Monday, June 30, 2008

Out of the Wild

(Some of) you will be glad to know that Crabmommy survived—nay, enjoyed even— her first camping trip en famille.

A few things did go slightly awry. They involved maps and directions and the usual gendered conversations on the subject and in the car. There was also an event with a spilled can of condensed milk in the cooler (condensed milk bought to make instant coffee into Vietnamese-style delight). And yes, I said instant coffee. Because, people, I am from Sarf Effrica, and a child born in the 1970s, so I can survive a cup of instant joe when in the wild. Such a thing is sacrilege where we live (in the Coffee is Very Important belt; I also call it the Teva Sandals, yes, we're narrowing things down to Pacific and north and might also call it the I Always Carry a Yoga Mat belt where pedestrians can oft be spotted tromping around with a yoga mat. In short, where I live it is practically mandatory to do the following:
a) go camping
b) enjoy dogs
c) drink coffee all the time from your giant thermie
d) work your day around a Bhakti class
e) and then go to the community garden

Okay, so maybe I live in Northern California!? I WILL NEVER TELL.

No, seriously, now. There is nothing wrong with yoga, coffee, and certainly nothing wrong with community gardens and giant thermoses. Crabmommy in fact sought out these very things when scouting possible relocations for the Crabfamily, having done my time with rodeos and prefabricated houses (sorry, too lazy to do links tonight but those of you who have been here a while know what I'm talking about).

Anyhoo. Camping. We stayed in a lush primeval forest beside a plashing brook. While the rest of the state boiled in heat, we spent two days watching weak beams of sunlight shifting through the trees. The campground was busy but the stands (or whatever you call them in camping language) were large. So you only saw the people en route to the loo, and what people they were. Some very typical of the region: bandannas, poised upon balancing ropes strung taut between trees (is this a rock climbing thing?); some also typical but of a lower echelon (2 giant ladies with giant RV and 2 giant babies and a giant cook stove and 2 giant playpens [one for the dogs and one, I presume, for the babies]). Some people take this camping thing dang seriously and set up entire villages and kitchens complete with racks from which you can dangle the pans. Still others had a festive approach with hula-themed oil cloth, and fringed grass table decorations and matching paper lanterns strung from beneath a mammoth RV with the word "Fleetwood" on it.

Crabtot liked camping but also did a lot of hovering close to my leg even after I had given carte blanche for her to set up her own camp in a fairy glade with her dolls, Lucy and Luly (she was allowed to bring them of course, but I drew the line at bringing a feeble balloon she has lying around her room; she calls it her baby brother and its name is Ballucy). Fairy glades abounded with ample green frondy Transcendentalist landscapes for children to frolic in, but of course that's always the moment when they want a cookie or ask for a straw or want to find a tiny bead at the bottom of the car seat.

I forced Crabtot to run and play like a fairy, under threat of I-can't-remember-what-but-it-was-probably-pretty-scary. I showed her how to use the flashlight and commanded her to look for magic mini-folk in the magnificent hollow trees. She sulked, then enjoyed, then sulked. "I hate camping," she said, and "I love camping," she said, sometimes within a minute of each other. In short, we did not leave our real selves entirely behind. But we all enjoyed the fire (when we could light it), the tent (though not the leaning ground beneath), and Nature's magnificent Nature sounds (though not that of the crow who got into our garbage).

I will report with pride that I did not purchase a head lamp, though I will admit lingering near the head lamps at REI for a while. I will also report that I did not miss the head lamp one iota in the bush. People, there is this thing called a flashlight? Why do Americans always have to one-up the rest of us mere mortals!! Nobody else would ever have thought of headlamps for camping were it not for the Americans telling us all to do it. The world uses flashlights and there's the USA: headlamps all round. Well, America, I resisted the lure of the headlamp. This time.

I did buy some useless luminescent stick but threw away the packaging before I had time to read the directions. What was it meant to have done? And how? We may never learn and therefore a piece of wisdom that I could have passed on to you is nonexistent. Whatever that meant.

To Tony Park who asked me about Crocs: I am embarrassed to say that unfortunately Crabhubby has two pairs and (DOUBLE-CRINGE) Crabtot has one, and I think he thinks he is ironically commenting on the trend while enjoying it at the same time, and blah-di-blah yakkity-yak. I have nothing to do with the Crocs in my family. In this life, there is this thing called marriage, and in marriage there are these things you have to let go of and some of them are light and airy and have holes in the top to aerate the toes.

Also noteworthy on this trip: this camping business in America, it is organized. At least in this state it is. Who knew how organized!? I mean, you BOOK. In ADVANCE. On the INTERNET. And then when you get there your NAME is on a CARD at your camping spot. And there was even a WELL for drawing water. And it took me forever to work it and longer still to pump it with my nonexistent muscles, but then PRESTO two completely gigantic dykes (different ones from those in above list) appeared and showed me how and we were all filled with the camaraderie of camping. And I thought of Africa, my motherland and how there is like, NO WAY anyone would ever set up a card for you in a camp site. You would sooner be murdered than find a card with your name on it on stick in a piece of dirt. And I felt that strange sense of longing for home and relief to not be home that is the special province of those who chucked their homeland in favor of some other.

