Crater Lake Oregon changed my life in ways that will forever make me a better person. I had been hitch-hiking up California and Oregon with a friend of mine, Andy, and we had completely run out of money -- spent our last bit on some soup. It was either spare-change folks, get a job in a lumber mill, or work at the state park. Luckily we both got into the park.
Crater Lake sits at the top of Mount Mazama and is roughly fifty miles from any population center, so basically the 120 or so employees were trapped in a strange microcosmic society. The cliques were all there, the socio-dynamics, the in-crowd and their infighting, all the accoutrements of your larger social orders but so small that the traits of it were like a Dick and Jane book for socialization. I was 18 and absolutely non-socialized.
Throughout my entire life I had been either estranged from my peers or at outright odds with them. I'd never been popular or well-liked which didn't make me unhappy as most folk, I noticed, just outright suck and if they like you then there is likely something dramatically wrong with the way you live your life.
If there is any adversity that I thank God for giving me it is the inexplicable distaste for me demonstrated by classmates growing up, if it weren't for that I'd be likely writing copy for some fucking toothpaste company now; unfortunately this did leave me weak to positive manipulation.
The first day I am there I am sitting in the locker/lounge room writing in a notebook. These 3 guys are across the room looking at me and talking quietly. I pretend not to notice while peripherally paying direct attention to them - one of the many skills I learned while trying to be invisible in school. Finally I hear one say, "Well we won't know if we don't ask him."
They come up to, introduce themselves -- Ron, Fred and Mike -- and ask me if I smoke pot.
"Only when it?s present."
They laugh and invite me on a hike to the top of the caldera (crater lip). I accept. As fate would have it, these guys turn out to be #1-3 on the socio-food-chain at this place and my becoming friends with them I end up landing at about #2 (and don't think I don't see the double entender there) -- a 'ranking' I'd never even come near before.
It didn't become clear to me until a few weeks in when I noticed an inordinate amount of people wanted to hang-out with me, hike with me, smoke pot/drink with me -- women were flirting with me constantly. Now this is bizarre and initially I was suspicious -- like I'd wandered into some cult who were putting on a big facade until sacrifice night -- but quickly began to accept the role with full enthusiasm.
People laughed at my jokes when I knew perfectly well that they weren't funny. They'd run with my tangents like they were trying to impress me. They'd buy booze and tell me not to throw money towards it. When women would talk to me, they would do things like grab my knee when laughing or put their head on my shoulder to accentuate a request and in retrospect (because at the time I started wallowing in it).
I think it was just simple and basic attempts to move themselves up the socio-ladder. Real disturbing. Real false. Turned me into a jock-like asshole for awhile- playing to the crowd so much that it controlled me as much as I controlled it. Makes me pity/loathe the alphas of any group. Theirs is a life of always being the victim.
One night Fred, myself and about four other folks are standing outside of Fred's van smoking a bit of fine Oregonian green bud. Out of nowhere a Ranger just appears. He sees the pipe and says, "Allright, why don't you just make this easy and hand over the dope too."
We do. Now before you call me a weak-kneed bitch, it bears noting that we had a couple thousand dollars of stolen goods packed into Fred's van and the last thing any of us wanted was a ranger discovering that. The ranger, of course, goes to management to report the incident and suggests that no disciplinary actions be taken as Fred only had about half a gram left. Management, while we are all assembled, fires Fred and turns to me. Though I forget the guy's name, I still recall that face whiskey-perma-reddened face asking me what I was going to do.
The reason he asked me was that earlier in the month I had organized a work slow down over the firing of another employee. He was rehired before we actually had to execute it, so the fat man wanted to know if he could expect anything of that nature this time. I say:
"You fire Fred and I'll quit."
"Well, we are firing Fred."
"Then I quit."
Of the assembled 5, the rest also quit. Fat man says we gotta be out of the park tonight, off the property. He's real pissed. On the way to packing up our gear, at like 10:30p, we pass a bunch of people and fill them in on what just went down.
"Damn, all of you guys are leaving? Fuck this place."
Within six hours the most beautiful domino effect began to occur: roughly 75 of the 120 employees quit and packed up. Many of them woken up from a dead sleep in the dorms. We all relocated to Diamond Lake campgrounds where Fred and I broke out the stolen goods which were, primarily, food and drink...
Crater Lake fed us for like 4 or 5 days -- what a good fucking party that was... we had a mass employee-uniform burning... it was purely tribal, totally anti-system and powerfully liberating.
As it turned out, Fat man had violated a clause in our collective contracts by not giving us 24 hours to leave the park so the entire group either got severance pay or their jobs back -- nearly all took the pay aside from a few who took the job in order to funnel us more food and goods.
Thus the park closed a few months early that year and effectively we fucked over a few of the bastards in the world -- an accomplishment one should strive towards daily.
I eventually shook off the alpha mentality, realizing how it was distorting my growth, and learned from it that no matter who you are you must beware those around you who feed your ego because if you don't you will become their puppet.
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