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Crofton, MD, 21114

A long-running personal blog shared by two authors with completely different approaches to life. And a lot of large, beautiful photographs of dogs and nature and places we've traveled to. Rich in commentary and irreverant in style. 

Blog

We started blogging a long time ago. Our work hours never aligned with recommended psychotherapists and we needed to get our thoughts out. We are great friends, total opposites and long-time housemates. This was a way to communicate. With each other. With strangers. With consumer marketers. With sub-par meteorologists. With distant friends who wanted to see pictures of stuff we were up to.

This is the place. Our bucket of thoughts to share. You are welcome. 
(We realize that most of you are here for the dog pictures.)

I camped. And lived.

Healey

Yes. I went camping. Those of you who know me know that the outdoors is not my natural habitat. Nor is it my neutral habitat. I like extremes.

“We are going outside? Fantastic. Okay, what equipment shall we bring? I have ALL SORTS of equipment. I have sleds, snowshoes, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and archery equipment. Plus we will need sunblock, a hat, a bag of some sort, maybe two bags, three water bottles and two phones with GPS and a digital squeaky toy for the dogs. Because of course the dogs are coming. Oh, and I should take the laundry to the dry cleaners, pick up my prescription and then also start a grocery list so we can swing by the market on the way home after the car wash. Where are the leashes? Where is my son? Bryant! We are getting into the carrrrr! We are ready. We’re all going OUTSIDE.”

This is Bryant’s 10 minute warning that I may pass the threshold of the front door.
Because even though I SAY I am ready. I am not.

That is my level of preparation for going somewhere in my neighborhood. IMAGINE my level for being told that I was to sleep outside for two days with nothing but a bunch of strangers and my son. I started preparing last month.

Thankfully a series of Hollywood level weather attacks arrived to post-pone the first night of camping. Thank you Tornado-con and Doppler for your responding to my prayers with such diligence.

So I got out of the first night. But I still had to go. Thankfully my spawn had a 9am Baseball Game (how often do people say THAT?) so we missed the morning bike ride with the Scouts. Hurray! Even though I had bought a bike and a helmet and a bike rack in preparation for the trip... I didn’t really want to bring those things. It just seemed so awkward. Bikes are assholes. They are all hanging all over the place, never staying together with the poking handlebars - and then lord knows, you are going to have to try and get into the boot for something and ... well voila, you find yourself with a broken car after you threw the rack into the road and tried to drive over it, to kill it. And you never get the satisfaction of it being dead because it never appears to fully break. And god help you one of those tour-de-france-wannabe-fuckwits rolls by and gives you the stink eye because you are ‘harming nature’ when they are such bloody gifts to the environment while they balance their anus’s over a welded pipe while wearing spandex and blowing off every road rule they feel like.

“Hey! Make Way! Share the road! We’re CYCLISTS!”
“Hey asshole - you cannot expect me to NOT hate you while you go 15 miles an hour on a 35 mile per hour road - taking up a full lane of traffic on a one lane road - AND THEN BLOW TROUGH THE STOP SIGN cause you feel it suddenly doesn’t APPLY TO YOU. I should kill you as a public service. And I WANT TO.” 
(you know who you are.)

I have had many a dream sequence that involved me getting out of my car. Jamming a branch through the moving spokes of his front tire. Watching him flip over into a gully and then running over his bike and throwing it on top of him, while loudly exclaiming “That stop sign applied to ALL of us that decided to take the one lane road with no shoulder. Find a path you DOLT.”

I digress.

So shorty and I arrived in Harpers Ferry with an entire truckload of supplies. It was beautiful. We walked all around the town and on the paths for over an hour while waiting for his pack to arrive by bikes.
Harpers-Ferry-2012 - 11
Once they were there we commenced with steps towards achieving the Jr. Ranger badges. Attended some historical sites and watched various multimedia extravaganzas related to John Brown.

There were people in period dress. I did not kill any of them.

But I came close once when a woman came out of a building with a bonnet and dress on, crossing the street while pretending to be nonchalant holding a basket with a suspect loaf of bread.

“I know you are a fraud!”

“I’ll bet that bread loaf is PLASTIC, you lunatic.”

"freak."

