The Camping Thing: The Rebirth

The most recent iteration of The Camping Thing was not satisfactory. I thought I might be able to get a good night’s sleep on a bunk that was just twenty-four inches wide, but that was a wildly optimistic idea. Trying to lay on a bunk that narrow was like trying to sleep on a window ledge. I gave it a shot but it just didn’t work out.

I’ve been sketching out new ideas for an updated version of The Camping Thing, something that will give me nearly the full width of the back end to sleep in, that will convert to a bench with a table so I can sit inside the van on rainy days, and that will still give me access to the fridge and the kitchen supplies without having to open up the back. The sketches are not complete; I’m still trying to figure out how to orient the storage for the kitchen supplies, for instance, but I’ve already built the lockers for the front of the van and I have a pretty solid plan for the rear lockers. I just needed to get the old version of The Camping Thing out of the van in order to proceed with building the latest version.

Today the sun came out for a few hours which were comfortably warm and sunshiny enough to make me want to work outside. My motivation is heavily dependent on weather. After cleaning up some of the mess in the garage to give myself enough room to work in, I opened up the van, unloaded all the camping supplies, and yanked The Camping Thing out of it and dragged it into the garage. Easy enough to do but it takes time because it’s heavy and I have to move slowly to make sure I don’t hurt myself or break The Camping Thing. The new version I’ve got in mind will be made up of smaller pieces which I hope will be easier to move around.

After getting it out of the van, I began the long and tedious task of taking it to pieces. I only intended to take the hinged lids off the top, a project which involved taking out the gas struts, removing the latches, and unscrewing the hinges. I figured unfastening all that hardware might take as much as two hours, but it went so smoothly that I kept on going until I had the whole thing completely disassembled and every piece of hardware and lumber was carefully (more or less) stowed in the garage in under two hours.

The next step involves building the rear lockers and fitting them so there’s plenty of room for me to stretch out while still leaving plenty of room for the fridge and the kitchen locker. I probably won’t get to that until later this week when the weather’s a little warmer (and drier – rain in the forecast!).

“I am your density.”

Do you believe in fate/destiny?

Short answer: No, but also maybe, depending on what “destiny” means.

I want to. I’m so filled with anxiety over every decision I have to make, large and small, that it would be a great relief to know my whole life’s been planned ahead of time and I’m only playing a part that’s been written for me.

Also, I’m monumentally lazy, so the idea that I was destined to lay around all day today doing nothing would, again, be a huge relief. I could sleep peacefully tonight knowing I was not, in fact, supposed to do something better with my one precious life.

Finally, I believe the world and everything on it will be incinerated by the sun in ten billion years, give or take a few, so in the sense that the earth and everybody on it has a very predictable end that’s literally written in the stars (well, one star, in this case), that’s sort of a destiny.

But while the idea of fate and/or destiny appeals to the anxiety-ridden/lazy sides of me, I simply can’t believe we have a destiny to fulfill beyond “be nice to other people.” It would be a pretty great destiny and not really that easy for us to fulfill, when you consider the history of humanity, but I doubt that’s what people mean when they ask if I believe in destiny.

baling hay

One of my high school buddies was a farm kid from a good old-fashioned Wisconsin family farm. He asked me if I could help him bring in some hay, which means going out to the field on a flatbed trailer towed behind a hay baler, stacking the bales on the trailer as they come off the baler, then taking them back and stacking them in the barn for storage. It’s not hard work but if you forget to bring gloves, which I did once because I’m not a farm kid, the baling twine will cut into your hands until your hands are a blistered, bloody mess. Fortunately I had already learned that lesson the hard way so when I went to my friend’s farm to help out, I took a pair of thick leather gloves. We spent all afternoon in the summer sun stacking and re-stacking hay bales and when we were done, we went back to the house for a home-cooked meal of fresh food washed down with cold whole milk. And if you thought it couldn’t possibly get any more Wisconsin than that you’d be wrong. My buddy’s dad insisted on paying me for my work. He paid me me minimum wage, which at the time was something like two dollars and sixty-five cents an hour, so before we sat down to eat he precisely calculated how much I should get for doing four and a half hours’ work, then paid me the exact amount, rooting through a change purse to get the nickels and dimes he needed.

mom voice

I stuck my knife in the toaster because the toasted bread didn’t pop up high enough to grab it with my fingers. Yes, I know better, but for a second I completely forgot how stupid it was to do that and went ahead and did it anyway.

My Darling B happened to be in the kitchen while I was being stupid. Not only that, she was looking directly at me and just as I stuck the end of the knife into the toaster slot she shouted my full name using her Mom Voice. I know she used her Mom Voice because I jerked the knife out of the toaster and simultaneously jumped about a foot away from it without having consciously made myself do it. It was as if an entirely different person had taken over my body and made it do something before I knew what was happening. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have stopped myself.

I believe that was the one and only time she used her Mom Voice on me. It was honestly kind of a terrifying experience so I think I’d be able to recall if she did it more than once, but maybe Moms have a more subtle version of the Mom Voice that makes you obey them without scaring you. Or maybe they can rewrite your memories. That actually seems plausible now that I think of it.


This garbage heap of grammatical errors was a huge hit as a pop song in the 1980s:

Sometimes I never leave, but sometimes I would
Sometimes I stay too long, sometimes I would
Sometimes it frightens me, sometimes it would
Sometimes I’m all alone and wish that I could
Until suddenly last summer
And then suddenly last summer

If you never leave, that’s called “staying.” You do it continuously. You never stop not leaving. And because you’re always doing it, you are, in effect, doing it just once. You couldn’t do it “sometimes.” If you were “staying” only “sometimes,” you would, by definition, have to leave occasionally.

