June 18, 2012
Hello Mother, hello Father,
Greetings from Camp Ohwhatabother.
But no, that’s ungracious—I have a place to stay, a bed, a roof. And even a cute TV. So, no, not Camp Ohwhatabother, I’ll call it the Bar None Ranch—a dubbing due to the cell phone situation out here.
Out where? Bradenton, FL, approximately. More specifically, on the campus of the Christian Retreat Center—a many-acre facility for church gatherings, preacher conferences, behemoth locusts, and kids’ camps. This week, it hosts the latter two. Five hundred  children will begin to descend upon these grounds in mere hours. As for the insect monstrosities, they descended, by my reckoning, when such creatures ruled the earth after precipitating the extinction of the dinosaurs by some maleficent fashion or another.
Why am I at Kids’ Camp? My wife and son are a song leader and a junior counselor, respectively. I, on the other hand, am a knot on a log. But no, that’s ungraceful; I’ll call myself the poet laureate of Bar None Ranch for a tenure of six days. No stipend, honorarium, or appearance fee, though—such is the destitution of arts patronage, these days, especially for the self-appointed, no-one-the-wiser artist. Alas.
They’re here. The kids. Ages 6 to 12. An inundation of jubilation. The myriad vocalizations of exuberance. Decibels and demolition.
I shall call it Aitchsee. As in H. C. As in Holy Crap! S/he is my locust. Or whatever these things are. When the lobby is empty and the campers are at their evening rally, I will perform a Google search. (I have heard rumors of wi-fi in the lobby.) Yes, I shall recon when the coast is clear. As for now, Aitchsee and I will further our acquaintance from opposing sides of a sliding glass door. Time will tell if our relationship will metamorphosize (insect pun! you’re welcome) into something beyond revulsion on my part and (let’s assume for safety’s sake) bloodthirst on hers/ his.
June 19, 2012
News and Notes.
1) All campers must be up and at ‘em, per the presumably strict schedule, by 8:15. And let’s figure that some eager children and no few sleep-deprived counselors have been up since 7 or so. Given these factors, eight o’clock is not the optimal time to take a shower, temperature-wise. Unless you are accustomed to the tepid-gelid continuum, then eight o’clock is your cup of lukewarm tea.
2) Aitchsee and I have come to accept our co-habitation and, I dare say, have even become fond of each other. Last night while the campers-proper rallied in the Tabernacle, s/he and I watched a movie —me from my relocated recliner, s/he from the glass door. After the movie, I shut the blinds and read my book; but I frequently checked on my new friend. Each time, there s/he was latched fast to the pane by some magic of follicled feet. For variance and for what I like to think of as my personal amusement, Aitchsee would alternate which-sides-up. Now sci-fi antennae, now crocodilian nethers. At last check, though, s/he was not there. Did I feel a loss? Was that sadness stealing in? Yes and yes.
But this morning, upon opening the blinds, there s/he was! Not gone from my life forever but simply on the other pane of the door!
Now as I write this and watch her/ him do ostensibly, inveterately nothing, I shall rename Aitchsee. Sidling Slim—both apt and affectionate.
My wife craved a smoothie after lunch. We left campus and drove into town. I took the opportunity to catch-up on my emails and play my turns on WordFeud. Additionally, I did some research on Sidling Slim. Two things: Slim is a Sally and an American desert locust at the gregarious stage.
When we got back to the room, I discovered a male interloper on the nearby wall. I did not trust this joker from the start. I watched them for a while. Sally acted strangely; the interloper continued to rouse my suspicion. I did not like his attitude. No not one bit.
Now the sad turn of the tale. I fell asleep on my watch. I awoke from a nap and rushed to the window, pushed apart the blinds, and found my fear had been realized. Sally was nowhere to be seen; the interloper, on the other hand, was perched atop a moldy patio chair—all smug and snide and simpering.
June 20, 2012
By the way, I am here by dint of my invalidity. Like so many of my darling 19th Century novel characters, I have been relegated to the briny airs of the sea. OK, the clime is coincidental. My disease is unfazed by location. The truth of the matter is: a week is a long time to be left alone. By law and doctor’s orders, I cannot drive; by neurology and God’s will (and absent one of those chic medical alert pendants), it is unsafe to count on my self-sufficiency.
On the bright side, my wife will be driving me to the beach today which will be enjoyable, I hope. Though the salt-air may be powerless against disease, it can certainly penetrate malaise. Besides, that’s why most of my darling 19th Century invalids were truly sent to the coast—not for bodily ailment but for a surly attitude.
I trust a view of seeming boundlessness will lighten my outlook for an hour or so.
June 21, 2012
News and Notes.
1) Regarding the Gulf: I love an expanse that treats the eye to that age-old illusion of flatness. It’s downright Narnian. Regarding public beaches: Did you realize that people still lay out in the sun? I don’t mean loitering loungingly while the kids muck about in the water. I mean lather-up with Crisco, put their playlist on loop, splay themselves on sandy beach towels, and wait for the sun to burn out or for night to come. Regarding ubiquitous bikinis: Not all body-image issues are strictly harmful. I mean, I’m as feminist as the next guy (a phrase with a nice ring to it, it chimes with negligible liberality, feel free to use it, you’re welcome), but jeepers!
2) I have nearly come to terms with the interloping locust. He has been clinging to the moldy chair for over 24 hours now. I admire his perseverance. Yesterday a steady rain set in. At first, the interloper made a pitiable effort at creeping for cover but in the end he bucked-up and suffered what must have been for him a squall of diluvian proportions.
3) The hour and a half before breakfast is still a bad time to shower.
June 22, 2012
And so the week ends with no locust whatsoever. A son’s rain-wet clothes are being laundered by a coin-operated machine to preempt mildew and a tangy odorousness for the ten-hour drive home.
The afternoon and evening will hurry by for young campers as they begin to dread the end of the day. Because it means going home tomorrow. Back to chores and siblings, away from fast friends and the euphoria of away-ness. These past few days will be among the remembered as years heap on top of years and smother the weaker memories.
I remember summer camps. Crushes and nettle stings. Sack-races and air-horn reveille. Camaraderie and loneliness. Christ and cold eggs.
Now I’m old—addled, riddled, and querulous. To quote a song of mine, “yesterday’s the only thing that seems like yesterday to me.” I am most aware of what impends. My mind is bleared by the non-happened, the presumed yet-to-come. It’s a silly thing as I’ve admitted elsewhere. A mindful preacher in George Eliot’s Felix Holt admonishes his anxious daughter in this very sensible way:
. . . the uncertainty of things is a text rather too wide and obvious for fruitful application; and to discourse of it is, as one might say, to bottle up the air, and make a present of it to those who are already standing out of doors.
We are savvy and perplexed in the same instant—in the open air yet accepting empty bottles. Head-scratching and nail-biting and, as we age, forgetting, forgetting, forgetting.
There have been cold showers, populous beaches, awkward cafeteria meals, and this slapdash journal of mine. Along with stuff that’s already slipped my mind, these things will too. But there have been the locusts, those endearing monstrosities with which I passed my days at the Bar None Ranch and to which I owe gratitude for a brand new amazement. Brand new amazements are not easily forgotten. I imagine I’ll remember the locusts.