Ten in the morning and it was hot. I dug my thumbnail inside my glass pipe and chipped away at the resin. My seat was a sunken-in hay bale under a patch of trees in the middle of a field dried crispy yellow. Slapping the bowl against my palm, I gave a look around to see if anyone was watching. It was Portland and by then it was legal, but old habits are hard to shake. Every few minutes a car rounded the bend and I was on my feet, flag in hand, waving them forward. Two more orange vests waved from the other end of the field. I was fourth in line on the short and winding road leading to event parking, another neon-clad volunteer among the morning shift on the first day of Pickathon. Attendees were sparse and most of those arriving were with a food or venue crew.
Pickathon was hosted by the Pendarvis Farm, located just outside Portland. The music festival touted itself as a sustainable, communal-minded event. Tents blanketed the forest as most attendees camped throughout the weekend. The main stage was positioned at the bottom of a short hill at the edge of the forest. White sails like diamonds were strung overhead providing shade. Their checkered formation captured the eye like a science-fiction aesthetic. The Wood Stage was nestled deep in the thickets. Its structure was constructed with interwoven tree branches and limbs. The performances I would later see on that stage were sincere and beautiful. Hundreds watched from hammocks, hay bales, and the sturdy branches overlooking the amphitheater. Performers and audience alike awed their surroundings, and the notion that collectively we were part of something unique was contagious.
In my patch of shade, a headphone dangled around my belly while the other sounded in my ear. I enjoyed the tiny amount of responsibility. Pacing back and forth to pass the time, I twirled the little orange flag I used to signal cars. Staff came around regularly to refill water bottles and I was guzzling just as soon as I could say thanks.
“Priya must be here by now,” I thought to myself. I considered my odds of slipping away, unnoticed for a quick rendezvous. Unlikely, I decided.