Yes, my babies, it’s yet another Wisconsin camping trip post. Will they ever cease? As long as our children are too small to be tolerated on longer car trips and too young to pay their own airfare, it appears the campgrounds of the state of Wisconsin will remain the Official Vacation Getaways of The Gaytheist Gospel Hour. This time around, however, we’ve done a few things a little differently: an autumnal outing (our first in our 8 years) to Richard Bong State Recreational Area, a park heretofore undocumented within the untold treasures of this blog. The guest stars are the same, but have finally consented, in the great firewater-plying/treaty-signing tradition of this great nation, to be named in a story. As per GGH policy, guest stars are afforded relative anonymity, and are given the opportunity to select their own pseudonyms. That being said, I’d like to introduce my readers (love you both!) to my good friends, the Nutter Family: Whitey and his wife Brandy, middle-schooler Eden, and Mabel’s best friend Nevaeh.
The plan was to celebrate Lucy’s 3rd birthday that weekend. A piñata was purchased, cupcakes were made, a little sign in her honor was erected at the entrance of our campsite. The plan was to enjoy life away from St. Churles, where the wearisome Scarecrow Fest had taken over, bringing with it gawking crowds, traffic, and untold BS to our home turf, which was barely tolerable to begin with.
The plan did not include Andrew Obregon. Accused of the murder of Tywon Anderson, whose body was found in a cornfield in Paris township the month before, Obregon was at large and had been eluding area law enforcement for several days prior to our arrival in Kenosha county.
So I guess you can say his presence as an uninvited GGH guest star is a little bit of a game changer. He’s not available to choose his psuedonym, so I’m calling him “The Guy.”
- There’s a murderer on the loose in the area. Whitey was informed of this by a park employee as he checked in. Kind of in the same sheepish, off hand way you might use to warn a visiting friend if the toilet is broken, the lady prefaced the news with “Just so you know…” Of course, I did not believe Brandy when she informed me of this interaction. Her source was, after all, Whitey, whose relationship with “the truth” is just as greased up as mine. Nobody said anything to Kate when she checked in, I pointed out. But after comparing notes, we surmised it was because she had Mabel with her. Mustn’t frighten the children. A very dairy-white Wisconsin move.
- We talk it over with the Nutters. We consult the oracle I mean, Iphone. We learn “The Guy” is a crack addict, who has a knack for disappearing in cornfields. Richard Bong State Recreational Area would be the last place a fugitive from the law would want to be, we reason: too many people. Rangers. Being the preeminent criminal psychologists within the 100 foot radius, we reason that “The Guy” would seek out the company of someone who could provide him with crack. All we had to offer here were marshmallows and our sweet, sweet marshmallowy asses, and not even we had much use for those. Deliberations ended when quoting Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s landmark decision at the premier of Village People/Bruce Jenner 1980 career murder/suicide “Can’t Stop The Music.“ I yell: “This is stupid! FUCK IT!”
- Whitey and I are like the Norman Lear of shitty TV shows no one would ever watch. On Night One, seated at the campfire, we do what we always do: create TV magic. Tonight’s zeitgeist is “Joanie Loves Trotsky”, a hilarious family sitcom about the lighter side of the Red Scare of 1950’s USA.
- Jim Beam’s Red Stag reminds me of Cherry 44D, the child-killer of all cough medicine. I hated Cherry 44D. The wallpaper by my bed was permanently flecked blood red from the splashback from my battles with my mother who dared to deliver that hateful cherry snot to me. But somehow I managed to drink it anyway.
- Incidentally, we celebrated Lucy’s third birthday.
- Everything about this entire situation—a vacationing family, a killer run amuck, the laughably abundant warnings tragically ignored—reminded me of the subject of my very shitty undergraduate honors thesis: Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find.” I had chosen to laugh it off, but I end up getting sick later that night and waking up every half hour with panic attacks, which, if I’d learned anything from O’Connor at all, I knew served me right. B+!
- Coming to the reluctant realization that we should probably at least know what “The Guy” looks like, Whitey and I look up him up on Whitey’s phone. “The Guy”’s got a receding hairline and a buzz cut that seems to wrap around an unexceptional jaw and arch over a mouth frozen in mid-speech. The general impression he leaves is one of vague blandness.
He looks like he could be anyone. His gaze is averted away from the camera. He appears to be looking just past our shoulders, perhaps observing himself sneaking up from behind. Scanning the article further, we find out that only a couple of days before, he had vanished into a corn field not far from Richard Bong Recreational Area.
- According to my non-mathematical calculations, there are probably at least 4 anti-anxiety prescriptions in our collective medical history, but not one actual fuck to give about what could easily be anyone’s paranoid nightmare come true. During the duller moments of campsite drudgery, Whitey and I envision ourselves as the stars of a reality show called “To Trap A Crackhead.” Airing on the Nature Channel, the show is a sort of vigilante/safari mish mash, owing an embarrassing debt to Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. “The Wisconsin Crackhead is wily and resourceful,” we voice over as the show plays on the mutually imagined tv wedged dive bar-style in the lower branches of the nearest tree. “Unlike his urban counterpart, the WC is a ‘lone wolf’, forgoing the constraints of the pack to run amuck, terrorizing the law-abiding dairy cows of small town USA.” “The WC’s knowledge of the agricultural landscape is uncanny in its intricacy. His world is a spider web of tractor trails, corn rows, and obscure dirt roads. Like an extra-inbred Duke boy born with no secondary nervous system.”
