Tuesday, May 29, 2007


So I’m back after spending Memorial Day weekend at a campsite in Hickory Run, a state park in Pennsylvania. About four years ago, my older brother conceived and pushed the idea that we should use an annual camping trip as a low-pressure, weekendlong family reunion, bringing our parents, and our brothers, wives and children for the entire Memorial Day weekend. It’s grown now to include three of our Hutton cousins and their families as well.


It’s a great idea. I love that for the entire weekend, Evangeline and Rachel were able to spend their waking moments with their cousins Balder and Morrigan, getting to know their uncle and aunt better, and getting to know my cousins and their children as well. It’s even better to see the girls bonding not only with their cousins but also with two of their second cousins. How many children in America grow up with their second cousins as part of their families? I didn’t. I’m not even sure I know who my second cousins are; in fact, there are some first cousins I wouldn’t know if I tripped over them. But we grew up with our Hutton cousins, seeing them two or three times a year, so I like it that our children and their children are growing up as parts of one another’s lives, twined round and round each other like two vines that trellis one another.


It’s also an idea I’ve had enough of ― not the reunion, which I love ― but the camping. I’m sick of camping. How the heck did this become something people do for fun? I’m trying to picture the guys in marketing as they concocted this idea over a couple of beers and God only knows what else. (And you know it was men who did this, as the women are much too sensible.)


Somehow, some corporate moron named Bob, with an IQ lower than my pet dog’s, came up with the idea that people would like the idea of sleeping on the ground. Somehow Bob thought people would like sleeping under the trees inside canvas shelters so thin that you can feel every degree the temperature drops, made of a plastic so designed that every rain drop echoes as it strikes, reminding you, “Any moment, you’re going to get soaked and then you’re going to be really miserable.” Somehow ― somehow Bob concluded the people would enjoy waking up in the middle of the night with a backache so severe that they would be unable to move and fearful that they would never feel anything below the waist again. Somehow Bob pulled that off, and not only convinced a roomful of other Bobs that it would be a good idea to throw out twelve thousand years of human progress and civilization, they managed to convince enough of the American public at large that an industry was born, under the rubric of “getting back to nature.”


I could point out that there’s very little natural about driving for two hours to set up a propane grill and cook prepackaged food on an iron skillet, but instead let me say that I want nothing to do with getting back to nature. The very notion is insane. Nature bites, it stings, and it gives you diarrhea. Getting back to nature means dying before you turn forty, and clearly it means moving like a sack of broken rocks in the morning because you never get enough sleep.


I loved seeing family for Memorial Day weekend, but we’ve got to find a better way to manage reunions than going camping together.

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