I thought the Hug Deli sounded kinda dumb actually. When we were talking about it on conference calls during the planning stages of this trip, I thought it sounded lame. But it was going to be just one aspect of our camp, and I was heroically willing to look beyond the obvious unhipness of the so-called “hug deli” in order to appease the unworldly idealists who favored the half-baked concept. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The Bring It! crew woke up at Bonnaroo this morning and assembled for the 7:15 meeting to find that Danielle, Blue, Rebecca, DTR, Bash, D.A., Weld Boy, Austin, and Loki had worked on set-up until 2 or 3 am. Camp was looking great! We only had about four hours until the gates opened to the general public, so it was all hands on deck to make sure everything else got done.
Bring on the 90,000 people! Here are the first four through the gate:
We staffed the Tiki Hut, Hugaroo Deli, Pledge Tent, Plastic Bottle Station, Putt-Putt Playa, and Hula-Hoop Station, and starting interfacing with attendees immediately. People want to know who we are and what we’re doing here, and their reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.
Marian and I were talking to five young shirtless guys from Tennessee and Georgia at the plastic bottle station about community involvement and taking action as alternatives to sitting around or watching television, and they were totally fired up. “F**k T.V.! Yeah, f**k video games!” Marian was like,”Yeah, that’s cool, but you guys need to get involved with something you care about.” They seemed to think about that concept for a moment, and then they were like,”F**k sitting around! Yeah, sitting around’s a waste of time!” They went on to sign the pledge, play a round of mini-golf, and order up a bunch of hugs.
We talked to people from all over the U.S. Everyone was so receptive and interested in our project, it made the afternoon fly by. People were constantly checking out the solar powered shade structure and reading the pledge. A lot of people have heard of Burning Man.
Austin said one girl hung out for hours. Evidently she just loved our camp. She said something pretty cool to Austin that sums up the reason we’re here: “You can only be an audience member for so long. You need a place like this to feel more involved.” Cool, huh?
DTR was rockin’ the Tiki Hut. It became the clubhouse for the Putt-Putt golf and for the whole camp really. He was checking people in, giving them clubs and balls, playing music, giving out stickers, and having people bang the Burmese gong. He did a great job.
The Hula-Hoop Station was going off. There was a sea of smiling hula-hoopers in front of our camp all day long. It’s funny because a LOT of people are like, “No, I can’t do it, I don’t know how.” Or “No thanks, I don’t feel like it.” But then they try it and they’re all about the hoop. Blue was out there for an eternity.
So back to the Hug Deli. The Hug Deli is just a tent with a fun banner that says “Hugaroo Deli” and a colorful sandwich board with Main Dish hugs and Side Orders listed. Two tables and some chairs. A couple of burners in aprons. But to see it in action is a totally different story. Face it, the Hug Deli is gonna change your life.
Some people walk right up and ask what’s up. Some people hesitate just outside the tent until they’re invited in. Some people have to be dragged. But everyone wants a hug. I watched Carmen interact with people and she was genius. Carmen is super fun and wicked smart, and she drew people in while engaging them in the process of conversing and choosing a hug. Then she delivered a made-to-order embrace that knocked your socks off.
Some of the more popular items were the Long Uncomfortable Hug, the Morning-After Hug, the Are We Hugging or Shaking Hands Hug, and the Group Hug. Bash’s Freestyle Hug was exceptional and so was his Gangsta Hug. During the course of the day we were coming up with custom-made hugs and adding them to the menu. We developed the Banana Hug when I brought one back from lunch (place in pocket and proceed to full-scale awkward) and then later in the day someone dressed as a banana actually came by and gave out hugs with us.
Another cool thing that happened at the Hug Deli was the unplanned recruitment of people to work there. People were so stoked they actually donned an apron and worked the booth. When Russ Bennett came by to see how we were doing, Playground brought him over for a hug, and one of the Bonnaroo attendees (now a full-fledged participant) gave him one and then wouldn’t let go because she had decided on a prototype You Want to Stop Now But I Don’t Hug. It was excellent.
Something else we got all day long was people asking how much things cost. How much to hula-hoop, how much for a hug, how much to play mini-golf. They wanted to buy the hoops and pay for stickers. The reactions were always like, “Free? Huh?” It was a great segue way to talk about gifting and unconditional involvement. We asked people to perform a random act of kindness if they liked their hug, and they were totally receptive.
Around the Bring It! camp today we heard comments like, “THIS has never been here before,” and “This is such a great idea!” It was fun to see people’s reactions when they figured out what was going on and then to watch them get involved.
I want to mention that the entire Bring It! group is really solid. I see the same thing every time I get to hang out with people who make Burning Man go. They care about their community and they’re dedicated. They play hard and work harder. There’s conflict of course, but it gets resolved and everyone pretty much kills it.
Tonight a bunch of us sat on the counter at the Tiki Hut as people came by and grabbed hula hoops. As people tried to walk by and ignore the urge to hoop, we employed a few strategies to bring them in, from the friendly invitation and sincere compliment to the playful tease and outright mocking. Whatever it took. We even started rolling hoops randomly into the crowd so people would grab them before they fell to the ground. Inevitably someone in their group would start to hula and the whole lot of them would follow suit.
The best moment of the night, however, came when Carmen, in her pigtails, red cowboy hat and cowboy boots, started mooping while she was hooping. Marian and I were in tears laughing so hard while Carmen tried to bend down and pick up trash on the grass then make her way over to a trash can.
OH! The music started tonight. Vampire Weekend played in This Tent right next to us, and I caught Grupo Fantasma over at That Tent. Tomorrow should be good with Les Claypool, the Racounters, Willie Nelson, M.I.A., My Morning Jacket, and Metallica headlining at 9:00 on the Bonnaroo Main Stage.
Note to Cobra Commander: Things were looking a bit janky around the RVs so Danielle was channeling you today as she put up signs that say: “TIGHT SHIP, PEOPLE. TIGHT SHIP.”