With constant reminders that we, the mix and match bunch from Michigan, will be going away for about seven days to live like village people, I have been wondering just how we are going to survive. Yes, we will have tents and lots of other gear such as bug spray and flashlights but actually living in the great outdoors without the magnetic force of a computer nearby is rare. Sure, I have been camping before, at Mystic Lake in fifth grade, but I got to stay in a nice heated cabin with electricity and a bunk bed, not lying on the ground as a huge thundercloud rages over. There was also a nice bathroom near the cabin that I visited frequently during the night. Where we are going, there won’t be those luxuries, which is a challenge I like and am ready to face. Of course, it is not going to be true wilderness – the place is going to be regulated – but being out there with nature is something a lot of people should invest part of their life in.
A lot of people waste their summer, though, sitting in front of screens playing mindless computer games or banging on plastic toy drums that sound like (censored). Of course, not everyone has a readily accessible pool right near their house that they are not responsible for keeping cleaned and maintained (which becomes such a chore that you feel like giving up and wonder why you bought the damn thing). Our Windham Hills pool is great because it provides a place for the community to cool off and relax after a hard day. It’s open to just about anyone nowadays – the check in/check out list isn’t enforced very well and there isn’t always a hired pool attendant/supervisor down there who even cares. Still, there is some control. Kids that are wild and rambunctious will be told to stop or get kicked out. I find it really annoying when a kid makes a huge cannonball jump in the water and I get the full force of the splash. There is hardly anyone of my age group down there also, since it’s mostly kids who barely know how to count and are still in the early stages of elementary school.
Most of the clan came up to the water hole today as well as the rest of the neighborhood. I like to have room to spread my arms out and do a few laps around the pool but with it looking like the Atlantic Ocean during the aftermath of the Titanic sinking I mostly stick to one spot, near my odd but loving family. Yeah, they are all misfits in their god-given ways and wouldn’t come within twenty feet of Hollywood but my folks are simple, easy to get along with, and live their life without caring what others say about it.
The Nokia girl comes back to my uncle Jack and I and reminds us that the cleaning job she was offering us is still on, albeit strangely. Its seems legit and I have been waiting for a steady paying job for sometime now. Maybe the answer lies with a woman who has a friend nicknamed Goober and swims around in a pink inner tube acting just like a little kid. Business woman…hmmm….I guess anyone can own a business these days. Is this woman serious or just psycho? I’ll see but I’m leaning more towards the latter just to be smart about it.
The sun is hot so sunscreen is a must. I try to once again get that illusive tan and am actually more successful today. Lying on the chaise lounge is relaxing. I am able to wash away my worrisome thoughts and regain focus on things I want to accomplish in my life. And one of them is definitely not getting that stupid bike of mine fixed.
Jack said he had a present for me when I got home from swimming. Like in most cases, I was like “okay, it’s probably something cheap or silly that will probably be gone in a few minutes and I won’t care about it”. But when I popped open Emily’s trunk and saw a medium sized duffel bag, Jack said it was a tent for our camping trip. Well, that’s good. I will not be forced to sleep in the same tent as Charles and mom, which would be a nightmare. We immediately went to getting the tent set up in the yard. It seemed simple at first but then trouble set in. I have never set a tent up before and getting those pesky poles upright to support the tent was difficult but not torture. With a little bit of help from Charles, the bearded man with the know-it-all attitude and technology that could rival the U.S. Government, the tent went up in no time. The result was a 10 by 8 foot tent with enough room for about four to five people, depending on size. Jack and I would have probably been out there longer if it wasn’t for Charles. He helped us fix some mistakes, like the knot in the roof I tied wrong, and gave us advice but I believe I could get the tent up by myself next time. The secret to getting the ruddy thing up was forcing the flexible poles into their foot slots when it felt like they wouldn’t budge anymore. The tent had to be moved left and right and the stakes adjusted in the ground, stretching the tent out.
Of course I wanted to sleep in the tent the first night so that’s exactly what happened, with the addition of Jack. With a few blankets and a small, uncomfortable pillow, along with my phone that I call my extended arm, I made it through my first night under the stars. I have stayed in a tent one other time in my life, up in Cheboygan while on visit to John Wrosch’s sister’s and family’s house. My sisters and I shared it since it was large enough that we didn’t have to sleep right next to each other (which would have been awkward).
It was different back then. I was thirteen and going through the tough sledding of adolescence while going to a school full of hard-knock ghetto kids who would knock you down and make you feel like the most worthless, terrible thing in the world. Now I am twenty-one and free to take on the world as I choose with no one to stand in my way and tell me I cannot do anything.
Okay, I’m being too dramatic. I’m just in a tent outside my house with the ever so talkative, spieling Jack Draffen keeping me company. It’s nice to have someone on my level, though, who I can have a conversation with without them being too overbearing. Jack has always been that way to me, a kind of friend who I can talk to whenever I want without feeling scared. We are probably the biggest goofs when it comes to things like pitching a tent, moving furniture, making a garden, fishing, playing sports, or meeting women. Whatever Jack says I usually listen to and respond with simple answers, even if I am not totally interested. We usually have simple conversations, such as one tonight where he is going on about what we need for our camping trip and the prospect of learning to fish for the first time and if we will even catch anything. He pitches in ideas and I pitch in ideas – like a tandem bicycle working towards the same goal. It’s this kind of bondmanship/team work that makes us a great pair and I would like to see that continue on but I know it will be hard since I want to move on with my life and Jack won’t be here forever. He was actually the first person that I felt comfortable having a good conversation with. Before him, I was usually confined to a shell, occasionally saying a few hellos or asking a question. I have really opened up since then and am better at conversing with anyone in general. I don’t mind Jack stating the obvious, the fact that with every piece of new technology he encounters he needs my expertise to show him how to use it, or that he needs help spelling any word in the English language longer than 4 letters. He has his quirks, like naming objects such as his radio (Chauncey) and his newer radio (Chauncey Jr.). He’s had some of the same problems as I’ve had in life – being trapped in a lonely box with no way out and no one who understands how to help you. Thankfully I got help and found a way out, and it’s been a struggle or failures and successes. From my first day of school to now being an amateur tent-maker I have learned the ropes and have experienced life. There is still a long road unwinding for me and where it takes me I will soon find out. Only I can decide that. Right now though, I am lying on the floor of a tent, listening to the wind and rain pattering the roof, the cars rumbling by, and the sound of water dripping and splattering into the mud pit we call a garden.