This is Epth Nation

Epth is a state of mind, not a place. Reading this will give you a virtual drivers license in that state, but you'll still need to be 21 to purchase alcohol. And you can't get any there anyway, so stop asking.

Friday, August 05, 2005

This is the Kind of Thing That Happens Here, Part II.


Let me start this by pointing out to those who would use my own words against me; i.e., “I’m glad the name ‘Queen Mike’ didn’t stick,” that attempting to call me this after I myself mentioned that you missed your chance is totally lame, and violates all sorts of making-fun-of-people protocols. I’m sorry you forgot to keep calling me that, but it’s now invalid. Let’s move on, shall we?

Ah, the bombs. They rained down on us from above, making huge noises and scaring the crap out of people who were trying to sleep. Actually, Clay MacGyver found out how to make a loud explosion out of plastic water bottles, water, and dry ice. Sounds like a grade-school science project, doesn’t it? It was fun because of the moments of anticipation where you could hear the bottle expanding and the label cracking. Then, when you least expected it, BOOM! It echoed off the houses and faded away, but not before blowing the skin off of nearby rodents. I mean, it was seriously loud. He would roll them in a ditch, and we’d have a minute of fun listening for the explosion (or a minute of non-fun covering our ears, depending on the fortitude of the particular person). Had 90% of the dry ice not evaporated because something was mistakenly left open, we would have had big booming fun all weekend. As it was, the last bomb rang out on Saturday morning, and after that we sat in relative silence, pining for some more dry ice. Another of the crazy cousins, Anna, was told to bring some on Saturday night but that didn’t happen. This is the kind of thing that doesn’t happen here, I guess.

So after 3am a man named “Sunshine” (real name: Dennis, I think) shows up in a golf cart with a big cooler strapped to the hood. Sunshine may have been drunker than all of us combined, which is saying something. You could tell that everyone out there loved Sunshine, and he loved all of them, even when he was getting into belligerent cuss-tacular verbal altercations. Somehow the crazy cousins found out that our friend Pat was from Minnesota, which means “Yankee,” which means somebody to razz by overpronouncing long O’s, i.e., “Minnesoeta.” Again, thank God they didn’t latch on to the fact that I’m from Wisconsin and my wife is from Illinois. Another missed opportunity for you people. Anyway, Pat was having none of that, and they got into the aforementioned verbal altercation.

Sunshine didn’t want to get up on the porch, so he stood in front of us as we all sat on the porch and watched him. The bright lighting and the fact that he talks with his hands all the time gave it the feel of a one-man play, with us porch people as the audience. Eventually we all got to meet Sunshine, and as he shook my hand I felt a little trepidation, because he could tell I wasn’t drunk. The drunk never fully trust the sober, because they know that the sober are (to themselves, inside our minds) constantly making fun of the things the drunk are doing. That’s yet another reason it must be a total drag to be a designated driver. I don’t know this, I’m only speculating. I don’t hang around drunk people very often.

Before Sunshine arose on our camp Clay got the idea that we should pile in the back of Kirby’s truck and drive to the cemetery. Mind you, this was at 2am, and Kirby was on like his 10th beer by then. But he was up for it, as was most everyone else. The reason Clay wanted to do this was the fact that Juli hated driving over wooden bridges, and there was one on the way to the cemetery. He was going to have Kirby stop on the bridge and freak Juli out. Good times, right? Well, I went inside after a while, and at some point my wife even came in to announce that the ride was commencing and that we should all get up and pile in the truck. I think people’s enthusiasm for drunken truck rides (not to mention anything that involved getting up) was really waning by then, and it ended up not happening…yet.

We went to bed at 3:50am. We were staying in Juli’s grandparents’ lake house, two doors closer to the lake and the alligators than everyone else. At least it was quiet. No bombs went off after 2:30 or so.


Stepping inside Juli’s grandparents’ (heretofore called simply “Mimi’s”) old lake cottage was like stepping into the early 80’s as reimagined by someone who really loved the 70’s. Many of the walls and furnishings looked like they were made up of stuff somebody found lying in the dirt 25 years ago. It’s not that the place wasn’t nice – it was, especially the central air. It just looked like it was the victim of several different time warps at once.

