Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Chapter 4.1: Packing for the Trip

This is the way I envisioned it.  Its Friday, July 3 the day were supposed to leave for the camping trip.  I would go to work.  While I was at work, Bonnie would be at home packing all the food and clothes, and getting the kids ready.  I would only work a half day. I'd be home by 12:00.  Take down the tent.  Pack the car up.  Leave the house by 5:00.  Drive for three hours.   Be at the camp site by 8:00 PM.  Unpack the car.  Set the tent up. And be sitting by the fire with a cold drink in my hand by 9:00.  OK, maybe 9:30.  NO  PROBLEM!

Unfortunately I have very narrow vision. I never took into account my wife's second major annoying problem.  I forgot to mention, being a clean freak was my wife’s first annoying problem. I can live with that.  I can live with the vacuum going for three hours at a time.  I might be deaf, but I can live with that.  Her second major annoying problem, and this one is really annoying, is that she is never, never, never, never, never and never ever on time. Never! Let me put it this way.  We go to church every Sunday.  It doesn't matter what time we go for.  It could be 9:00 mass, it could 10:30 mass, it could be sunny that day; it could be a snow storm that day.  We will never get there on time.  Never!  Never, ever! Never!  I don't even know what the front of the church looks like.  We always have to stand in the back. And then we have to stand in back of the people who were already standing, because they were late and we were even later.  If she can't be on time for God, you know that she'll never be on time for me. Especially July 2, the day I want to be at the camp site by 8:00 PM.

The next day I go to work.  Put in my half day and pull into the driveway exactly at 12:00; just like I planned.  At least one of us can be on time.  I expected to walk into the house and see that everything was ready to go, food, clothes, kids, wife.  Nothing! Not one thing. Not one thing was packed.  “Bonnie, why isn't anything packed, I asked?”  “Well, she says, I had to make the beds, do the dishes, do the laundry, wash the floor, dress the kids, make them lunch.”  “OK, ok, but why isn't anything packed?”  That's what I felt like saying.  It's not like I didn't expect this.  I was hoping just this once she would be ready.  Like the good husband I am and will always be, I keep my thoughts to myself and let my increasing blood pressure take a few more years off of my life.

I decided to go in the backyard and take the tent down while Bonnie finally starts packing for the trip. The tent smelled nice and fresh, just like my underwear.  Clean freaks do come in handy.  Taking the tent down was easy.  My two boys Christopher and Anthony helped me get the poles down but when it came time to take the eighteen stakes out of the ground, they became Sigmund and Roy and just vanished.  Well, not quite like Sigmund and Roy.  I just started taking the stakes out of the ground when miss’s clean-it sticks her head out of the house and yells; “You should soak those dirty stakes in a bucket.” “Why would I want to soak them in a bucket, I replied?  They’re going back in the ground in few more hours anyway.”  Why would I want to clean them only to make them dirty again? "My brother always cleans his stakes before he puts them away,” she yells!  Well do I look like your brother.” I'm much better looking, I thought to myself. 

This is where genetics comes in.  Bonnie's older brother Barry is a clean freak just like her.  Think of Barry like Yoda and Bonnie like Luke Skywalker.  Master Cleanliness teaching student cleanliness the way of the golden mop.  This is where it gets freaky.  Their sister Barbara is just the opposite.  I don't think she knows what a mop looks like.  But that’s not the freaky part.  Did you notice alls the B's, Bonnie, Barry, Barbara. Take a guess what letter their mothers’ name begins with; how about B.  Bernice is her mother’s name. They call her Bea.  That’s a surprise. What kind of family names all their kids based on a single letter.  What about their dog?  You would think because a dog is not in the human category, they would break away from tradition and maybe go with a A, C or even a D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, LMNOP, Q, R, S, T .U. V. W. XYZ.  No!   Here Brutus, roll over Brutus, fetch Brutus.  That’s not the end of it, traditions are hard to break; Barbara and Barry had their own kids, not with each other of course.  That would really be freaky. What in the world could they possibly name them; how about Brendon, Bradley, Brian, Barry and Bret.  Enough said.

