Man, did San Francisco spoil us. A warm hotel staff, pleasant neighborhood, and, despite the delayed start, a fairly smooth setup and execution of the campout.
Enter Sacramento. If San Fran was the awesome teenage babysitter who’d play board games with you and let you watch movies that you really weren’t supposed to, and whom you secretly dreamed would someday realize that, despite your age difference, you were the only one who could truly make her happy, then Sacramento was that creepy nanny from The Omen who killed your family and kept demon dogs in your bedroom (and, for added kicks, let's say she molested you).
I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful parts of Sacramento. In fact, I know there are, because I’ve been there before. We just didn’t see any of them on this trip.
We started off at a hotel that was quickly dubbed the Crackwhore Inn. To start off, the amenities and service weren’t close to what we had just left behind. Certain things we could get past -- the breakfast was lousy; there was no common room; no gym; the pool looked like it had Bubonic plague in it -- these are things you come across whenever hopping hotels. Less easy to ignore were that the doors to all the rooms were scratched and dented as though werewolves made nightly attempts to break inside, or that the area was patrolled by the resident sex workers. The doors to the lobby were locked at 10:00, presumably because the last four night managers were found in a ditch somewhere with rising numbers carved in their foreheads.
Now hiring at Quality Inn.
At one point, two of our female campout staffers decided to risk amoebic dysentery and take a dip in the pool. Seeing them, two men who’d gotten food at the neighboring Carl’s Jr. hurriedly climbed to the third floor walkway so they could watch the ladies swim while they ate their hamburgers.
Rudely, no one wanted to watch me swim.
Come the evening, everyone in their respective rooms heard what sounded like clog dancers practicing for the state championships in the rooms above them. The two major theories as to the source of this noise were poltergeist activity or the prostitutes earning their trade.
Or possibly both.
While the whore theory seemed to hold the most water, I was perturbed by the lack of vocal noise that accompanied these sounds, if rented sex was indeed what we were listening to. I imagine that either the ladies were so strung out on heroine that they were barely conscious for the activity (creepy), or they were so afraid of invoking the wrath of the nighttime manager (who did not like noise, effort, or people) that they were obliged to remain silent during intercourse (also creepy, but kind of considerate as well).
As if we couldn’t figure out on our own that we were in a bad neighborhood, friendly locals, including the police, encouraged us to find a new hotel as soon as possible. So, two days after our arrival, we stuffed our belongings into the travel vans (leaving little room for any actual people) and headed off to new lodgings.
We ended up sharing two neighboring hotels. Make no mistake, the increased sense of personal safety put both establishments several levels above the hole from which we had just fled. That said, there was a bit of an imbalance in the quality between the two hotels. The hotel beside mine had the full hot breakfast; the fully stocked store of snacks and microwavable dinners; the warmed pool and salt water spa; the giant, fully furnished common room complete with flat screen TV; and the cucumber water in the lobby (because just plain water is a peasant’s beverage). The hotel I was assigned to had a small table of muffins in the morning and one broken luggage cart. Needless to say, I spent much of my free time next door.
The Duchess needs her waffles.
Okay, so enough whining about the accommodations. Our bosses had gotten us out of STD Central, and that’s all that matters. Much more noteworthy was the adversity we faced when trying to set up the campsite. I’m not talking about the blistering heat or the crazy winds that had us chasing our erected tents as they rolled away like tumble weeds. I’m referring to the locals who decided they didn’t want our satanic attraction in their happy little town.
It began with a gentleman (and I use the term loosely) who lived across the street from the field in which we were to host our event. He decided to come across the street and start making threats that we had better not wake him up at night with whatever it was that we were doing, and that he would single-handedly get our permit revoked.
Next thing I heard, our bosses had to attend a city hall meeting where nearby residents -- who had done an impressively minimal amount of research into what our event actually entailed -- appealed to the town elders to have us ridden out on a rail. Among the activities they accused us of hosting were devil worship and the simulated amputation of babies’ penises. (We DO perform a witch’s birth during the camp, which is followed by the removal of the umbilical cord, which campers can collect as part of our scavenger hunt. I submit that cutting the umbilical cord -- as any good delivering doctor would do -- is in a far different league than infant sexual mutilation. But that’s just me.)
Following this meeting, the GHC powers-that-be spent the rest of the week dealing with police and local interest groups, making sure we were in violation of absolute no ordinances that could have us shut down, with the resident Bible thumpers breathing down our necks the whole time.
Fun makes Jesus angry!
We even made the local news. I particular enjoyed the gentleman in the interview who said, “There’s a difference between fun-scary and satanic-horrific.” I imagine his concept of fun-scary is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. And of course, there was some good old “think of the children” rhetoric thrown in for good measure. Like comic books, rap music, and D&D before us, our little horror attraction was accused of being a potential assault on impressionable minds; a gateway drug to rape and mass murder, if you will. One person was quoted in a local article as stating that we didn’t “understand the negative mental impact these events can have” on children. Wow, it’s good thing you have to be 18 years old to attend the GHC. If only there was some way that information could be conveyed to the general public.
And the defenders of morality assured everyone that they would be out in full protest the nights of the events, handing out Bibles to the campers and making sure we knew that we were not welcome:
Well, the “full protest” ended up being a half dozen people seated at a fold out table across the street from us (with balloons, for some reason), who stared at us until about 11:00 PM, at which time they got tired and went home. What little effect this may have had was nullified by a line of trucks we parked along the road on our side of the street, blocking them from view (score). The rest of the protesters were down the road at the campers’ parking lot to distribute the promised Bibles, which our campers declined.
All in all, the actual event was just fine. The turnout was intimate but enthusiastic. In the end, the self-righteous objectors to our presence were a very loud minority. Attendees dug being slathered with gore and locked in cages as much as those who had come before them, and, despite the bitter chill in the air, stayed up late to reach into gooey cadavers and wade through our “infested” pool to collect every morbid and disgusting scavenger hunt item they could get their blood-soaked fingers on.
Sans baby penises.
So, in the end, victory was ours. Nevertheless, we’re happy to put this troublesome little burg behind us. Time to see what Seattle has in store.