Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Camping and Parenting

Over the weekend, Sal and I went camping for the first time in 8 years.

The last camp trip we went on, we left before night fall because it was a 4 hour float trip where 9 of the 10 couples on the trip, were broken up by the end of the 4 hours. Sal and I were the 1 couple together and we decided to get out of the poisonous environment and sleep in our own beds.

We left the tent with friends of ours (who drank way too much and we later found out were on drugs). They returned the tent where it sat on various shelves of ours over the past 8 years.

Last week I pulled the tent out only to find that our friends never put the poles back in there.

Should've definitely checked that years ago. I think the "statute of limitations" on shaking them down for a new tent was over at least 7 years ago.

We bought a new tent and were the Swiss army knives of survival. We had a dry kit with toilet paper, matches, an LED latern, paper towels, allergy medicine, itch cream, bug spray, 3 different sun screens, etc. We had the easy snacks and hot dogs ready to go. We were ready.

We went to a place in Steeleville Missouri called Brown's Canoe Rental. We were greeted by a rough shack and folding table where we checked in and were shown the beach where we could pitch our tents.

It was a pretty cool spot. There was a harder ground only 50 feet from the river's edge where the tents went. So within 15 minutes, we had our tent up, tables up, chair in water, and beers in hand.  The weather was perfect, sunny, low 90s, plenty of shade. Really, the ideal setup.

Some of our friends came with their kids, and this is where I really loved camping. I got to be the "father" figure to keep them entertained.

Archie is almost 1. We put him in the water in this chair thing and that dude was loving life. He kept taking my hat off, pouring the water on his head, laughing, just being a real dude.

Then I got to teach the two girls how to skip rocks. I blew them away when I skipped 5 times and made it across the river. They kept practicing and kept asking if they were doing it right. Eventually, Clementine nailed a 4 skipper.

There was a bridge that was about six feet off the water. At one point the girls asked if I was going to jump off the bridge with them. No hesitation, hell yeah, I'm going to jump off the bridge. We spent roughly an hour jumping from the bridge, floating underneath it, and climbing up the other side.

And then came the discussion of the Snipe Hunt. I brought it up, remembering going to the woods and turning out all of our lights when I was a kid.

Soon the adults had swapped stories of what a Snipe was. I discussed the opossum / raccoon hybrid while others spoke of a peasant like creature.

We talked about various capturing techniques.

I brought up the freezing them with beams of flashlights. Another spoke of chirping, "Snipe" while dragging a plastic bag across the ground.

I decided to go against the more intense "scary" Snipe hunts I remember and told of a shy, but cuddly animal, much like a Leprechaun. If able to catch one and pet it, good luck would follow.

I told them that I and another master Snipe hunter would lead the charge and that they would have to take the pledge to protect the Snipe and to only divulge the secrets to people they trusted.

The kids were amped up, ready to go on a Snipe hunt. Unfortunately, one of the dad's there was being a butthole all day and didn't want the Snipe hunt to happen. He killed it before it started.

But not all was bad. Smores came out and the girls made me some incredible smores. Like I really don't know how they got everything perfectly melted. Most of my smores involved burnt marshmallows and cold, unmelted chocolate.

Sal and I went to bed around 10:30.

Some of the other people decided it was time to share a box of wine. So while Sal and I attempted desperately to sleep, we got to hear really intelligent debates about gun control, obesity, how to off a lantern with literally one knob on it. We got to hear a couple argue over a flashlight that wasn't working, got thrown into the woods, and then they realized it wasn't theirs.

According to my Fitbit, I had one nap of 40 minutes and another for 120 minutes. Around 5 am, I got up to use the restroom. I heard the lightning and thunder rolling over the hills. I decided trying to sleep wasn't worth it and started packing up some of our stuff.

Soon Sal came out of the tent with the same intentions. We picked up all of our stuff, took a bunch of trash to the dumpster and were out of the campsite by 5:45. The storm hit right as we got on the highway. Our friends got a bit wet, we however, got home by 8 am and were able to sleep in our own bed for a few hours.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Technology Is Ruining the Human Experience

We went to this ultimate 90's concert last night. Everclear, Toadies, Fuel, and American Hi-Fi were playing an outside venue called the Bootleg and there was a really great Green Day cover band playing inside between the bands.

I was stoked. I had a really good sandwich. I had a couple delicious craft beers. The weather was perfect for an outside show. I was into it.

