A Landscape Full of Stories > Laughter Medicine
“We have strong circles and strong intentions here – a strong community. I feel what Kipchoge (Spencer) terms “the golden bubble” – which protects the Pleasant Revolution Tour – wherever we go. I believe that that comes from the gold here, that by being in a golden bubble, when other bubbles bump up to you, you become one.”
An Excerpt from the Interview
NCSCC: I take it that Laughter Medicine is your taken name as opposed to given name?
Laughter Medicine: Right. I got it shortly after I arrived here in North San Juan, and I noticed that lots of people had medicine names. And I wanted one. I have a lot of Native American blood. One of my best plutonic friends who had moved out here in advance and he was one of the big reasons I thought “oh, yeah, Northern California.” He was a really good friend and we were talking on the phone and I said I’m looking for a medicine name. He said what are you considering? I said I’ve tried Blackberry Dawn and someone told me Sparkling Doe would be good. Nothing really sticks. And he goes, “I would call you Laughter.” So “Laughter” didn’t really stick then – I laughed. Then I went to my very first Rainbow Gathering and I started using it there. This was ’96. So I’ve been Laughter since – actually little names like Medicine, I gained that in Iowa. Another girlfriend said “We’re going to call you Laughter Medicine.” I’m like fine, that’s good. Google that. Now I’m Laughter Medicine Basket. Kipchoge named me that when I ended our six-month tour in Europe a couple of years ago with four baskets on my bicycle. But I make them. And so now I’m Laughter Medicine Basket if you want to be precise.
NCSCC: Well I’d love to hear about those three topics you brought up: basket making, touring with the Xtracycle in that whole part of your life, and then the rainbow gatherings. Where do you want to start?
Laughter Medicine: Well we could do it chronologically. I had heard from living in this community about the Rainbow Gatherings, the national gathering of the Rainbow tribes. It’s what I would call my family now, now that I’ve discovered them. But my sister had been to a gathering, and I went to see her in Texas when I left here and she goes “oh, this Missouri gathering’s coming up. We have to go.” So I was harvesting citrus fruit in southern Texas as a barter. My whole family was living there in exchange for gathering citrus – organic citrus. So we went to the Missouri Rainbow Gathering, and I had every intention of not going back to where I was. There was drug abuse going on and I didn’t want to expose my children any further to it. So we went to my sister and the gathering was very magical for me and that’s when I became Laughter Medicine. It was so fun. So fun being Laughter. I am a musician so it felt really good to have this performing name, and I performed all over the Missouri Rainbow Gathering and loved it so much that for the next seven years I went to every national Rainbow Gathering. They hold them in a different part of the country, a different national forest each year. And so I got around, got to see the world a little bit with my children.
We were just about dying before we left Missouri because someone had planted some dead pigs in the river so everyone was getting what we called the green foam. Yeah, it was really gnarly. And I was on the side of the road covered in dust from all the traffic driving out and not picking us up hitchhiking going to Oregon. I was trying to make it to the Oregon Country Fair, and this man that I met said it’s about to storm, so would you like me to set up a tent for you? And I said would you take me with you to Iowa? And he said we’ll talk about that in the morning. So I ended up going with him to Iowa City from there and he always went to the Rainbow Gatherings so that was my impetus for continuing on, though it’s also because I loved it. Actually the next one I went to without him. He introduced everyone to me as his rainbow bride. But I was really hoping he would come back here with me. We’re still good friends. But I could never convince him to leave Iowa. In fact, on my way back here he asked me to marry him. I’m like, oh, well, too late. He didn’t want to come up here.
And so that’s how I got back (to California). Five years later I was going to the Idaho Rainbow Gathering, and I’m like okay, that’s going to be my path. I’m going to go to Idaho. I’m going to hit all these housing collectives on the way back to California. I’m going to go to the Yuba River and I’m going to wait here on the Yuba River until I find somebody who will take me in or rent me a place. I wound up at the Yuba River, drew a picture of the place I wanted to be, put my dogs there and my children there, put my vehicle there in the picture and then I walked up and made a phone call. I was trying to find a dentist, and everyone wanted to call me back. So I went over to a neighbor’s house close to where I live now. I went over there and said knock, knock, knock. “Oh, Bill.” I thought he wouldn’t even remember me. He says “My friend! Where have you been all these years?” Because I didn’t keep in touch with anyone five years being gone. So I said “Well, I just need to use your phone to call a dentist.” He goes, “Oh, you’re welcome to come in. I was just stepping out to put an ad in a paper for this place I have to rent. But no worries, I’ve been trying to put it in there for weeks and they keep forgetting to put it in there.” I’m like okay, I’ll take it! So that’s how I got back here. I didn’t know if I’d be taken back in or not since I hadn’t kept in touch with anybody, but I always knew I wanted to be back.
NCSCC: It sounds like you have kind of a magical life. You allow people to take care of you in some way to sort of see what happens, and it sounds like you do a lot of manifestation. How do you live like that?
Laughter Medicine: Well when you decide to live without money you have to see what people need, you know? And there’s service and friendship. Those are big things. The people who took us in on the citrus orchard, I was just down there visiting my sister and they came up and they said “We want you to come back with us. We want your children. My wife is never going to have children.” She says “Yes, I’m never going to have children. So, bring your children and live with us and we’ll take care of you. You don’t have to pay any rent. Just help us with the citrus. Your ex-husband can come too so he can be with the kids.” So we did that. They came up and got me when I didn’t know what I’m going to do. I was breaking up with my boyfriend and I really needed to get away. So they came and got me. The magical thing about this, they sent me a box of citrus and a Christmas card at the time right after my boyfriend said I have a new girlfriend, and he got a present from her with the same card. They both had little purple angels on them. I’m like I’m going with this one.
So yes, I believe that there is a great lightness that no matter what situation you’re in, you can beam it. You can reflect it. It’s in everybody’s eyes. I was on my spiritual path when I headed out here in the first place. I had just found the god that really fit me. You know, it was like okay, now I have a personal relationship with God. I am in it for the good of the whole. I think that is the main ingredient is that you’re not out for yourself.