1% Camp Part Two Part One

I have edited this as well as I care to, If I fucked up anything particularly, my bad. Feel free to tell me.

I will bet that a lot of you have gone to a camp of some type.  Everyone goes to camp. I went to a bunch of camps: soccer camps, school camps, summer camps… Lots of camps. I was quite the camper. Weren’t camps great? The one I can remember the most is Camp Rotary, and that place was lord of the camps. It was the kind of camp that involved cabins and tetherball and activities, although an obnoxious fucking bugle playing reveille woke me up at 6:30 every morning, because apparently starting every camper’s day by pissing them off was high on Rotary managements to do list. That aside, it was a chance to spend time in an idyllic woodland setting, a modern Eden into which I was granted access every summer.

And then I went to 1% camp, where I learned that all of the camps I had been to before sucked. Imagine spending your entire life doing something thoroughly average, like drinking skim milk or eating margarine. Do they taste good? Yeah, sure. But you haven’t met the real deal, have you?  Whole milk hasn’t yet found its way past your lips; you haven’t smothered the fuck out of a bagel with real, delicious butter and treated your mouth to the kind of happiness people restricted to margarine cannot even imagine.

The disparity between 1% camp and regular camp camp (and by extension, I guess, just my life in general) would be enough to reduce me to tears if I had the capacity to feel. Even then, I spent the entire day after my first experience alternating between sitting alone in my bed clutching my white bear (my oldest companion) to my chest while staring at a wall and slumping over in the shower, trying to wash away my unhappiness with the ritual cleansing only scalding water can provide.

Despite the inevitable onset of despair post-1% camp, when one of my best friend’s dad (henceforth: the benefactor), shot me an email inviting me on another “retarded trip,” I bit immediately. The principle focus of the journey was a trip to Austin, Texas, to take part in Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong charity event, entrance to which my benefactor had won in some rich person poker tournament. The following will be a reasonably accurate portrayal of the 72-odd hours I spent in Texas for no reason whatsoever.

At 1:30pm I arrived, perfectly on time, outside my benefactors workplace in Manhattan. However I had one burning problem which would hang over my head all weekend: I had a sneaking suspicion that I had no money. I had attempted to use my debit card in the Boston subway system, and it failed again when I tried to use it to pay for my dinner in New York the previous night. I hadn’t had time to get to an ATM so I couldn’t tell for certain, however.

Further, I had told neither of my parents about the trip. My mom had been less than impressed with my decision to go on the first 1% camp, even though it was billed as a networking opportunity.  This one had no such pretensions, it would be just me drinking with my friends dad for three days in Texas with a couple cool activities thrown in for good measure. I can understand why she’s mad, I’m unemployed and all that (now there’s a nonchalant way to describe being unemployed…), but I had set up my interviews for the morning and didn’t have anything on tap for Friday, so really no time was being lost here. That being said, I didn’t feel like explaining that to my mom, and didn’t tell her, banking on the fact that the only real loophole was if I failed at staying alive for three days and she somehow ended up learning that my corpse had been found in Texas.

However if my debit card was shot, I couldn’t use their credit card (purely for gas/groceries, although I occasionally try to see if I can sneak lunch past my dad, who at the end of each month circles everything he suspects was me on the bill and shoves it in my face, demanding exact change for whatever I bought. I always round up to the extra dollar and tell him to keep the change, because I am a dick), because then they would know I had been in Texas. It was a convoluted problem, the best way out of which would be to have more than no money, something I wouldn’t be able to ascertain until I could get to an ATM.

Continuing with the story, I had spent the morning interviewing with several staffing agencies, as well as meeting a helpful grad at Morgan Stanley. As an aside, the Morgan Stanley building was… quite nice. The whole place was a massive tribute to unnecessary opulence, the whole douchy spectacle highlighted by the marble columns (seriously? Marble columns? Insert obligatory “Rome called, they want their (x) back” joke) that held up the massive portico above the entrance. I am pretty confident I was the first unemployed 5-percenter to enter those hallowed halls, and while I may have had a suit on and am capable of cleaning myself up pretty well, I still felt like they knew I didn’t belong. There was sense that I had subconsciously tripped their unemployment alarm, and everyone from the doorman to the besuited old men walking the halls were following me with accusatory eyes, waiting for me to betray myself. Anyways back to the point – Morgan Stanley sucks, it’s 1% camp time.

When my benefactor arrived I tossed my things in the back of the car and we promptly sat in traffic on our way to Teterboro airport. I met my benefactor’s nephew, who is an excellent Canadian dude, and was coming along in his capacity as an ardent cyclist – which highlights another weird part of the trip, namely, what was I doing on it? I’ve had roughly 2 experiences with bikes in the last 10 years. The most prominent spanned the entire first semester of my senior year. My sister had lent me her bike, which promptly broke within a week. Notice how I don’t claim ownership of the breaking… the thing just broke. I had nothing to do with it. I may have been pedaling and felt the chain snap, but I certainly didn’t do anything untoward.

