Chicken John Rinaldi

a path to my book for people outside of SF, and a story

If you want to buy a copy of my book (they get here next week) I've set up a page for that:

http://chickenjohn.com/the-book-of-the-un/

Here is another piece:
 

 

 

Capt Ray

 

Let’s take a break from bashing Burning Man for a moment, shall we? I mean, if there wasn’t any magic there then aren’t I a fool to have spent so much time shoveling shit against the tide? Let me tell you about my friend, Capt. Ray…

 

I wanted to build a table for Burning Man one year. Three or four hundred feet long. With propane fire lights every ten feet and benches made of stacked up junk tires screwed together with long planks on top. The table would be cast out of cement that we would make out of playa with straw, sand lime and gypsum. Four feet wide, four hundred feet long. I imagined mosaics in the table made out of junk tile, glass and other trinkets. Maybe it would tell a story or maybe we could get some LED lights on the cheap. The idea was dinner theatre. You bring dinner and watch Burning Man.

 

The table that is impossibly long is also impossibly sturdy. It’s clear, thick top imprisons a mosaic of broken glass and junk that tells a story in a language of Glyphs, for anyone who has the time to put in to walk alongside the table and watch the lights illuminate the panels and help to tell the story embedded there. Dinner is served by hundreds of strangers to hundreds of strangers by the way of hundreds of strangers. Pass the salt. Pass it down but don’t expect it to come back because there is no way. Open flames barely light the table top for night time eating by way of candle operas. The table represents actual community, for it is the simplest form of a community center. The piece judges no one. No one can be better at it than someone else. It’s a pretty tool. People will use to draw on and read at and build shit on and all that. And eat on. And make out on. Get a better view. Shade. Whatever. It’s a table, the most commonly forgotten thing at Burning Man.

 

The fundraiser I did to raise the money to build it was a disaster. “Rock the Boat” was the name of show I did at Kelly’s Mission Rock down by 3rd Street and 16th. The venue is ON the water. You can sit at a table and watch the show I curated on boats. I just didn’t realize how hard it would be. It was my first boat thing. And everything went wrong. The venue was nervous because they had heard how wild and crazy “Burners” were. So they hired like no shit 15 security guards. All musclebound beefcake steroid Marina douchebags. They literally lined up in front of the club and “searched” everyone before they came in. Some of the security lunks were drunk. Many people wouldn’t go through their gauntlet. I had no idea, I was trying to set up drums on a boat with no flat surfaces. Everything went wrong. Shit was falling in the water, the venue had essentially scared everyone away, so everyone was in a foul mood. The lights I had shining on the boat were blowing the circuit. The band’s amps were plugged into extension cords that were in the water. Everything was late. I had a $5,000 bar guarantee with the venue. I ended up losing over $3,000.

 

It was kinda worth it, though, because through that event I met Capt. Ray. I reached out “Hey, anyone know anyone with a boat we can use for an event for the Burn?” I got his phone number and explained the idea of the show. I’m sure it sounded amazing. I would give him two tickets to Burning Man in exchange for his bringing the boat that two bands could set up on. He had never heard of Burning Man. He was intrigued. Capt. Ray is a one in a billion guy. He’s a sailor. Every other boat in every marina is named “Manana” (tomorrow). So he named his boat “Hoy Hoy” (today!). A fair, principled man of deep conviction and FEW opinions. Read that last sentence again. The guy is a unicorn. Any time I spent with him was precious and mirthful. He had done a million things in his life and his stories were amusing and animated. One day after knowing him a while, I discovered he had a secret passion. He was into fairies.

 

Now, this is a big man. Hands like small turkeys, leather boots you know he oils every weekend. He’s the kind of man who eats a giant sandwich and says, "Well that just got me hungry now.” He’s a tool guy. A truck guy. His boat was built in 1950, is made of mahogany and it’s like a floating museum. And when he starts talking about fairies his eyes light up and mischief covers his face. It’s like being transported back in time a thousand years, you can imagine, in between the wars of the Saxons and the Normans, a man sitting on low tree stump telling a story to a group of younglings with wide eyes and open mouths of how the fairies use toadstools to leave secret notes and if you know how to read them you can catch one and make him grant you a wish. He liked telling fairy stories. And there’s no way anyone could have seen that coming.

          

I made Larry give him two tickets to the burn. I mean, he showed up with his boat and was cool and believed and wanted it to work. I mailed them to him, to a PO Box in Vallejo, as I recall. And I got busy with other stuff, and, well… time does go by.

 

That was a hard year at the burn, I remember. Lots of stress and work and confusion. We did the best we can, but I remember walking down the Esplanade that day, the sun beating down and my mind full. I was kinda startled by the guy blocking my path. Odd fellow, to be standing right in front of me like that. I stopped walking, and was taken aback by the simple fact that he was naked except for a potato sack and covered in ashes. His one hand pushed down on my shoulder as his other hand put a small three legged wooden stool under my butt. He kneeled down in front of me and said, "I’ve been looking for you.”

                      

Capt. Ray then proceeded to take off my boots and my socks. And he washed my feet.

 

He told me that his whole life he had been searching for this place and that because I was the person who brought him here, the fairies were going to be extra mischievous with me. He told me that he had renewed faith in humankind because of this magical place that was free of prudence and full of valor. His words stuck in my head. They came through his mouth which was covered in soot and he had black shit smeared on this teeth. I’m guessing but I’m thinking it was some kind of exercise in humility. Or something. The last time he came to Camp Tipsy he brought his pickup truck bed full of oysters and shucked them for everyone all night long. Told fairy stories around the fire. Pure magic.