It's not about the house.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Red Whine With Stakes

We went camping this weekend. Not real camping – there was no foraging or hunting involved in our meal preparation, no spade or plastic baggie utilized in the elimination of our waste. It was just what One Friend calls “car camping.” The kind where you pay a modest sum to a creepy guy behind a wood-panelled counter, in exchange for the temporary use of a few square (and hopefully wooded) feet in which to pitch a tent.

My bother and sister and I, and all of our respective others, used to do this every year, every year in a different New England state. Except for some reason we never put our stakes down in Rhode Island. I’m not sure why. Maybe because there were six adults in our crew, along with three tents and three cars, and we weren’t sure there’d be room in the Ocean State for all of that?

Anyway, like I said: we used to do this every year, but we haven’t done it since 2003. In 2004 there wasn’t a site big enough for us in all New England because of the Monster Baby my sister was fixin’ to drop, and then once the (eleven-pound!) Football Buddy did finally come along, we collectively decided to wait until she was safely past the toddling-into-the-fire stage before we hauled out the hatchets and gas lanterns again.

Since it was our first trip with The Kid, and since Chuck (TFT) isn’t always so much a fan of the long drive, we decided to keep it local this time. What difference does it make, we figured. Once we get there, all we do is sit around drinking beer and staring at the fire anyway, maybe occasionally bestirring ourselves to get up and have a piss behind a tree. Hell, we could do all of that in our own backyard if it weren’t for the nosy neighbors. So we settled on a campground about a half an hour from the AssVac, in a Massachusetts town by the name of Mansfield.

“But where will the girls sleep?” my Football Buddy wanted to know.

I was all set to tell her we’d secede from Mansfield, form our own little country, and call it Carrie Nation – until I remembered that I always get Carrie Nation and Lucretia Mott confused. And that Ms. Nation wasn’t fighting for women’s suffrage at all, but rather prohibition. And, I’m sorry, but if there is going to be one law in the eventual United State of EGE, it’s going to be that a lady is allowed – nay, required – to have two or thirteen IPAs by the campfire and then a quick squint in the woods. Unless said lady is three years old. In which case she gets passed back to her mother for the endless chain of questions about how town names come to be.

So we get to the campground and we pay for our weekend and they give us a map and we follow it to our designated site: T-5. Except that when we get to T-5, there’s a tent in it. Just a tent, mind you – not a person, not a car, not any of the accoutrements that usually accompany a tent on such a campsite. Food, for example, or clothes. Wood, coolers, lanterns, bug spray. Nope, nope, nope and nope. Just a tent and – oh, yeah – a single (clean) frying pan on the picnic table, with a half-empty two-liter bottle of Fanta Grape sitting inside it, like the beginnings of a white-trash consommé.

This does not bode well. What self-respecting citizen drinks grape soda past the age of 13½? Forgive me: what self-respecting citizen who is not also smoking meth drinks grape soda past the age of 9?

The map was a bit confusing, though. There was a slight chance that the site we were looking at was not, in fact, T-5. We didn’t so much care whether we had those 100 square feet or the 100 square feet next to it, but we didn’t want to get all set up in the wrong place ourselves, and then be made to shift it all when the real reservers of T-6 or –7 came. After all, we had much more than a frying pan and a bottle of Fanta Grape.

So I called.

Right there in the woods, I pulled out my cell phone and dialed the number for the office that was printed on the map. I felt like a jackass while I was doing it. In fact, between the time that I dialed the number and the time someone answered the phone, I asked my sister whether or not I should be doing this and came this close to hanging up. But I stuck in there, and eventually they answered.

“Hello?” I said. “This is EGE? I just checked in with my sister and we’re supposed to be in tent site 5? Um, I think I’m reading the map correctly, but if I am, then I think there’s already a tent in our site…”

I’m telling you: I am Assertive Girl.

“Hm,” the woman said. “I’ll send somebody down.”

A few minutes later a golf cart came whizzing in, with a man driving it and two children hanging on. He whizzed right past us and over to the tent in question, disembarked and spent a minute circling around. Then he pulled out a pocket walkie-talkie.

“Yeah,” we heard him say. “There’s a tent, but nobody’s here.” At which point Johnny hollered over:

“Hello! We’re here! The people who called you! The folks who are supposed to have that site! Hello? What’s the story?”

The guy laughed heartily and nodded his head. He hadn’t understood a single word of Johnny’s Dublin accent. What followed next was a stooge routine of indecision and misunderstanding, but the long and the short of it was that the front desk said the guy in our site was supposed to be moving over to T-7 today. We could either wait for him to come back and move, or we could move to T-7 ourselves.

Remember how I said I didn’t care which 100 feet they gave us? Well, I didn’t. If they’d offered us T-4 or T-6, it would have been fine. Hell, probably if they’d offered T-175 I wouldn’t care. But T-7 wasn’t even in the woods: it was in the wide-open, baking sun – and on the road, to boot. I don’t think I have to enumerate all the reasons why this option wouldn’t do, but let’s say it begins with direct sunlight at 5:00 in the morning and ends with the lack of friendly tree trunks after dark.

