on Beach in Mombasa

Mombasa is blue surf and white sands where a few dollars will allow one of the many visiting tourists a camel ride on the beach. Ashleigh Bell originally came to Kenya as a tourist, during a break in Hong Kong where she was studying international law. Having spent time volunteering at orphanages in Asia, she signed up for to volunteer at an orphanage called Lady of Mercy Home. What she saw there changed everything.

Ashleigh Bell

If you saw Ashleigh in the university in England where she studies law, she would look like any other student—backpack stuffed with books draped over one shoulder, a hurried gait between classes and foundation covering a few pimples. If you looked closer, you would see that she was sunburned. If you had a class with her, you would wonder why she rarely attended.

Ashleigh only returns to her school in England around exam time. To come, she leaves a life in Mombasa, Kenya where she cares for twenty-six kids a the children’s home she found as a 21-year-old law student.

Girl in Orphanage Eating Cookie

When Ashleigh volunteered at Lady of Mercy Home, she found 106 children crammed into a five-bedroom house—nine kids to a bed without mosquito nets. Less than a quarter of the kids attended school and all of them repeated the same grade year after year since the center did not pay for the exams required in Kenya to advance. Staff members beat the kids. Meals were not dependable and everyone went hungry. A young boy confided Ashleigh, telling her of how he’d been sodomized in the center. Another child told her Ashleigh that the centers’ director was prostituting girls as young as six to men in the village.

As a law student, Ashleigh looked at what legal recourse could be taken, but was met with bureaucracy, impunity and threats. Kenya’s impunity level is high and corruption runs rampant in all levels of the government. Someone from The Children’s Department informed the director of Lady of Mercy Home of the action Ashleigh had taken and she attempted to have her deported from the country by telling the police she was a drug dealer.

Girl holding child in orphange

She met the director of the Children’s Department and he told Ashleigh that there was nothing that could be done. He shook his head and said, “There’s nothing you can do, unless you open your own children’s home where kids can go instead.” He meant this to be rhetorical. No part of him thought that the young, energetic tourist in seated before him would decide to do just that.

If you’d asked her a few years ago, she would not have imagined the dual nature of the life she has now. When I asked how she is able to be both a student and mother to twenty-six kids, she giggled and blushed, “These are my kids! My grades don’t suffer. I can do both!”

Lifting boy in Luna Home in Kenya

When Ashleigh returned to Hong Kong, she began to assemble a support network. Even as an international student far from home, she was able to enlist the help of professors and friends to put together bake sales, pajama days, give lectures in Hong Kong, organize boat trips with BBQs, hold auctions, and collect enough donations to start a center.

Hearing her talk about the children’s home, what had to be done and how she did it, one thing is clear. She never second guessed herself, never wondered if this was perhaps a bit much for a twenty-one year old law student to be taking on. With the blessing of the Children’s department, Ashleigh opened Luna Home in Mombasa, Kenya in 2012.

“When people refer to it as an orphanage, I feel uncomfortable,” Ashleigh says. “I consider them like my kids; it’s just a family.”

During the first year of operation, Ashleigh stayed in school and split her time between England and Kenya. She worked out arrangements with her professors to submit her essays over the Internet and to fly back to England during the weeks of testing. Her grades did not suffer and thankfully her professors were accommodating to her unique set of circumstances.

Boy With Sunglasses Luna Home

Away from the classroom, Ashleigh is just a mother with a tight budget and small support staff trying to better the lives abandoned children. Some of the kids lost their parents to AIDs. Others come from abuse. One little boy’s mother used to inject him with her heroin to keep him from crying of hunger.

In Luna Home, everyone is part of the same large family. When Ashleigh walks through the front door the kids flock to her like a parent back from work. I ask if she every plans to return permanently to England and she looks at me like I’m crazy, “They’re my kids. I can’t leave them. Even if I wanted to I couldn’t, logistically get them back to England.”

Ashleigh is an only child and her mother worries about her, but is supportive and has sent a box of Ashleigh’s hand-me-downs for the kids to wear.

Two Girls in Orphanage2

At the time of my visit, Luna Home operated month to month on a razor-thin budget. “We have to do something every month to keep ourselves funded,” she said. Then she told me about her ambitious vision for the future. She dreams of owning land with multiple houses where children could live with a house mom like “in a real family.” In her vision there is a school, a clinic and kids learn to garden and raise animals, which cuts down on expenses and teaches them a valuable skill.

