Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Dear Campers of scenic Bass River State Park last weekend,

Dear fellow campers,

I encountered you this weekend and didn’t say a word to you. Maybe you will read this and know the contents of my mind. But that is highly unlikely. Probably because you are in the forest somewhere.

Dear spooky guy,
You were all alone. You sat in your stadium chair and looked out onto the road that adjoined all our campsites. How lonely it must be to pick people-watching as a viable activity while in the woods, surrounded by so few people. How lonely indeed. I thought of you and your solitude. I wondered, was it peaceful? Was it self-imposed: were you a loner, a rebel, retreating from society, living the simple life, just you and your beard? Or did you have to live that way, because you were estranged from your wife and hiding from the alimony payments? Or maybe you are trying to shirk the rigid civilian prison that is Megan’s Law, hoping to stay under the radar as a registered sex offender? Who knows. But you have a picnic table full of Gatorade bottles and a tarp over your tent, and it all seems so hardcore. You play no music, your face bears no smile, no warmth of friendliness. You appear to be a cranky old man camping in the woods. And yet, as I walked to my car from the evening’s bluegrass concert, there you were in the back of the crowd, listening intently but stoically, save for what I believe was the reserved tapping of one sandaled foot in time to a Merle Haggard tune the band was playing. Where will you be next on your singular journey? Is that sadness in your eyes, or is it a bit of crazy? I cannot tell, it was so dark at the time.

Dear Hispanic teenagers in the bathroom,
So desperate was I to pee. So determined you both were, to straighten your hair. As I unloaded my bladder, you both stayed the course to applying makeup and hair products as though a night at an exclusive discotheque with finely dressed men was certainly on the itinerary. You seemed completely oblivious to the fact that you are in the middle of the woods, the one place where it is socially acceptable to smell like armpits and to have flyaways or frizziness. There were two of you, and your towels, make-up bag, hair dryer, hair irons and iphone charger took up all four sinks. I just wanted to wash my hands after peeing. You looked at me as though I was being unreasonable. Getting dolled up was going to take some time, and I was adding to it, apparently. I stared at you long and hard, as though you were symbols of vanity and stupidity beyond any I had ever encountered, and wondered, what to say to creatures such as yourselves. I could think of nothing that the steady whirr of your hair dryer hadn’t said already, and left knowing that no matter what body spray you were wearing, it’s all made a moot point by the scent of OFF!, anyway. Content that I had walked into a modern and ironic Jack London tale, I left you to spend your evening in front of the unflattering mirrors of a common-use bathroom’s fluorescent lights before vanishing your overdone selves into the darkness that is midnight in a state forest.

Dear Boy Scouts,
Why do we separate ourselves by gender, and then give these genders the exact same experience of camping in the woods? I don’t understand. I am sure there is some academic research suggesting such an arrangement, but it never made much sense to me. If I’m going to learn how to cook a hotdog over open flame it never mattered much that I had to be surrounded by girls for the reason that I myself was one (a girl). It seemed to me that the boys could have joined us. So I look with sadness upon your group of boys only, fatherly figures standing close by. Where my bitches at? Can’t we all go screaming through the woods, together?

Dear young children dancing at the bluegrass concert,
I remember being young, getting up and dancing. Running around like a maniac. Turning a pole into home base, so you could be safe as you raced toward it. You were the happiest children on the planet, and your mom yelled at you to stop disrupting the concert. But I am not so sure if you were. If you would have let me, I think I would have danced with you. It made me wish Robbie knew how to dance a two-step. Instead, because I am good at remembering choruses, I joyfully sang choruses to these newly learned songs. And though the lyrics have since faded from my memory, your dancing silhouettes and the shadows they cast upon the stage will not.

Dear young teen helping to administer the canoe and kayak rental,
You have the best job in the world. Please, I beg of you, do not go to college, find a steady job, retire late in life. Instead, forever be the person who helps folks paddling on a lake to get out of and into their rented boats. I am telling you: you have the right idea.

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