After the Dell’Arte show we drove down the street to a bar, which curiously happened to be closed at 9:30 on a Saturday night. We drove back up the street and stopped in at a place called the Logger a half a block from the theatre. It had big saws and metal helmets and old pictures of logger men on the wall and one person in it, Brenda, the bartender. There was a pool table on the far side, so we started a pitiful game of it after we ordered our pitcher of local Tangerine wheat beer. I put a handful of quarters into the juke box and picked your typical classic rock bar songs that everyone knows. Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen. My Generation by the Who. Hard Day’s Night. There were eight of us, the only ones in the bar. Mieke, standing by the bartender, starts asking her questions in her friendly way. “How long you been here in Blue Lake?” “Too long.” “Oh yeah? How long’s that?” “Too long,” she says.
We raised our glasses to each other and said On with the night! Maybe we’d have a couple of drinks and head back. Saturday, but still on a tight schedule, I had to be up at 7:30 the next morning.
I stepped out for a cigarette or phone call, I can't remember, and four people were on the corner. They said hello, which I’m really not used to. I’m from LA and I’ve lived in Paris, spent a lot of time in San Francisco, I don’t talk to strangers much and they don’t talk to me. Unless in extraordinary circumstances and this was one of those. We happened to be in Blue Lake, California where there is, in fact, no lake at all; this was a small town. I recognized one of the girls from the concessions stands at the theatre. “You and your crew interested in skinny dipping?” she says. I pursed my lips in a sort of happy frown unsure way and kicked the door open shouting, “you guys wanna go skinny dipping?”
The Dell’Arte people joined us inside ordering their whiskey and what-nots and told us they were waiting for a few more. When their friends joined it was the actors from the show from a group called Under The Table from Brooklyn in the middle of their summer tour. We talked theater, what their process was for this show and how its always changing and always adding and subtracting and how much improv is involved. We tried earnestly to explain what the hell Cornerstone is doing in Eureka and what community engaged theatre is and the Institute program and what our show was and the fact that we have professional actors performing beside completely inexperienced community members. This is when I discovered how friendly actors are in general.
So off we went down the dark road surrounded by black as ink sequoias and a heavy mist over low mountains and the glow of the brewery shining on us. Over the bridge and down a steep dirt pathway to a field of soft, round river rocks to the edge of the river. There we were, fifteen strangers and stripping naked in the night, cloud cover showing us no stars or moon for light and trying to balance as we unsheathed. I leaned towards Liz and said, “did you ever think you’d be in Blue Lake, California doing this?” “I try not to rule things out,” she said with a laugh. Her very beautiful, distinctive laugh.
Peeling off layers and feeling more free with each tug of fabric we empty ourselves of inhibition and start running on rock over rolling rock. Dancing wildly like the Sigur Ros video of beautiful people with long hair galloping through the forest naked in some secluded Icelandic landscape and here we were, we could have been in Iceland, North Dakota, the Appalachians or anywhere with nothing to cover us but also nothing to expose us except ourselves and our choice of freedom and friendship. There's something friendly and vulnerable about getting a group of strangers together nude on their own accord in the spontaneous jump of Saturday night and summer.
We splashed and shrieked and were nostalgic for a while until it was the ready moment to head back. We dabbed dry with hand towels and nearly fell over trying to put underwear and jeans back on, then climbed the hill to the bridge and make our way back when we noticed that not one of us had a camera to snap maybe a single shot of the night, a small token of the evening which was a regrettable realization for most. But I think, maybe, I like it better this way.