Which might be what she’s getting at when she adds, “but sometimes I would.” Okay, fine, but then it’s “but sometimes I do.” Either that or the first part is “Sometimes I’d never leave,” which also doesn’t make any sense but at the very least it’s in the right tense. Keep your tenses straight, dammit. Same goes for the second and third lines!

“Sometimes I stay too long” seems a little bit redundant after saying “sometimes I never leave,” don’t you think? I do.

Not sure what frightens her. Never leaving? Or the very redundant staying too long? Something else? Maybe she could be a little more vague? I’m not a huge fan of ambiguity when it comes to pop songs.

“Sometimes I’m all alone” is pretty straightforward, but I have absolutely no freakin clue what she wishes she could. Do. Can’t even take a wild-ass guess. Maybe I’m missing something obvious but I think it’s more likely she’s trying to be mysterious by writing something open-ended and obtuse. Not a fan of that, either.

Speaking of mysterious:

One summer never ends, one summer never began
It keeps me standing still, it takes all my will
And then suddenly last summer

I mean, come on. If it never began, how does it never end? How does that make sense at all? I’m flummoxed.

All that being said, I still like this song. It’s got a really good sound and it reminds me of my college years. What’s not to love about that?

dog mom

My Darling B woke crying from a dream this morning. At first I thought it was something I was dreaming. I remembered a dream in which I was freaked out by the sound of someone crying for help. Then she cried out again but louder this time, loud enough to wake me all the way up. I tried to comfort her and it must have worked, because she went back to sleep.

The ability to dream is so amazingly wonderful and yet at the same time so soul-crushingly cruel. We have the ability to experience visions so realistic that they include sensation and emotion, but we have little to no control over them and they’re usually really stupid, like running from a man-eating bear when you’re stuck in slow motion, or talking to a dog who’s really your mom. As if life isn’t stupid and scary enough, we have to put up with stupid and scary in our sleep, too. If I had any control over my dreams, I’d be making love to my beautiful wife on the beach every time I closed my eyes.

bass beat

While we were in Dayton, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in the Oregon District. The bed and breakfast was in a restored mansion on a side street just off Fifth Street, the road through the district where the tourists could find bars and restaurants to visit. The suite we rented was not in the mansion but behind it in a street-level addition that was almost certainly built at least a hundred years after the mansion. It had a private entrance, a very cozy sitting room, a warm bedroom, and a kitchenette. It was perfect for us.

We arrived in Dayton on Wednesday evening and departed Saturday morning. After driving eight hours on Wednesday we were just a little bleary-eyed and foggy-headed, so a short walk around the district was about all we had the energy or the focus for. We stayed in Wednesday night, mostly reading to get our minds off the road, turned in late and slept well. And except for the garbage trucks that rampaged through the neighborhood at the crack of dawn on Thursday morning, our sleep wasn’t interrupted much by anything.

We slept in until almost nine on Thursday. When we finally did get up, My Darling B made coffee but I couldn’t bring myself to drink it. Not her fault. She did the best she could with the Mr. Coffee machine and the big plastic jug of Folger’s coffee. Luckily I knew where to find a coffee shop just two blocks from the inn, so after a brief walk I fetched back an Americano and a latte and we sipped those as we nibbled on our breakfast.

We had lunch at a Thai restaurant, conveniently located just across the street, before getting dressed to go to the service in the evening. After the service we went back to the inn, warmed up the rest of our lunch (the portions were enormous!) and had dinner in our suite. My Darling B picked up a bottle of wine earlier, which we opened for dinner and enjoyed through the evening. We went to bed after staying up late reading, and slept well, waking to the arrival of the garbage trucks once again.

I got out of bed at about eight on Friday, tiptoed out of the bedroom to dress myself in the sitting room, and let myself out as quietly as possible to seek freshly-brewed coffee. After collecting two large black coffee’s to-go, I returned to the suite to bestow hot beverages unto My Darling B, who had just roused herself from slumber. We had about an hour to sit and enjoy our coffee while nibbling on breakfast, then washed and dressed and went to the service at the cemetery. There was a luncheon after and then a few tasks to take care of, so we didn’t return to the suite until maybe five o’clock. We got sandwiches at a restaurant across the street before settling in for the night. B read while I watched The Shawshank Redemption. We turned in at maybe ten-thirty or eleven o’clock.

And did not get a wink of sleep. Well, maybe a wink. Maybe even a wink and a half. On Friday night there’s a dance club on Fifth Street in the Oregon District where they play music on a sound system so powerful they could shatter granite and melt steel, if they so chose to. On this particular Friday night, they chose only to keep us and the rest of the neighborhood awake until at least two-thirty in the morning. (My Darling B says three, and I don’t doubt her, but the last time I looked at the clock while the dance music was still going thumpa-thumpa it was two-thirty.) I didn’t sleep much after that because I spent every waking minute up until then thinking about how tired I was going to be driving back to Wisconsin the next day, so I wasn’t exactly in a frame of mind that would let me go to sleep when the music finally stopped.

Nevertheless, I stubbornly stayed in bed until about seven-thirty, which I was about the time I got the very appealing idea to go get some delicious coffee. Got there about fifteen minutes too soon; they didn’t open until eight. I made a big loop around several blocks of the district, arriving back at the coffee shop about five minutes before they opened, so I huddled in the doorway until they raised the blinds and unlocked the door. I guzzled down every drop of that twelve-ounce cup and, before we hit the road, went back for more. I won’t go so far as to say the caffeine boost made the drive survivable, but it certainly didn’t hurt.

home again

Home again, home again. Left Dayton yesterday morning at 9:00 am (eastern time) and got back to our little red house at about 5:30 pm (central time). Hit a minor hitch when I missed a turn and had to drive through Gary, Indiana, but it didn’t set us back much and we didn’t miss any more turns than just that one.