Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Fish Heads and Suckers

There are days and moments in our lives that we remember in vivid detail.
We can relive them second by second, with little forgotten.
For these are the defining moments that shape who we are. These are the days that determine what happens next. Our life. Our future.

I strongly dislike camping.

While I can appreciate why most every person that I know and love is a "camper" in some sense, camping is one of those things that I will never pretend to like or give in to because "everyone" is doing it, again.

If you ask my Dad where heaven might be, he will probably list Moosehead Lake as a possibility. He has loved it ever since I can remember. He is a fisherman, an outdoorsman. He goes with his brothers, his friends, whoever might express an interest. Sometimes, he goes alone.

My dad isn't the only one that finds "inner peace" at camp. My friends, family, co-workers, people in line at the grocery store and waiting in the doctors office and anywhere else I go, love camping and talk about it with absolute jubilation.

"The peace. The quiet. The beauty. Nature. Campfire. The lake..."

Nope. Not me. And here is why:

Moosehead Lake. 1979.

Lets go back, Wayne's World Style~

deedle di dit...deedle di dit....

We're here.

"We're all going! Hurray!"

My best friend Julie and her whole family and my whole family were going up to camp together! At 8 years old, it sounded like an amazing adventure. My dad and her dad talked about it for days. We were next door neighbors, and we listened with hushed anticipation as our parents planned and plotted on packing, travel times, what to bring for food, etc...

Julie and I and her sister Kathleen talked about swimming, catching fireflies, eating s'mores, and staying up late. Their older brother John was going too. He was bringing a friend, and by the way, John was my hero. He was the one who, at a moments notice was there to rescue his damsel neighbors(us) from the frogs in our swimming pool. I loved him.

We could not wait. It was like waiting for Christmas. We counted down the days. We made up songs about it...Camping was going to be the best time of our life!

So on the day we were to leave, I helped my mom and dad pack up our old, beat up rusty red pickup. I had my Barbies and my Captain and Tenille album. Julie told me they had a record player "upta camp!"

Our dog Duchess, a beautiful collie, was going too. She was going to ride in the back.

The day was cold and drizzly, but "That's okay," they said, "We're heading North."

And finally, we were off!

With Julies family in the lead, towing the boat, we followed behind. I was so excited.

For about an hour.

"Are we almost there?"

"Not quite," my dad said, "Relax and enjoy the ride."

I remember wondering if we were driving to the moon. It was taking FOREVER! I remember when we finally stopped at a rest stop somewhere in the middle of Northern Nowhere.

The sky was a dark, blue-ish grey. We couldn't get any more North, so where was the sun?

We piled back into our caravan and ventured off the "highway."

Suddenly, the road turned to gravel.

The trees loomed tall and thick lining the trail. It was dark, and it had started to rain.

We bumped along.

My excitement waned.

The truck bumped along, bumped along, my dad was unfazed.

For what seemed like hours, I sang John Denver and Donna Summer songs to myself, and tried to conjure up my dreams of frolicking in a sparkling lake with my best friends and family.

Big Bump. Bigger Bump!

I saw my dad glance in the mirror.

I think he said a naughty word. We pulled over.

Remember, we had no cell phones...no way to call ahead to Julies family to tell them to stop, because Duchess had fallen out of the truck!


My parents climbed out of the truck and ran back a bit to find our beloved pet. If me memory serves correctly, I blacked out a little bit, but they carried her back to the truck. She was muddy and cold, and I think she hurt her leg, but was nonetheless going to be okay. I was shaking.

Where in the world was this Godforsaken place?

I think my dad took a couple of wrong roads, I had visions of us stranded for years and years in the woods. Living like pioneers. No schools. No record players. No ice cream. I think I cried.

My dad never wavered. For this was his domain.

And finally, We made it!

I felt like we had travelled for days! Julies family greeted us like we hadn't seen them in years. I was so relieved!

Julie took me by the hand to give me the tour of the camp. This was the camp that I had heard them talking about my whole life! I couldn't wait to see this gem in the forest.

Lets just say it was a diamond in the rough. VERY rough.

It was tiny. And dark. And tiny. Where would we all sleep? Why did it smell like beer and smoke?


"Oh," said Julie, "We get to go in the OUTHOUSE!"

the what?

"C'mon! I'll show you!"

This was not good.

I remember looking at my mom, who seemed perfectly happy chatting with Julie's mom and aunt...

Was this a joke?

I saw the "bathroom." It was miles away from the camp that would be my home for the next 3 days.

My tummy felt sick.

Duchess limped up beside me.

My dad and Julies dad un-hooked the boat and put it into the lake.