It’s a good thing my family is normal.  My mother named her kids, Paul, Carl, Bob, Lori and Mary.  She actually looked in the whole name book, not just the B section.  My mother picked simple random names, or so I thought.  I found out much later in my life there is a reason for everything, including names.  Apparently my mother didn’t think we were that smart.  She kept are names short so we would have no trouble spelling and writing our names in kindergarten.  To this day, I still have trouble spelling words over four letters long.

My mother constantly worried about us.  She worried we couldn’t spell our names, we didn’t dress warm enough, we didn’t eat enough, we eat too much.  No wonder I was afraid to write this book.  I inherited the worry gene from her. 

 Let’s get back to the tent stakes.  I decided I didn’t want to start another argument with Bonnie, so I soaked the tent stakes in a bucket.  I figured instead of scrubbing the dirt off of them which could take some time, I would let them soak for a while and the dirt would just disintegrate and come right off.  I left them in the corner of my patio to self clean themselves and went back to pack the tent.

Taking the tent down is one thing but folding it up and fitting it in the box is another.  I could just try folding the tent randomly and hope it fits; or I could use my brain and figure it out mathematically.  I’m going to try math; only because I already tried three times and couldn’t get it in the box.  Kids, this is why they make you take math in school.  Let’s see, the tent is 16’ long, 10’ wide and 8 feet tall.  That’s 16 times 10 times 8, equals 1280 square feet.  The box is 3’ long by 1’ high and 1’ wide.  That’s 3 square feet.  So 1280 should equal 3.  Not!  I think this problem calls for fuzzy math, maybe even physics.  If I could just remove the space between the molecules of the tent, it would shrink the tent down enough to fit in the box.  No, I’m not a genius but I did watch Honey I Shrunk the Kids.  If I only had his Shrink Gun; I could shrink everything down to pint size, put it in a shoe box, take it to the camp site, un-shrink it and be ready to go in just minutes.  Not hours like usual. The shrink gun could also be useful in your marriage.  The wife puts on some extra pounds, BAM!  Problem solved.

I’m going to look to the Orient for the answer.  It’s called Origami, the art of folding.  If you can fold a dollar bill into a small little shirt, I’m sure you can fold a tent into a box.  Actually if I just follow the original fold lines of the tent I should be OK.  So after a couple times folding and unfolding the tent, I almost got it to fit.  The problem wasn’t the way I was folding the tent, the problem was trapped air.  How do you get the trapped air out of the tent?  It’s called the Musilli Roll.  I named it after the inventor, me.  It works just like old fashioned clothes ringer.  You put the wet clothes into the rollers, crank the handle and it forces the water out of the clothes.  The tent represents the clothes, the air is the water, but what can I use for the rollers.  Bonnie”, can you come over here for a minute?  I unfolded the tent just a little bit, about a 3 by 8 foot section.  Bonnie lay down right here and start rolling. ------ “WHAT” ----- “You called me out here to do what?” “What do you think I look like a ---------.”  Right there many things pop in my head.  Does she really want me to tell her what she looks like?  Does she really want the truth; no, of course not.  She can’t handle the truth.  Thanks Jack. 

So I end up doing it myself as usual.  I lie down on one side of the tent and start rolling.  As you roll the air in the tent gets pushed to the opposite side and actually causes the tent to inflate. You just keep rolling until all the trapped air starts to dissipate. Then you fold the tent over again and roll again.  You keep doing the roll until the tent is small enough to fit in the box. It helps to have a non- curved body.  It’s better to be like a rolling pin than an hour glass.  That’s why men are better than women for rolling; less room for trapped air to escape.  Of course I wouldn’t mind watching Pamela Anderson do the roll.   I’m sure the tent wouldn’t mind either.

