American Shithole #20 — Vacations, Part One: Camping Is For Masochists
By Eric Wilson
This is as good a week as any to introduce my series on vacationing: American style. The president has been overseas; leaving rotten chum in his filthy wake for allies and enemies alike. At least he gave us all a break here domestically from our daily mouthful, I suppose.
My good friend and housemate just returned from two weeks in Iceland, Scandinavia, Europe and Russia, while I have been dog sitting on what was supposed to be a staycation for me (it wasn’t) — providing more than enough material for future articles on the topic.
Part Two of this series is a piece I wrote before American Shithole. It was to be my first feature for Literate Ape; one in which I found myself on a miserable LA weekend getaway for an Eric Clapton show. Unfortunately, the night before I submitted my draft some asshole murdered 58 people at an outdoor concert just down the street from where I live, and I didn’t feel it was an appropriate time to share that story.
In fact, I slid into a funk that week, and I hardly interacted with anyone for a while. A few months later Trump called Haiti and unspecified African nations “shithole” countries, my inner fury was rekindled, and American Shithole was born.
So I will be returning periodically to this series that never got off the ground. It was always my intention to write a few pieces on the American vacation. I know it's a boon for comedy. Holiday travel is a goldmine for humor in general; in my case, even more so because I truly suck at vacationing, and terrible things always happen.
Staycations — if I am to judge them by the last two weeks — have me faring only slightly better.
The good news is: things are looking up, baby! This was my least disastrous vacation (okay, staycation) yet, even though I slept fitfully, had only a very limited amount of fun, and as expected, terrible things still happened (even though I stayed at home), I still feel like it was a success. More on this later.
If you’re wondering how it’s possible that a mostly unpleasant staycation was my best vacation ever, it’s because my experience with vacations includes heavy hitters like suicide, sickness, hurricanes and other natural disasters, being thrown off a bridge embankment — and camping, which I’m sorry outdoor aficionados, but camping is just the worst.
I am convinced that folks that choose to go camping over a plethora of other vacation destinations — sunny beaches, moonlit resorts, islands with sexy people, places with people of any kind, coordinates that include a nearby lavatory, locations that aren't teeming with wildlife looking to eat you, etc. — those people are fucking closeted masochists. Here is how many times you should go camping in your life: one-half of one time. You should attempt to sleep on rocks, in a damp tent, with a wet blanket, soaked shoes — like some sort of cold burrito for bears — hungry, exhausted and homesick, just one-half of once. Then pack up in the middle of the night, drive home, and never look back.
In my lifetime I have been camping roughly a score of times. That’s twenty, millennials. (Well why didn’t you just say twenty then, fuckface?)
While I cherish the time with my father (an avid, well-respected angler and outdoorsman), and I do genuinely love the remoteness and beauty of the wilderness, I have camped nineteen and one-half times too many in this life.
I assume I have never taken to vacationing as an adult, at least in part due to my experiences on vacations as a kid; which were at times awful. Or perhaps just some of it was traumatic, and that is all that I remember.
On one of the first camping trips I can recall I was eight years old, and while we were in the Grand Tetons the mother of my best friend at the time committed suicide. She shot herself while her son and I were camping together. I'm still haunted by that quiet drive home. I can’t imagine being my father and having to tell a child his mother was gone. I can’t possibly fathom what that was like for my friend.
That event set the tone for every subsequent camping trip over the next forty years.
I have been on trips that didn’t involve camping; although only a handful. I have taken one cruise back in the nineties — we were hit by a hurricane. The captain made a late decision to turn the ship around and head back to LA, missing our ports of call, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlán, and Cabo San Lucas. Half the ship was throwing up for hours as the swells throttled that behemoth vessel like it was a tug boat in a bathtub with a fat, unruly toddler.
I have never forgotten the generous 25% discount offered by Carnival on our next Carnival cruise adventure, as compensation. Thank you Carnival Cruise Lines, I will never stop telling people of your boundless generosity — I hope you don’t mind that I roll my fucking eyes every time that I do.
On my next vacation (other than sporadic wilderness treks whereupon I fall into rivers, catch zero trout, or get bitten by nasty critters) I spent a month in Belgium, France and Spain during the summer of 2001. I picked up a lung infection on the flight over that dogged me the entire trip. I also fell asleep shirtless on the beaches of Biarritz, after not running with the bulls in Pamplona — probably one of the few smart moves I made. I got drunker than my normal drunkenness to ease the pain of my scorched backside, and somehow managed to offend a tiny British woman; who subsequently shoved me off a bridge.
Besides a brief sojourn in Dublin shortly after 9/11, I haven’t been back to Europe since — or anywhere else of note for that matter. Except camping of course, I have heartily not enjoyed plenty of camping.
I was also taken to Disney World by my mom as a young lad. I cried on the roller coaster, so she took me on the Tea Cups. I cried on the Tea Cups.
I found out much later in life that my vacations — the majority of which involved camping, I think I’ve mentioned already — were not the vacations my friends from later on in life enjoyed when they were kids. The key word here is enjoyed.
They traveled to exotic places that offered not only luxuries such as food and lodging, but culture and entertainment.
I stared at trees.
My European friends seem to have it all sorted as well. They enjoy paid holiday at least twice a year for as long as they can remember — to wonderful destinations all over the world. Yes, that European socialism sounds like a real nightmare.
Yet, before this bit of light entertainment is taken as some sort of whingeing by my friends at home and abroad, I would like to mention that I am very thankful to have had any holiday trips at all — as I know millions have never been afforded a single vacation in their entire lives.
Except camping, but I have made the case that camping doesn’t count.
We can all agree, right? That camping doesn’t count?
It’s not a vacation if what you are doing is indistinguishable from survival training. Preparing for the coming apocalypse by eating baked beans straight out of a can is not a vacation.
That being said, I have a feeling staycations are the vacations I will look forward to in the future, until it is time that I shuffle off this mortal coil. I am fine with that, although wary that the comedic arc of my creative endeavors will suffer. Granted, this staycation over the last few weeks was rough — and I will get to that story someday soon — but at least I was home.
I don’t know what it is about travel, but I never seem to enjoy myself the way it seems everyone else does on vacation. How about you, dear reader, are your holidays all they're cracked up to be?
On a more somber note, I watched a lot of Parts Unknown this past weekend — I imagine quite a few of us did — and I would like to take a moment to honor one of humanity’s great travelers, Anthony Bourdain. I looked up to Anthony. He had suffered, he was honest, he had integrity. I had always hoped that one day I would be able to call him my friend. As a writer, entertainer, culinary master and cultural ambassador for the world, he was peerless.
Bon voyage, Mr. Bourdain — you will be missed.
Two of the families of the Parkland student activists were Swatted last week. If you don’t know what Swatting is, that’s when someone calls in a phony emergency — usually involving imminent danger — whereby a SWAT team is deployed to an unsuspecting household, in hopes that they will shoot innocent people accidentally.
So yeah, that’s what conservative gun-loving fuckheads would wish upon the surviving family members that dared to stand up to the NRA. Trump’s base truly is a festering hive of dickless cowards, with no sense of compassion or empathy, and nothing but shit for brains.