Camp June 24-August 19
Trails End Camp, Honesdale, PA.
Camp was a huge experience and as my camp friend Beth says, like a Monet it looks better the further you get away from it. It lasted nine weeks and involved just about every plus or minus about life with kids you could imagine. The Camp itself was in beautiful woods on the border of New York and Pennsylvania, about 2 hours outside of New York City itself. It was basically a camp for rich Jewish kids, parents paying upwards of US$9000 for me to look after their kid for eight weeks. I was supposed to be a tennis instructed, but on arrival I rather naively thought being a general councillor would be more fun. It probably was, but it was a lot more work too. The kids themselves were fairly much what you would expect from rich American kids. Some absolutely amazing kids, some real worries too. I was pretty happy with my bunk though – not quite jocks, but not quite geeks either, they were generally a pretty charismatic bunch. There was Alex (Smudge) the golden boy; his sidekick and AD&D candidate Matt (Cheesy); two very bright kids Michael and Adam, (the former obsequious, the latter obstinate); Jon Bernstein the quiet one (who we called Bernie, despite his intense dislike of the handle I’m afraid); Mark Gurney, a very charismatic fellow who wreaked havoc with practical jokes on the last night of camp, Kevin, talented sportsman; Jon Bachrach, basically Adam Sandler in every sense of the word, and as tall as me at the age of 13 (dammit); Jules, the clown and general troublemaker and finally Josh, who’ll be appearing in a clothing catalogue soon. Where I really got lucky was with the other counsellor in my bunk – Rich who was all charisma and a camp veteran after three years at another camp. He was working waterfront, so he wasn’t about much, but he was a damn good bloke and a great guy to sleep underneath for nine weeks!
Of course all the kids fought/got homesick/wouldn’t listen, but they were quite a lot of fun as well. Every night was a potential raid on the girls dorms, and we often would perform raids when they actually managed to get their butts out of bed at 2 or 3 am. Rich and I soon learned that a raid, or even an attempted raid, could really take the edge off the kids the next day, besides which sneaking around the woods at night was really quite fun.
For me the days were spent accompanying the kids around their activities every day. I was lucky as I was an experienced sailor, so I occasionally got some time off to go sailing with other kids as well. I became incredibly sought after in this regard as I knew exactly how to tip the boat over and had a great sight gag getting the boat back upright. A performance of ‘MMM Bop’ with a Ken, Rich and Po also made me quite famous for a while, as did a later performance of ‘Trails End Blues’ co-written with an amazing kid called Mike Markowitz. We got to go on a trip to New Hampshire, and various camping trips in the rain. Near the end of camp there was also this event called ‘Olympics’ which was absolutely HUGE news at camp. I got lumped on the team of Singapore, and what can I say, we took it out. Winning Olympics was actually a very intense experience, a lot of cheering, screaming and hoisting people on your shoulders, it was all I could do to stop myself chanting U.S.A! U.S.A!
But I’m afraid to say that by far the finest thing about camp was the time off. We got from 10pm-12:15pm six nights a week and one day a week for 6 weeks off. These times were generally pure gold. After initial efforts to the nearest big city Scranton and a trip to New York, we formed a posse and spent each day off on a bit of an adventure. Po, Ben, Jeremey, Ernesto, Pat and I all formed up to take advantage of Jer’s car (he being from Louisiana and all).Generally we would go to a waterfall nearby and spend the day frolicking in the purest sense of the word. Almost always leaving camp to the tunes of ‘Send Me on My Way’ by Rusted Root, a tune that’s indelibly associated with escape now, a car full of us would TOTALLY forget about camp for just one day a week. The peace de resistance of this scheme was when we had a whole NIGHT off right in the middle of camp. Absolutely incredible, we all packed up and headed out to a nearby lake where about 30 of us stayed at the ‘Tuckem Inn’ (get it?). Obviously much merriment was had, and it was just what I needed, having had a rather depressing middle-of-camp period. Of course we all ended up naked in the lake, couldn’t really avoid it.
Nights off were sometimes spent having some more quality time with the kids… yeah, right. Every night it was a five minute drive down the ‘trail’ to The Big Apple, the local drinking establishment. It was your absolutely typical American pub with timber paneling and lots of neon signs and with the added advantage of shuffleboard and ‘wheel of fortune’; two games I managed to master as a result of my rather unique sobriety. At midnight every night the owners of the pub would put everyone on the back of a jeep and send them home, but I preferred to leave a little earlier and walk through the firefly infested woods. I believe I now know why war veterans value their war friendships so much. I feel the same way about a lot of the folk I met at Trails End.