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STOMPING GROUNDS by Hampton Sides

STOMPING GROUNDS

A Pilgrim's Progress Through Eight American Subcultures

By Hampton Sides

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 1992
ISBN: 0-688-09049-4
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

 A vastly enjoyable excursion into American obsessions. Sides, a freelance journalist, describes America as ``a land of refined fanaticism'' in which 22,000 associations devoted to everything from bottle-cap collecting to group sex have taken root and flourished. His wanderings begin with a canoe raid on California's Bohemian Grove, an ultraexclusive, all-male camp where 2,300 lawyers, doctors, CEOs, and US Presidents (Ford, Nixon, Reagan, Bush) hold mock-Druidic rituals, urinate on redwoods, and carve giant penises in the forest. On to the Gathering of the Tribes of the Rainbow Family of Living Light, an annual assembly of 20,000 hippies, where Sides finds himself ``sunburned, filthy, and exhausted by all the raging togetherness.'' The human press is greater still at the Black Hills Motorcycle Classic, a convention of 400,000 leather-clad bikers with ``vats of beer, lakes of puke, acres of bare breasts, and billowy clouds of reefer''--not to mention Peter Fonda, Neil Diamond, and a posse of narcs. More Middle American and mild is an Indiana gathering of 3,350 Airstream trailers with their own zip code and code of life (``To lead caravans wherever the four winds blow''), where, as usual, the author celebrates his hosts' eccentricities with genuine relish for their hobbies. On the Iditarod Trail in Alaska, he watches a ``hyperkinetic'' Susan Butcher win America's top dogsled race, defeating founder Joe Redington, ``a quivery old gnome.'' In Tennessee, he attends the superconservative Pentecostal Church of God in Christ; in Florida, the ``Jubilee'' get-together of 10,000 Tupperware saleswomen; in Virginia, the Bassmaster's Classic, the World Series of bass fishing, where all-time champion Rick Clunn, who ``fishes with a chilling, cyborglike efficiency,'' trounces the competition. The true heartland of America, where one finds ``a purer and more innocent age, even if it's just for the weekend,'' explored by a friend. As such, a joy. (B&w photos--not seen.)