While 28% of MAN members participate in GNI, a few MAN members and former MAN members head to sunny Malibu for the West Coast Gathering put on by CMEN, California Men Enjoying Nature. The West Coast Gathering will be somewhat familiar to people who were MAN members long ago and attended the annual East Coast Gathering put on by PANG, Philadelphia Area Naked Guys. Some people who were involved in the East Coast Gathering run the West Coast Gathering. Some of the traditions started at the East Coast Gathering are carried on by CMEN in Malibu. Some things are different, however. The spirit of competitiveness is tempered. This year they even made an effort to avoid the word, contest. There is a bit of a Radical Faerie spirit of brotherhood, avoiding rules, and participation. It is expected that you will know how to clean up when you leave and where to find the supplies. Everyone must volunteer for responsibilities in proportion to the time that he spends in camp. Attendees serve meals, clean up after meals, put on the themed receptions, run the movies, do the recycling, apply the sunblock, help prepare the food and much more. No one can just sit back and take everything in without making a commitment to serve.
Cabins are not organized by groups. There is no cabin decoration. People do prepare for the theme parties, some minimally and some with great elaboration. There are lots of workshops on the weekends but fewer workshops on the weekdays. There are many opportunities to hike even to high ridges where on a clear day you can see the ocean. Most days are clear. It does not seem to rain. It does not seem to get cold. This year on the first Saturday morning, men dressed for breakfast, complaining of the cold, 60 degrees. Normally, however, it did not get chilly. When it did, a sarong over the shoulders made it comfortable.
Two big differences with the GNI Gathering are housing and food. Many men camp. Others stay in the rather simple cabins of the children’s camp. Some pay a small premium for more substantial communal living. A few early registrants pay to stay in humble motel rooms on site with heat and air conditioning. The food has been reasonably good. This year, they brought in a new caterer who prepared menus with much thought, poached fish, pork loin with apple compote, ham in a raisin sauce, Mexican, Indian and more. It was far removed from children’s camp food. Breakfast had all the big breakfast items but also lots of yogurt, fruit, and cereal.
There are other similarities to GNI. Boy Bucks are distributed throughout the week and used for interesting auctions, including a dessert auction. There are many shows of talent, buns, femininity, and talent/ no talent. Richard Bosworth plays for the gathering, Richard Skipper performs, and Robert Cohen debuted an aria he wrote for the opera, Fellatio, sung by his alter persona, Ada Wiener, in the role of Laetitia Bocagrande. Robert brought down the house and raised the audience to their feet.
The cost if you register before May 31 and want to stay in the Field House (not the motel) is $794 for nine nights. The shuttle bus to the airport adds on another $25. It is a good bargain even for those who have to fly from New York. And in Malibu we have found friends from around the world that we first met at GNI. It was not like going to a strange place. Indeed, the Californians were really welcoming. We got several invitations from our first West Coast Gathering. And did I say that the weather has been good?