Because the bike shop wouldn’t open until November, I was stuck with my only mode of transportation from the Town Houses being a chainless bike. But it still had wheels, right? And wheels are still faster than walking, last I checked. So, like any industrious idiot, I spent the entire semester pushing myself around campus on the bike, forcing it forward with my feet and trying to look nonchalant. It sucked. Granted not badly enough that I ever went to fix the bike, but enough. That is just about the sum total of my experiences with bikes in the last couple years. I don’t give a shit about Lance Armstrong, I don’t ride bikes and I have a very limited relationship with cancer. Nothing about the focal point of that trip applied in any way to my life.

That inconsistency aside, we arrived at the airport shortly, and the ensuing experience represents the heart of any 1% camp. Just like regular camp, I’ll bet that most of you have been to an airport. They’re all pretty much the same, right? You get your ticket, and go to the security line. TSA agent #1 looks over your ticket and ID and asks for your name, as if he’s hoping to actually catch a forgetful terrorist, (how often does that happen?) and then lets you go. You then go through the line, take your shoes out and put your bag on the table, and god forbid you forget about the water bottle in your bag, else just after you give some faceless stranger buried in an underground facility staring slack-jawed at a bunch of computer screens a fantastic view of every part of your body (in the spirit of full disclosure I always make sure to go through that particular screener erect), you’ll have to deal with all your shit getting searched by TSA agent #2. After all that, you find your terminal and take a seat, because in order to make sure there isn’t a fuck up somewhere along the way you showed up at least an hour early.

Does that sound familiar? Well forget everything you think you know about airports, because when you fly private all the hoops regular airports make you jump through disappear. We didn’t bypass them by flashing a card at someone, they just did not exist. Did we need to show up early? No, because the planes sole purpose for being there was to tow us and only us around at our leisure. Rather than existing as some massive autonomous beast operating on its own sweet time, and the passengers can fucking deal with it, this airport was a much more pleasant and domesticated creature.

My benefactor identified himself at the front desk, and our luggage was immediately taken out to the jet – which is “only a turboprop” as his son contemptuously texted me, whilst chained to his desk and undoubtedly stewing in his own jealously. Soon after the pilot came over and shook our hands, and while he made a few likely obligatory statements about the flight he was far more interested in making sure we were content with the 6-pack of stella on the plane.

The plane itself was a magical, heavenly place.  The seats could swivel! There was food everywhere! Regular planes have stewardesses with trolleys and shitty snacks, and since I don’t like my ability to eat being tied in any way to another person’s schedule, this was much more to my liking. Further, the cabinet in the middle contained more treasures than Mad Eye Moody’s 7-lock trunk. The most impressive part was obviously the alcohol stash. You know those little shot bottles (nips?) that are homeless peoples preferred alcohol injection method and can be found littered around the streets of just about every city? Imagine those, except instead of being horrifically cheap and filled with the kind of disgusting knock off liquor that only someone either determined to punish themselves or with no other choice would consider, they’re filled with top shelf brands – There were bottles of Jack, Bombay Sapphire, Bacard, Chivas Regal, etc. I took 5 of them, including the bottle of Glenfidditch, grabbed some peanuts and coined it my 1% camp goody bag.

A final symbolic difference between the standard flight and the private flight is in the in flight meal. Commercial in flight meals are not good. I don’t feel like taking the time to come up with a complex metaphor, so ‘not good’ is the extent of how I’m willing to describe this. I always either decline the in flight meal or find a way to pick out the chicken or beef and leave the rest of that festering mess in the can. Meanwhile, on my slightly more selective private flight,  the in-flight meal was steak. In the immortal words of my drunk self, “OH BOY!” At the first 1% camp the catered meal was also steak, and I crafted the painfully obvious but obligatory “steaks on a plane!” pun, which still cracks me up. In the effort of getting a move on in this bitch, I’ll end by just noting that it was a fun experience in totally unnecessary but appreciated ostentation, and thanks, benefactor, for once again dragging my ass around the country without inviting your own children.

The first stop on 1% camp round two was St. Louis, Missouri, to catch game four of the Cardinals-Giants NLCS series, a trip in keeping with my benefactor’s obsessive love of America’s past time. As a sporting enthusiast it was a great opportunity, but it proved more entertaining to me as a spectator of human behavior, because I love watching people. Not in any malevolent sense, mind you, when looking at someone I’m never imagining them stir fried with a side of potatoes, nor is this meant in any stalker-ish sense of the word. And this is not to be confused with women watching either, though I was certainly on the look out in that department, intrigued by my benefactors announcement that we would see “two types of girls… Really hot college age kids, and a lot of large, corn-fed farm women,” with nothing in between.

