By Eric Friedman
went camping last weekend. By myself. Just me, in a tent, overnight,
at the McGrath State Beach campground, ten miles outside of Oxnard.
I know that in the grand scheme of adventures, this is no big deal.
People go camping alone all the time. But not this people. I'm not
exactly what you'd call "rugged" or "resourceful"
or "good at camping." I'm kinda new to the whole outdoorsy
thing. My family never went camping when I was a kid, I never joined
the Scouts -- neither Cub nor Boy -- and the only time I ever heard
the expression "take a hike" was when I asked my dad to
help me with my homework while he was busy watching Hill Street
Blues. The man loved his Renko.
the very first time I went camping, and breathed in the clean air,
slept under a bajillion stars, and embraced the all-enveloping,
ear-massaging silence of an un-urban night, I knew I had found something
awesome. I set a personal goal -- that one day I would hit the outdoors
completely by myself. And then I spent the next four years totally
blowing that goal off. Going camping alone became yet another one
of those things in my life that I've been fully meaning to do, but
just can't seem to make happen, like paint my apartment. Or have
a couple weeks ago, I was presented with a gift from the universe
that made pulling the trigger on my solo outing a total no-brainer:
I had a nervous breakdown. (It's okay, you can laugh.) And it wasn't
really a breakdown -- that's a bit dramatic. I just
the crushing weight of the world bearing down on me to the point
where I couldn't sleep, concentrate, or enjoy life. Good times
me to break down the
break down. I was
going too fast.
In everything I did. I would come home from my awesome job, and
I'd worry about what my next nine career steps should be. I'd go
on a date with a great girl, and instead of falling asleep giddy
and smiling, I'd lie there all night wondering whether I should
make reservations at that cute Bed n' Breakfast in Solvang that
I've always wanted to check out, but have been holding off on until
I had a serious girlfriend -- which of course I obviously now did,
after two Belvedere and Tonics with a woman who until three days
ago I'd known only by her screen name. Ali in Cali!
living in the moment. I wasn't even living in "moment-adjacent."
And it was time for me to reclaim my life. To step up, take charge,
be a man. (WEAK) So I called my therapist
I went in, we talked,
I went off on some tangent about my mom, and that time I caught
her putting makeup and a dress on my then one-year-old brother --
which is fucked up, but not really relevant to my whole "not
being in the moment" issue -- or is it? Whatever. Bottom line,
I needed to make some major changes in my life. But that sounded
really, really hard, so I went for a quick fix -- I packed up my
camping gear, loaded it into my Camping Vehicle -- or Jetta -- and
set off on a 24 hour quest to slow down my life, get in touch with
nature, and hopefully not get raped in my tent by a drunken, RV
driving redneck. I've heard some stories.
my way out of town, I stopped to pick up some food to get me through
my trip. Nothing much, just some bottled water, and a couple of
Balance Bars. And some pasta. And a salami, a box of crackers, a
couple bananas, a hunk of Ghirardhelli chocolate -- dark -- two
cans of tomato soup, and a bottle of Chianti. Oh, and a scone from
Whole Foods. For Breakfast.
my provisions fully provisioned for and my German engineered gas
tank full (only 28 dollars for 12 gallons -- what a steal!) I headed
up the PCH, and ushered in the "era of being in the moment."
Then I spent the entire drive thinking about all the errands I had
to do when I got back into town. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.
a gorgeous drive, past dozens of fruit orchards and hundreds of
migrant workers who I'm sure get paid very handsomely to harvest
them, I reached the campground.
moment -- show your face. I'm ready to live in you!
with excitement, I pulled in to my assigned campsite, jumped out
of my car, unloaded my gear, and guess what happened?
out, camping alone -- kinda boring. Picture all the fun of camping
without all the fun of camping.
are some highlights of my boring day.
I pitched my tent. A simple task that should take about ten minutes,
considering the idiot-proofness of my tent, yet one that took me
much longer, thanks to the non-idiot-proofness of my hands. I may
as well have been assembling an entertainment center from Ikea --
the Flarke, or the Leksvik perhaps.
I got it up -- the tent -- and I took a walk to the beach, passing
other campsites where large groups of people who had made the curious
choice of not camping alone were having all sorts of not-camping
alone fun -- throwing footballs, drinking beers, grilling meat,
and no doubt making fun of me for having nobody to do these fun
my watch. 12:30. P.M. (SIGH) Hoh boy.
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