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Thursday, August 23, 2007

LIFE, CAMPING AND OTHER STUPID THINGS

With thoughts of The Scrapplefest running through my mind I am reminded of this story composed not long after a disastrous weekend back in '98. Ihope this isn't an omen of things to come. Nah, those days are gone--I pray.

I am a hopeless romantic. Not in the area of creating tender relationships or imagining endless evenings of drifting thoughts folding into a fantasy world of senseless love built around heroes that look a bit overly effeminate with their locks of golden tresses. Perhaps some would just call me overly optimistic. While I may see a glass of water and say it is half full, not half empty, if I stare long enough, it becomes a glass of rare champagne bubbling away in a crystal glass.

If you haven't caught my drift perhaps this may clarify my statement. When I plan an event, contemplate a trip, or as far as that goes, just about anything that has a chance to rattle about in my brain soon goes out of control. Thought patterns soon turn mental anthills into something more gargantuan than the Wall of China.

It is easy to recall numerous instances of this destructive mental condition which resides in my psyche. Stories of misshapen grandeur can rattle off my memory bank leaving me with a repertoire of nightmares incubated from simple dreams, most leaving me downcast and humiliated. Now you ask, "can a lesson be learned from all this higgeldy piggeldy." Never. Remember I am hopeless.

This is an example. After I arrived back in Ohio in 1998, I decided two take up two hobbies, Bluegrass music and camping. After falling in with a group of roving musicians I decided to book a weekend at a ritzy resort where the musicians were playing. Well, really it was a campground. (You see how easy I build things up). Now mind you the last time I went tent camping gas was 29 cents a gallon. Later in life, when I wore a band about my finger, we invested in a real camper with all the luxuries of home, mostly, somewhat. But now times were different and without said camper I opted for a tent purchased at K-Mart plus numerous accessories to enhance this upcoming wilderness experience.

Still in possession of at least half my brain I asked my younger neighbor to help me set up this blazing orange prefab-nylon housing unit in my backyard, so when presented with a pile of aluminum tubing, yellow spikes and assorted hardware there would not be a sudden brain collapse at the campsite.

Now perched comfortably in my backyard with an adult beverage in hand, a perfect mental scenario was set in place for my wilderness experience, ala Bluegrass concert. Thoughts of experiencing a Euell Gibbons moment stalking a wild Rosemary plant, then later immersing myself in the rustic surroundings wearing expensive yuppie Eddie Bauer slacks, sitting by the fire with a frosty glass of micro-brewed ginseng tea and nibbling on a high-bush cranberry filled croissant. Above, the distant mournful cry of a loon flying off into the night sky and below, in my tent, lie unfinished manuscripts of neglected writings and unfinished plays under my Smith Corona. Then, sadly, the phone rang and the Lady Walter Middy had to run home.

The next day rains of Biblical proportions fell upon my backyard cabana. After bailing out nearly three gallons of water, I stood disgusted with the whole idea of tent camping. I'm sure Euell could have handled the situation well, so therefore go I. Soon my kitchen held the aroma of homemade granola and chocolate chip cookies, which along with everything imaginable found a place in the back of my creamy white F-150. (Sorry, it was an Eddie Bauer edition Ford).

Upon arrival late that afternoon the campground owner drew me a map to my campsite, a deserted remote spot on the hill. Nobody else was within sight. Could this be, me alone to brave the wilds. A million what-if's soared through my mind, but with brave determination I threw the orange multi-pieced monster to the ground and broke camp. Sort of. I knew I could lick the problem of tent erection because I had a brand new roll of duct tape. Darkness started to creep in, first through the woods then across the meadow.

I was still spread eagle across the tent attempting to shove the aluminum tubes into the hidden loops when a senior citizen out for a stroll happened by. He rescued me by actually following the directions. Exhausted, I ran the power cord from the pole and plugged in all my electrical appliances. Don't laugh, even Euell would have enjoyed freshly ground coffee to go with his whole wheat, alfalfa bagel.

About midnight Beulah, my basset hound, retired to her comfortable cage. My sleeping accommodations left a little to be desired. Every bump on the ground dug deep into my back, even though I was on my cot. About 2 a.m. a horrid smell penetrated my nostrils. The undomesticated surroundings caused my dog to forget the fundamentals of being housebroke. A quick clean-up took place and soon, cold and damp, I found the little emergency space heater and sought out sleep.

The next morning the sun burned through the fog. Everything was soaked by the heavy dew left by the cool night air. I no longer felt like the lady in the Eddy Bauer magazine. Instead I felt humiliated that my first night in the "wild" turned out so creepy. Disgustedly I walked to the campground cafe for breakfast. When I returned I discovered new neighbors had moved in. Of the 50 some empty campsites spread all over the hill, an elderly Old Church Mennonite couple decided to settle in right next to me.