Anyways, it’s totally benign, standard, people watching. One particular breed of human that has always amused and saddened me are those whose sense of authority far outweighs whatever tiny amounts of power have actually been entrusted to them. It’s fun watching small men given lordship over some broom closet exert their sovereignty over the rest of us mortals, unaware of the silly spectacle their lack of perspective makes for.

Give an idiot with no tangible power over any aspect of the world authority over some small thing, and he will exert that power to the fullest. His slavish dedication to the rules is both ludicrously inefficient and lacking in common sense, but he’s so fucking psyched to have power over something that it just does not compute. I’ve run into a few of these people, for instance Carl, the dude who runs Walker Field House is one such man. So was the assistant soccer coach who kicked me out of the 3v3 charity soccer tournament (a tournament I had won for 3 years in a row, albeit with a weird asterisk on the first year) in the final after I said something he didn’t like. The hopelessly useless human who operated one of the beer places in Busch Stadium was one of these people.

This guy was afflicted by a classic case of the having a shitty life bug. He was a bit overweight, wore a goofy uniform, his job sucked (being at a huge sports game but not getting to watch because you have to ameliorate the fun time of all the happy people? I’m surprised he didn’t give his wrists a good cut with every beer he served) and his goatee betrayed him as belonging to that select group of people who aren’t aware that Goatees look terrible. He also had that permanently blank look on his face that is the hallmark of people who don’t do a whole lot of thinking in their day-to-day life, e.g. the wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead.

When we showed him our ID’s, he immediately rejected Trevor’s because it was a Canadian drivers license, which apparently is not valid, despite the fact that Trevor’s 25 and clearly looks it. “He needs a passport,” was his only response to our objections.

Benefactor: “You don’t even need a passport to enter the US from Canada.”

Douche: “Doesn’t matter I can’t accept this”

Benefactor “Fine then I’ll have another Sam Adams”

Douche: “Nope, you’re just going to give it to your friend.”

Benefactor: “Have you ever heard of NAFTA?”

Dude was a stonewall, and Trevor was most definitely not getting beer out of him. Half an hour later we came back and the Benefactor, announced that he would like two Sam Adams, which was well within the rules. “You can have one!” the man stated, adhering in impressively steadfast fashion to his earlier, flawed policy. Then he undid all the good, dickish work he had been perpetrating by forgetting that I was in the same group as his enemies and letting me have a Sam Adams to go with a woodchuck (yes I realize woodchuck is gay) when I ordered moments later.

My triumph was slightly overshone by the fact that a few minutes beforehand I had checked my balance at the ATM, which revealed that I had $0.00. I literally did not have a dime to my name. On the one hand, that is suspicious, as it must be rare to so perfectly overdraw your account to exactly 0. Further, I was pretty confident that while I wasn’t rolling in money in that account, I should have more than that. I couldn’t say how much more because I avoid checking my balance in case I do find out that I don’t have any money, but I could have sworn I had more. Trevor sort of saved the day when he noted that a lot of atm’s don’t actually reveal your balance for whatever reason, which made me feel better but still didn’t make my card work.

Either way it cast a weird fiscal pall over the rest of the game from my end, as the following hours included a lot of opportunities for me to point things out to my benefactor that he would have to buy for me, “because I have 0 dollars.” I speculated that someone may have stolen my identity, but that didn’t seem to likely, I was probably just broke.

The Cardinals won, giving themselves three shots at getting into the World Series, and the fans were all quite pleased with themselves. As I was standing in line for the urinals – actually in line, it was incredible… there were 10 urinals and behind each was a perfectly coordinated, 2-3 man line. I have never seen such a docile and respectful group of slightly drunk people, it was very mid-west. Considering their teams colossal failure to close out San Francisco I feel a little bad in retrospect joking with guys about how they should be nice to Detroit in the world series because living in Detroit now (over the last x decades?) sucks. Whatever, pride comes before the fall. They fucked up.

The remainder of the evening was a pretty simple affair; we went out to a bar and just talked and looked at people. I’m very good at people watching in bars. I had a great time watching the attractive girl across from me get hit on by three ugly dudes in 20 minutes and make increasingly annoyed faces at her similarly beleaguered companion each time. As someone who spends a good amount of time feeling uncomfortable, I am inevitably drawn, like a moth to bright, beautiful, torturous flame, towards discomfort and awkwardness. Mostly just because it’s funny to watch clueless people interact with others like unwitting social wrecking balls.

I am aware this ends abruptly. To steal a line from George Carlin, I don’t do transitions.

About Poor The Leach

My vices far exceed my virtues, but I usually have good intentions. My aspirations are few, my self esteem usually low. A lot of strange things have happened to me.

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