Friday, August 1, 2008

I'm not dead...yet (Part 3)

During our last installment the merry band of campers moved to a new area and I found out that the guy leading the whole trip was high on a regular basis…literally.

With a night under our belts, we woke on Saturday with the hopes of a better day. Amy made great breakfast burritos for the whole camp and the kids frolicked around, checking out the trails and various other camp like activities. They found sticks, logs, and moss to use for the campfire during the day and late into the night.

The way that the camps ended up playing out is like this:

Because of the animosity that was being felt toward Mel, Nicholas, Felicia, Joseph and Kristy got their own campsite. It was the best way to keep the fights down to a minimum.

If you’re actually reading this little story then you know that means we had: Dee, Doo, K, S, Tanner AND Mel.

Again, not pleased. (Are you noticing a trend? Cause I sure as hell am)

This meant that we literally were babysitting the entire time we were there. I don’t mind kids, you guys know this, I LOVE kids. Dee and Doo are freaking EXCELLENT boys and I love having them around. Yet we also have two other kids about the same age, a gentleman that’s touched and one that’s out of his gourd, this does not translate into fun for me. I spent most of my time in Nick’s campsite just to keep my sanity. Which I’m sure raised some hackles on Amy’s end but honestly, I could give a care at the point I was at.

Remember Larry? Yea, he showed up again. He comes biking down the trail, he remembers my name (never a good sign) and asks me if anyone had lost some hunting knives. As a matter of fact, as had. Dee and K had gone exploring down the creek and somewhere along the lines the boys had put down the knives, walked away and forgotten where they put them. There was finger pointing on both sides as to which thought had left it. They hadn’t found them and we considered them lost, now here was Larry with them in hand because a hiker had spotted them and brought them back. Talk about cool.

We had divided up meal chores for everyone and Saturday night was our night for dinner. Amy made potato soup, which I’m sure was good but I didn’t eat because I was at Nick’s camp site enjoying dinner with them, Felicia had cooked and DAMN that was great food.

While walking from one campsite to another (which was maybe 30 feet) I saw the boys playing with ‘walking sticks’, just random sticks they had found on the trail and felt they could work with. Boys are smart but when it comes to knives, they lose their minds. Now these are thick sticks, and I find Dee and K using them like light sabers on each other and the father instinct in me starts screaming that if they swing too hard and aim wrong, fingers will get broken, hospital trips will have to be made and the camping trip in general will be a total wash.

“Guys, Please stop swinging those sticks cause if I hear one ‘ow’ I’m just going to tell you to put them up and you won’t get them the rest of the day.”

What do you think the first thing I hear is?

Right, OW!

So the sticks get put away and there’s some mumbling but it happens. I’m sitting with Nicky and Felicia and we’re laughing about whatever’s being said between us when we start hearing this screaming.


Nicky and I exchange a look; the sound was coming from the communal bathroom in the campgrounds. Nicky gets up to see what’s going on while I stay behind to just keep things in order with the kids. Amy’s headed up there too.

What do they find? K is leaning up against one of the bathroom doors, Kristy, his mother, is the one that’s screaming bloody murder and the kid’s got a smile on his face the whole time.

Nicky gets K to move and let’s Kristy out while Amy talks to the kid and tells him to just go blow off some steam and when he’s ready to talk he can come back.

While he’s gone we talk to Kristy, explain to her that she can’t let him get away with this behavior and that’s when she shows us the bruises on her upper arms that K has left in the recent past. It’s not a one time occurrence.

Then an hour passes. Kristy begins to get a little frantic. Nicky and I decide we’re going to go on a little adventure to try and find him and then he finds us, in a manner of speaking. We find him where the whole thing started, locked in one of the communal bathrooms.

I’m not usually one to try and get authorities involved in anything, if you can handle it yourself, do so. However I was in a bit of a dilemma. The kid was holding himself up in one of the communal bathrooms which meant that any of the other campers could come right along and complain that there was something wrong. Plus Nicky wanted to hold vigil over the bathroom and I don’t know about you but I think that a grown man just watching bathrooms would raise some kind of alarm.

So where do you think I turned to?

Larry. Again, this poor man was put in our path cause he had so much flippin patience. I go up to his cabin and tell him that one of the boys is having problems with the door. I try to gloss over everything that’s happening for a very specific reason, Larry could get this kid taken away with one phone call and I don’t know how Kristy would react to that.

As we’re going up the hill to the bathroom Nicky sees me and before I can tell him to can it, he starts in.

“Alright bud, the Ranger’s here and he’s going to open the door. You have to learn that you can’t go locking people up and hurting your mom like that, it’s not a man thing to do.”

All eyes on the Shaman. The other shoe dropped and Larry understood there was more going on than I had informed him of.

The hits keep coming.

To be continued.

I'm not dead...yet (part 2)

When we last left our group of intrepid campers they had just been informed that they would have to move their camp site.

