February 27, 2008

Old friends are new again

Betsy, Robin, Helen, Andrea, Neil, Fawn, Rich, Michael...Hill, Village, Row, Line, Lazy Day, Good, Good, Yes, Good, and Fine, Fine Super Fine. No, Dear Reader, I haven't lost my mind. I know these names and places and sayings don't mean anything to you and for a long time they meant nothing to me. Actually, that's not true. They've always meant something to me because things that happened in life would trigger memories of them or of the times we spent together. Certain smells would evoke memories of meals together or songs would trigger memories of dances and air guitar. FreeBird always reminds me of air guitar. Always. When I see a clock and it reads 6:11, the first thing I think of is "Hey, Pinemere, what time is it?". These are things from my past that have recently become part of my present.

These people and places and sayings are from my days at Pinemere Camp. I loved Pinemere so much I used to dream about going there in the winter. I promise you, Dear Reader, that when I woke up in my own bed in my own room intead of my bunk at Pinemere, I was heartbroken. Pinemere is one of those places that lets a kid be a kid. You play and learn and swim in a lake (Thank G-d for the pool!) and write letters to your family, and get a candy bar from canteen. Let me tell you, there was nothing in the world better than candy from canteen. I'd stay at Pinemere for 4 weeks in the summer and to this day, it's been the fastest 4 weeks of my life. I think of Pinemere often and always wondered what become of the people and place I cared for. And now I know.

I got an email a few weeks ago and the first line said, "Is this BG?"...now one thing you have to know, Dear Reader, is that no one except my family and old friends call me this anymore. I am, as you know, Howard. Grown up, going gray, laugh lined Howard. Anyway...I read the email several times to make sure it wasn't spam and then realized it was inviting me back...back to Pinemere. There is a social network that's been created for us campers, both old and new. For the first two or three days I did nothing but surf the site looking for people, talking to people, dusting off memories, and reliving old times. I dug out my box of pictures and found my camp photos from when I was 11 in 1976 to when I was 14 in 1980. I found the old postcards I used to write...1976, "Camp is fun. I am fine. I got a rubber ball from canteen. Love, BG". 1980, "It is hot as hell here. I think I am going to melt. Love, BG". I've spent hours on the phone with old friends reliving old memories, but also making new ones. I cannot express to you, Dear Reader, how much fun this is...and how much I've missed Pinemere.

My tenure at Pinemere ended badly. I quit being a counselor 2 weeks before the end of the 1984 season. I was 18, about to move 1200+ miles to a state where I knew no one, and hating what I was doing. I honestly regret it to this day. Well, maybe now I can start some new memories to overwrite this bad one. If things go according to plan, I'm going to try and make it to camp this summer for a visit. I know it's changed and there are more programs and more things to do, but for me, Pinemere will be just like I remembered it. Just like I dreamed about.

Thanks, Robin, for the invite.

Trip Report

For some stupid reason, our Senior Management has decided that a trip report must be written and submitted once you return from any company related travel. To the best of my knowledge, my department is the only one required to do this. It reminds me of having to type up my notes from class at the end of the year and submitting them for a grade. Being who I am, you will find Day 1 of my trip report below.

Day 1

The day had finally come. It was a long, difficult journey, but in the end I’d made it. It was time for Training, that mythical word in the computer tech’s lexicon that can mean anything from a boring, crappy lunch to lobster on the company’s dime. For me, that word meant only one thing; Vacation.

The drive to Birmingham was like my last girlfriend, straight as an arrow and flat as a board. The GPS committed suicide halfway there because it had nothing to say except “maintain present road”. The sexy, mechanical voice groaned like a hippo raising itself out of its feces-infested lagoon, and then shrieked like the Big Gay Mule at a pole-sitting contest before frying its internal circuits. It was then I knew the day was going to get worse.

The hotel they booked me into was like a submarine on the last few days of its cruise, long, hard, and full of seamen. Well, not seamen in the nautical sense, but you get the picture. The area I’m in is like the urban sprawl that’s affected this country since the end of the Cold War. Miles and miles of chain restaurants, Office Depots, Best Buys, and Mrs. Wong’s Nookie Parlor and Noodle Emporium. And I don’t mean noodle in the nautical sense, but you get the picture.

I checked in and gave them my hotel perks card. It’s not exactly my card, but I pretend it is and the desk clerk follows my lead. She gives me a look that says she’d like to see my submarine make an unscheduled stop in her harbor, but since I can smell the tuna canning boat at anchor just off her coast, I decided to pass. As repayment, Miss Chicken of the Sea gives me an “upgrade” to a nice, quiet, corner room right next to the ice maker, elevator, and local immigration office, or what the hotel likes to call “Housekeeping”. The last time I saw this many Mexicans in one place was at a refried bean eating contest outside the local Taco Bell. Some folks are against having illegals in the country but I say bring ‘em on! If they want nothing more than to clean my toilet and pick the pubes out of the shower drain, then I say “More power to you, Amigo”.

After unpacking and taking an incredibly satisfying dump, I headed on down to Che Paul’s, the restaurant in the hotel offering “fine cuisine”. The waiter in this place flamed so badly that I had to order my steak extra rare just to make sure he wouldn’t burn it before bringing it to the table. This particular piece of meat had more whip marks on it than the Big Gay Mule after an all-night Noodle party at Mrs. Wong’s. When he offered me his frozen banana for dessert, I knew it was time to blow that joint. No pun intended.

Heading back to my room, I was hoping to find that blonde-haired, blue-eyed nympho that I knew was waiting for me just around the corner. Tonight was my lucky night. There she was alright, displaying the charms that Mother Nature gave her and Dr. Johnson had enhanced. As I brought this honey to bed, my last thought was, “Damn, I hope I remembered to charge my laptop battery”. It was going to be a long night.

February 12, 2008

Cancun, baby!

Starting May 30th, I will be relaxing here.

We started this adventure with Marbella, Spain, which is southwest of Malaga on the Mediterranean Sea, but tickets were a tad expensive. From there, we went to Jamaica, then Grand Bahamas, then somewhere else. My brother and I spent 4 hours on the phone looking for places. I finally told them to just pick a place. Would you believe it's easier for me to get to Spain than Jamaica?

My bro called the next day and said they'd gotten a great deal in Cancun through Costco, so we're on our way come May. Looking forward to it since I've never been to Mexico. Plus, I have a great time with the family...and I have my own room, too. :)