I have all the camping gear ready to go into the station wagon.  I better go in the house and pack some clothes.  Let’s see, we’ll be gone three days; that’s three shirts, two pair of jeans, two pair of socks and one pair of underwear.  Yea I know what you’re thinking.  I’d better bring three pairs of socks.  Better safe than sorry.  Honey, I’m done packing, let’s get going. “Oh really, she says from the kitchen.  What exactly did you pack?”  “Well, I ---------.”  “Did you pack your tooth brush?”  “No …….”  “Did you pack your shaver?”  “No……..  Did you take a jacket?”   No…..”  That’s when I looked on the bed and seen her suitcase and three boxes. The suit case was packed so high the cover wouldn’t close. Are we leaving for a week?  Did someone forget to tell me something?  I’m looking at all the boxes; there seems to be one for each kid.  Each box also had enough clothes for one week.  This can’t be right, were only going for three days.  How many clothes could you possibly need for one week end?  Am I going to have enough room in the wagon for all this?  I’d better get to the bottom of this.  There’s no way I’m bringing all these clothes!
Camping fun with Carl signing off!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Chapter 3; Preparing For the Trip

Checking out your camping equipment before you go on your trip is always a good idea.  You don’t want to go to sleep on an air mattress that has a leak.  Your back will never forgive you and neither will your wife.

So I decided to check out those great bargains I bought at the garage sales.  I started with the cooking stove.  I knew it was pretty rusty and dirty and besides, I didn’t really know it even worked.  The guy at the garage sale said it worked, but how reliable is that.  I put him on the same scale as a used car salesman.  And there is no Lemon Law pertaining to garage sales. I opened up the stove to see exactly what I bought.  There it was, years and years of neglect: spilled beans, spaghetti sauce, and all types of U.F.S’s (unidentified food substances).  If only the guys at Coleman could see this. They would take it away from him with no visitation rights. 

Man, this stove was a lot more messy then I remember seeing it at the garage sale.  Then it dawned on me, the old switcher roo.  No, he didn’t switch the stove when I wasn’t looking.  He switched the light bulb. Normally a garage has a sixty to one hundred watt light bulb in it.  This sneak used a forty watt bulb.  Just bright enough to see what your buying, but not bright enough to really see what your buying. Maybe he was a used car salesman.
The next question is; how do I clean it?  Do I give it to my wife to clean, Mrs. Clean Freak.  Not!  I remember one time she calls me to the kitchen and tells me the phone doesn’t work.  “The phone doesn’t work, when did this start happening” I asked.  “I don’t know” she said.  So I take the phone down stairs and start taking it apart.  It didn’t take to long to figure out the problem.  The smell of Clorox permeated through my nostrils.  I told you she loved Clorox!

My eyes started tearing as I took the top cover of the keypad.  The keypad electronics were soaked in Clorox. That’s when I really started crying.  She damaged a perfectly good phone.  Not really, I took a hair dryer and dried off the electronics.  Luckily the phone worked fine after that.  So I take the phone back upstairs and ask her, honey, did you happen to clean the phone lately.  “Oh yea, she says, I was just cleaning the buttons with a rag.”  “A rag, I said.  You didn’t use any Clorox on it.”  “Only a little, she says; why what's the problem.”  “WHAT’S THE PROBLEM!”  “Clorox and electronics don’t go together, that's the problem.”  Before I could get another word out, she gave me that look, and than those words; “WELL IF YOU DON’T LIKE THE WAY I CLEAN, DO IYOURSELF!”                                                           