It had: Ziggy sheets, Smurf pillowcases, 5 Reader’s Digests dated 1982-1987 (sample story: Is the Soviet Union Winning the Cold War?), a cavalcade of different-patterned towels and washcloths, a full working shower with decent water pressure, floors made out of hundreds of one-square-foot tiles, none of which seemed to have the same pattern, a “Holiday Inn” bathmat, light bulbs in the ceiling that turn on-and-off via a piece of string attached to a pulley (more on this later), and a bizarre pillow that weighed like 6 lbs, bounced when you dropped it, and felt more like a wet Nerf football in a pillowcase than something you sleep on. Pillowfights at Mimi’s house must have been a brutal affair.


We clawed our way out of bed after a pleasant night’s sleep at about 10am on Saturday. This made us still tired. I immediately went on a run with my wife. This made us insane. First of all, we had to walk up the hill I wasn’t sure we could climb in a car. After that, we launched ourselves South on Hwy 92 like 2 pale bats out of heck, carefully running against traffic so as not to be Stephen Kinged. It was hot and it was asphalt, which is better than concrete but not as good as grass. I tried running in the brush along the side of the road, but that got me nothing but annoyance and black specks all over my legs that looked like flattened gnats. We were planning on running/walking for 45 minutes, but that got extended when Jill saw this sign for a “Historical Marker” 1 mile up ahead. We just had to get to that thing, no matter how long it took to get back. The Marker turned out to be this lame story about a railroad that no longer existed, but was really important back in 1890. History can be so disappointing.

THINGS WE SAW WHILE RUNNING THAT WARM MORNING: A super-secretive-looking sunken compound of the Army Corps of Engineers (the ones responsible for Dam B and its lake), a freshly dead animal I like to think was a cat and not a small dog, the so-called “Dam Store,” about 100 dogs in people’s yards, 1100 pickup trucks, and two men from a Baptist church that stopped their pickup by the side of the road and gave us tracts and invited us to church on Sunday. We declined, because we’re Lutherans.

When the day started, Juli’s mom started a big pot of gumbo, which is a concoction involving chicken, shrimp, and the color brown. It’s a shame that we now associate brown with UPS, no? It could be associated with something good and yummy, and not just a corporate “expensive mail” carrier. We got to eat the gumbo at around 3pm, which meant Juli’s mom spent at least 4 hours working on it. Bravo, Juli’s mom.

The food situation at camp was free and easy – people brought stuff, and you could eat what you wanted all day. They just left most of the food (none of which was perishable – we aren’t total hicks) on the counter. It was so nice to live this way. This is how vacation should be, man – all bless and no stress. You don’t need a meal schedule, it just cramps your style. Of course, people were probably resentful of the fact that Jill and I didn’t bring much except some alcohol. Next year, my wife’s potato salad should shut them up.

Oh! And I also discovered something called “Fruit Leather,” which is like a superconcentrated fruit rollup that you can’t actually roll up. It’s just a flat slab of some foodlike substance with a thin layer of fruity taste painted on. It’s awesome, and I bet the kids just go crazy for it. You can also use it to repair your shoes, if you use enough polish and don’t mind constantly waving away flies and small rodents.

My big quandary for the day was whether or not to take a shower. This may not seem like a very exciting question, but I mention it to show you just how free and easy lake house life is. That was my big dilemma. Just so you know, I didn’t on Saturday, but did on Sunday after our second run of the weekend, because my stink was at too high a level even for me.