It was a lot like a yellow tennis ball rolling across a highway in front of a labrador.

I bet she had an android phone in that apron pocket. Psycho bitch.

Moving on - I helped ferry parents back to their bike racked vehicles so we could get the troop sorted. I guess it was always in the plan that they would only ever bike one way. I would not have drafted a plan like this. It is inefficient and depends too much on the kindness of others.

Once we were done with biking and Harpers Ferry we arrived at the campsite. I was relieved to see that everyone had not already set up their spaces and that the Oklahoma Land Rush was just beginning. I had been waiting for this moment for a month. I knew it was CRUCIAL that I find the right spot for my tent. No, I had not really camped before. But I understood WAR. I understood strategy.

I got a visual on the sani-john and tracked gravity’s path away from it. I wanted a spot that was flat. That was not muddy. That was not downhill from sanitation or another camping level. One that was open to the field on three sides, not stuck in a bush with poison ivy. I wanted to benefit from the artificial protection of at least two other tents, if there was wind and/or hungry wildlife. I wanted other campers to be eaten before me. I wanted to steal their overflow lighting.

So I literally lunged out of my vehicle toting a giant tent box and began a footrace with two other fathers for a flat of land in the middle distance. What they didn’t know is that I used to attend the Filene’s Basement Wedding dress event with throngs of vicious, rabid soon-to-be-brides FOR FUN. I had attended the 4th of July celebration on the mall ELEVEN TIMES and not ever gotten stuck in traffic. This was the Hunger Games and I was frickin Katniss Everdean. I had trained for this. I managed to get the best spot and dictate the growth of the tent city around me.

My son offered to help - but he was going to slow me down. I knew that in order for my plan to work I would have to erect my tent quickly. Having never erected a tent... I was... nervous. But I had been giving myself pep-talks for a week about this. It could not be that hard. I had the tent up in 10 minutes after being extracted from the store packaging. I had no idea where this one part went, so I shoved it under the tent.

Once I was done I stood back and regarded my work. Sweating profusely. Where was my son? No idea. But the tent was up. As I stood there sweating with my hands on my hips - my newly arrived neighbors began scratching out their set-up. It was at this point that I met Giovanne. He was 7. He was put on earth to annoy. He looked it, he walked it and oh buddy... did he TALK it.

“Your tent is small. Are you going to sleep in there? Our tent is much bigger. And nicer. What is that? Do you want me to help you put up your tent? It’s really small. My dad has nicer camping stuff than you do. Is this the first time you’ve camped? Can I go in your tent? Are you going to sleep in your clothes? Why didn’t you bring pajamas. Are you dirty? You look dirty. Why are you all sweaty? Don’t you take off your shoes before you go in your tent? We sleep in a clean tent. Why is your tent blue?”

The laser beams of my eyes locked on to the enemy and began deducing how strong his father was by size and where I would put their bodies. I decided that the duffle bag of their HUGE tent would be poetic irony.

Now having the tent out of the way and having gotten proof of life on my own spawn I went to the wooden structure to offer assistance in the preparation of dinner. Mostly out of curiosity regarding what shape dinner might take. I would feel better about eating the foreign meal if I had participated in the production. And I am glad I did. I chopped onions and bell peppers for an hour in mass quantities to contribute to the “American Chop Suey” recipe. It was elbow macaroni with hamburger, tomato sauce, peppers and onions. Actually it wasn't half bad.

After dinner we all collected around a very quaint campfire. This was to be the place that I would see my first “retirement of flags.” It was an interesting and informative program that told us all how one should handle and care for the American flag. I had always wondered what people did to *retire a flag. It was one of those hard things. It falls into the same column as “how to throw out your trash can.”

Okay maybe not exactly the same.

But both are very hard to determine the acceptable retirement point for and the approved way to eliminate. Do you cut up the garbage can and put the pieces into another (newer) garbage can in order to signal the sanitation workers of your intent? Do you cut up a flag to retire it? Cause God help you if my father found a flag in your trash bin. I have spent my whole life trying to keep every flag within arms distance from ever touching the ground as if God himself would kick you in the face for failure. And I’m not trying to be cheeky here - it’s just that there are a few things in life that are not abundantly clear and there is no real Handbook for these things.

