Friday dawned bright and muggy and I set out to Takoma Park with my frisbee duffel and my backpack. A couple of stops and starts later, I arrived in front of JKD's apartment and we were off to the bucolic splendor that is Versailles Ohio (again, Ver-Sayles, none of this fancy pants French pronunciation).
Along the way JKD and I rethought the dominant approach to unionizing (need to focus on contractors and temp agencies, maybe even taking the burden of training and background checks off the plates of the temp agencies in exchange for unionization), the various reasons why journalists have become foppish air heads instead of Studs Terkel-esque cigar-chomping working-class heroes, and other topics similarly grandiose and mundane. Turns out that air conditioning is pretty quickly longed for when you're sitting in a hot little car for hours on end in traffic...Interstate 70 around Washington PA moved with the rapidity of molasses traveling uphill in November. Thankfully during the long wait in lines of traffic, JKD's Sirius radio provided us with rather good music options, enough so that if I end up getting another car (mine's in Ohio these days) it'll have a magic music box like his.
Many hours and many liters of water later (I tend to drink a lot of water while traveling, read 5 liters in the 10 hours to get there) we arrived at our first destination: Dayton Ohio, or more specifically the airport. Looking at a map, as I'd done, it seemed clear that one could just take 70 to 75 and get off at the exit marked airport and that in so doing you'd place yourself in a position whereby you could gain access to the terminals. Well, my friends, you'd suffer a fate similar to ours if that was your thinking. Turns out the Dayton airport is, as JKD mentioned, something of a Kafkan nightmare. It's impossible to find any signage. There is no indication of how you get to the airport. We circled the entire airport with success coming after about 25 minutes of driving around. No signs. It's the worst place in Ohio. I've been to a lot of places, and I say this with some measure of confidence. Worst in the state.
After getting Dan Scott we hit a liquor store to purchase a handle of George Dickel and 3 12 packs of PBR. Finally after another hour or so of driving we hit Versailles. It's a small town, sleepy, and very reminiscent of many of the towns that made up the 63rd House District (where I worked my first campaign). After taking a relatively well marked turn (Frisbee Fieids -->, not sure what a fieid is) we navigated our way to frisbee nirvana. Heritage Park is glorious in ways that defy apt description. First off, it's gigantic. I've never seen a small town park like this. It's vast. The best part of this tournament to my way of thinking is the camping. Hundreds and hundreds of ultimate players camped out together in this incredible park. There were 65 teams and since each team averages around 15 players that's just under 1000 of the best people I know (or would come to know).
Upon arrival we stow our things on top of a large blue tarp (you know the kind). This tarp will serve as our bedroom, and will serve us well. I leave my wallet and keys in my bag, in the wide open. It's a park full of frisbee players they're (keys, etc) safer there than in my room in DC. We walked over to the pavilion for the egg eating contest.
The whole genesis of Poultry Days is the Versailles Poultry Days Festival a giant fair like celebration of chickens. The celebration mainly involves killing the aforementioned chickens and serving them as 1/2 chicken dinners. These dinners are transcendent. They are wonderful in ways that travel well beyond my limited vocabulary. Eating a 1/2 chicken, orange drink, and a biscuit after playing 4 games of ultimate is pretty close to my heaven. So as part of the celebration of the chicken, there is an egg eating contest for the frisbee players. No man can eat 50 eggs, but one guy did eat 26 in 15 minutes, and that's not nothing. Fairly impressive really.
When we last left our disc chasing heroes they were watching a man consume 26 eggs.
After the egg eating contest the assembled masses sort of retreated to their tents to begin what would later become a many hour baccanalia. Dan, JKD and I retreated to the tarp and found cold and refreshing PBR in great quantities. At this point I should explain the sort of trepidation that I'd normally be feeling in a situation like this. For whatever reason, I'm always nervous around people drinking. I always worry that I'm being judged, and worse that I'll find myself judging others. It's a fairly unpleasant feeling and one that I tend to avoid. Also when I get around frisbee players I'm instinctively sure that they are cooler than I am (by whatever neurotic definition) and that they're just sort of putting up with me. So that sense coupled with the drinking I knew would follow left me feeling nervous and worried. I'd be found out as both a buzzkill and a geek. Something like that.
Turns out it's all in my head. No one judged me and I was thrilled to share the company of nearly everyone there. I don't know why or how I've built this fear. It is one of the reasons I never really played at Oberlin. I was convinced that the "powers-that-be" never liked me. I was afraid that everyone was better friends with eachother than they could ever be with me. Something about this evening changed all that. I walked around, drank beer, chatted about frisbee, retold old stories, listened to frisbee lore, and generally realized that whatever it was that stopped me from playing at Oberlin was my problem. I'd spent a lot of energy in years past worrying about not being liked so much so that I'd started to dislike people who bore me no ill will. Again something clicked on the first night at Poultry Days and I just gave up that fear. I finally felt assured in my own abilities and personality. It's a pretty freeing sense, that.
The evening consisted of wandering around, drinking, chatting and beer fris. Beer fris, a game invented (I'm told) by obies is hard to explain. It consists of two empty cups placed on a sidewalk about 10 yards apart, two sets of two teammates, and two cups of beer. Without going into all the rules, you get a lot of drunken sprinting, drinking, tossing, trashtalking, and general mockery in a small space and short time. We played beer fris until 4 am. By 4am I was tired and the tarp began to call to me. I unpacked the sleeping bag and slept under the stars. A lot of useless worrying seemed to have melted off. I slept the sleep of kings.
That is until 6am when the sun rose, and so did I.
More on poultry days later...