Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Roughing It And Other Things First World People Do For Fun

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I really love Starbucks Via and the pleasant suggestions they print on the sides. For instance, just now I opened my coffee cupboard and there on the Via carton it said "For your hotel stay." That made me think happily of the trip we're going to take to California--where, come to think of it, we won't actually be staying in a hotel--and I saw myself, in a tasteful yet economical hotel room, waking up next to my husband and puttering, happy and relaxed, to the, um, hot pot or stove which I'm sure, now, they will have, skipping the hotel coffee, and fixing up a Via.

I am a marketers dream. I am open to all manner of suggestion of pleasant times. You don't even have to try. All you have to do is write in a book what a character is eating and I will crave it. Reading "The Crimson Petal and the White", I craved tea and cinnamon scones. "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" had me eating potstickers and green tea ice cream for weeks. I don't remember a thing about the Narnia books, which I didn't love, except that in one of them they ate sausages as fat as your fingers (I quote loosely) and drank frothy hot chocolate. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo posed a bit of a problem, as the characters were prone to eating things like sandwiches of egg and sardine, or tomato and cheese and raw garlic, but I solved that by making tuna melts, always with coffee on the side, just like Mikael Blomkvist.

So on Sunday night when Noah said, "Let's go camping", I thought two things. One, yay Via, and two, yay Campfire Marshmallows. Campfire Marshmallows are what all the ladies on the Mormon blogs are packing for their families. One marshmallow is about four times the size of one measly Jet Puff. Seriously, these marshmallows make Jet Puffs look like guppy chow. I'd bought a pack in advance and had it sitting in my cupboard, driving my girls crazy with longing in happy anticipation of our camping trip.

We forgot the marshmallows.

I would like to blame the fact that I was a little carsick, but instead I'll tell the truth which is that, as Mr. V put it, "S'mores are the whole reason mommy goes camping". Which isn't entirely true, I also go camping to sip coffee in the woods in the (late) morning. It improves my self-image; allows me to view myself as 'outdoorsy' and 'contemplative', as woodsy and and earthy but low-maintenance, sitting there quietly with a hot mug and beatific smile and ignoring Mr. V's curses as he struggles with the fire and the bacon and the fact that we didn't bring any garbage bags and the kids have soiled all seven of their spare outfits.

I go camping solely to eat the s'mores, and that is my only excuse for the fact that I, a thirty-year-old mother of two, started to cry when I realized we'd forgotten the Marshmallow's From the Land That Time Forgot.

Mr. V set up camp while I told my kids to look sad and pathetic and dragged them across the campsite to bum marshmallows from some fellow campers. I am enormously brave in certain situations, mostly when I am drunk, but also when my access to s'mores and/or sugar and alcohol is threatened. The ladies kindly gave me twelve of their inferior Jet-Puffs and refused to let me pay them. Later I would suspect these self-same ladies of conspiring with a nearby retired couple to murder us in our sleep. But that wouldn't come until much later, when the sun went down and the fires went out and I found myself awake in the deep deep dark, and look we thought we had seen a bear and even though it only turned out to be a stupid bear-cow, forcing Ayla to turn to art therapy to sketch out her frustration at being gipped out of the sight of a real bear, I had bears on the brain and the kindly ladies had walked around the site and then STOPPED to TALK with the RETIRED COUPLE WITH AN AGING YELLOW LABRADOR which can only mean that they intended to murder us with axes in our sleep and make off with our Hershey Bars and Via.

Tent camping is one of those things only first-world people do for fun, along with slaving in the hot sun to pick our own berries, making our own cheese and yogurt, canning preserves, and wearing high heels. Everywhere else in the world they call these activities what they are, which is "hard work" and "things I would never, ever do if I didn't have to".

This is why I think I might be what you'd call "over" tent-camping. This and the fact that I can liken the experience only to pine-scented torture. Like the Viet Kong decided to mop the floors before laying into me with the bamboo shoots. We didn't have cots, or air mattresses, or even thick blankets, and so I spent the night cold and in pain that reached about five or six on the pain scale, I'm not ashamed to say I could have used nothing more than a Valium-Ambien cocktail, kept up by visions of my own death by Golden Age pass members and really, I don't see why I'd want to do that again.

But I will. I'll do it again, because it's fun for the kids. Because there's nothing kids enjoy more than repeating "we're bored!" and "noooow can I have a marshmallow??" while Mom and Dad sweat it over the rain clouds, and the Amazonian volume of mosquitoes, and the bear-cows, and the tent, and the rain fly, and the axe murderers, and the forgotten hammer and trash bags and the eighth outfit they didn't know they were going to need because they had underestimated how difficult it is to make a number two in the woods when you're four-years-old. I'll do it again in spite of, or maybe because of, the bear-cow; for the time-honoring of the tradition, complaining the whole way about the ride, complaining about how long it's taking to pack in and pack out while mom and dad slave like suckers, complaining about the smoke that blows always in your eyes, and the marshmallow you burnt to a crisp before losing in the fire, while Mom and Dad shuffle exhausted from the picnic table to the fire to the car, like Zombies without a will to keep on un-living, wondering why they do it, why they bother. Because for five minutes the clouds break and you can see millions of stars. Because, in spite of all this, you drive, ripe and weary and wondering if it's too early for a hip replacement, back into the hot and shiny city, balking at the noise, squinting at the glare, you remember the cool of the river and the quiet in the trees, and you wish you could do it all again.

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  1. In college, my roommate and I were watching TV when a cereal commercial came on. We looked at each other, then got up to drive to King Soopers for cereal.

    A few weeks later, there was a Quiznos commercial. As the internet was still in elementary stages, we looked up to location of Quiznos in the phone book and drove around for a half hour trying to find it but didn't. We both craved Quiznos for a week before one of us happened to find another location.

    In summary, I, too, am highly susceptible to advertising. Particularly food.

    And now I want Quiznos...

  2. Yes! Camping was fun , always...until I took you kids and Mom..."Why am I doing all the work?" Mom just stood there and looked pretty, and you kids raided the marshmallows. But you haven't been camping, till you've been in a tent with a big lab that growls all night, at the slightest tremble in the wind. Love, Dad.


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