But um I could not resist this particular temptation. It's summer! Snort up, kiddos!
If you've given birth to children and they are grown-ups now, perhaps you're sending them to summer camp. Perhaps you yourself went to camp, or perhaps you're a camp counselor, or perhaps you went to Fat Camp, like on the TV show "Fat Camp."
The New York Times Magazine featured ads for the real ritzy Summer Camps, like Camp LaJolla (fat camp) and my fantasy favorite Stagedoor Manor, which looked like a hotel for future Gaby Hoffmans and whomever played Little Orphan Annie.
Perhaps you think camp is for spoiled rich kids and the easily-placated middle class suburban brats. Perhaps it is. I remain undecided.
I attended Jewish Day Camp every summer til I turned 11. I hated it a lot. Then I overnight-camp-hopped for several years, 'cause I'm fast like that. Sometimes, I wished I was fat, so I coulda accomplished something concrete by going to camp.
So, TAL: Ira Glass shared some listener stories, including a Wisconsin woman recounting her Young Zionist Camp experience. I suspected immediately her camp belonged to the Habonim-Dror group, which owned the Zionist camp I attended in Michigan. There can't be that many Zionist camps in the U.S, 'cause there's not a huge market, I imagine, for kids who want to feed animals, paint houses, celebrate Shabbat, learn "Ivrit" and sleep in tents while their rich Jewish friends are chillin' in the Catskills in air conditioned cabins learning digital video editing and trapeze. But anyhow, here's the end of her story:
"....A bunch of us were sitting in the dining hall, and somebody said look out on the lawn! ... there was this large cross burning out on the lawn of the campgrounds, these people came in wearing white sheets and white things over their heads like pillowcases and they made us all go outside. And there was another guy in a white sheet and a white pillowcase riding up and down on a horse and they started to yell at us that they wanted the Jews out of Wisconsin and they didn't want any Jew-camps in Wisconsin, and they kept yelling at us, Don't bother trying to call the authorities 'cause in this neck of the woods we are the authorities, and everyone was just petrified and we all stood around just shakin' in our boots, and all of a sudden one of the counselors said, "I'm an American citizen and you can't treat me like this!" so two of the guys in sheets grabbed him by the arms and marched him away, and another counselor said the same thing ... and pretty soon all the counselors were being marched away and we were left there ... I went "I'm an American Citizen too!' and someone came over in a white sheet and took me down towards the beach and as he was waking me down to the beach and said to me "Edina, couldn't you have kept your big mouth shut?" And It was all a political lesson that we were supposed to be learning."Then I knew: hands down totes for-sure the same camp I went to, per the re-enacting the fleeing-Germany-before-the-Holocaust story I shared in a previous blog.
Zionists don't mess around.
WHAT I LEARNED AT SUMMER CAMP
in fifteen minutes ...
on a cart.
You know, like for retarded people w/o taste. JK, I love retarded people, especially if you are retarded and reading this blog. I mean that proverbially. [Is that the right word? Proverbially? I'm retarded.]
Me @ Blue Lake. Yes, that's a chapstick necklace.
I can still hear it in my head.
9. Camp A----us, 1992
Before you go anywhere overnight and voluntarily sacrifice your rights/privileges to their authority,
get a personal reference. Or something.
Don't just go because it looked OK in the pamphlet.
Even overprotective mothers miss some things.
We're happy in this photo, 'cause we're about to go home.
We woulda gone home sooner, but they wouldn't let us call our parents.
All that "camp" stuff? Making friends, forming teams, attending structured activities, kindness, etc.? The promised attempts to forge real or imaginary bonds between campers? Nada. It was like showing up at college mid-semester, sans orientation, and told to fend for yourself. Which's fine, but not when you're 11.
Also, speaking of "nada," we realized quickly that 75% of the campers were Mexican girls who stayed all summer, every summer, simply to be somewhere other than Mexico. Nothing against Mexicans, obvs/obvs!, but I mean ... weird, right? Camp A----- shoulda incorporated it into their advertising, like "Diverse Group of Campers!" or "Spanish-Language training!" or "Camp A---us: Better than Mexico City!"
Anyhow, they wouldn't let us call home, and my BFF's younger sister got sick mid-week and her counselor didn't believe her [she had appendicitis]. It got pretty bad. Like a sicko reality TV show. Rained a lot. I made friends and learned dirty sexy Mexican songs to sing to myself in the shower. JK . Not in the shower: I was afraid of it (group shower) and, literally, didn't shower all week. That's disgusting. Seriously, how the F did I get away with that?
The talent show featured almost exclusively cross-dressing kitchen staff lip syncing Englebert Humperdink and stripping. So weird.
Also, they served mystery meat, fo' rizzle, which I'd read about in Ramona Quimby. Obvs, I got sick.
8. Not Knowing How to Swim Indicates Deep, Unnerving, Ridicule-worthy Pathos
Swimming is the centerpiece of American camping. Apparently, most children not only enjoy a dip in the lake/pool, but look forward to it. Not only can these mini Summer Sanderses lap swim without drowning, many can perform complicated "dives" and "flips." Personally, I preferred my bathing suit for one location and one location only: the group showers.
[At 18, I took swimming lessons @ Sarah Lawrence. Can swim now. Heart my Speedo, totally no longer afraid of beaches or pools. Well: I am. But for different reasons now, like that there're lots of people there, in little-to-no clothing, enjoying activities that boggle me, like "drinking beer and eating potato chips in the daytime," "tanning," "grillin'"and "apparently absolutely nothing."]
