If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been, I went camping this past week (yes, the barman gets time off too, you know) at Collins Lake near Oregon House, CA. For those of you who don’t know, camping at Collins Lake is like camping in a giant parking lot, except with dusty trees and a giant lake. Everyone is packed into a campsite the size of most bathrooms and you have to whisper your conversations if you don’t want your neighbors to join in because they are RIGHT THERE.
I’m not sure if camping has changed since I was a kid or if the experience is just different now that I’m an adult. As a ten year old, camping consisted of sharpening sticks and throwing rocks at squirrels and other wildlife. Lord of the Flies sort of stuff. All we needed was a tent, a sleeping bag, a flashlight and a small stove that could fry an egg in just under an hour. Nowadays it feels more like I’m pretending to camp. I construct the tent, collect firewood, whittle marshmallow sticks for the kids, until eventually I look at my friend and say, “Are you ready for a beer,” to which he answers, “Jesus fucking Christ, what do you think?”
For me, camping is all about stripping away the complexities of everyday life and living with the bare essentials for a few days while appreciating the simplicity and majesty of nature. Pulling into the campsite that first day, the first thing I saw was four kids sitting at a picnic table at their site watching Sponge Bob on a 40-inch flatscreen TV. I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a camping purist, but somehow this seemed to be one of those “defeats the purpose” type of moments, and so I judged them and whined about it until my wife reminded me that we had chosen to camp at a place that serves ice cream and makes cappuccinos at the camp store just a few hundred feet away.
Ok, fine. Community camping. I can dig it. I understand that there are different levels and intensities of camping. There is the casual camper, like myself, who hypocritically likes the idea of seclusion and nature as long as there are comforts and amenities to go with it. Then there are the die-hard campers: mountain men and women with wooly beards and body hair who sleep on the side of cliffs and only need a sack the size of a sandwich baggie to carry their supplies in. And then…well…then there are the lake people.
I have encountered these people since I was a kid but have never taken the time to study them or question their existence. After very little research and plenty of thought, I’ve decided that lake people are the biggest conundrum since the Y2K fiasco. To this minute I sit here scratching my head trying to figure out what it is about large bodies of water that attracts this curious breed. Looking at them, I could swear these were the same families operating the ferris wheel and bumper cars at the county fair we attended last month, yet parked in their campsites were $15,000 campers and $25,000 speed boats. And they were everywhere, these large powerful machines owned by a group of people who, instead of going to the trouble of buying shorts, simply cut off whatever pants they happened to be wearing last winter. Jeans, slacks, tuxedo pants. All styles and fashions were represented with non-prejudice. And shirts? Puh-lease! How else are you supposed to exhibit your tattoos and flabby rolls spilling over your cutoffs to the rest of the campground if encumbered by any sort of cloth draped over the upper body?
The scary thing is that lake people possess a sense of entitlement when around water. It’s almost like they draw power from it, like Superman does from his fortress of solitude. This is their dominion and if you don’t like it you can fuck off. Nearly all of them own gargantuan stereos at their campsites or on their boats that blare AC/DC and Dokken throughout the day with no regard to anyone’s possible preference for peace and silence while camping.
Fisherman experience these same problems out on the lake as ski boats churn up water 20 feet from their boats without so much as an “Excuse us, coming through”.
Where do they come from, these lake people with raggedy clothes and expensive toys? Are they like National Guardsmen: during the week they work as mild-mannered real estate agents and court reporters but once Saturday arrives they strap the confederate flag to their RV’s and head for the water?
While they are most certainly harmless, looking around I couldn’t help but think we were residing in a carnie village and that at a moment’s notice any one of them might take their anger out on all the people whose vomit they may have had to clean up on the rides they operated. While my family dozed off at night without any such thoughts, I laid awake wondering what I might use as a weapon if a mob of blood-thirsty lake people were to break into our tent trailer. Despite my eternal desire and fantasy to be Jason Bourne-esque in moments of chaos, I don’t imagine that my skills with a Coleman lantern would hold them off for very long.
For our next camping trip I believe we will head towards the coast and camp on the beach where the weather is cooler and people are more apt to keep their shirts on. Coast campers seem to be a more subdued, take-your-dog-to-the-beach bunch whose main goals extend beyond getting plastered and yelling, “Whooooooooooooooo!!!” far into the night. I prefer for such idiocy to be reserved for my bar, far away from lake water and coarse, pebbled sand beaches littered with cigarette butts and Schlitz beer cans. I guess I’m just old-fashioned that way.
Cheers, until next time,
P.S. I understand that some of my stories have nothing to do with a bar or my job, but there’s only so much you can talk about when it comes to drunken morons. I do not discriminate and will discuss morons of all kinds, regardless of sexual orientation, color or creed. Amen.