Because Mel was so busy arguing his point about how we should still be able to camp there, I took lead position again. I took Nicholas, Felicia and Amy with me, got into my car and drive up to the designated campground. We had two things going for us. First, that it was first come first serve, so that meant we might still have a chance at getting a camping spot even though we had no reservations. The second was that it was early enough Friday that the weekend campers might not have arrived yet. Luck smiled upon us and we were able to find to suitable camp sites right next to each other. This also meant that we would have to take up a collection to pay for the camp rental.

So we pack into the car and start driving back to our original ‘camp site’ when I notice that Mel’s car is creeping up the hill, before I had left I had told the campers to go ahead and start packing up all the little stuff, the foods, clothes and like and then also take down the kitchen that we had made in the creek with all the perishables. With as many people in the camp as there were, this shouldn’t be an issue…

Mel had taken a different approach. Instead of pitching in and helping all the campers break down their stuff, he had just grabbed his own loot, tossed it in his car, grabbed his daughter S and Tanner and split. I angled my car to make him stop and pulled up next to him.

“What’s up?” Me

“Well, seems like the other kids were hungry and instead of breaking stuff down the campers decided to feed them. So nothing was getting done, I grabbed my stuff and left. I’ll meet you at the other camp.” Mel

And off he went.

So basically, for Mel, it had gone from a group campout to a free for all in the matter of twenty minutes. That also meant that his taking his vehicle before everyone was packed meant that we would have less space to work with when breaking down the rest of the camp and trying to move it. I’m frustrated.

I get back to camp and the kids are goofing off instead of helping pack. I’m already at my limit and it’s not going any better. I wrangle the kids and have them start putting stuff together and loading it onto my car and Joseph’s so that we can start taking it to the new site. We’re going to try and keep the tents up and just tie them to the tops of the cars, pray to God that they don’t get ruined.

Then the Ranger comes back. His name is Larry. I say this because he shows up in my life a few times during this little expedition.

Larry comes back to check up on us because Mel left, I’m the leader of the tribe now, it’s just the way that it is. I take responsibility for the misunderstanding about the camping spot and let him know that we’ve already found two sites up top and are just getting stuff ready for the move, with the loss of one of the vehicles it’ll just take us a little longer.

“Well, I’m here to help. How about we strap those tents to the bed of my truck one by one and get you guys where you should be?”

Can you say, Woot!? I knew that you could!

Larry makes three trips for us with our tents, making sure to drive them to the designated camp site that we had already talked about before he leaves with them. In the meantime that leaves Joseph, Nicholas and myself at the original camp site, finishing up and just watching the tents until they get moved. We loaded up Joseph’s car and sent the girls up with the kids to figure out what’s what.

This is when I get a new nugget of information that I wish I had known a lot sooner.

Mel suffers from several different aliments. I didn’t get a list and I didn’t ask honestly. I DID learn that the gentleman had on a patch. The patch carried a morphine dosage of 250mg. It seems that he has it on all the time and it impairs his vision and alertness, this would explain the weaving in the road. This would also explain why he had no clue as to what he was doing and somehow he had managed to lead this little group of wayward travelers. Again, not amused.

So as you can see, this is coming to a boil and it’s only the first day.

Now, you all know this is my SECOND camping trip. The reason I’m even GOING is because of Amy. So let me give some background.

I’ve been hanging out with Amy for the better part of a month. She’s a pretty cool chick. She’s in AA, has been for 10 years. Active in the social work part of the whole bit, a bunch of sponsees, club activities, blah blah blah. She’s very smart and a great cook. Like I said, a pretty cool chick. Thing about meeting someone new is that you try that person on like a glove. You want to know if you’d mesh in the long run. You want to learn about what they believe of life and love, religion and politics. You want to know if they’ll have a sense of humor early in the morning or if they’ll understand if you just want to sulk after a long day at work.

This camping trip, in a lot of ways, this is the final test. We’re both inquisitive so we’ve spent hours talking about nothing and everything; we’ve spent time learning the little glitches of each other, the happy points of life and the tough points that make us who we are. However, this camping trip, this is no holds barred.

So you can imagine, the fact that there’s so many other people there, really, it’s not something that I was expecting. In fact I wasn’t keen on the idea of taking anyone else but her service work took precedent, so I caved.

I don’t mind telling you that I’ve, at this point in the story, already dropped two hundred dollars on the trip. Between food, propane and gas for the car. The collection that we took up for the food and stuff for the camping trip somehow netted us a whole 20 dollars…I had to flip the rest… for the whole group. When the whole, we need to pay and additional cost for the camp sites issue came up, everyone cried they were broke…. Okay, so I take on the cost. Now we’re at 250.

This is only F R I D A Y.

The rest of the night went without issue. Already I’ve got a storm cloud over my head. I’m not a stingy man by any means of the word but I’m starting to feel a bit taken advantage of. Still, I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt. After all, tomorrow’s Saturday, it’s a new day and absolutely anything is possible!

