Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bananarama, Part I

I was going to write about bananarama.

Oh, I hate when a half a day interferes with a thought.  It was a busy day too and the weather too wet.  To do justice to bananarama, it needs to be wickedly cold out, with snow that squeaks when you walk across it.  Do you know the kind of cold I mean? 

Oh, the television.  The television is driving me nuts.  I'm sitting here, trying not to listen, but it taps, taps, taps into my brain worse than Chinese water torture.

"Cookie powered jet cart...."

"Trying to take something..."

"Only she's not feeling so well.  She needs help...."

And then there's the dog, who wants me to play tug with his rope and drops it in my lap.  More television.

"No added preservatives....." 

This is insane, trying to tell you a story in these conditions.  I was trying to tell you about this trip for which bananarama is the codeword.  Bananarama is all about letting the Scouts make decisions on their own, about letting them plan, implement, and experience their own adventures.  Bananarama was an adventure.

The trip begins with Hostess donuts.  It's January, but it isn't seriously cold where we are, a suburb of New York City.  We've arrived at Harold's house and are waiting for him to finish packing for the trip.  So we eat the Hostess donuts that Harold's mom put out for us.  My favorite are cinnamon and sugar.  I've been promised that we'll get real food on the road.  I don't really trust this.  The message from the basement where Harold is holding court as he packs is that we'll be on the road within the hour.  No time for pizza.  Harold is the man who's pack always weighs 80 pounds or so.  I can't lift Harold's pack if I try, but if I needed an Allen-head wrench, Harold would be able to supply one from its recesses.  He also has sutures and a scalpel in his first aid kit.  I am not so sure I want Harold to be my surgeon in the woods, though I'm sure he has learned the techniques to use them.  Harold's backpack is a study in preparedness. 

The problem with our arrival time, 6:30 pm on a Friday night, is that Harold has only begun to pack starting at about 5:25 pm when he got home from work.  At 7:15 pm, he finished packing and began work on preparing the wagon for the road.  I suggest pizza again.  It is a reliable car, but Harold needs to change the oil and check the plugs.  We don't have time for pizza, I am told.  At 8:55, they have completed two trips to the auto parts store and boys and advisors who are interested in learning how to change a serpentine belt are learning how using the 'here hold this' method.  Unfortunately, Harold's methods of maintaining a car might cascade into issues with the headers and the drive shaft if we don't distract him.  Harold can calibrate a car just outside of working well in a couple of hours.  When he offers to change my oil, Mike quietly tells me to decline, that he'll do it when we get back.  At 9:35 pm, Harold's mom orders pizza.  I silently blessed her, but then at 9:45 pm, Harold announces that we are ready to go.

Suddenly, we were in a hurry.  Boxes of groceries are transferred into the wagon along with Harold's pack and a crate of spare auto parts and tools.  When the driver drops off the pizzas, we scarf a couple of slices each and bolt, with a departure time of 10:05 pm.  We may arrive at the cabin in the Adirondacks about 2:30 am if there are no issues. 

You have to know that there are issues.  There always are.  Roads are slick and one of our cars slides into a guard rail.  The guys look at the damage and we figure we can keep the car going, no serious damage, until she has to show her dad on Sunday.  It is hard to keep a caravan of three cars and a van together for 210 miles and four and a half hours of driving.  Yet, Mike and Harold have a sixth sense about staying together so they sandwich the other two cars with theirs.  My car ended up staying at Harold's house and I'm in the cold van with six high school kids and Mike.  Remember, this is 1987, well before any of us have cell phones, even the ones the size and weight of a brick. 

Finally, the road gets narrower and windier until it seems to peter out completely, and we are there.  Did I fall asleep?  I'm cold.  Mike tells us to bundle up before anyone opens the van doors.  It seems like a bit much, but I trust Mike not to exaggerate by now.  Once the doors are open, the cold slices through my down coat as if it were a cheap windbreaker.  I wish I'd worn another layer.  Hell, I wish I wore a couple more layers of fat for once. 

They unpack all of the gear, the packs, a couple of sleds, and our cross country skis.  Then, I'm informed that I need to put on my pack and ski down the trail to the cabin.  Really?

I'm not that good at cross country skiing.  None of the kids are either, but thankfully, the snow is so dry that it brushes off the first couple of times we fall.  The pack changes my center of gravity, but I start to figure it out.

The secret to cross country skiing on an ungroomed trail in the dark is not to trust the light of the half moon.  Shadows are strange.  Some grades are totally lost in darkness or lit to look different than their actual slope.  You bend your knees and expect the unexpected.  It's exhilarating.  I make two trips with gear, I'm having so much fun.  I pity Mike and Harold who have been clipped a couple of times in the backs of their ankles as they descend a small incline and the sleds they're hitched to slide freely for a bit. 

Once I get to the cabin for the second time, someone has a fire going in the wood stove at the end of the long building.  It's starting to warm up.  I'm starting to warm up.  I shed some layers onto a cot I've chosen not too far from the wood stove.  The close ones are already taken. 

Suddenly, I have to pee.

I put my gear back on to go back outside and thankfully, someone notices. 

"Don't sit down on the seat of the latrine or we'll be prying you off minus some of the skin from your backside," I hear as the door slams behind me. Is that a joke? I assume it isn't, but I can't help but test with a bit of my knuckle as I reluctantly remove my glove to use the toilet paper.  Yup.  I lose a little chunk of my knuckle. 

Why did I have to do that?

I was the kind who stuck a bean up my nose when someone told me not to.  I was the kid who touched the hot sparkler. I guess it's some strange impulse, I guess.  For the rest of the weekend, I can see that little chunk of skin on that metal seat.  I don't make that mistake a second time. 

When I come back into the cabin, they are unpacking the boxes of food that Jeff and Eric had bought.  There are ten big bunches of bananas, for twenty-one people.  There are twelve boxes of onion soup mix.  No one seems to even know quite how the onion soup mix fits into the menu.  Hmmm.  It turns out that Jeff and Eric had gone to the grocery store without a grocery list.  They had a menu, but that was it.  Plus, none of the advisors had been able to go with them to the store.  Okay.  Well, it is an adventure after all and I can see we have plenty of food for the weekend.  I don't as much care what we are going to eat as long as we have plenty to eat. 

By the time I'm settled onto a cot on the girl's side of the room, the pipe to the wood stove is glowing red with heat and the cabin is cosy.  The sky hasn't quite begun to lighten yet, but no one cares about the hour.  This is our adventure and it has just begun.

Thank you for listening, jb

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