Jews Don’t Camp
©2010 Daniel A. Brown
There comes a time in every relationship where both parties feel comfortable enough to suggest summer vacation plans with each other. This might range in sophistication from spending a month in some timeless rented villa in Tuscany to a delightful weekend at a cinderblock motel at Old Orchard Beach in Maine, complete with vibrating bed and ancient TV set bolted to the wall.
When Lisa and I arrived at this juncture, her immediate response was “Let’s go camping”. This apparently was her family’s mode of recreation during her childhood years and a pleasure she wanted to share with me, her new mate.
I was shocked even at the thought. “Camping?” Impossible! Jews don’t camp!”
Now it was time for Lisa to register surprise. “What do you mean, ‘Jews don’t camp??’”
”I’m serious. There are three things we Jews don’t do. We don’t eat pork. We don’t celebrate Christmas and we don’t camp”
“What are you talking about??? YOU LOVE PORK! You eat more pork than I do and you’ve been celebrating Christmas for the past thirty years!”
“That’s different. The bottom line is Jews don’t camp, period. End of discussion.”
Two weekends later found us packing the car for a weekend at Tully Lake. Anyone who tells you that camping is an exercise in simplicity is a fool. In reality, we loaded enough equipment into my Subaru to invade Russia with. Fortunately, we were going “Car Camping” which allows you to toss all your gear directly from the car onto the campsite as opposed to “Backpacking” whereby you have to schlep everything over a mountain or two on your back. Envision being in the Army without getting shot at.
In order to create a typical American campsite, one needs to bring the following items. Tent, bedding, inflatable mattress, groundsheet, extra blankets, extra plastic, folding grille, frying pans, saucepans, cook stove, cooking pots, coffee pot (the only real necessity besides the tent), plates and cups (both made from tin so you can pretend that you are roughing it in the 1940’s), flannel shirts (ditto), assorting cooking utensils, cleaning tubs, biodegradable dish soap, bug dope, extra rope and tarpaulin, raincoats, folding camp chairs, matches, flashlights, Coleman lamp, extra propane cans, first aid kit, five-gallon plastic water jug and several insulated coolers for the food. Plus a mallet for both pounding in tent stakes and bopping any curious bears over the head when they come at night to investigate the food supply.
Being a professional organizer, Lisa has a checklist that is two pages long and contains twice the items mentioned above. She told me, however, that this sacred list was inherited from her father who inherited it from his, no doubt going back through the generations to some Viking who needed it to pack his longboat en route to sacking Ireland.
After spending half the weekend setting up this mishagas, one is allowed to do what one originally came to do; namely relax and become one with nature. Which for us, consisted of sitting by the fire, reading our books and drinking endless cups of coffee by day and wine by night. Other fun activities involved scrounging enough firewood out of the forest to start our own biomass plant with and going for the mandatory hike around the lake, which can be one big, sloshy mess depending on the conditions.
After two days of this, Lisa turned to me, beaming from ear to ear to ask, “See! Isn’t this fun!?”
“Jews don’t camp,” I muttered in response. In fact, I was having a blast but one cannot admit that so early in a relationship. But camping, to my surprise, was fun, especially for a closet pyromaniac like myself, who spent most of the time gleefully burning things. Not to mention that Lisa was an excellent chef who provided fare beyond the anticipated powdered eggs and dehydrated vegetable matter.
Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a primal reason why Jews don’t camp.
It hit me at 2am on our final night, the revelation coming so strong that I couldn’t resist shaking Lisa awake to share the wonderful news with her.
“LISA, LISA, WAKE UP! I just realized why Jews don’t camp!
“WHO CARES! It’s the middle of the freakin’ night…! (unintelligible mumbling as she rolls over and pulls the pillow over her head.)
Hmmmmph, I thought to myself. So much for the planned mixed marriage. A Jewish mate would have responded far more enthusiastically.
Still, I could not contain my joy, exclaiming, “Think about it! Huddling deep in the forest at night. Bringing only what you can carry. Eating nothing but simple foods. Whispering softly to each other around a campfire. Being forced to sleep in your clothes. Camping? We Jews know it by a different name.
We call it ‘Fleeing!’”