So to help you by way of my experiences - to retire an American Flag - according to the Cub Scouts. You can do one of two things to retire a flag. You can cut it strip by stripe and star by star (do not tear it as if it is a bed sheet) OR you can burn the mighty stars and stripes in a dignified ceremony. Not in public and not for any promotional effort.

I guess I agree with that. But who in their right mind would trust me with an open fire to dispose of something? It just seems like something I should try NOT to do alone. I wouldn't trust myself to do this. And there must be a lot of “Me’s” out there because the scout master had like EIGHT flags given to him by ‘fire-wooses’ that he knew from work. And we are not talking small flags here people. One of them was the size of the one’s hanging over the Capitol. It was GIANT. It was "Koons Ford" big. I saw this going very wrong, very quickly with lots of little burning cub scouts scattering this way and that. And screaming. And the smell of burning nylon and hair and flesh permeating the air that was laced with embers alighting to the heavens. Or just the nearby trees.

“This just in: There is an out of control fire threatening to burn down the Historic Lower Town of Harpers Ferry. Police speculate that the origin of the fire was near Maple Tree where 14 Jr. Park Rangers were thought to be settling for the night. One woman escaped the fire and appears to be okay. Three bodies were found in a duffle bag near the fire’s origin.”

Insert dodgy photo of me attempting to evade the media while snacking on super deluxe outdoorsy trail mix. Cranberries, almonds AND Ghirardelli white chocolate chips. I bought them special.

But no. It was actually a nice. It was a thoughtful and slightly moving ceremony where we all got a refresher on the Importance of being an American. Being aware of how to care and handle important symbols. How to avoid being burned while remaining in contact with your flammable artifact. And how to avoid getting a sunburn from your heat-source while acting as if there are no noxious fumes in the area of your nose and mouth. And don’t barf. And oh - yeah, now let’s roast marshmallows over this toxic heap and sandwich the white oozing lava betwixt stale graham cracker and overly warm chocolate bark. Consume. Smile. Repeat.

Nope. Not a napkin in sight.

We were camping.

My child turned to me in the glow of the fire and whispered “can we go to bed now” to me and I sighed as I renewed my dedication of love for him. I wanted to hear nothing else but those words just then. I love that boy.


What I did not love was the the cot. The tent. The insects in the tent. The weird sleeping bag that gave me a 'body wedgie' every time I attempted to extract my vertebrae from its clutches. The kid in the tent across from me. The kid in the tent next to me. The evil sani-john that teetered on the edge of a precipice with it’s sticky door handle and unflushed contents.

And lastly I did not love the foresight of the bright camper that opted to put out the fake bobble head owl AFTER all the little boys went to bed. So that it would elicit a shrill scream from the mouth of each witness not yet prepared to see the wide eyed predator in it’s path. For you.. I have only loathing.

“Mom. wake up. Mom. Mom I went to the bathroom in my bed.”

Eyes still pried shut as if sleeping “Why did you do that when you could have just peed in the bushes? You have the apparatus for that type of emergency liquid evacuation. We have discussed this.”

“Because. Mom.. there is a huge owl outside. The sun is starting to come up and I can see it. It is staring RIGHT AT ME. Mom you have to wake up. We need to call someone.”

I opened my eyes at the thought of technology. I wonder if I have any bars out here? I had been away from civilization for a mere 20 hours and I had already forgotten how to use the tools.

“It’s a fake owl.”

“It is NOT a fake owl. If you would JUST wake up you could SEE it. You have to SEE this. It is a very REAL owl that - LOOK!! it just moved again! You HAVE to get up.”

“Seamus, I saw the owl while I was cooking in the kitchen last night. It was over by all the bins holding the pots and pans. It is a fake owl that has a bobblehead. It is supposed to keep other animals from “invading” or whatever.”

"You cooked dinner? Here? You mean you made food? When did you do that? I don't think you did that mom. Maybe you were dreaming."

Just then another little boy screams from outside the tent at sighting the owl.

“Mom! SEE! It IS real! YOu HAVE to GET up!”

I resigned myself to the fact that this was not going to be over without my body being in the standing position. And that could only happen on the outside of our present tented habitat. There were cub scouts writhing in fear up and down the canopied village.

