I watched Wet Hot American Summer this weekend. No, I'd never seen it before. No, there was nothing better on. So I watched. I must say, they got the hairstyles and clothes of the late 70s right. And Paul Rudd is sooooo cute, even playing a dick.
Anyway, it got me thinking about summer camp. I never went to the summer-long, or month-long, or weeks-long "Camp Waziyata" kind of camp. (Did anyone watch that cute little reality show called "Bug Juice" a few years ago? I loved that show.) The "oh, here we are in the Catskills, and why does that annoying girl over there look JUST EXACTLY LIKE ME ONLY WITH LONGER HAIR and OMIGOD SHE'S REALLY MY TWIN SISTER--let's trade places and reunite our estranged parents" kind of summer camp. But I went to my share of week-long theme camps. Girl Scouts camp. Church camp. Band camp.
Girl Scout camp was my first. I can't say I get all warm and fuzzy remembering it, though. My best friend and I went together. It was a fairly rustic (as befits Scouting, I suppose) place near the Illinois river. The "cabins" were merely a sort of glorified gazebo, really, with open sides, and coverings you could roll down if it rained. We slept on cots. The mosquitos slept, and dined, on me. All of them, apparently. My mother was appalled at how many bites I came home with--I looked much like the tastier "Survivor" contestants, apparently. I specifically remember the instructions we were given if we should at any point be bitten by a snake. We were to turn to the fellow Scout closest to us and say, "I have been bitten by a snake. Stay calm, and go tell a counselor." Apparently, we were trusted to be calm enough to GIVE this information, but not to HEAR it without an additional reminder. No one was bitten by a snake, to my knowledge, but we did SEE one. As we were trooping single-file into a seldom-used outdoor ampitheatre with stone seats, my best friend and I walked right up to a copperhead. I said, "hey, look...a copperhead," and we all stopped dead in our tracks and had a staring contest with the snake. Apparently further instruction should have been given to us; no one told us what to say if we encountered a snake, only if we were actually bitten. Eventually a counselor noticed the column of little marching Scouts had stopped and came to investigate. The snake knew a good time to leave when he saw it, and disappeared. We were relocated to another section of the ampitheatre for our evening campfire, and nervously twitched our feet and legs for the rest of the evening, certain we felt snakes wrapping around them. Exciting! My most vivid memory of that week, though, is of the horrible counselor who hated me. Really, she did. I have no idea why, I certainly hadn't DONE anything to her, apparently she just hated shy, chubby little girls. Bitch. We had to play horrible games, including a relay race where you had to carry a spoonful of dry beans behind your back. The team with the most beans left in the spoon at the end won. For some reason I was forced to go first and, you guessed it, lost all our beans on the first leg. What can I say? An athlete I was not, and am not. But it's a GAME, lady. It's supposed to be for fun. There's no prize money at stake, and if your self-esteem is tied up in how well your little group of Girl Scouts does at carrying beans in a spoon--well, let's just say that's sad. Very, very sad. But she was just appalled, and exclaimed loudly, several times, to the poor fools who had to carry an empty spoon back and forth for the rest of the race, "it's just NO FUN without beans, is it?" WHAT A BITCH. We all were assigned little tasks each day, and one of the possible tasks was to be "jump-up" for a particular table in the dining hall. Basically, the "jump-up" had to jump up and fetch anything the diners at the table needed during the meal. There was one counselor at the head of each table and each counselor selected her jump-up from the pool assigned to the task that day. Guess who chose me? Correct. And criticized every jump I made during the whole meal. To this day I wonder what the HELL her problem was. I mean, really...what. the. fuck!? At any rate, the week eventually ended, without too much further trauma. There was the mild embarrassment of failing, just barely, the swimming test that enabled you to go near the "deep hole," and having to remain in the wading area with the non-swimmers, but I didn't care all that much. I was actually going to go back the next year, but all the mosquito chomping must have made me somewhat allergic, and when I encountered a swarm of mosquitos before I even left home that swelled my arm up like a puff adder, my mother intervened. Probably for the best. If that bitch counselor had been there again, I might have had to kill her, and wouldn't THAT have made for interesting headlines. SCOUT KILLS CAMP COUNSELOR, WAS HEARD REPEATEDLY MUTTERING "HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM BEANS?" Hee.
Next up was church camp. Forget what the American Pie people would have you believe--church camp is where the real action is. There was, of course, hiking, climbing, swimming, crafts, etc., but I also remember a whole lot of "oh my god, I made out with Mikey behind the cabin and he totally FRENCHED me" drama. I didn't experience any of that personally, of course, late bloomer that I was (no, seriously). Parents, don't assume that just because your kids are churchgoers that they aren't susceptible to the same onslaught of teenage hormones as everyone else. Put them in close proximity to a passle of the opposite sex (or the same sex, I suppose--I'm sure that happens, too) with "supervision" mostly by slightly older teenagers and omigod, they're totally going to be all atwitter about the cute boys (girls, whatever)! This was in junior high. I was going to go back the next year, but...always a but with me, isn't there...I broke my arm a couple of days before camp started. I did GO, actually, but I didn't stay. My best friend begged and pleaded with me to go, assuring me she'd help me do everything I couldn't do with a broken arm, but by the first evening I realized I'd made a big mistake, and I called my parents to come and get me. (She meant well, I know, but I was completely cramping her style!) I didn't go to regular summer church camp again, but I did go to a couple of high school winter weekend retreats at the same campground. Again, I behaved MYself (late bloomer, remember?), but I will say that at least one friend lost her virginity there, and I saw (and was offered, but refused) marijuana being smoked for the very first time. Which made me so incredibly nervous that I had to leave the deserted cabin where the illicit activity was taking place, and walk through the woods after dark by myself back to the lodge. Which was scary, it being all dark and woodsy and did I mention DARK, but not nearly as scary as being in such close proximity to PEOPLE DOING DRUGS. God, I was such a good kid. My parents owe me big time for all the grief I didn't cause them back then. (Okay, maybe they don't; I've probably made up for it since.)
And then, in high school, I did actually go to band camp a couple of times. And, this one time, at band camp...I did NOT do anything untoward with my flute. (And let me tell you, no self-respecting flutist would dishonor her instrument in that way. Puh-leeze. Now I can't vouch for those goofy brass players [I kid, brass players, I kid], but amongst us woodwinds--not a chance.) There was lots of flirting, of course, but amongst my personal friends, no SERIOUS action. I also did the All-Star Marching Band one summer, and that was fun, but again, nothing but flirting. Who had the energy, anyway? We marched all stinkin' day long in the hot Oklahoma sun. On Astroturf. I lost at least 10 pounds that week.
So those were my youthful camp experiences. I'd like to say that they were among the most rewarding weeks of my life, and that I made friendships to last a lifetime. I'd like to say that, but I won't, since it'd be a big fat lie. In college I did outdoor theatre in the summers, and THAT, my friends, is where the fun was had, and the lifetime friends were made. I'll have to post some of those stories some time. Ah, Miss Sparkler Pageant, how I miss you. ;)