Dear Levi: A Letter From Camp

This is a letter I wrote to my dear friend Levi Felix on Saturday, May 21, 2016, from the typewriter deck at Camp Grounded, deep in the redwoods of Mendocino, California. Levi (aka Professor Fidget Wigglesworth) was the co-founder and director of Camp Grounded. When I wrote him this letter, he was responding well to the treatment for his brain tumor and feeling strong. Levi passed away seven months later, on January 11, 2017, at the age of 32.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dear Fidget,

I’m typing this letter to you from the typewriter deck in Mendo. Yes it’s true, they put me on typewriter deco this year. I know what you’re thinking (WHO PUT SMILEY ON DECO?!) but don’t worry, it looks dope and MeiMei smoothed out all the kinks.

It’s Saturday and I wanted to give you a brief recap on everything happening so far. Today it rained, first time it’s ever rained hard at Camp. But guess what?! It was a blessing in disguise. Artemis let an epic yoga session in That Tipi and I ate breakfast with my Foxes under a giant redwood tree and we didn’t even get wet.

During Playshop A, the Den turned into a cozy blend of music, hot chocolate, and fire. Papa Bear sang “Into the Wild,” and Seltzy, Moonlight, Bonsai, Prospex, and the boys from Whiskerman were playing along. We did “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Oh! Darling,” “Say It Ain’t So,” and OF COURSE, “The Weight.”

Oh how I missed being with you. Shmu even dropped in on the jam session and sang (obviously) Pearl Jam. Ripple and Quesadilla were serving hot cocoa, and Condor (who tried to change his name this year to Woodpecker or Hummingbird or some shit, but it didn’t work) made a fire.

Production rocked it during setup. The place was basically built by Wednesday night. Very impressive. G’mo, Twizz, Moose Jr., Little Fish, Captain Walnut, and this new dude Peanut Butter, KILLED IT. Moose and Gypsy were all over it. Folks even had binders. Schmatie’s been owning it in the dining hall. During prep I was moving tables and chairs… thankfully I wasn’t put on Central Community, cause you know my ass can’t use a power drill.

Somehow Dad isn’t even here, but he still has a walkie. I missed seeing you on stage opening Camp (“Beautiful humans of Camp Grounded, please make your way to your villages…”) but Honey Bear was his usual genius self. We played Rock Paper Scissors Rockstar, talked about how lucky we are to be here, and how we are giving the gift of Camp that you gave us, and now it’s the campers turn to pass that gift on.

I can certainly say there is more mindful, mellow vibe this year, which I like. Honey Bear read some of the common fears campers had coming into Camp, just to show everyone that it’s okay to be nervous coming to Camp. Love that we’re trying to make everyone feel welcome. Even people that have trouble making friends.

We even had a song about consent in the opening campfire. Prospex nailed it. I’ll have to sing the song for you back in the Sunset, but it went something like, “I WANT TO KNOW YA, SO I WILL GO SLOW…YEAH! BUT I CAN’T SEE WHERE YOUR BUBBLE IS BAAAAAABY… SO I’M GONNA ASK,” and Benefitz and Ladybug acted out a hilarious consent skit.

Remind me to tell you about this camper of mine who came to camp with a severe peanut allergy (as in like, he can die if he touches someone who has eaten peanuts) and then freaked out cause we served vegan peanut cookies at registration. He was really shaken up but the whole thing blew over: we got peanuts taken off the menu and I had all my Foxes wash their hands. We even told the whole camp and everyone started chanting, “FUCK PEANUTS!!!”

The Thursday before campers arrived we sang the theme song and Seltzy busted out (you guessed it) “Me and Julio.” FUCKING ME AND JULIO. Anyways, I still put the chair in the air.

The new artist-in-residence program is dope. Practice, Chiquita, Spark, and Glow are drawing and painting on the parade field. I love having more art front and center at Camp. We turned Mohicans into a mini Arts & Crafts barn, which makes it more accessible to folks. And the hammocks at the backyard are a sweet spot for a nap.

Shmu led Shabbat last night and we had 40 campers around the candles. Big Fish and Hey Girl led the barukah… as Shmu said, your mother would have been very proud.

I was thinking of you when we lit the candles. Actually, I’ve been thinking of you constantly. I thought of that time we sang “The Weight” with Dad and Barnaby, deep in the heart of Texas. I miss you on the mic. “Beautiful humans of Camp Grounded, get your Revive kombucha 50% off at the canteen, from now until the end of free time.” I miss Bruce sneaking me an ice cream sandwich at the canteen. I miss watching you and Bruce watch the village cheers since I know how much Bruce loves them. Incidentally, there was no Sir Mir-a-Lot this time (thank god), but like 8 villages did “We will, we will, BEAR U,” which got old.

Most of all, I just miss seeing you roam around Camp, making sure everything is just right, playing drums in the Tea Lounge (by the way, The Wild Reeds were so beautiful last night in the yurt… it was pouring rain outside and their voices transported us into heaven), wearing your red onesie, and losing (both) your pairs of New Balances and your clipboard at the Lost & Found.

I fucking love you brother. Can’t wait to get sushi or poke (fuck Pacific Catch — fuck fish!) real soon.

You are missed. You are loved. You have changed my life for the better. We are one because of you.

LOVE, REAL QUICK,

-Smiley :)

P.S. — I did F U INNER-CRITIC during opening campfire. Dope shit.


Read more about Levi’s legacy. Celebrate Levi’s life by coming to Camp Grounded this May, see you in the woods!

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