Lord help us if a firearm was ever entrusted in their care. The loss of life and ammunition would be too great.

So it was not a real owl after all. (mmmhmm)

Why does the child not see the pattern of my answers being true? Why? I am right. If you do not recognize that I have just information to impart on you - WHY do you continually return and ask for my input, only to then QUESTION that answer? Please explain that to me.

We rose - and since I am not a camper and do not know what camping-type people do after completely giving up on sleep ever occurring. I decided that since there was nothing to do - I would take my tent down and pack things up. That took 12 minutes.

Accidentally, I found myself the center of much speculation - being the resident of the spot where a tent HAD been the night before. I appeared very over eager to leave. I withstood about 11 seconds of this scrutiny and disappeared into the newly formed Breakfast Preparation Team(BPT). I elected myself Director of the BPT, as voted on by me. Everyone else that showed up there-after was subordinate to me. In my regard.

I disagreed with the recipe selected for breakfast and made note of that in my disclaimer speech. To which I gave myself while starting preparation of 'said recipe.' The plan was for breakfast burritos - but the method is where I found issue. Campers were to be issued a ziplock bag that they would open and have filled with pre-cartoned egg-white-liquid-product and grated cheese, plus optional salsa, bacon bits and or hot sauce and salt and pepper seasonings. Of course they all added everything.

They then closed the ziplock’s up tight and had their bags of joy dropped into boiling water for 3-5 minutes each. If the bag did not explode - they were then directed to empty the contents onto a flour tortilla and roll it into a burrito shape. These kids were ages 5 to 8 years old. They were all walking around gingerly holding piping hot bags - of what appeared to be vomit - by it’s corners before dropping it’s load all over the plate, the table, their clothing and then screaming at the point where it reached their skin to scald. It was chaos. I completely understand the design of the opaque air-sickness bags now and congratulate the purveyors of such under applauded devices of civility.

I had a banana. And then the bugs arrived for real.

It was a swarm and it took us ALL by surprise. I immediately started overtaking the dish duties from all other campers and urged them to dis-assemble their tents KNOWING that the flag lowering ceremony would not take place if such duties had not yet been performed. They must hurry. Go! Or we will never get out of here alive. I contemplated letting someone slower than myself take on the dish task but knowing that I would have to sit in my vehicle with the A/C on watching the inefficiency unfold, and not be able to leave until it was done - I knew my OCD would cave at the brink of insanity. I became my sister and and over urged everyone away from the kitchen.

“GO! I will DO THE DISHES. I do it better than you and you will just be agonizingly slow and we will DIE as a result. The INSECTS WILL KILL US. I am SAVING YOU FROM YOURSELF. (AGAIN.) GO. Go NOW.”
She does this to us every Thanksgiving. It really wouldn't be a family holiday if she didn’t goad us over it. We’ve come to love it. She is my favorite martyr.

Shannon would have killed all these campers. All these “Nature Lovers”... so unproductive.

She would have killed the old lady with the “I biked all 50 states” t-shirt first. Because of her need to explain the importance of recycling (with full eye contact on both parts) over and over again. Shannon would have slit her throat and pushed her body away from the rinse bucket. I love my sister. I love that she is assertive like chuck-fuckin-norris and shit get’s done around her {every day}. Mmhmm. Recycle that.

Camping finally ended. I returned home in a perfectly quiet car while my son made up for all the iPhone gaming time he missed. We unloaded the car and I took a much needed nap.

Everyone has been asking me today about how the camping trip went. And it went well. It did. I got out of my element. Met other parents. Met really nice people that renewed my awe at how good people really are.

I didn’t kill the Italian kid or the bicycling old lady. The Sani-John never fell over. I only have about 10 bug bites and no ticks at the time of this writing.

And I am again very, very proud and lucky to live in the country that I do. A country that respects it’s own history. Is filled with people who actively participate in it’s Military without complaining and return home to take their son’s and daughters out to cub scouts (or the like) to teach them about nature and friendship and dignity and honor. Instill a rewards system in them that is more than patches and badges, but is about codes and respect and responsibility for oneself.

I just don’t see why we have to sleep outside with the damn bugs.