Six of us went upstate for the weekend of the Fourth to hit a party in Woodstock and then go camping. These things always start out so neat and civilized and end with us as animals who have to reintegrate into society with its ways of say, not lying around in the dirt and belching in front of most folks, etc.
We set up camp creekside in the tent-city on the property of our awesome host, who with his converted goat-barn home has pretty much the best setup ever.
Behold: The VIP Tent! (NKA: No Kids Allowed)
When darkness fell, it was time for the annual let's-hope-nobody-loses-an-eye amazing fireworks spectacular, shot from an island in the stream. Later, the rotating-cast band played hits from 1969. Then they launched into "No Fun" and this woman rocked the hula hoop harder than it has ever been rocked. She's part of a gang of Brooklyn hoopers who I can only assume kick ass.
After getting lots of creek time in, we moved on to the village of Phoenicia, where the check-in room had a cast of taxidermied animals from bear to bobcat on down to unidentified game-looking birds, that we were assured all appeared on the campground. (Well, at least once each before getting shot and stuffed.) We got a campsite right on the river, which was rolling at about level-4 rapids pace after the recent flooding. (The water was too wild for tubing to happen, but we were still able to hang in the river all day in the calm waters at the edge of the nearby island, where we played fetch with Otto Zone the German Pointer for hours on end.)
This first family dinner of marinated portabella burgers and unchicken patties on garlic toast, baked beans, and many snacks was also the last one I made onsite, and we learned that when you camp in town you get real lazy and spend too much money eating out.
But it's all worth it when you eat at a place that has this.
The tiny village surrounded by mountains seems set up for the pleasure of visiting yuppies--several river-tubing businesses, an outdoors supply store, a breakfast place with 20-plus varieties of pancakes and delicious vegan dishes (Sweet Sue's), a few restaurants, at least four real estate offices, two home furnishings places (one modern, one rustic)--but I was thrilled to discover the huge, dark, dusty lost-in-time drugstore. It still had all the old glass display cases along the walls and some of them held vintage products that probably had never left their original spots. There were a few choice '80s products still hanging about like colored foam curling wands and, sun-faded and dust-covered in one glass display case--could it be? It was: that infamous Medieval-style hair-removal torture device, Epilady. Ladies over a certain age recall this thing with a shudder; basically it had a few rings of spinning METAL COILS that ripped your leg hairs out by the root. I got one of these on clearance at a similarly lost-in-time drugstore in Scranton, PA, in the late '80s or so and couldn't even complete one lower leg with it, and I don't think my leg hair ever returned to the spots where I used the Epilady. (I was shocked to learn that this company still exists.)
Phoenicia also has a vintage curiosity shop, Mystery Spot
(not affiliated with Mystery Spot in Cali
), where I wanted everything and fell in love with something that I now must
have or I shall never be happy: the Hermes 3000.
While conducting routine camping nighttime extended fireside hangout (telling stories, playing games, finding reasons to use Leah's headlamp, sending obsolete items such as beer bottles back to nature in the fire)...
....we heard a commotion not far away in the campground: a party. We decided to crash it. The dozens of attendees were in their late teens to early 20s. We were detected pretty quickly and introduced around to a bunch of international camp counselors. One muscular lad was supposedly a stripper and was quite interested to hear of my position at Playgirl magazine, so while I sang "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys, he started dancing and immediately shed his shirt and was just starting to pull his pants down when the others stopped him. Then he couldn't find his shirt (maybe it went back to nature?) but after seeing him eating breakfast in town the next day in a tank-top cut hoodie, with a bunch of other shirtless muscle guys (we learned the other counselors call them the Proteins) we gathered he probably doesn't mind not being able to find his shirt.
Later we visited our other neighbors, a bunch of dudes from Staten Island, and played a baffling game called Snaps and another called Mafia. It was a lot easier to make friends at that campground than at the Woodstock party. Probably because the Woodstock party had a lot of folks from the city...and NYC is not the friendliest place. Both the camp counselor party and the Staten Islanders party drew a visit from Mr. Campground to get us to shut up, and our gang wondered if he noticed we were present every time he had to come regulate, or if we were all just a sea of faceless campers to him.
On July 4th we lingered around, not wanting to leave, and walked to the edge of town (i.e., several blocks away), where we found an abandoned diner overlooking our campground.
As we approached it on tiptoe, we could hear someone on the other side of the adjacent trailers chopping wood--or chopping something
--and a Johnny Cash song drifting over, "I don't like it but I guess things happen that wayyy..."
As a group who had felt the entire weekend like we were in the beginning of a horror film ("Woo! This weekend in the woods is gonna be AWESOME you guys! Do you wanna paaaaar-taaaay! It's party tiiiiiiiiiime!"), we suddently felt like we were kicking into stage two of the horror movie, when the murderin' begins.
Peering in the windows, we found the creepiest thing visible--the entrance to the cinderblock basement. I offered Leah a dollar to go down there but she didn't go. Who knew what Mr. Campground or Mr. Chopchop next door had stacked down in that basement. We continued past and waved at Mr. Choppity Chop, a big mass of man who waved back at us with his hatchet. We hurried along, and returned home intact...this time.
Back in the city that night, four of us reunited on a Williamsjerk rooftop for the fireworks, where some maniac kid who was hopped up on goofballs or something proposed that he strip, which would've been funny just to be able to say that two dudes did it in one weekend, though he turned out to be all "look at how wacky I am" talk. No one wanted to see that anyway. And the beat goes on...
Labels: beasties, travels, what a hippy