I’m packed and ready to take off on my latest adventure – a weekend camping trip with my girls. Hanna, Michelle and (surprisingly) Jamie are very excited about spending a weekend getting back to nature. They’re all scrambling around making last-minute additions to the mountainous pile of supplies – all designed to bring the comforts of home to the ‘nature’ experience. I am at work, enjoying my last few moments in air-conditioned and unlimited internet access splendor, basking in the memories of camping trips past…
It was a beautiful day in 1996. Every year there was a tradition in my former wife’s (let’s call her wife 1.0 to keep it just a bit techy) family to go camping every Memorial Day…the WHOLE family – brothers, sisters, wives, children, etc. They referred to these excursions as ‘getting back to nature.’ I referred to them as ‘living in squalor’. The purpose of these occasions was to demonstrate the camping skills that her brothers all learned growing up as boy scouts…and my corresponding ineptitude. There were lessons on tying knots, building campfires and catching fish, etc. My usual contribution to these festivities was consuming very inexpensive cans of beer. The inexpensive part is important because when you drink in sufficient volumes, unit pricing becomes important.
On one such expedition, the boys decided to take the canoes out to get dinner…presumably fish of some variety. The boys drew straws to see who was stuck with me as their canoe partner. It wasn’t just my lack of fishing skills; it was the complete absence of any discernible contribution to making the canoe go in any particular direction. I was stuck with one brother (we’ll call him ‘Tim’ which was in fact, his name). Tim and I struggled …(ok, ok, Tim struggled…I mostly spent my efforts estimating the time to my next Old Milwaukee Light) to move the canoe to the other side of the pond. It turns out that it doesn’t matter where you enter a pond – the fish are always on the other side. To make an excruciatingly long story short, the other canoe team captured a huge fish. The boys just had more fishing and canoe-propelling prowess than I possessed at the time (or ever). I did possess something that they didn’t – marketing skills.
Tim and I maneuvered our canoe the expansive 25 yards of total progress we had made – back to the shore. We knew that the other guys would spend the entire evening bragging about their accomplishments. That would be insufferable. We raced back to the campsite where the women-folk were making preparations for the upcoming fish fry. I call them women-folk because camping women don’t smell like something one would ordinarily associate with being feminine. Camping men on the other hand smell completely offensive. Before the triumphant anglers arrived, I informed the other campers that the other team had cheated. “The other guys went to the fish market and bought a fish to bring back. They’re going to pass it off as one that they just caught. Let’s play along to see how far they take it”, I said.
When the victors returned, they displayed their prize fish with all of the gloating of a Tea Party politician who had stonewalled the country to the brink of default. We all politely smiled and giggled a lit bit under our breath. This went on for quite some time until the women-folk starting asking pointed questions about how they ‘selected’ the fish and ‘how much did it cost per pound?” After sufficiently stealing the boys thunder, I admitted that they had actually caught the fish. They were p*ssed but we all laughed in the end. It’s one of my more enjoyable moments camping. Great marketing almost always trumps great products.
The next few days we’ll spend at Russell Pond in New Hampshire. Any time with my girls is a gift We’ll go to Santa’s Village or Story Land during the day. We’ll have campfires by night. It’s going to be fun … with perhaps just a splash of Pinot Noir to get me in the camping spirit…after which, I’ll show the girls how to build the perfect campfire. Note to self: pick up a case of Duraflame logs.