- The ankle-high 2.5 foot long string Eden strung between two trees near the entrance to Camp Nutter is no longer a clothesline for tiny horse blankets. It has been deputized into service as a trip wire for our quarry. The odds of “The Guy” running through this tiny corridor in the entire camp site, in this entire park, in this entire county are understandably miniscule, so Whitey and I plan to bait the trap with a rock of crack on a tiny pedestal under a bitsy spotlight on the other side.
- Whitey thinks he’s gluten-intolerant, so he’s brought some kind of quasi-beer called Glutenberg. When I see the box, sitting in the hatchback of his Honda Honkeymobile, I think of 2 things: gluteus maximus, and 2. Steve Guttenburg. And then I think of Steve Guttenburg’s ass. And, of course, Steve Guttenburg, starring in “Can’t Stop The Music.”
- There could potentially be a murderer lurking behind every Coleman tent, every Jayco travel trailer, and all you get is wisecracks and sass from this crowd. But drop a single maggot in a fire ring and wholesale shit is lost. Where did it come from? Did it wriggle out of one of our hotdogs? Did it touch one of our hotdogs? What the crap??? Anything can be in those hotdogs, you know! There must be more where that came from. WHERE THE HELL ARE THE REST OF THEM???
- The kids spent the better part of the day, sweeping the dirt off the ground in the center of a small copse of trees at the far end of Camp Nutter. Our kids are totally normal.
- The eternal activity coordinator, Kate people herded us all the way from our campsites to the trailhead of the idyllically-named Trail B. It happened to be a glorious day to hike: sweetly colorful and crisp, like a biting into an apple and finding a kaleidoscope inside. Which happens all the time, right? No offense to the Sierra Club Kids amongst my “readership”, but the main attraction on any Wisconsin trail is, as far as I’m concerned, the Death Benches. Every trail I’ve walked has at least a dozen Death Benches scattered at various choice vistas along the way. It’s a Wisconsin institution. These benches are bought and paid for by grieving families and dedicated to departed loved ones. There’s a plaque on the backrest bearing a name and usually a touching statement dealing with the fleeting beauty of life, nature, and love. The Death Benches used to depress the shit out of me, but after a couple of cancer scares since my first Death Bench encounter, I can’t seem to get enough of them. I lead Brandy and Whitey on a tour of the Death Benches of Trail B, and try to interest them in ponying up some due for our own Death Bench to end all Death Benches. It wouldn’t just be a bench, it would be a reclining bench. It wouldn’t just have a plaque; the entire back rest would BE a plaque: a tooth-rotting tribute not only to the three of us and our bravely inspiring lives, but also that of Tupac. Me, Whitey, Brandy, and Tupac: Together Forever In Nature’s Splendor. Just because. “If we all make it home, we totally have to do this,” I urged them, but for some reason, they didn’t seem all that interested.
- Two walking sticks are getting it on on the side of our tent. Kate frets that they might lay their eggs there. I opine that it would serve them right in the Darwinian scheme of things, for these stupid insects to be stopped in their reproductive tracks. Who needs more stupid walking sticks in this ecosystem? As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure most naturalists would agree with me when I say it’s about time all of these lesser creatures get with the program and start driving cars and get involved in the housing market if they know what’s good for them! Survival of the fittest!
- The official motto of the weekend: “There’s a murderer on the loose, and nothin’ but killahs up in here!”
- Two squad cars, in full flash, scream down the two lane on the outer rim of Camps Raisin and Nutter. We clutch our beers around the fire and watch the red and blue lights play high-speed peekaboo through the tree branches. A helicopter had been spotted, heading in the same direction a few minutes before. When the noise subsides, the stunned silence is occupied by a lone owl, hooting close by. It is at that moment that Brandy reveals her true nature as a real child of hell by sharing her theory that “The Guy” is most likely at that very moment next door at Camp Nutter, hiding out in their Honda Honkymobile.
- I find myself in the ring of darkness beyond the campfire, and then I find Lu’s little piñata bat. Clasping it with both hands, I hold it upright, letting it touch my forehead, bow my head, and silently vow to beat the motherfucking candy out of any motherfucker who dares to show his crackalackin Wisconsin cheese curd face at Camp Raisin.
- Me: “The wind is singing.” Lu: “And the trees are dancing.”
- The sun burns my billboard forehead as our daughters perform an odd little girl pony dressage at Dick Bong Ampitheatre. I listen to them sing the high points of “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” and the national anthem, and almost forget I have a foot-long rod of festively-colored wood dangling from my belt loop. On the way out of Bong, we pass a cluster of horseback riders. I see a hard spark of sunlight ricochet off a handgun strapped under the arm of a husky middle-aged man astride a pinto. I can’t see his face under his fedora. I don’t know who to be afraid of.
- Kate and I argue about the quickest way to get back to Illinois over the farmy-smelling blast of autumn stampeding thru the car. We’re blasting “Tennessee Jed” and Mabel is singing along. We made it. We survived ObreBong 2015. IN YOUR FACE, FLANNERY O’CONNOR.