But, camp: all afternoon, our little eyes'd sting from the chlorine, and our skin transformed from puckered to throbby white, then back to pita. At Zionist camp, the bottom of the pool was rough, like sandpaper. That's training for the Israeli army, I think.
7. Letter-Writing Skills
6. Fleeing Germans for the Land of Milk and Honey is Very "Exhausting."
That "get to be allowed to" is ruining my life, but I can't edit my own pre-adolescent diary entry. So I'll just let it be, like y'all let my stylistic errors be, all the time.
5. The "Camp Relationship" Mentality
I never had a Camp Boyfriend.
This photo is of one of many reasons why.
4. I am "a carpenter's dream: flat as a board and never been nailed."
This information was bestowed upon me and my Day Camp BFF Alex by a boy I'll call "Douchebag." Douchebag was fat and mean, but apparently'd received a beejer, which gave him self-bestowed Status to label the ripe young maidens of the lower grades. He got grosser and even less dateable in high school [being Day Camp, all kids were locals]. Alex, however, became smokin' hot, but in that effortless super-sweet faux-hippie FACT-beautiful kind of way. I realize in retrospect I probs had a crush on her, but also: so did everybody, I mean, her girl-clique called themselves "The Rainbow Girls." [Hidden message?] She has no memory of this incident, because she's not crazy. Anyhow, what Douchebag's clever line truly meant was: "You'll both have very perky **** later, and 'nailed' implies a violence uncomely to sexual descriptions."
3. Liberal Politics=Liberal Policies
Hippie Day at Hippie Camp.
Every camp I attended and all I'd heard of were strict about keeping the boys away from the girls, lest we all get preggers or acquire SARS. Obvs Zionist camp was an exception to this rule, because we were one big family, like a Kibbutz. Boys and girls tents co-existed side by side, and the boys'd often drop their towels on purpose en route to shower, and my Best Friend the Weirdo'd perform ten-minute orgasms after "bed time" 'til all the campers yelled and his counselor threatened to kill him with various sharp objects. We could have boys in our bed, sleepovers, whatevs, though usually Naomi slept in my bed. She had memorable breasts for a 13-year-old. Hmm. Nothing happened. It was just a small bed.
2. How to do Something, Right? How to Make Lanyards? Swim?
I must've learned some kind of concrete skill. I learned some Hebrew. I made a Dream Catcher once, at Camp Michigania, according to my diary. Michigania's family camp. I went with someone else's family, and they turned out to be even crazier than mine. Diary: Helen's having a hissy fit at Arts & Crafts 'cause the string on her dream catcher is too thick and she can't fit any beads on it. Her Mom got POed at me for the precious 30 minutes I was holding Helen's things hostage, she had my hat, and I ran out of things, and I was in the bathroom so I told her I was holding her Oxy and Deodorant [sic] hostage. Helen's Mom thought it was rude. The game ended.
1. I Am Not Good at Camp
TAL discussed one of the primary strategies of summer camp as a "business": by creating teams, traditions, and complicated systems of rank/seniority/legacies, camps ensure return "customers," a.k.a. campers. I knew that my yearly alienation, as I trekked each summer to a new camp, would never change if I never went anywhere more than once. Day Camp doesn't count, 'cause I was forced to go there.
'Cause as it was, I didn't dig camp so much, though my blind optimism that each year'd bring the boyfriends and memories my friends regaled from their adventures was inspiring. I got homesick fast, then, 'cause I missed my Dad and Kentucky Fried Chicken, which's why I avoided the longer camps, like Interlochen, where I ended up eventually shipping off for year-round school. I wanted the cliquey camaraderie the other girls had, the easy-breezy-beautiful songs and chants and requisite tearful goodbyes. Instead, I mostly just waited for it to be over, like making it to the end was something I needed to prove to myself.
At Blue Lake, the last camp I ever attended, the final night was marked by a four-hour concert dreaded all summer long--a chance to make paper cranes out of programs/enjoy orchestral music--and so my heart skipped all it's beats when, on the night of "The Blue Meanine" or whatevs it was called, on my way to the cafeteria in late summer rain, I spotted my father and brother underneath the awning. Dad was wearing a Bulls hat, I remember ... I actually thought I was hallucinating, which was possible, 'cause I spent more than one day in the infirmary crying about my homesickness at that place, and they kept feeding me Pepto ...
Dad: "Oh! Marie! What a surprise to see you here! We were just passing through ..."
Lewis: [giggle giggle] "Hi Marieeeee!"
Me: [melting, OMG!] "Can you take me off-campus? Now? Before the concert?"
Dad: "Well, we certainly didn't come out here to watch a bunch of amateurs toot their own horns for four hours."
The kids, finally, envied me. I still remember eating the Patty Melt [I don't know if this's a universally consumed heart-attack-on-a-plate or not; it's onions, a hamburger, melted cheese on toast] at Big Boys in Twin Lake. Just like heaven...
I suppose returning to any camp for another year woulda been like that "not joining any clubs that'd have me as a member" thing. Implicit in return was the acknowledgement I'd liked it the first time around, that I had particular expectations and that these expectations were resolutely optimistic, validating that last summer, I musta fit in and made friends.
Funny, then, that I eventually chose year-round "camp" for my last two years of high school [a.k.a. boarding school], though not until many of the causes of my perpetual homesickness were no longer relevant. Like, I think Kentucky Fried Chicken is really gross now.