Sunday, May 26, 2013

Camping at Lake George . . . Oh Boy

On the way up the Northway Friday afternoon, I couldn’t believe the number of SUVs and family vans with camping equipment attached, heading off the Lake George exits. I don’t understand this insistence on pitching tents in artificialized camping areas and spending a long weekend getting poured on. It's supposed to rain buckets right through Monday without break, so let’s be soaked to the bone until it ends. Then come home filthy, exhausted, possibly sick and go right back to work on Tuesday. Is there anything worse than “packing up” after a rainy weekend? Miserable.

But it’s not just the rain.

Rain or shine, what's the attraction to these overpacked Lake George camp places on Memorial Day? Why spend your free time living like this? We are in America in 2013. We have 100-inch HD TVs and hotels with hot tubs and swimming pools and state-of-the-art workout rooms. We have it so great we need to invent ways to “rough it.” Why? What’s the point? Building a fire and sucking down canned beers before passing out on the lumpy ground, wake with a crooked back to shower in those slimy public barracks. It’s disgusting. There’s always that wet, rotting kind of aura around the campsite the whole weekend, even when the weather’s nice. I don’t get it, guys, I’m sorry.

When I "did" Lake George on Memorial, we’d grab a cheap hotel on the Strip, bang down some RB & Vs, get busy with the bars. The energy was exciting, a bit intense, but so much possibility. We had a lot of great weekends like that. I almost got us kicked out of a hotel one year. Another year we watched Kobe & Shaq at a cool outside bar called Fire & Ice with a gang of girls. It was great. Whenever that one knucklehead suggested an 8PM detour to King Phillips to meet up with someone there, I never agreed. To me that was the fastest way to lose a killer night to the Hillbilly vortex. Nah. I’d rather listen to live music with college girls on the waterfront. I was single almost my whole twenties though, I will admit that, and if I had a serious g/f I might’ve approached LG differently, but no way would I have camped. Hell no. Thank God for my friend who hated King Philips more than I did.

My parents took me camping all the time when I was a kid, a place called Hidden Pond. I have no idea where that is, just that it was called Hidden Pond. The adults would get wasted, and there’d be motorcycles everywhere. I think one time a fight broke out. I’d wake up in that horrible tent, with the puddle of pooled rain water seeping into my sleeping bag. It ALWAYS rained. All I ever wanted to do was leave. My camping days officially ended when I found myself waist-deep in that slimy little pond, and my dad and his friends were on the shore “making their own cigarettes.” From the swamp to the left of the beach, a long snake emerged, swimming to cross to the swamp on the right. He moved through the water, with head up, three feet from me, and I freaked, splashed out of that water so fast, and never went back.

It’s not just camping though. I don’t understand packing elbow to elbow into the Plaza to go ooohhh and aaahhhh at fireworks on the Fourth. I'm totally bored at Labor Day Parties. Parades? Get real. New Year’s Eve is the worst. I feel like it’s more work to partake in all the American ways of passing a Holiday. I know I sound like a wet blanket, but I just like hanging out and relaxing with my small circle, not engaging in phony activities with thousands of strangers, because that’s what we “always do.” Come on, you actually like the Flag Day Parade and going to the Plaza for Price Chopper fireworks? No you don’t.

In the 80’s, we spent a lot of time at the Howard Johnson Hotel off Exit 19. We’d get a room, go to the movies on Aviation Drive, eat at the greatest pizza place ever: Papa Gino’s. At the hotel, there was a huge indoor pool and hot tub. That’s where I learned to swim. In the morning, we’d go to the hotel’s restaurant for pancakes, so thick with blueberries they’d bleed purple when you touched a fork to them. Every time we head north now, we detour off Exit 19 for a place called Mr. B’s, and I always drive past that HoJo’s, which was torn down years ago, and tell my wife the same battery of remember-when stories. It’ll always be the greatest hotel in the world to me.

Brian Huba

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