You can see my point now.  Do I really what her touching my stove, no.  I would only have to fix it after she was done.
Well, out come all the cleaning utensils: hammer, chisel, blow torch, industrial strength Mr. and Mrs. Clean and before I forget, eye protection.  Better safe than sorry.  I started off by dismantling the stove so I could clean those hard to reach places. Using an old toothbrush dipped in cleaning solution works well in those tiny little crevices.  Here’s a tip.  If you’re mad at your wife, use her toothbrush.  Just don’t tell her.  A hammer and chisel is a good way to dislodge those U.F.C’s.  Oven cleaner works just as good but isn’t nearly as much fun.  Again, don’t forget to use eye protection.  Hard crusty food that flings in every direction has been known to cause eye damage.                       
After an hour or two of cleaning, it was time to put the stove back together.  Dismantling the stove was the easy part, mantling the stove is the problem. Oh sorry, reassembling the stove is the problem.  If I had one of those digital cameras’ it would have been easy.  I would just take pictures of the stove in various stages of dismantling and use them when it was time to reassemble it.  Unfortunately, digital cameras weren’t invented yet. I couldn’t use my film camera; I would have to wait a week before I would get my pictures back. Waiting a week wasn’t really the problem.  Listening to my wife bitching and moaning for a whole week was.  WHY ISN’T IT DONE YET?  WHAT'S THE PROBLEM? IF YOU THINK I’M GOING TO BE LOOKING AT THAT MESS FOR A WEEK YOURRRR, ETC?  So I did it the low tech way, paper and pencil, very caveman like.  But it worked.  After an hour or two, or three, I finally got it back together.  Or so I thought. There it was, one tiny screw lying by itself.  Why me?  Why does this always happen to me?  I must have left the screw out of my drawing.

Did the cavemen ever leave out the any important symbols in their drawings?  No, otherwise they would have been a dinosaur snack.  And they only had half a brain.  I at least have three quarters of one. I checked over my drawing again and again and still couldn’t find out where this screw went.  Why is there always one screw left over that doesn't seem to go anywhere?  Do screws have survival instincts?  You can take something apart, put all the screws in a small pile, and while you’re tinkering around doing whatever, the screws start reproducing by themselves.  I think the term is called asexual reproduction since screws I assume are males. I never saw a female screw.  Have you?  Ha, ha!  

 Hey, I wonder if that’s where the slang term “screw” came from.  Anyway I take that extra screw and throw it in the extra screw box.  Now it’s time for the moment of truth; seeing if I wasted a good dollar on this Coleman stove.  Even if it doesn't work, I could always try to sell it at my garage sale and at least get my money back.  Maybe even make a couple of bucks now that it’s nice and clean.                                                                                                                                                                                                
It’s time to give it a try.  This type of stove is kind of unique in that you actually have to use physical labor in order to light it.  After adding the fuel to the tank, the next step is to start pumping the plunger.  Something only a man can look forward to.  You turn the plunger all the way counter clockwise, put your thumb over the little hole and start pumping away.  The more you pump, the more pressure in the tank.  The more pressure in the tank, the manlier you are.  The manlier you are, the more women you get.  The more women you get, the more..... All right, I’m getting carried away.                                                                                                 

Actually, it’s the pumping action that makes this stove appeal to men.  It’s not one of those wimpy stoves, the kind you screw on a propane canister, turn a knob and light a match.  That’s too easy.  I’m talking about physical labor to get the job done.  Plus as a bonus, you can watch the muscles in your arm flex as you pump away.  And the women just love watching their men pump that tank.  Not because they think it’s sexy, only because he’s finally cooking a meal and not in front of the TV all day.
So after doing my Arnold Schwarzenegger imitation pumping the tank, I give the plunger a quick turn to the right to lock in all my manhood.  Now comes the fun part.  I turn the lever to the light position, open the main valve and listen for that hissing sound.                                                                                                                                                                                                               Hissssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.                                                                                                                  
Now the moment of truth, I light the match; bring it closer and closer to the burner, and...                                                                                                                                                                         Vommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
Houston we have a flame. Mission accomplished.  The stove works and I didn’t waste a dollar.  Let’s see if I’m as lucky with the lantern. 
I basically go through the same procedures as I did with the stove.  I take apart the lantern starting at the top and working my why down.  There were all sorts of needles and springs that needed to be cleaned, so I decided to use my brain power and memorized where they belonged (yeah right).  It seemed like a good idea at the time only because I was too lazy to find a pencil and paper and draw it.
Visual memory is something I mastered after graduating from the Mega Memory Home Course.  You remember that info commercial by Kevin Trudeau, don’t you?  It was way before his famous info commercials for “Natural Cures” and “Free Money.”  For only sixty dollars or ten easy payments of six dollars you can memorize the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in only eight days.  All you need are those eight audio tapes to open up your minds photographic memory.  This of course is after your mind opens up your wallet to get the credit card out, then makes your fingers dial the phone, then tells your vocal cords to vibrate and order the course.     
Well I persuaded some of my absent minded coworkers (suckers) to chip in and order the tapes.  Sixty dollars was a little too much for my photographic memory to develop.  Their memories were so bad; they forgot I gave them my share of the money, oh well.  That’s why they really needed the course. I didn’t want to spend sixty dollars by myself only to find out that the course didn’t work.  And then how would I send it back for my full refund.  I would forget where I put the receipt.

