Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Hello, Muddah. Hello, Faddah.

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. ;)

14 comments:

georgeious said...

oh my, i thought EVERYONE knew that all the action is at church camp or VBS! even in just the plain old youth group meetings! that's where i learned the most about drugs and other such miscreant behaviour - including a song about syphillis, of course. church groups (and having done my fair share of shopping around i am even willing to generalize on this one) have more deviants than drug rehab, and i oughta know.

Noelle said...

My first sex ed classes were at church camp. Who else is going to teach you what it means to get to first, second, third base? My favorite was Ann, who told us she got to third base on the squash court. Then, Kim asked what squash was, and Ann told us "it's like tennis, but the balls are harder." We laughed about that all... well, we're still laughing about it.

gorillabuns said...

church camp was the best, so i've heard. catholic camp nonetheless.

where else can you learn that everyone, including overly obese amy who whined about the food and the mosquitos, got more action than you. but then i guess it would have been kinda weird, me being a senior getting it on with a freshman.

3carnations said...

I never went away to any camp. But, ugh, I didn't want to know that church camp is where the action is...That just seems wrong.

lizgwiz said...

george, I wonder if your song about syphillis is the same one I learned? We'll have to compare.

noelle, that is hilarious! Harder balls. *snicker*

gorillabuns, so you were into the younger guys back then, huh? ;)

3car, it does seem weird, doesn't it? But apparently it's pretty universal. Is it because otherwise well-behaved kids go crazy with a little freedom? I don't know--I was hiking and painting rocks!

stefanie said...

I never got to go to any sort of co-ed camp, but being a late bloomer myself, I'm sure I would have missed out on any action as well.

Your Girl Scout camp comments brought back plenty of memories, though... failing the swim test my first year and having to be a "Red Cap," forbidding me from entering the deep end of the pool... Doing the runner thing at meals (I think that's what we called the "jump-up")... Oddly, I don't remember any instruction about snakes. Perhaps they somehow banished all snakes from Camp Evelyn? Hmm.

Edge said...

Brass players have more tubing ya know! And trumpet players really know how to double and triple tongue!

I loved band camp. I "frenched" a girl there. So much fun. Other than that I hated camp. Who's idea was it to shove a ton of kids in an unairconditioned cabin in 100 degree weather for 2 weeks with lousy food and nothing to drink but Kool-Aid and water?

No one had sex at baseball camp and if they did they got beat up.

~Jef

lizgwiz said...

stef, maybe it's just because that particular part of Oklahoma is lousy with copperheads and water moccasins that we received the instructions. "Hey, let's send our children out into the woods with the snakes." Hee.

I joke, but sadly, a few years later, not at the exact same camp, but the same part of the state, three Girl Scouts were raped and killed while at camp. Scary stuff--makes a few snakes and a mean counselor seem not so bad.

jef, camp doesn't sound like much fun in retrospect, does it? Why did I keep trying it?

Jarod said...

That is hilarious about church camp, I remember it being much more deviant than other camps!

The best, though, was camp Pathfinder - in the middle of no where, Canada, a whole summer of extreme wilderness, portaging, bears, moose, nothing but the food you carry. That is awesome.

I liked scout camp, but I'm an Eagle scout so it is sort my duty to like it :) (nerdness revealed)

lizgwiz said...

jarod, I only lasted in Scouts until junior high, when I decided I was too cool to continue. Of course, it was at that point that I embarked on my band geek career--so what did I really know of cool? Hee.

Pathfinder sounds intense!

don't call me MA'AM said...

Girl Scout camp was nothing but a big nightmare for me. The first day was okay, I guess... but that's when I learned there were no REAL bathrooms available. Only. an. outhouse.

I couldn't make myself go. I stayed at camp for two whole days without going to the bathroom. At all. I was sicker than a dog when I got home.

Now, church camp... that was always fun. ;-)

lizgwiz said...

dcmm, I guess we were kind of wussy Scouts--we had actual toilets. I HATED the showers, though--no stalls, just one big open room with shower heads on the walls. Boy, the more I think back, the more I wonder--why did I even consider going back there? Hee.

guinness girl said...

I LOVED camp - and this was such a great post because it took me right back! I swear you and I would be friends in real life, Liz. :)

lizgwiz said...

gg, I'm SURE we would!