Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Camping for the birds (not me)

Maybe a dermatologist could explain the condition, but the instant my wife says she has an itch to go camping I start getting itchy all over.

You could say I consider her urge rash.

I’ve never been more determined to do my part to save the environment. This is odd because the older I get the less I want to do anything that involves spending time out in it.

During bug-infested summer especially, I’ll take the good indoors over the great outdoors any day. Or night.

Summer is now the meanest season. The heat, the bugs, the explosive storms. It makes even bitter winter seem charming by comparison.

Yet once a summer Val insists we take the girls camping, as if failure to do so is some kind of neglect.

In fact, camping is by most standards very neglectful behavior.

Think about it. We’re taking the girls away from everything they love and exposing them to dangerous wilderness and well-armed rednecks intent on protecting themselves from the toothy varmints that would leave them alone if they just stayed on their porches.

Making the girls spend nights out in the woods is even more cruel than taking them to visit my in-laws.

Sure, they’re monsters, but at least in-laws have refrigerated sodas, indoor plumbing, rooms with doors, hi-def TV, and saintly men and women who’ll bring hot pizza right to their home. To our daughters, those are the very hallmarks of civilization.

It would all make sense if Val hated our daughters, but there’s ample evidence that is not the case. She’s a wonderful mother and the girls really love her.

Me, they sort of tolerate.

I’m good for giggles, but the main reason they put up with my often over-bearing presence is the same reason their mother does.

I get lots of free vacations in glamorous places.

For all my many professional failings, I’ve somehow become one of those writers lucky enough to have carved out a giddy little niche as a travel writer.

That’s how I ended up with an understanding that, when it comes to vacations, my daughters are more like me than their dear Mommy.

This realization was hammered home last summer when the 5-year-old complained that the TV in our accommodations was too tiny.

Oh, she was missing the big picture, all right.

We were shacking up at Far Away Point at St. Michael’s on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I was doing a story about the splendid advantages of renting your own mansion for a week.

Built in 1928, Far Away Point is a secluded estate. The brochures said it sleeps 12, but we could’ve invited Delaware over for a kegger and there’d still be plenty of room for Vermont to crash.

It had a seven-person guest house, a boathouse, a Steinway piano room, an old-fashioned four-flight elevator, 100-acres with a half-mile of shore line on the Miles River, a private beach, and a historic graveyard full of nearly two dozen dead millionaires.

There wasn’t a tent pole in sight.

And it had one crappy little TV. It was about the size of my old Flintstones lunchbox and got very poor reception. That, to some, is a selling point. It’s meant to emphasize a retreat from technological intrusions where families could re-connect with each other instead of things like iCarly.

But my little princesses were appalled.

Their spoiled reaction is why I’ll again succumb to the ordeal of camping one sweltering weekend soon.

I believe my daughters and I will bond over the deprivations of having to endure the mosquitoes, the snakes, the lousy toilets and other inherent miseries associated with camping.

They’ll realize the Mommy they adore is, like the man she married, flawed. It’ll help even the playing field. I’ll remind them of all the snazzy places I’ve taken them and tuck them into their sleeping bags with promises that the next place we stay will have gourmet chocolates on the pillows.

Then I’ll plan to seize the initiative by securing the girls three nights in another mansion someplace splendid. And I promise you this:

This one will have a bigger TV.


Jenny Rush said...

I happen to like camping. :)

Chris Rodell said...

I hate to ever echo Henny Youngman, but "Take my wife, please!"

Thanks, Jenny!