Archive for July 12th, 2010



July 12, 2010

Ladies and gentlement, Ro Karen.


Not Quite Camping

July 12, 2010

We spent the weekend at a campground. Not the deep woods we usually explore, or even the provincial parks with big, secluded campsites. This was a campground. Two swimming pools, snack bar, variety store, arcade and pool table. And trailers. Many, many trailers with additions and decks and satellite dishes. Not quite camping.

There were signs everywhere like “Hillybilly Heaven” and “Redneck Acres,” and everyone spells their name with apostrophes: “The Harvey’s,” “The Smith’s.” That’s apparently a rule if you’re wood-burning your name into a sign. Also, you can tell it’s a Canadian trailer park because everyone’s blasting The Tragically Hip out of their pickup trucks while drinking that classic Canadian beer, Budweiser.

Our site was in the tent section of the park. It was about 12 feet by 20, which meant the big fat guy in the cowboy hat and Harley t-shirt sitting at the picnic table on the next site might as well have been in our family. His bulldog sure was; as we pulled in, the dog was taking a dump where our tent would soon go.

The second bad sign was my son saying “Look, we have our own pond!”

“No,” I said, “That’s the fire pit.”

I pitched the tents and soon learned that I had brought a mismatch of parts from all three of our tents, but only two actual tents. This meant I had to use the poles from the eight-person tent to put up the three-person tent, etc. Many ropes tied to trees meant I was always tripping over something.

I forgot to pack the flashlights, so I bought two big ones in a town called Madoc, named after the Welshman who explored America in the 12th century. I am not making that up. One of the flashlights didn’t work and it was too far to drive back. Stupid Welsh flashlight.

The pool was nice. We liked that a lot. We took a hay ride, and used the hot tub, and later showered for fifteen minutes because of the green stuff in the hot tub. A man came along and propped himself up with his crotch facing one of the hot tub jets, so we left. “He’s exercising,” I told the kids.

We bought a load of damp firewood after the fire pit dried out, and roasted weenies over the fire. I had to restart the fire a dozen times, meaning everyone thought I didn’t know how to start a fire. Stupid damp wood.

Someone left a tent flap open all day, so I had to kill many mosquitoes before it got dark. Now, that’s camping.

But my kids and some other kids from the park — including one of my son’s friends from home, 100 miles away, which was really weird — spent hours in the dark, with flashlights, chasing each other and having fun. I sat by the fire, reflecting on this primal need we have to enter the forest with only our wits and our nerve and our $22 battery-powered firestarter. Sometimes, I said, it’s good to get away from it all.

Then I watched The Men Who Stare At Goats on my iPod. It got off to a good start but I felt it faltered a bit at the end. It was kind of short, too, which was good.

The next morning, my daughter told me the whole campground had wi-fi, and I felt stupid that I didn’t bring my netbook. So I would have been to tell you all this sooner. Ah, your loss.


Harvey Pekar Said This Would Happen

July 12, 2010

Harvey Pekar is dead. The American writer and grump died this morning in Cleveland at 70.

If you only know of Pekar from the Paul Giamatti film American Splendor, you’ve missed out. In the early ’70s, Pekar launched a comic book of the same name, drawn by several artists, most notably Robert Crumb.

The autobiographical series opened up Pekar’s miserable life as he shared stories of his dull clerking job, his mental health issues, his appearance, his troubled love life and all the things he hated — which was pretty much everything, thus rendering the title of the series particularly funny.

And this stuff is funny. It’s grotesque, in the truest sense of the word, but fascinating, a gloomy look at a real man and his real mind in a real way… but never pandering. His 1994 work, Our Cancer Year, told the blunt, touching story of his prostate cancer battle, something few writers had yet to open up about.

We never got the sense that he was affecting a persona, like Howard Stern or Gilbert Gottfried or even David Letterman, on whose show Pekar once famously tore into NBC parent General Electric. That got the recurring guest barred from Letterman’s show for a decade.

If you’re a reader of more modern alternative comics, particularly Daniel Clowes or This Will All End In Tears or Blankets or any of the current crop of “real mainstream” graphic novels, you’re reading the artistic descendents of Harvey Pekar. He took the new generation of underground comics and derailed its dope-and-acid mentality, bringing reality to it. This changed comic books forever, and I’d say even modern blogging is descended from Pekar.

So thanks for everything, Harvey. In the end, your worst fear, death, came to pass. Or was it? Maybe you feared life more. You sure did embrace it, in your odd, dark way. It had to end, though, and it has. But I guess you saw that one coming.

Harvey Pekar, 1940-2010