Ashleigh introduces me to Benta, a frail woman who has been working at Luna Home since almost the beginning. There is urgency in her voice as she tells me that we must do whatever it takes to care for abandoned children. “We take kids from the street,” she says cradling a sick Milika, who has recently arrived, “we take them and help them, those who are abandoned like Milika. These kids are the future of our tomorrow and we love them because they are our kids.”

When it is time to leave, Ashleigh walks me to the main road. She fights off a little hugging her legs, “I’m not going anywhere, Jimima.” I understand the context of what Ashleigh means, but I also hear these words resonate in a deeper meaning and believe them. I believe that Ashleigh will be here for these kids and when they grow up that she will be there for others who need her. I imagine Ashleigh standing before the director of the children’s department and him telling her “There’s nothing you can do, unless. . .” I imagine a downtrodden young woman feeling a spark of hope when she hears him say that word “unless. . .” Such people are rare, someone so unaware of what they cannot do that they tend to be able to do anything.

Yonder Mountain Harvest Fest: It Don’t Matter If You Don’t Mind

Harvest Fest Campers

Roger and Willow came like campfire moths to the two blazes placed a few feet apart from each other, a lint-flick from the main road. Roger did the introductions. Willow threw herself to the ground and rolled from side to side. Above us, an island of night clouds melted the moon into a mist of light, not unlike the way a mist of Windex catches dusty afternoon light.

We were carrying conversation about puppets carried in the Astral Gypsies’ camp. The Astral Gypsies are who you talk to when you need puppeteers specializing oversized marionettes, like their two-story Hunter S. Thompson puppet. When the Astral Gypsies heard the Yonder Mountain Harvest Festival, they loaded up their mammoth sized puppets and vowed to lurk amongst the 5,000 strong festival crowd.

With Willow on the ground I interrupted the puppetry talk to ask, “Is she okay?”


Roger nodded like I’d offered a pleasantry, “She’s fine; she’s cool. She’s. . .” he regarded her then sniffed the burnt air, “She’s just Willow.” Conversation returned to puppets until the rising sun chased us to our tents.

A neighbor to our tent was Aaron, a self-proclaimed Pastafarian from Missouri studying at Missouri State. He had careful eyes and drank homemade wine. He came with Corban, who sold homemade wine my brother still insists was real wine and not just vodka and fruit juice.


Our neighbors to the other side were 18-year-olds who had driven down with a college junior who wished his parents did not make him stay in school. He told his professors he was going to a family reunion because he said it was better than telling them he was going to go do a bunch of drugs.

The college kids each seemed happy with their places in their group and exchanged frequent high fives. The first band that brought everyone from the campground to the main stage where Mountain Sprouts was demanding beer from the bar in between singing, “It don’t matter, if you don’t mind.”

During the song Jesus, gyrating and wearing a crown of phosphorescent thorns, stumbled to the front of the crowd.

“I think Jesus is tripping,” someone behind me said.

“Peyote I bet,” someone in front of me suggested.

Jesus at Harvest Music Festival

Mountain Sprout’s fiddler held his instrument like a hostage, and the band crooned about drinking in dry countries, girls and avoiding the police as the crowd swelled and crooned along.

Before I knew it, I was having a whiskey and recording an interview with Aaron and Sander from The Vibe Tribe.

“Don’t you have to do what you love to do anything great?” Sander asked me, and I sipped my whiskey and realized that I would have to drink whiskey if I were to do anything great.

“It’s a lot of money going to festivals,” Aaron said, because whiskey is expensive, “but as long as you help a lot of people… Like, look… see how big this circle is, we’re all like family. We’ve probably been to like ten festivals, and that’s saying a lot—”

Sander jumped in, “—it really brings people together. So many people traveled to come here after being in their own lives so far away. They followed the music to discover new things about themselves and art and find friends.”


Aaron said he worked in Veal and was going to start a business specializes in making LED hula-hoops. Sander told me he followed extreme sports, worked odd jobs and did whatever it took to follow music around the country.