Man, I know how to put my foot in my mouth….

To be continued.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm not dead...yet (Part 1)

Well, last week I left you with a bit of a cliffhanger by telling you I was going camping and that I would fill you in this week on what happened. According to my calendar it’s Thursday, which means I’ve kept you waiting four days longer than expected.

As with any story, there’s a cast of characters:

Amy – she made her first appearance on this blog not long ago and it was at her
behest that we went camping. We’ve been seeing each other, there are no labels to anything, just seeing what’s what.

Dee and Doo – (not real names, natch) Amy’s step kids. Really her ex-husband’s kids but somehow she managed to be able to get joint custody…don’t ask. One’s 12 (Dee) and one’s 9 (Doo). Full of life and questions, they are awesome kids.

Joseph – Think old school Chicago gangster. Only speaks when he has something important to say, other than that he just observes. Great guy, probably mid-50s. I enjoy this man’s conversations greatly.

Nicholas and Felicia – Nicky is Joseph’s best friend, he’s about my age. He’s a great guy with an AWESOME sense of humor, like me. His girlfriend’s name is Felicia, she’s 11 years his senior but also has a great attitude. When we first met it was like finding a lost sister. We rib and harass each other constantly in a very good natured way.

Tanner – about 27, seems like a nice guy. He’s touched so it takes some patience and time to deal with him.

Mel – ‘leader’ of the camp out (I use that term loosely). Had the ‘inside scoop’ on a camp ground where we wouldn’t have to pay.

S – Mel’s daughter, about 10.

Kristy – Lady friend that Joseph brought with him. She acts VERY young for her age. I put her at her mid 20s when I met her, later on during the trip I found out she was in her mid 30s.

K – Kristy’s son…he’s 12…

As you can see from the cast this went from a simple camping trip to a complex one in no time flat. When this camping trip was originally planned, it was going to be four of us. The kids, Amy and I. Then it grew and grew and we got stuck with what we had.

We had asked for Mel to meet us at her place early in the morning. We still had some stuff that wouldn’t fit in my car and wanted to use his extra van space to handle it all properly. He showed up an hour late. We managed to get all of the gear into his van that we needed to and we were off. This is where things, things really went wrong really fast.

The campsite that we were going to was one that only Mel knew about. So we were forced to follow him over there. The downfall of that was that the gentleman was driving for himself and not thinking about the other two cars following him. So if he was in a turn lane where the three cars were waiting in line and he got a yellow, he wouldn’t stop and wait, he’d take the yellow and leave us behind waiting for the light change again. Most people at this point would pull over and wait for the rest of their party, he would just keep going.

Majority of the drive before we hit the rural area was playing chase and tag. He got on the express way and we’d have to wait for the light. We’d call to see how far ahead they were and they would be six exits up, ask them to slow down. Call again, not seeing them, and instead of being a steady six exits up, they were 8 exits up. My little Saturn was cruising at 80 MPH and still couldn’t catch up to the guy. We were upset.

Finally managed to get him to stop, talked to him about keeping us in sight, remembering we were following him. It happened again.

We hit the rural area, about 45 minutes into the trip. This is when I notice something new. Since I’m the lead car behind Mel I’m seeing first hand just how BAD his driving is. Now I don’t mean tail gating, I can understand it if not condone it. No, I mean this guy was all over the road LITERALLY. We’re in the right hand lane and he’s pitching to and fro from the medium to the left lane. I don’t mean a little bit either, I mean he almost ate the guard rail a couple of times.

We had split up the kids, the older boys Dee and K, were with us in my car. S and Doo were in Mel’s car. Watching him weaving in and out of traffic was a big issue. Here comes Joseph. He’s been driving behind me this whole time, no worries in the world, just watching out ass when he goes from 80 to about 95 to pass me. (2 lane blacktop) Mel’s driving has freaked out Joseph enough that he makes him pull over and takes Doo out of the van and puts him in his car. Yea, it was that bad.

After about 2 ½ hours of driving we finally find the spot that he’s looking for and I will admit that it’s indeed a nice spot, to be sure. Do a little hill, next to a creek, huge trees giving a canopy, it’s great. This is when I kinda start taking charge. I instruct everyone to get their tents out only at first. We need to set up the tents so we can put things where they belong once we’re ready.

It takes us about two hours to set up camp. In that two hours we put up tents, bring down supplies, put together a little ‘cooler’ in the river, and make fires. I feel like we accomplished a lot and I’m burnt out. So I decide to take a nap.
Forty five minutes later Doo is at my tent door telling me that there’s a Ranger wanting to talk to me.

Seems that this sight that Mel had been so used to using for years and years had been sold as private property five years ago…he’s been to that camp site, six years ago. So we had two hours to pack our crap and go up the trail about 2 miles to designated camp sites and pay the 10 dollars a night it would take for us to stay there.

The fun’s just starting…

To be continued…


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