So we hung our at the lake house all day on Saturday, just eating and talking and so on. Juli picked a mushroom with a cool cap (head? top?) on it, and looked in her “Giant Book of Shrooms” to find out what species it was. She then pointed out the coolest kind of shroom she ever found out there, a monstrosity named “The Bearded Tooth.” What you’re picturing right now is accurate – it looks like a big white tooth with a bushy white beard. It’s something a college science prof would have in his room just to be cool. Anyway, Juli found her mushroom with the cool cap in the book, and the matter was settled. You might think it’s weird to be so into mushrooms, but hey – some people think learning is fun. Especially teachers. They also had a book to identify birds. Speaking of…


The wildlife out there gets all over everything. These houses are literally built into the middle of the woods, so you get to see all the stuff that would be hanging out in the woods were there no humans around. I mentioned the hummingbird feeder before – this was fun. Those hummingbirds dart around like fricking Nightcrawler, seemingly teleporting from place to place with their buzzing wings. They would come, drink a little nectar, and then disappear into the trees. Little green lizards were also crawling all over the porch. My wife thinks they’re cute. I also saw a bunch of cool birds, but you can see them in any woods if you look hard enough. That’s why there are bird-watching societies with the pith helmets and the expensive cameras.

At some point in the afternoon we decided we’d had enough of this heat crap and went for a “sit” in the rancid Dam B lake. That lake water stunk, man. I say a “sit” because we all got chairs and planted them in the water, 10-50 feet from shore, and just sat down. The water waved in, but only the hanging bottom of my shorts got wet. Now, some people swam, but we don’t care about them. Us old people sat in the lake, basking in the shade or the sun, depending on our ratio of desired tan to actual tan. The lake floor was made of black sand and little sea plants, and was soft and squishy to walk on. We didn’t see any gators or sea snakes, but you can rest assured they were out there with us. Buzzards circled overhead as we sat there, as if they knew something we didn’t about the whole situation. I’m totally serious about this, by the way. There were a buzz of buzzards flying at the level of the tree-tops (which in East Texas means several stories above the ground – those trees were tall), just waiting for us to become carrion. This is the kind of thing that happens here.

We got back from swimming and my wife chose the opposite life-path as me and took a shower. This is not the problem. She then dried her hair by plugging the hair dryer into a plug that’s attached to the hanging-string-pulley-thing that turns the light on and off. This also was not the problem. The problem came after she was done drying, as she turned the dryer off and unplugged it. As she did this, the lights went off. All the lights went off. Now, it was daytime, so no biggie, but we still had to go over to Kirby and tell him that we broke Mimi’s cabin. We felt kinda bad, until Juli’s mom came back with word that it wasn’t our fault. The problem was caused by the wiring itself, which wasn’t really wiring at all but a rigged-up and torn apart extension cord that they were using as electrical wiring. Who knew you could rig an extension cord to function like that? Hey, it was working fine until we plugged our high-falutin “Yankee” machine into it.

And Kirby fixed it anyway. What a mensch.

Night fell like a fat kid falling on cake and what did we set out to do but the very crazy thing we had avoided the night before – pile in the back of a truck and drive to the cemetery in the dark. This was probably the weekend’s most blatant example of us adults regressing to our pre-teen years. There’s something about sitting in a truck bed with 8 other people that makes you think of childhood and all the crazy things you did. You wonder how you made it out alive. At least Kirby was sober this time (I think – it’s hard to tell with him sometimes). Anyway, we drove first to an Exxon station to get some ice cream (freaking the clerk out as we unpiled ourselves and invaded the store – you’d think she would have been used to this sort of thing by now), then down past the people in the car in the woods (doing God-knows-what) to the cemetery, then to the wooden bridge which caused Juli to predictably freak out and jump out of the truck, then back home. Sitting on the passenger’s side of the truck bed, I was looking out at what was on the driver’s side. This turned out to be bad, since all the interesting stuff (the car, the cemetery) was located behind me. All I saw were houses, woods, and a buttload of stars. The tall trees caused a Texas Stadium-like “hole in the roof” effect that was kind of cool, with all the stars in the middle. The worst thing about the ride was the hair-plastering wind, which caught us non-lake folks off guard and prevented the whole experience from being perfect. But we were riding in a truck bed – what did we expect? This is why mankind now sits inside the vehicle.

Coming Up Next: The conclusion of the weekend, and the conclusion of the matter.


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