Withering Glance: Notes on Camp

  • Updated: July 5, 2013 - 2:21 PM
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Summer camp:  It requires more navigating for some.

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

 

CP: I forget: Did you ever attend summer camp?

 

RN: Yes. Lutheran Bible camp. What a dump. Until then, my entire idea of sleep-away camp had been informed by the sumptuous Camp Inch in the Hayley Mills version of “The Parent Trap.” The Lutherans so didn’t live up to Disney. You?

 

CP: Twice. The first time I was shipped to a YMCA camp somewhere piney. That one was “general interest,” as in swimming, boats, lanyard-making, hoarded candy bars, poison ivy, handwritten letters home and the odd bed-wetter (not me).

 

RN: In college, I was a counselor at a YMCA camp, and one unfortunate boy in my charge was referred to as “the Faucet” by his fellow campers. Nice.

 

CP: The other four-week sleep-away session I attended was a gymnastics camp that was “Lord of the Flies” meets “Friday the 13th,” when all I wanted was “Moonrise Kingdom.” I think I was told, “your choice — this camp or military academy.”

 

RN: Four weeks? That’s a lifetime to a 12-year-old. Rate your homesickness level on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Mom and Dad who?” and 10 being hitchhiking back to Winnetka.

 

CP: I liked being away from home, even if I hated camp. There was a free-range German shepherd that was trained to nip anyone who ran when we were supposed to walk. The jerk in charge must’ve been kicked out of the Navy SEALs.

 

RN: Counselor Killjoy, eh? There’s always one Type A type at summer camp.

 

CP: One “activity” involved knocking each other out of canoes with padded sticks. An asthmatic camper had to be sent home after undergoing a strenuous hazing-type ritual. I had to run to the nurse’s cabin through a darkling woods, like that climactic scene in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

 

RN: Fun. Camps often have such exotic-sounding names. While my older sisters were making s’mores at Camp Tanadoona, I was holed up in the Hennepin County Library, spending my vacation trying to make the all-star summer reading club and praying I wouldn’t be sent to camp.

 

CP: Sounds like me. I loved scouring the library for a stack of Russian classics I had not already read. Getting back on topic, how Bible-y was your Lutheran camp? Were gory and R-rated campfire stories off the menu?

 

RN: Seeing as how I can still recall the lyrics to our sappy sing-along songs, I’d say it scored fairly high on the God-o-Meter. The Y camp that I talked into hiring me was semi-agnostic. It was more about horseback riding than memorizing passages from “The Way.”

 

CP: Still, if your parents had really known you, they’d have sent you to Camp Sond-Heim-a-wonda.

 

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com

Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

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