Nic@Nite is a free tobacco camp. It’s name is a pun on the name of Nick at Nite on the Nickelodeon cable TV network. Here the “Nic” is short for nicotine. They are often seen on the trails calling out, “If you need a cigarette we got one. If you got a cigarette we need one. We jones so you don’t have to.”

In the old days, one of the primary ways for kitchens to attract and keep volunteers was by having “kitchen tobacco” that was given out to those folks who were being productive. The problem with this was that the kitchens with more resources were able to get more workers, setting up ade facto hierarchy. Nic@Nite aimed to destabilize this hierarchy and level the playing field for everyone by providing tobacco to all.

There are multiple origin stories for N@N, but allegedly their first physical camp was in 1999. Possibly there was an individual named Nick that “did” Nic@Nite a year or two prior to the original camp. After that a sister named Pixie (who I hear no longer smokes) was the original focalizing energy.

In the early days of N@N, people had to come to their camp to get tobacco, but after a few years the concept of the “satellite” was implemented. Nic@Nite campers now wear a “busket” (an empty plastic coffee container, usually a large Folgers) around their neck with twine. Inside the busket are papers and rolling tobacco. They roam the gathering providing tobacco to major camps and kitchens and people on the trail as they go. There is also a constant presence of workers and tobacco at the Nic@Nite camp, so people can find it if they don’t know where the satellites are.

N@N is pretty fairly organized regarding regionals, even smaller road-dog regionals, and will try to make sure at least one full-fledged N@Ner can be at each one. Each one can accommodate about a hundred gatherers comfortably.

At the 2013 gathering in Montana, N@N had a consensus to have at least one worker on duty at their camp 24/7, meaning if a N@Ner wanted to go to sleep he needed to wake up someone else and make sure they were on duty rolling and handing out cigarettes to people walking by on the trail. They also made full rounds of the gathering every day-visiting every single kitchen and camp, from Front Gate to Fat Kids, and everywhere in between. Nic@Niters could be counted on to know their way around all the ninja trails in the woods, and also served as good Shanti Sena, acting as the “eyes and ears” of the gathering, able to go to every camp at any time of night with impunity and respect.

Nic@Nite takes consensus seriously, and regularly has council.

Tobacco math: After conversations with one long-time N@Ner, and subsequent questioning of others, most N@Ners estimate they can roll about a pound of tobacco per day into cigarettes to and out while at a gathering. At just over a half-gram of tobacco per cigarette, this equates to about 800 cigs per day, per N@Ners. This is enough to give 100 to 200 people their tobacco fix for a day. For larger regionals, more N@Ners than one may be needed to serve the entire population. At the May California 2013 regional, four ended up showing up, and serving 300 to 500 people. Since N@N is sort of a splinter concept, the entire camp does not need to show up for Nic@Nite to have a presence at a gathering;-even one person is sufficient to serve the function.

Nic@Nite has three(ish) levels of participation. The first is “probie”. Like in fraternities and motorcycle clubs, a prospective member of the camp must go thru a probationaty period. A full-fledged N@Ner has to sponsor a legitimate probie, and that person is given a smaller, usually half-sized, busket. From that period on, the probie is expected to act as a N@Ner: never have an empty busket, roll cigarettes quickly, and generally put up with a lot of ribbing from other N@Ners and folks who get cigarettes from them.

It is generally considered good form to good-naturedly harass probies along the trail. (“Hey probie! Gimme a goddamn cigarette! Faster! I could have smoked two by now already! I’m telling!”) The probate is expected to do Nic@Nite full time through all regionals attended throughout the year, and through one entire annual Gathering, at which point a Nic@Nite council will either consense to accept or reject the probie as a full Nic@Niter. If accepted, the probie is presented with a full-sized busket.

Probies are often made to do annoying repetitive tasks like rock stacking, and the reaction sometimes expected is for the probie to finally say, “Fuck it, I’m not doing this anymore”. They are also tested on speed and aptitude regarding tobacco rolling. (I have heard of probies being ordered to roll cigarettes blindfolded or to roll cigarettes out of sand). Reasons to reject a probie have included bad attitude, having lost their busket or put it down and leaving it unattended too often, having been found to trade tobacco or expect something in return for tobacco, having a specific issue with a specific N@Ner, etc.

The next level is Nic@Niter. Then they are expected to always have cigarettes ready, and to always have a busket around their neck. They are expected to be able to be loud and boisterous, and to be able to solicit tobacco donations as well as give out cigarettes. Each N@Ner’s busket is usually personalized over time with stickers and photos attached to the coffee can. The loss of a busket is a big deal, and sometimes grounds for dismissal from Nic@Nite status, or sometimes grounds for having another one regifted by a longer term N@Ner

The final elite level is ‘mafia’. This is a small club, and mafia can pretty much do what they want in the camp, regardless of Nic@Nite traditions (though they generally choose not to abuse the power). Mafia can only be made through camp consensus, and very very few actually claim it.

Nic@Nite prefers American Spirit rolling tobacco but they usually have a busket full of pipe tobacco, because it is cheaper in bulk and can be bought by the pound. Sometimes a N@Ner will have pipe tobacco in the busket, and a separate pouch for American Spirit donations, so the “good tobacco” isn’t mixed in with the rest. Occasionally “tailor-made” cigarettes are donated (factory rolled, from packs), and they are usually handed out and smoked quickly.

Occasionally other people call themselves “…@Nite” and this makes Nic@Nite irritable. They consider it “their” label, and ask people to change their name if they are doing something independently. Occasionally regionals have happened where people have wanted to distribute tobacco but hadn’t been given a busket by Nic@Nite. Often, to avoid conflict or confusion, these folks will go by a different name, using a pouch of tobacco instead of a busket and going by “Nick@Now”, or “Shut Up and Smoke It”, or some other name.

However, Nugz@Night was recognized and allied with Nic@Nite at the 2013 Montana gathering. That was a camp that provided the same service as Nic@Nite, but with marijuana. Nugz had specific self-imposed fairness rules. Nugz workers did not smoke any of the pot that was donated, and only allowed other people to smoke it. That encouraged donations because people eventually caught on to Nugz@Nite’s reputation and didn’t think they were being scammed. Adherence to this policy was one of the prerequisites for being a consensed Nugz@Niter.

September 14th, 2016 by John Anderson