So we sent Golf Cart Guy away and took responsibility for Tent Man. We pitched ours far too close to his for comfort, hoping this would passive-aggressively underscore the notion that he really did have to take his Fanta Grape and frying pan and move two sites to the left as soon as he showed up.


As soon as he showed up.

Well, needless to say, he didn’t. So we got on with our day. I almost ruined the entire weekend when I allowed myself to get too hungry, and the hunger thought it sounded like a good idea to shove the hot dogs right into the goddamn fire and swear at anybody who pointed out that they were quickly turning black. But, one second-degree burn and one teeny-tiny haematoma later, we did get me fed. Johnny played a few songs on the guitar (and can we please have a consensus here? Crazy Chester caught me in the fog, right? Not the bog? Thank you.). Football Buddy made a new best friend with the little girl in the site next door (which little girl, by the way, was two years older and half of FB’s size – I’m telling you: this is a Monster Baby). And then New Best Friend’s mom came over to our site chat.

She said she’d been there for three weeks, and Tent Man had been there when she arrived. She said he just sleeps there – gets up in the morning and drives away, maybe to go to work, then comes back in the night to go to bed. But yesterday the cops had shown up when he wasn’t there and nosed around his site, and somehow when he got back he knew they had. He went over and asked her about them – what they’d done, what they’d seen – then this morning he’d left before anyone was up, and this here was later than he’d ever come back home.

Naturally, we became convinced he was a fugitive, and that there just might be a corpse in that there tent.

This made for big fun for the next few hours. Every once in a while the campfire would flicker just right, we’d catch a glimpse of the tent and dare one another to go unzip and look. Nobody did, and the reason nobody did was more an adult respect for personal property than an actual fear of dead bodies we didn’t really believe were there, but it was fun. It gave a spooky-story element to the campfire, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since “I want my golden arm….”

Which is why he scared the piss out of me when he did show up. And I didn't even have time to jump behind a tree.

I didn’t hear his car drive in, didn’t hear him open or shut the door. I just suddenly heard the crash as he walked into our case of empty bottles and lord, I nearly shat. He was drunk enough that even I knew he was drunk – and I was pretty well gone to Concord my ownself – and he was tripping over himself (and everything else in his path) to apologize.

“They said I better say sorry to youguys. At the office. They said, and Iforgot, that I wasuppooseda moveaday. I’m zorry. I’m zo, zo, zorry. Here. Lemme get my shitouda yerway.”

Well, then we felt bad. He was obviously not a murderer. Or a meth head. He was just a fellow drunkard like ourselves. And he was obviously in no condition to be moving house at that hour. Yet, as badly as we felt for having put him out of house and home, we didn’t any of us feel inclined to help.

“Ah, nah, you’re all set,” said Johnny.

“Yeah,” I chimed in. “Don’t worry about it. Go to bed – or would you like a drink? – and we’ll help you move all your shit in the morning.” Have I mentioned I was well into my cups? I had obviously forgotten that 1. he did not have any shit beyond the fry pan and the Fanta grape, and 2. if he did, up until five minutes ago I was willing to believe it might include a corpse. Yet here I was offering this potential cannibal a taste of my IPA.

“No, no nononno. It’s not even nailed down. See?” He toddled through the glow of our campfire, grabbed the side-pole of his two-man, lifted it up over his head and marched it out. “Thanks!” he called over his shoulder. “Sorry!”

The next morning, my brother-in-law tiptoed over to put Tent Guy’s frying pan and Fanta Grape on his new, T-7 picnic table. When he did, he saw Tent Guy sleeping in the driver’s seat of his car. Apparently, he’d carried his tent over, then come back for his car, and never actually managed to make it out.

We tried to pretend for a while that we thought he might have died, but the idea never really flew. Especially because, at around sunset, he started up the car and drove away, then came back with McDonald’s that he ate while sitting at his picnic table. I watched out of the corner of my eye, wanting to see him to wash it down with Fanta Grape, but alas, it was not to be.

Because, as any proper cannibal/meth head/falling-down-drunk/car sleeper knows, Fanta Grape is hardly the proper beverage to pair with two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.

That, of course, would be Fanta Pineapple.

Oh, and I should probably state for the record that the Football Buddy's mother was never drunk, and she also never peed behind a tree. Not this trip. I could tell you stories, though. In fact, when Football Buddy gets a little older, I think I'll tell them to her!


su said...

A lot older please hon

su said...

Remember the dead guy behind the library in Worc at the traffic light?

jen said...

Um. That was so funny, I peed mySELF a little.

Chris said...

I think the best part of tree peeing when you're camping is the next morning finding out where you actually peed in relation to where you THOUGHT you had peed. It never seems to be the same place.
Beer is funny like that...

Amanda said...

If one day I can write a post that can be tagged with camping, fanta, and pee? Then I will really have lived. Fabulous story, by the way!

DonnaStaf said...
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