In only seven short days I was ready for any memory challenge.  It would have been eight days but I couldn't remember where I put that last tape.

As I began to disassemble the lantern I would make a mental picture of each item and how it would associates to the next item.  The more crazy the picture, the easier it is to remember.  For instance there’s a spring that fits over the needle assembly.  If I wanted to memorize that the spring goes over the needle, I would make a mental picture of a javelin thrower propelling a giant grape slinky over a humongous sewing needle.  It sounds crazy but it works.

After cleaning all the parts, it was time to put my Mega Memory to the test and reassemble the lantern.  Let’s see, the giant slinky threw the javelin thrower into the grape sewing machine.  No, no, no.  The needle threw the giant javelin thrower over the, no, no.  The........

Maybe I needed that eighth tape.

Next time I won’t be so lazy, I’ll draw a picture instead. 

I finally finished assembling the lantern and to my surprise, no extra screws.  I guess they just weren't in the mood. The only thing left to put on were the mantles. No, not Mickey, and not the big thing that goes over your fireplace. Mantels look like little money bags with a tie string.  You know the kind the cowboys used to keep their coins in.  They also resemble a part of the male anatomy which I won't mention, hence the word MAN- tels.  Anyway, you tie these tiny sacs or bags to the orifice tube and light them on fire with a match.  Man this is starting to sound weird.  Does John Bobbitt come to mind?  I've always slept on my stomach since that day. Once you light them on fire they just shrivel up and their ready to go.  Make sure you don't touch them because they are very fragile.  All you have to do is breath on them and they will disintegrate, especially if you have bad breath.

The whole lantern was back together.  I added some fuel to the tank and decided to give it a try. Oh, did I mention that this the type of lantern uses the same pumping mechanism as the stove. You remember, the more you pump, the manlier you are, the manlier you are.............sorry. After pumping enough air in the tank to inflate Sponge Bob Square Pants at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I turn the little arm thing-a-ma-jig up, turn the big knob counter clockwise and hear that familiar sound I've come to hate.  Hissssssssssssssssssss.......    Now comes the moment of truth.  The next part is really scary.  Coleman makes this lighting contraption that's really neat.  Instead of lighting the lantern with a match, you push this little arm which fits threw a hole in the glass housing towards the mantels.  On the end of the arm is a little wheel with grooves that rubs against a flint.  As you spin the arm the wheel turns and sparks start flying.  The sparks are supposed to light the fuel pulsating through the mantels, at least in theory. 

Hisssssssssssssss......... I turn the little wheel, the sparks are flying, the hissing is hissssssssssing and nothing is happening.  This is when the sweat starts pouring out of your head. This is when you become closer to God.  This is when it’s time to turn off the gas and reevaluate your life; no, not me, not me and the other million men out there.  Just one more turn.  Just one more spark.  That's all I need. 


(Flames everywhere)  What should I do, what should I do?  Think, think!

