Dusty Watson -- the best surf drummer in world and camp co-director -- introduced the Saturday night festivities with a joke. “This year was the hottest in the history of the Sierra Surf Music Camp, and last year was the coldest.” Even if not grammatical correct, it was funny in that the Camp’s history was only two years. And, in those years, we experienced a 50 to 60-degree difference in temperatures.
With unseasonably high temperatures in the 90s, 2013 required finding escapes from the heat. One refuge was the Changing Station Building. I thought about calling it the “Bath House.” But West Coasters and particularly San Franciscans of a certain era remember the hey day of “bath houses” in San Francisco. Many stories of San Francisco bath houses still abound today. They dropped off the radar when people realized that the hedonism of the bath house was a part of the AIDS epidemic that ravished the City.
The Changing Station at the Donner Mine is constructed on thick-walled concrete. It now is a bunk house. When the mine was operating, it was the first stop once miners emerged from the mine. There, they stripped and passed through a narrow passageway where they were checked to assure that they were smuggling nothing from the mine. They then took a communal shower. At the same time, they washed their clothes. After a shower and another inspection, the miners changed into clothes stored in lockers and hung their recently washed work outfits from the ceiling. The thick walls insulated the Changing Station from the winter cold and summer heat -- or unseasonable spring heat. Fortunately, the Changing Station was the designated practice area for Steelhead.
Jim Lee’s art instruction took a turn because of the heat. He had his equipment. Becky brought her equipment. But her efforts at painting were detoured. First, she opened her container of TomToms (painting pens). The combination of heat and altitude caused them to explode. After cleaning up, she went outside and found her painting spot. That was short-lived as yellow jackets decided to reclaim the spot as theirs. Rather than fight Mother Nature, Becky gave up on art. She and Jean escaped the heat by moving chaise lounges from Paul’s Airstream to the mine entrance. There, the Mother Lode’s natural air conditioner spewed out 55 degree air. Soon Becky and Jean were moving again to escape from the cold!
Meanwhile, freed from his teaching duties, Jim Lee began painting a scene on 10’ Greg Noll surf board that Defender Jon brought to camp. Jim worked in the shade of the lodge. At the end of the first full day of camp, he had the sky in place. By Saturday evening, a beach and palm trees. On the morning of the last day, he put some sealer on it so that he could continue the job at home. Last week, a photo of the finished product appeared on Facebook.
The unseasonable heat required improvisation and working in the moment to find respite. Except for Steelhead in the Changing Station, the Surf Band 101 bands searched for shade and air movement. Sweat and heat would be their lot except when they were absorbed in the moment of their music.