My good friend Gordon is a rugged outdoorsman, as well he should be. For he looks like a Lithuanian Jim Croce, so it was kind of inevitable that he’d take his coffee on his haunches, watching the sun rise. I on the other hand am a rugged indoorsman. This is no accident. Looking through family scrapbooks, there are no pictures of hardy frontier men with weapons in their hands. Our family crest reads In Tergo Cum Calces — In The Rear With The Gear.
Here’s the rub. Gordon always wants me to go camping with him. It apparently won’t do this Labor Day Weekend for him to pitch a tent all by himself. Gordon means well, but I wish he’d look at things from my perspective. After all, I don’t ask him to sleep over every time I see him at Starbucks. There is no shortage of outdoor activities I am open to doing with him. Hiking, taking a meal or two, maybe even building a late-afternoon campfire.
What do all of these things have in common? They’re done during waking hours. Camping demands more, so while the words Gordon uses are where would you like to camp, the words I hear are where would you like to sleep? And my answer to that, invariably, is indoors.
I suppose I shouldn’t complain. A less forgiving man than Gordon would have nothing to do with me after the label incident. A few weeks back, I found one of those label makers in my garage, the kind your mom marked your stuff with before shipping you off to summer camp. The way I saw it, I had three choices. I could pitch it, I could sell it to some hipster on eBay, or I could buy a bunch of issues of Solider of Fortune and Cat Fancy, label them with Gordon’s name and address and leave them on various pieces of cardio equipment in our gym. I chose option three; Gordon chose a new gym.
But he just won’t take no for an answer. Some guys don’t get that not everything in the universe has an explanation. One friend won’t get on a plane unless the pilot sounds like Charles Napier. Another always talks in stage directions despite having no theatre background. I myself can’t explain why the opening chords to Bennie and the Jets make me want to just pound the nearest person with a shovel.
It doesn’t help that Gordon is not a skilled advocate. Children know that if you’re happy and you know it, you clap your hands. Country musicians have figured out that if you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band. Gordon needs to understand that if you ever want to get me camping, you must account for the grizzlies. Here he fails miserably.
This is the usual thrust and parry. Gordon says let’s camp. I counter with as long as I don’t see bears in my living room, I’ll extend them the same courtesy. He assures me that bears are more scared of me than I am of them. And Gordon knows this how? Besides, I’ve been startled before, at surprise birthday parties and whatnot. To date it’s never caused me to maul anybody to death. So let’s not get hung up on labels: it’s what the bear does in that emotional state that concerns me.
Suddenly Gordon switches fields by saying it’s much ado about nothing since bears are probably still hibernating. Probably? Getting this exactly right is rather important, wouldn’t you say, Gordo? This ain’t horseshoes or hand grenades. And what, you’ve never woken up before your alarm? And how do you feel? Let me rephrase. Do you move toward the smell of frying bacon, or away from it?
I notice Gordon is beaming, like he’s seen certain victory on a chess board before I have. We put the food up at night, so the bears can’t get it. This is officially the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard. First, it proves my point, that bears are a concern. Second, let’s break it down. The bear wakes up, famished. He smells our grub and bounds miles over hill and dale, all on an empty stomach. When he gets to our campsite and sees the food tied up mockingly high in a tree, you think he won’t tear the slumbering parties responsible apart limb-from-limb? What would you do if the shoe were on the other foot, and a box of warm Krispy Kremes hung tantalizingly out of reach?
I guess if Gordon ever wears me down and I camp with him, I can take comfort in one thing. Should we face danger, I don’t have to outrun the bear. I just have to outrun Gordon.