The Great Outdoors

I’m not the outdoorsy type. I have never in my life been camping. (I have been “to camp,” but it was an arts camp and we had showers and indoor toilets. Bare minimum requirements, please and thank you.) I say this only because I have some friends who do go camping, and they always try to sell me on how great it is, and how I simply must try it. They go on and on about something called “The Great Outdoors,” and how you get to be outside, you know, in nature and stuff (like this is a selling point for me). They go almost glassy-eyed describing the scenery, their tent, and the hikes, good Lord, the hikes. (Have they met me?) I was almost afraid they had joined a cult during the trip and were now recruiting others to wander about, communing with the chipmunks, deer and meerkats (or whatever it is that lives in the woods. My knowledge of woodland creatures is limited to Disney movies). I just nodded a lot, and said “uh hmm” at moments I deemed absolutely necessary. It was a vivid picture – they pitched a tent, they slept in bags, they ate beans in a can, and it was glorious, apparently.

They also had to go to the bathroom outside, but they curiously left that part out of the description. They probably knew it wouldn’t be a big selling point for me. Bears may shit in the woods, but quite frankly, Jews don’t.

My whole aversion to this activity may stem from the fact that I do not come from a camping family. We’re not outdoorsy. At all. Years ago I asked my mother why we didn’t go on family camping tips, much like Mike and Carol Brady did with their family.

“First of all,” Mom said, “You have to sleep on the ground. ON THE GROUND. With the bugs.”

I could tell Mom had thought about this a lot. I’m guessing she saw the camping episode of The Brady Bunch, too, and figured she better have a response ready.

”Also, you can’t make a reservation for dinner in the woods. You have to build a fire and open a can. What if you forgot the can opener? What then? You know, if you try to make a dinner reservation in the woods, you know who shows up? Bears. BEARS. Do you want to try to split your Chicken Almond Ding with a bear? They’ll take it all, plus your egg roll. You can’t reason with a bear.”

I’m also guessing bears don’t respond well to guilt, so my Mom asking the bear if this is really what he wants to do with his life, and when the last time he called his mother was, would have little to no effect. Although, you never know. Maybe the bear hasn’t called his mother in a while, because she’s just so disappointed he didn’t go into the family business and instead decided to follow Jimmy Buffet around the country – in which case my mother would have had the bear weeping against a tree stump. She was that good.

This bear just got off the phone with his mother.

I asked my Dad if he had ever been camping.

“No,” he said. “But I did have to sleep on the porch a few times during the summer when I was a kid. We didn’t have air conditioning.”

“Would you ever want to go camping with us?”

“With you, your brother and your mother? No. I mean, just…no. I’m not sure the woods could handle the level of…what’s the word? Kvetching.”

My gentile father resorted to Yiddish. I knew he was serious.

“Do you want to go camping?” he asked.

“No, not really. It just seems like…something families do.”

“Look, some families camp, some go fishing, some sing barbershop. It’s not for us.”

In all honesty, I never brought it up again. I roasted a few marshmallows over the stove burner, and watched Little House on the Prairie. That was about my level of rustic.

These people will all kill each other by morning. The guy with the guitar will get it first.

My friend Sophie likes to go rock climbing. This I really don’t understand. There’s a rock, go climb it. Big whoop. Is the weather bad? No problem! Here’s an indoor fake rock you can climb! I once asked her why she liked it, since she’s generally a person who appreciates creature comforts.

“It’s a challenge,” she said.

“Menopause is a challenge,” I replied. “You don’t see me being too anxious to tackle that.”

“You do it because it’s there. It gives you a sense of accomplishment.”

“So does eating an entire cheesecake,” I said. “And nobody has to harness you to a wall to do it.”

Sophie was not deterred.

“You get to go shopping. You have to buy special shoes.”

“Nobody told me there was shopping involved. That changes everything,” I said. “What are we talking about here? Something in a suede t-strap, perhaps?”

She told me that they tightly strap you into the harness, which then gets hooked to the rope. A guy stands at the bottom, holding the other end of the rope while you scale the rock wall. Then she leans in, as if to tell me a great secret.

“You really want to have someone you know very well hold the rope.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, the harness loops around your thighs, and let’s just say…it does not do nice things to your ass.”

“Oh, good Lord.”

“And,” she continued, “You really don’t want a total stranger seeing that.”

“So this guy holding the rope…” I said.

“The belayer.” she corrected.

“Yeah, the belayer. Is that his whole job? Holding the rope while people climb plastic walls?”

“Yes,” she said.

“His mother must be so proud.”


So I’m not going to be trying rock climbing in the near future. I know people do these things for an adrenaline rush. That’s fine; it’s just not for me. Take bungee jumping, for example. People say they bungee jump for the rush of excitement and adrenaline, but personally, I think it’s just an excuse to urinate on yourself in the name of sport. There’s also hunting. Some people hunt to feed their families, and that’s one thing, but others do it for the “thrill” of the hunt. Let me see – a guy goes out into the woods, armed to the teeth. As far as I’m concerned, unless when he approaches the deer it’s sitting in an overstuffed chair, stroking a white cat and saying, “I’ve been expecting you, Mr. Bond,” it’s not really a fair fight, is it?

There are things I would like to try someday that involve going outside. I would like to run a 5K. (This will be a challenge, as it, you know, involves running, but it’s on my list.) I would like to go bike riding again. (I don’t currently own a bike, but I’ll work around it.) And I would perhaps like to – gasp! – hike around the highlands of Scotland. But I guarantee you that at the end of doing any of those activities, I will return to a clean, quiet room with nice sheets, a private bathroom, and an ample supply of Cheerios. Believe me, everyone in the near vicinity will be better off. There will be no tents, guilt-ridden bears or cans of beans anywhere.

And if I want a boost of adrenaline, I’ll hit the 70% off sale at Filene’s Basement. Now that’s survival of the fittest.

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