Then Sara Misconception rolled up and started talking about her tribe of performance artists, spoken word artist, hip-hoppers, DJs, and fire spinners. At Yonder Mountain Harvest Fest, they ran the kid camp and organized fire spinning circles in the evening.


“As a white girl,” she said, “I shouldn’t be rapping, but it’s exactly what I want to be doing,” she said. According to an anonymous person who might be my mom, I shouldn’t be drinking whiskey. I agreed with Sara and passed my bottle around.

Sara paused and took a drink. “We’re all blindly crawling into the fabric of society trying to figure out why we’re here and what we’re all doing. We’re here to be creative and fall in love, and we live forever through that.” .


The festival went from tent to tent, stage to stage, band to band. Some people were looking for things. Others were looking for people looking for things. Lots of people were listening to music. Giant puppets crept about. People complained about the bathrooms. I tried to use my press pass to get into the good bathrooms, and it worked 50% of the time and after the awkwardness of the second time, I vowed to never attempt such a swoop again. Mountain sprouts almost got banned from the festival for stealing a keg. Corban made money selling his wine. I missed the press conference with the artists because I was glued to jam sessions around campfires.


But on the final night when Yonder Mountain String Band took the stage to play their 1,500th show, my brother and I were at the Mountain Sprouts camp and gathered behind a truck bed sharing a cigarette with Mama, a gray-haired woman in charge of selling Mountain Sprout’s merchandise.

“Shit,” she said, “we almost didn’t make it here. Last week we had to bail Danny out of jail.” He was arrested in Arkansas for “showing people how to drink Irish car bombs. That’s why I’m writing a book soon. The shit that goes on is crazy!”

Mountain Sprouts Jamming

She was right; the shit that was going on was about to get crazy. A sudden silence from the main stage after Yonder’s second song alerted us to the fact that the weather was about to do fifty Irish car bombs and dance a filthy Irish river dance on top of the world. A woman with an official-looking floodlight walked through the camp, “The storm will be here in five minutes. This is serious. Everyone returns to your campsites and take shelter!”

“You’re a fun lot of people,” Mama said, “I’d die with you.”


The washboard player, Daniel, walked over drumming a rhythm on his chest, “Anyone seen my washboard?”

Mama handed it to him.

The woman with the floodlight returned, “This is serious, the storm is coming! Everyone takes shelter immediately!”

My brother and ran through mud because it was fun, and a flash and boom started the storm.
When the rains let loose everyone still not yet sheltered broke into a sprint. We ran until we saw the glow sticks of our friends under a shelter Aaron constructed using three pickup beds with a tarp stretched over at a triangular point of intersection.

The raging storm and probably a number of other things ignited something wild inside everyone. We raged. Beneath the tarp, we sang. Hidden from the rain, we shouted anthems and thrashed about on guitars and mandolins.

“Do you think Yonder is still going to play?”

Everyone’s phone had committed battery suicide. There was no search engine to tell us anything and the world shrunk to the size of its immediacy.

It thundered like the dickens for a long time and when it stopped people broke the stillness with triumphant shouts and impromptu hymns. Not long after, music sounding a lot like Mountain Sprouts sounded from the backwoods’ stage.

“Let’s go,” A girl named Kathy, offered me a cigarette.


I cannot tell you how many fists pumped, feet danced, bodies swooned or voices cheers at the backwoods’ stage. But I can tell you the surprising image that came to mind when a watched a sea of people dancing like they did that night. The ones I had met had been college students, cat ladies, fire breathers, aspiring and established musicians, poets, a medical student, two lawyers and one guy who sold wine, and Roger and Willow. When Isaw Willow dancing with Roger I thought about that repeated image in Christmas movies which feature a man in the cold, walking the empty streets aimless, looking inside warm windows enclosing happy families. In most of those movies a real or proverbial door opens and lets the man in. To me everyone’s expression looked like a movie star’s face when a door to unchecked acceptance reopens for him.

Festivals create a context for people to inhabit legends. The guy, who dresses up as Jesus and dancing next to a three-story praying mantis and two-story Hunter S. Thompson is a legend. In his daily life, he might design micro-robots or work at Dennys—we don’t’ know. Willow was just Willow. Everyone at the festival was just everyone, dancing in the mud, jumping and cheering because the storm had receded, and the festival raged on through its final night.

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