CARL, TURN DOWN THE BIG KNOB a voice says.  “God, is that you,” I replied.  No you idiot!  This is the left side of your brain talking.  Turn down the knob!  Oh yeah.  So I start turning the knob down and the flames are getting smaller and smaller until the mantels are glowing white hot.  Just like a beacon from heaven.  That's the right side of my brain talking. So aside from the little explosion, the lantern seems to be working fine. Now I have a stove to cook on and a lantern to see with.  What's next, what's next?

CARL, why don’t you air out the tent, a voice rings out.”  “God is that you,” I said. “No you idiot, this is you clean freak wife talking.  Put up that tent and air it out.  There's no way I’m sleeping in a musty smelling dirty tent.”  “Oh really I said, I thought you liked musty smelling dirty tents.”  I thinking to myself, why should I have set this tent up one day before we’re going to leave; just to air it out?  I have no trouble sleeping in a musty smelling dirty tent. She’s the one with the problem. Not me. This tent isn’t exactly easy to set up.  You need an engineering degree just to figure out the instructions.  Plus it takes eighteen stakes just to hold it down.  That's more than the Goodyear blimps needs. Being the optimistic I’m not, I know this is going to be trouble.

Just taking the tent out of the bag, I could smell the musty odor from years of total neglect.  The only trouble is the tent was practically new and only used once.  How musty could these people have been?  This wasn't your typical lightweight nylon tent; this tent was made from heavy canvas.  The poles to hold this monster tent up were 1.5" diameter.  That's huge!  The only problem is they were made out of aluminum.  They were big but weak.  I knew this was going to be trouble.

I started unfolding the tent, unfolding the tent and unfolding the tent.  Man this tent is big!  I never saw a tent this big.  It took up half my yard.  So the next step is to stake the tent down, all eighteen stakes worth.  By the time I hammered the last stake in, my arm was ready to fall off.  It was so weak: I had to use my other arm to lift a beer to my mouth.  A man's got to do what a man's got to do.  The next step takes two people to do.  I called my loving wife for assistance.  She yells back; “Can't you get one of the kids to help you, I'm busy.”  Thank goodness she's on my side.  “Don't worry I said, I'll put the smelly tent back in the bag.”  “No....No!  I'll be right out, she responds.”  It works every time.

You connect all the massive poles together, insert them threw the little hoops and lift the tent up;  one person on each side working in unison.  Or so I thought.   The back side of the tent went up easy.  The middle of the tent was no problem.  The front side was the problem.  We both started lifting together, but I went one way and she went the other.  Snap!  The big aluminum pole broke in half.  My first thought was to blame my wife; that was way too easy.  My second thought was yelling at the engineers who designed this tent with aluminum poles. But they couldn't hear me.  My third thought was shear panic.  We were leaving tomorrow and I have a broken tent.  My fourth and final thought was.  I just broke Sally's tent.  My fifth and final, final thought was; do we really have to go camping?

Off to the hardware store.  I knew I couldn't get a replacement pole in one day, so the MacGyver in me decided to splice to pole together.  I found a copper pipe that would fit into the aluminum pole. So with a couple of nuts and bolts it was as good as new; if you were Frankenstein that is. After we finished putting the tent up, Bonnie started sanitizing, deodorizing and eat off the floororizing the tent to clean freak specs.  We decided to leave the tent up over night to dry it out. 

The only thing left for me to do was get the car ready for the trip.  It's not really a car, but a station wagon.  You remember station wagons, don't you?  It's a car without a trunk; or a really big trunk, whichever way you  look at it.  A 1982 Ford Grenada station wagon, light beige or what I call, flesh color exterior.  It's a real classic Brady Bunch car.  Well I did the normal things like check the oil and antifreeze, check the tire pressure, and make sure all the lights work.  Then I decided to replace the spark plugs just to be on the safe side.  It was a three hour drive after all.  Everything went pretty smooth while I replaced the spark plugs even though my kids were running around, distracting me. The car was ready to go.  I was ready to go.  At least I pretended to be ready to go.

 Nothing could go wrong now, could it?

 It’s was time to call it a day.