I woke up at 4:30 feeling inexplicably spry. I raced to fill two mugs, one with coffee and one with oatmeal. I dragged the blanket and pillow onto the couch and in a strange bout of romantic, insomniac delirium, was brought to tears by a Steve Carell movie. Twice.
At some point I decided that what I needed was to go camping. Sleeping on the ground, kindling a fire, pissing in the dirt, rocking in a hammock, and thinking about nothing but shelter and sustenance would reorganize something inside me that needed reorganization.
Saturday morning, after spilling and then sitting in cornbread at Cajun Kitchen and buying a wig, Allan and I decided to leave later that afternoon for a campground in Ojai that I’d been to years before. I ran to the art store to buy some supplies while my clothes dried and my pack sat half-full. We bought some food and left.
My peerless navigation put us about 80 miles off course, though we hadn’t trekked too far before realizing we had neglected to bring the one thing that we actually might have needed to survive: water. So we compromised by stopping at a Vons and camping at Lake Casitas. We settled in and talked as the coals warmed, the air cooled, and the sky and lake purpled and dimmed.
The first time we truly noticed what was to become a consistent source of astonished amusement was when we caught the tail of a conversation: “Yeah, so there’s this dude on a stepladder bangin’ a horse and he gets kicked off.” Our neighbors, a gaggle of dudes who were quickly tumbling down the hill of life, gaining speed as they bumbled into ruddy-cheeked, beer-gutted, callously conservative middle age, had made their presence known. Allan noted that they seemed to have been the kind of guys who had only aspired to join fraternities, and so they had now created their own. I disagreed, thinking that instead they were still living that life in the moments that their bosses and spouses allowed. They still threw red plastic cups into the fire, called each other faggot if any two of them were standing together for any reason, made jokes about Jennifer Lopez’s ass that were at least nine years stale, and skirted around any form of reasonable, human conversation.
I know this seems judgmental, perhaps bitterly and snobbishly so. It might be, but we tried not to construct stereotypes. The dudes simply grabbed our hands (faggots) and stacked the bricks themselves. In the end, I can do no better than tell their story through their own words:
“So, I’m at Niagra Falls, youknow, and Niagra Falls is like fuckin’ Vegas.”
“Yeah, man. Like fuckin’ Vegas. I donno, there’s lights and shit everywhere. So I’m walking around with my wife and I’m fucking drunk as shit ‘cuz the company’s paying for it youknow. We go into this store and I see this shirt with this stick-figure dude on it and he doesn’t have a head and at the bottom it says ‘NEED HEAD.’ I laughed my fuckin’ ass off man. There was these two lesbians standing there and I showed it to them and those bitches got mad and walked out the fuckin’ store, man. I showed it to my wife and she nearly popped the baby out right there.”
This was followed by the touching story of how he left his wife at the hospital so he could go home and change because he wanted to be sure he was wearing his hilarious dinosaur fart joke t-shirt when his second child entered the world. Apparently his clearly unreasonable wife didn’t approve.
Saturday night went quickly as we ate, talked and fed the fire. Luminous R/C planes wheeled silently above the lake, tiny knowable UFOs.
I woke up with the dawn and jogged a very small arc of the lakeshore. I waved past fruitless fishermen and interrupted the hunt of a few sagely patient, stark-white heron. After coffee and oatmeal the day began to warm. I sat in my poorly-hung hammock, read and thought of nothing else. I sat and experimented with charcoal until at Allan’s suggestion I began my “sick dragon.” While he diligently helped clean the remnants of dozens of past campouts, Allan found an incredible artifact:
After a few hours our tents came down, we filled our packs and drove back up the coast.
This post seems to be one of those things that can't end elegantly, and so it has to simply end. Maybe then I'll just let it end on a soapbox: take a day to do the thing you love. You might find it gives you a hell of a lot more than you thought it could.