On Wisconsin: Happy Campers

Cockeyed group photo featuring our very special guest stars Amy and Jacci!

“Happy Campers” is the first chapter of The Gaytheist Gospel Hour‘s seven part series “On Wisconsin.”

When I was a kid, I used to sit under the oak tree in our back yard and pore over the camping equipment in the sporting goods section of the Sears catalogue.  I coveted the lanterns with their adjustable kerosene tongues of flickering light, the foldable army-green camp stoves and their fire-engine red fuel tanks, the canteens with the rugged saddle blanket stripes.  Most of all, I loved the tents– all the tents:  from the bargain-priced canvas pups to the plushest of polyester family compounds.  I loved the idea of being unmoored from foundation, unencumbered by roof, of being both inside and outside at the same time.   With a tent as your portable bedroom, the entire planet is your house.  I never went camping as a kid.  I did have an oak tree all to myself, and I accept this as adequate compensation in this particular life trade-off.

It wasn’t until I met Kate did I go camping for the first time.  I was in my early thirties at the time, and I was also ten years old; it was that fantastic.   I’ve learned since then that camping is more than sweet gear and magical bedrooms.  It’s making the best of what you’re dealt with: the less-than-ideal campsites, the thunderstorms, the inferior firewood, the insects, the arachnids, the neighbors (the too-friendly and too-unfriendly ones alike).   Camping is an ongoing can-do challenge, and I love it.

Our week at the Ice Age section of the campground at Devil’s Lake brought us the better end of the can-do bargain: our campsite was perfect for us, our friends Jacci and Amy occupied the site next door for several days of our stay, and for the most part, the weather was cooperative.

Here are the highlights of our camping experience:

  • Having Amy and Jacci as next door neighbors had its advantages and disadvantages. Advantage: brilliant and funny, they were Villanch-style verbal fencers for whom no reference is too random:

Jacci: Old Dutch Dill Pickle Potato Chips are the best.  But I didn’t buy the potato chips because I will then eat the potato chips.
Me: Let’s buy a bag and share the shame.  A bag of chips is a shareable shame.
Jacci: Not like Reading Fifty Shades of Grey in public. That would be a shameable share.

Advantage: They gave Mabel a non-violent outlet for her nascent anarchist tendencies.

    • Disadvantage: They introduced me to the “Taffy Crack”, a salty/sweet campfire treat that sandwiches fire-warmed caramels between Ritz crackers.  There is no taffy involved in the making of said “Taffy Crack”, and no crack, either.  It gets its name from the sticky web of addiction it instantaneously weaves within the neurotransmitters of its victims. CURSE YOU, JACCI AND AMY!
    • Disadvantage: Mabel became as pouty and petulant as a pre-teen when they left.
    • New neighbors moved into Amy and Jacci’s spot: a man, a woman, and 4 small boys.  As they set up camp, we quickly learned from their parent’s anguished cries the names of the boys: Oliver, Jasper, Stanley, and Felix.  Kate and I had considered all of these names at various points in our extensive career as potential parents.  Listening to those names ricocheting off the trees was like a trip down Memory Lane, with a detour through a shooting range of dodged bullets.
    • [Note to my readers: the use of italics in this item denotes incredulity, bold italics: outraged incredulity teetering on the edge of tire-slashing-motherfucking-madness.] Mabel and I witnessed a slatternly woman climb out of an SUV and deposit a bag of garbage in the handicapped bathroom, get back into her SUV and then drive past the dumpsters, which were stationed only a few feet from the handicapped bathroom.  Mabel and I decided right there on the spot that we would answer the summons to Help The World.  (What Mabel calls Helping The World, I call Picking Up After Idiots Who Enjoy The Outdoors Enough To Visit Parks Yet Not Enough To Respect Nature.) We marched hand-in-hand over to the bathroom, retrieved the bag from where it sat over-filling the small garbage can, and disposed of it in its rightful depository: the goddamn dumpster.  Satisfied with a job well done, Mabel placed her hands on her hips, puffed out her chest, tossed up her chin, and gave a tiny “harrumph!” of pissy satisfaction.

      Beans and sausage: Vent The Tent Dinner

    • Not long after they set up camp our new neighbors put up a clothesline across their entryway to the path between our site and theirs.  Suspiciously, this line appeared to be pre-hung with dirty towels.  It seemed to draw a protective curtain between themselves and us: the tattooed lesbians and their bewitching temptress of a daughter, who had caused a three-son-pile-up/gapers delay as she perched on a cooler,  and flipped her ponytail in a most provocative manner.  I soon came to resent the presence of this barrier.  Kate says what I really resented is that I hadn’t thought of it first.
    • The Ladies’ Room was the site of an expected act of generosity one morning.  We happened upon two paperbacks by the vanity mirrors: The Power of One and Circle of Pearls, both of which contained identical recipe cards with handwritten messages about “paying forward good books”.  While neither of these books fit my idea of a “good book”, the intention was inspiring.  In the spirit of self-congratulatory benevolence demonstrated by these anonymous Ladies Room Literary Donors, I vow to someday return to the Devils Lake Ice Age Campground Ladies’ Room and share with my  fellow campers a book that exemplifies my idea of a “good book”, one that had a very meaningful impact on my life: Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown.

S’mores: good and good for you!

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4 Responses to “On Wisconsin: Happy Campers”

  1. Kelly Eddington Says:

    I am so excited to read more! I love the idea of bold italics to denote “outraged incredulity teetering on the edge of tire-slashing-motherfucking-madness.” The world needs to know about this. Shareable shame/shameable share: a one-two punch of brilliance. Gapers. Hilarious.

  2. 10hdt Says:

    Too funny, suspicions confirmed, camping is not for me but that cute little Mabs is.

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