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Archive for February 4th, 2009

I believe there are two types of people in the world – those who love the outdoors in general and camping in particular, and those not of our galaxy. I love camping, in most of the variations I have experienced, with one or two exceptions.

The military version of camping is sometimes called “going to the field.” I have been on a couple of these excursions and never saw anything I would call a field. I did see snow, frozen mud, and sheets of canvas so heavy you only carried one in your pack. Two sheets are required to make one tent, thus you find yourself at night trying to sleep while lying closer to someone of the same gender than you normally would to someone of the opposite gender and for whom you felt a certain affection. 

And then there is city camping. This is not to be confused with homelessness, which takes camping to an entirely different level. I have city-camped twice in my lifetime, once in Amsterdam and once in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The campground in Las Vegas was a gravel parking lot where the homeless were tolerated. That this campground no longer exists I credit to sub-prime lending and the housing boom, which turned into a bust and is currently in the process of creating a new generation of camping enthusiasts.

Camping in Amsterdam was in the European model, which means space was at a premium. I use this as a comparative analogy to explain the term lebensraum. The campground was actually just outside the city proper, only one train stop from the Hauptbahnhof where government brochures were handed out warning tourists go easy on the heroin, where to get clean needles, and what you could expect to pay for different types of hashish. We had driven to the Netherlands from Germany in our then new 1980 Chevrolet Camaro. Despite a small six-cylinder engine and three-speed transmission, this car looked hot and attracted a lot of attention. After finding the campground and getting set up, some  raggedly-dressed young boys and girls wandered over near where I had parked my pride and joy. They started checking it out. When one of them began peering inside the windows, I knew it was time to run them off before they stole it right there in broad daylight.

As I approached, they all started talking at once in Italian. Since I didn’t understand Italian, I tried English. This had little effect, so I tried German. This worked  bit more. After a while, and using hand and foot signals to go with the few word we had in common, I learned they were on holiday doing what kids do on holiday in Europe. They were traveling around and having a good old time. They had never seen a Camaro before and simply wondered what it was. One of the boys said spaghetti, vino, and something which sounded like an invitation. So, later that evening I joined their happy little group for a meal of pasta cooked in a big pot over a small campfire. One of the boys told me he either was, or wanted to be, apprenticed to Ferrari as a machinist or mechanic or something like that. By then, it wasn’t important. I had stopped being like the girl who wears a miniskirt, only to complain when people stare. 

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