And then during Fuel's set, we all felt a breeze above us and heard this buzzing noise. The singer's eyes went above us, then everyone started turning around one by one, and there, about 30 feet above us, was a drone filming the crowd and show.

For the next few minutes, people kept turning around and taking pictures, and the singer kept looking toward the sky with disdain.

Fuel was done, our drone friend left, and you could see it flying a hundred feet above the Grove, but it was no longer in venue.

Now this was a great show. The venue was able to break down and then set up each band in about 12 minutes with that awesome Green Day cover band keeping us entertained between sets.

Then the Toadies came on stage. They were the band I was really there for, and they were killing it. And my ears were ringing. And I was having fun.

And then our drone buddy came back. And there was this terrible Big Brother feeling.

And then the phones came back out. It was so bad at one point the singer acknowledged it when he dedicated Possum Kingdom to the girl that muscled her way up front just to turn around and look at her cell phone and talk to her friend.

And the worst part of this show was when a guy we met at the show tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Mr. Story, you're a tall guy to stand behind. Mind if I get in front of you."

I let him in front of me and immediately he held his phone up in front of my view so he could record crappy audio synced up with under lit video.

This continued throughout. Drone, phones, drone, phones, drone, phones. We ended up leaving 35 minutes early because I was steaming and not having fun anymore.

Can we just have a raw human experience anymore? This was a rock show. Something to come together and sing along. A place to get frustrations of daily life out. Instead, everyone is so worried about Instragraming their terrible concert footage in the constant pursuit of likes.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Little Man

My favorite columnist at The Post Dispatch, Bill McClellan, is semi-retiring. There's a great write-up in the Riverfront Times explaining several months of drama and questionable financial decisions within Lee Enterprises, but the gist of it is Lee Enterprises bought Pulitzer when they didn't have enough money to cover the debt. Ever since, quarterly layoffs continue to happen at Lee's papers while somehow the board members still get bonuses. Bill McClellan, always one to defend the little man, took a buy-out to save some of his younger peers' jobs.

This is severely reminiscent of when Sallie was laid of from a McClatchy paper years ago.

I've always stuck up for "the little man." I don't really know when it started. 

It's possible the comic book heroes of my youth put this "hero" complex in my mind. I think that's why I was so drawn to the Punisher. 

It might have been when I transferred to a new middle school and the first people to take me in were the "nerds." And when I gained popularity, I saw how often they were picked on. 

Anytime I found myself in a situation where I might fight someone in high-school, it was rarely defending myself, usually defending others. 

I filled out one of those surveys to find out which political candidate matches my beliefs most ( and found that Hilary Clinton and Bernie Sanders were my top two matches. I was sort of hoping with an election that had roughly 20 people running, I would match up with someone besides the top Democrats, but here I am. 

As I was falling asleep last night, both of these topics on my mind, it occurred to me the reason why I typically tend to side just slightly with the "left wing."

You see, the way I look at politics is a sort of Venn diagram. On one side is economic issues, the other social, and in the middle is religious. Most people put a little more importance on one side or the other with religious beliefs informing either side, but all three are intertwined. 

Social issues tend to be my focus. 

And it's weird, my thoughts are very Conservative when it comes to personal liberties. I don't feel like you should tell anyone how they can live their life as long as it's not hurting anyone else. That's why I support both gay marriage and gun rights.

At the same time, I think there should be federally regulated systems to help people that need it. No one should be on the street or hungry. I support socialized healthcare and some form of welfare (although the system is broken in it's current state) and I would pay more taxes to make sure it was funded. 

And if I'm willing to pay more taxes, I certainly believe the rich and companies should have to pay more taxes.

Most states are currently in more and more debt. The government is racking up a huge deficit. Throwing more money at the problem won't solve it, that would require a complete audit of every bill and spending line at both the state and federal level, but it could help. 

It's dizzying. Neither of the major parties have an identity that makes sense anymore. In their constant effort to please a voting base, all candidates start sounding like parodies of themselves. If you gave me a character sheet and told me if they were Republican, Democratic, Green, or Libertarian, I could fill in the rest of the bubbles with 90% accuracy.

Basically the gist of this is, thank you Bill McClellan, I like sticking up for the small guy, I'm not ready for another election year, and somehow in my sleepy mind, I tied those together.