The sun was still not shining.

I remember hearing the women-folk saying, "you're not going out now, are you...look at the sky...it's gonna..."


And it rained. And rained. And rained.

We all jammed into the camp. No campfire tonight! Oh, well, there was always tomorrow, right?

I remember making it through the night. Praying that I wouldn't have an "accident." I mean, John was right there, after all! But I was NOT going to risk my little life and venture out into the wild just to pee.

I did not sleep. I listened to the grown ups talking and laughing. The wind was blowing wildly. I heard the cheep.peep.cheeping. of what Had to be bats in the loft.
The scratching of what MUST have been a family of man-eating bears trying to get into the cabin full of potential dinner: us.

When the light of day creeped into the small window, I felt renewed! I had survived!!

I went to get my mom, b'cause I now could not hold it any longer. We sprinted down the dusty path to the "lavatory."

It was everything I imagined. An outhouse. Need I say more?

Okay, on with the day.

The men-folk were itching to get out on the lake. Which, by the way, looked more like the ocean than the peaceful lake that I imagined.

Our dads chatted and loaded up the boat, and the women waved goodbye from the shore.

Little did I know that could have been the last time I saw my dad!

The winds picked up, the sky grew black again.

The kids thought it was so cool that there were 7 foot waves in the lake!


Okay. I went along with it. Plus, Julie and I had the same bathing suit from the Sears catalogue...how cool was THAT?

The rest went into the water with crazy enthusiasm.

All I could feel was the slithery, mushy bottom of the murky abyss under my feet. And SOMETHING bumped my leg. I went screaming out of that water.

"Krissy!!!Come back!"

Not a chance.

The girls came out of the water soon after, cold and sandy. They had a blast.

They were crazy.

Then John and his friend emerged.

"What the...???"

What was all over their bodies?


Get them off!!

I passed out.

"They're not dangerous!" John said as he peeled the fatty black slimers off from his legs. Then tossed them at us!

So far, camping sucked.

And where was my dad?

The ladies were starting to look worried. The wind was picking up. It was raining again.

Our dads were in the middle of the lake. In a rickety ship of fools.

We went inside.

Our moms kept looking out the window.

We tried singing songs. Julies cousin played the guitar.

John Denver. Elton John.

We belted out the tunes. The dads weren't back yet.

The day turned to evening.

We ate leftover spaghetti.

Julie made me wear her ridiculous plaid Garanimals pants, so she could wear my pink cloud pants.

Then we heard Duchess barking happily.

We all rushed out of the camp to see the dads motoring in from the depths of the monsoon.

They were smiling.

"It was just a sprinkle! Nothing to worry about!"

And they were thrilled at the "trout" that we could have for dinner!

Say, what?

And I watched as John "gutted" our dinner.

Didn't fish come neatly packaged in little golden fried sticks in a box with a cute little fisherman on it?

The fish heads flopped off the table.

There were hundreds of them.

I was done.

And I faced yet another night in the bat-loft.

I prayed to God to let us survive.

The next morning, we woke up to more bad weather, and by the Grace of God, the parents decided to leave a day early.

I think I went at full speed to pack up...my frizzy afro hair standing on end...still in Julie's plaid pants...LETS GO!!!

I was in the truck faster than lightening, as the rest of the "campers" said their goodbyes.

Bump. Bump. Bump. Duchess was safe in the backseat this time.

Bump. Bump. I didn't care. We were heading home.

Home to my bed. Home to my bathroom, steps away from any room INSIDE. Home to a swimming pool with clear water and hard floor. Home to a driveway. Home to fish-sticks in a box.

I cried out with elation when I saw the paved road.


I never went back again.

My dad still goes every chance he gets. My mom goes, too, once in a while. Not to that camp, but others.

A couple of years ago, I was lured by the promise of my friend Layna's cooking, to "camp" with the girls. In a tent.

Should have stuck to my beliefs.

I love those girls. Julie is still my dearest friend. I still miss Duchess. But I will NEVER. EVER. NOT FOR A MILLION DOLLARS(well, maybe for a million dollars), Go Camping Again.

You can try to convince me.

You can make me feel guilty for not taking my kids.

You can entice me with the promises of s'more-stuffed-roasted banana boats, and all the chips-and-dip that I want...

But you can never make me go.

Much like my husband will NOT eat olives.

Or if you hate peas or mustard or scrambled eggs because it made you sick as a kid...

I don't like camping.

It's just a part of who I am.

Thanks for reading!



  1. Good times Krissy...good times. "You fill up my senses, like the night in the forest, like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain..."