Right. Boring post it was. I camped, I returned, and basically I am a kickass tentchick. Of course I had to do all the tough stuff (except setting up tent, cooking, making fires and so on). I mean, I did all the disciplining and decided who should be shouted at when. I also packed the car, and dang it that was a mighty big pain in the neck. All that said, I pronounce the event a riproaring success. And I have every intention of not going camping this weekend.


Charlotte said...

As a fellow SAfrican, I can also vouch for instant coffee on holiday. The best thing about our skiing trip in Switzerland earlier this year was the complimentary bottle of Nescafe (also known as Naffcaff) in the chalet.

Alexis said...

Oooh, I'm sort of jealous even though I usually hate camping once I get there. I think I'm a little like crabtot: IhatecampingIlovecamping! I'm toying with the idea of camping when the family heads to Cali in a couple of weeks, but we might just settle for a regional park visit in Berkeley. I do covet the plashing brook, though.

I feel like more and more that list of things you use to describe crabcity is becoming a good description of a certain subset of every mid-size American city. I certainly see it here in Minneapolis, it sounds like Berkeley to a tee, and I bet you anything Austin, TX is quite like that, too (except maybe the camping--it's awfully hot). I kind of feel the same way about it as I do about camping: I love bourgie-eco-materialismIhate bourgie-eco-materialism!

Vietnamese coffee=yum!

Shelly G said...

We camp every year... Mostly during travel. During that time I must be far to tired to notice the professional campers... as all I really want to do is get some sleep before moving on to the next destination the following day... However, last year we decided to camp locally and stay in the same location for a few days... And it was amazing the things that you see when you hang out all day around the camp area. For one, the "professional" campers pulled in and laid down a carpet... A carpet! Who brings a carpet camping? But it gets better... they roped off their area with a fancy little bunting and began unloading what I can only imagine as their entire livingroom... and home... I couldn't figure out how they were camping exactly... I don't know what I would call it...For me it was like watching TV... I had a hard time tearing myself away... I didn't have a headlight either... However, I am going to get one this year... There are too many variables when trying to go to the bathroom at night with a flashlight... I figure that and real coffee is all I really need... I will leave my sofa at home:)~

Anonymous said...

your blog cracks me up! i'm curious where you went camping. i might (or might not) live in Northern California and we would like to try to take a family camping trip. the crazy husband thinks that a week camping would be great, and i have to remind him that a week would most certainly NOT be great, but i will do 3 nights. i also have to remind him that we have never even been camping together and do not even own a sleeping bag, much less a tent.

Inky Ink Inc. said...

Very amusing stuffe, indeed, BUT... Crabmommy I really do have to take issue with your assumption (which, as you know, makes an ASS out of U and ME) that the headlamp is some sort of a specifically American phenomenon. Miners have been wearing them for aeons! And, hmmmm, where on earth do they do a lot of mining? Could it be... South Africa??

crabmommy said...

inky, no no I swear the South African miners use EXCLUSIVELY flashlights for their mining needs.
err, good point. But I'm referring more to the American penchant for gadgetry and the fact that when a novice camper buys gear in the States everyone starts muttering about headlamps and then suddenly it becomes INDISPENSABLE, like when you have a baby and everyone tells you you can't live without this,t hat, or the other 9and in fact you need a registry to set yourself up).
Basically, you know, I just don't dig the idea of a headlamp on my lid.
Maybe we can agree to a truce and somehow...blame Canada?

Inky Ink Inc. said...

Deal! Damn those pesky Canadians!

Anonymous said...

I have been avoiding the camping issue - and hubby's desire to do it en famille - for years now. You may have opened my mind a tiny bit. Especially if you'll come do the disciplining.

Stephny said...

Good to have you back Crabmommy!

Daisy said...

Great post! I was a camper, and husband was not. I'm a little envious, but I'll admit the tents would get to my back at my current, ahem, advancing age. Sounds like you had a great trip!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful time. We like to camp but most often actually go the route of KOA campgrounds (cabins). It's good to have you back!

PlungerGirl said...

I'm thrilled you forced yourself to walk away from the headlamp section at REI. But it would've made a hilarious photograph. The whole family in headlamps. It would've looked fantastic on your Christmas card!

kim said...

oiy! Don't blame Canada...I'm Canadian and I've never seen anyone wearing a headlamp, a beercan hat with straws attached maybe, but never a headlamp!

Mommyrella said...

But I have to say, in defense of the headlamp, that while I have never taken one camping I have seen them put to great use when grilling in the dark. That way, one can manage the bbq tongs with one hand and still have the other free for one's drink. In fact, until I read this post I honestly thought that was the primary purpose for the little gadget. And I'm not even from Canada. I may or may not be from Southern california.

tonypark said...

CM, well done on the headlamp and the Crocs.

Keep the faith. I salute you and your impeccable taste (and self respect).

As one camper to another, here's a little tip from the veldt: Cooler boxes should be for beer and wine only. Spilled dairy products and soggy meat can cause food poisoning (and ruin the taste of the beer from the can).

Upgrade to a camping fridge for meat and other perishables. Crabhub will love it and the sight of a 12volt car fridge/freezer that can freeze food at and ambient temp of 105 degrees farenheit will make him the envy of fellow campers (and negate the croc effect).