By noon the dew dried off and the campsite started to fall in place once again. My old Coleman propane stove had not seen service since the ‘95 Northridge earthquake, so after a search in the junk box I managed to find all the parts to fire it up. A can of beans was opened and quietly set on the burner--three minutes later the stove exploded, sending flames of perdition all about my body. Fortunately the worse part of the experience was singed hair. My new neighbors just sat and shook their heads and although they spoke low German, it was obvious to me what they were saying.

The spot I wanted to set up camp soon opened to new campers, though I was told that area would remain closed for the weekend. Everyone who came to enjoy the festival all settled into the new campsite leaving me alone with the Mennonites, who hurried to the phone booth in order to call their friends to come watch the crazy lady. The sounds of laughter and merriment of the other campground did little to cover the low German tongue wagging.

Later that afternoon I walked down to the Bluegrass festival. A grand time was had by all but myself. At last count I had one wet sleeping area, one blown up Coleman stove, one dog who forgot she was housebroke, one empty rumbling stomach and of course one nosy set of neighbors complete with German talking friends. After the festival I walked back to my campsite, built a bonfire, then it rained.

The next morning arrived with the promised sunshine. The solar warmth felt like such a blessing since jungle rot started to set in on my soaked feet. A look about my campsite was depressing. The clothes were wet and dirty and looked like they belonged to a vagrant who slept under a bridge. Uncooked food sat about for the flies to feast on and for myself, well the smell of burnt hair still followed me around. My dignity fell to an all time low so I headed into the nearest large town and found a Wal Mart to replace my stove and to pick up a hot pizza.

Eternally optimistic, my spirit continued onward now that hot food had been reintroduced into my weekend diet. Another day of camping had yet to unfold before me. Things will change I promised myself. The rest of the day became painfully insufferable as I found ants had moved into the tent looking for crumbs of potato chips. I had it up to here (can you see my hand) so like any calm camper I gleefully went to the pay phone to call about a camper I saw for sale. The owners came down to the campground but a price offered was not a price accepted so I returned to my much hated tent, cooked supper and returned to the festival and hob-nobbed till late into the night.

Midnight found me back at the campsite. The Mennonite couple and their crowd of onlookers had pulled sometime during the evening. I sat there feeling down and alone. What a weekend. This lady never took out her mandolin, never wrote a story, never cracked a book and certainly never foraged for high-bush cranberries. With no regrets I broke camp a day early. Still God had mercy on me. On my way out the owner booked a fall show and plans were laid for a storytelling festival for the next summer.

The leaky tent and camping gear were once again packed in the back of my Eddie Bauer Edition Ford. My basset dog and I took a leisurely ride home following back roads, the only compass was the sun. It gave me time to think about the next storytelling festival and the book deal that would likely come about if I could just...see there I go again. Sigh, a legend in my own mind.



9 comments:

camojack said...

Hmmm...I reckon it's a good thing that you'll be staying in a cabin at the "ScrappleFest", huh?

Conserve-a-tips said...

Oh, absolutely awesome. I laughed and laughed because we've been there and done that and you described it so well!! Hillarious.

Ms RightWing's Ink said...

I should have included the fact that I have not been tent camping since and I took the tent back to K-Mart that very next week.

mig said...

Hilarious. All I can say is if you haven't had a really good soaking while in a tent then you haven't camped.
We were in Carlsbad AZ last year, a place that hadn't seen rain in like 14 months, and the one weekend we were camping it decided to rain. Lightening, thunder, blowing rain and flash floods.
And several years ago in Tenn. again, the blowing and the rain and the lightening! Gesh. The memories we have given our children.
We do like those camping cabins at the KOA.

Ms RightWing's Ink said...

Cabin are the only way to go unless you are young and can handle lumps under your back.

Campers are nice, but at $3 a gallon who can afford to drag them around

Beerme said...

Hah! Too funny and yet, vaguely familiar to me and everyone who has camped in a tent, eh?

No German will be spoken at the Scrapplefest for fear a flashback will occur...Nicht Wahr?

UpNorthLurkin said...

Reminds me of a tenting trip to Manitoba....We drank enough LaBatts Blues to sleep through most of the thunder and lightning...our dog whined a little and cuddled up to us but the rain ran like a river through the tent. Everything was soaked in the morning and the air had left our air mattresses....but one look out the door of the tent and we knew we'd brought our guardian angels...there were trees uprooted and two had fallen just feet from our tent!! It was quite a storm and we slept (?!) through all but a bit of it!! I now call a 27 foot, air-conditioned, microwaved trailer with a sleep number bed, shower and indoor biffy, camping!!

Hawkeye® said...

"Every bump on the ground dug deep into my back, even though I was on my cot."

Too Funny! What a great story! You have such a knack for it. I hope to see you at ScrappleFest.

(:D) Best regards...

camojack said...

They do have these things called air mattresses; personally, I use a Thermarest® Ultralight ¾...