So I spent the last week or so camping. Since you all religiously check for new blog posts, I’m sure you figured out that I didn’t have access to the internet and was unable to update you on all the exciting things of my day. But don’t worry, I’m prepared to let you know what my days were like:
Wake up anywhere between 8 and 9:30, make a healthy breakfast (pancakes, cereal, fudge poptarts, or breakfast pudgie pies), drink a cup of percolated coffee then put on my swimsuit, grab a book (Erica Jong’s Fear of Flying or Lorrie Moore’s Self Help) my slouchy lawnchair and park in the shallow water where I read for a few hours before breaking for lunch, dinner, a nap, and a shower in the evening. Around sunset, I might join some family members for a cocktail cruise around the lake. Once the dark set in, I’d join my aunts, uncles, and cousins around a campfire where we listened to Alice’s Restaurant, played campfire games (“I’m going camping. I’m bringing keys and a kite.” “Can I bring a ninja and a rake?” “No.” “Could I bring a ninja and a rake?” “Yes.”), and drank old fashioneds.
Each day was basically a slight variation of this. Except Tuesday, when my dad suggested we go for a midnight cocktail cruise.
What could be better than a nighttime putter in the boat while we nursed melted whiskey cocktails? The sky was a bit overcast, so the lake was darker than usual, but there were still a few pinpricked stars. By the time we boarded, I had finished three glasses of wine and had just started my first old fashioned. I joined my dad, Corey, Ryan, and my Uncle Chisi (That’s his nickname, meaning “small” in Japanese) in my dad’s fishing boat. I was giddy and giggling, laughing about the buoy that read “HYDRANT PIPELINE,” telling Ryan that it was actually a hydrangea pipeline (“What happens if you hit the hydrangea pipeline?” “If you hit it, pink and blue hydrangeas will explode out, obviously.”) and then joking about crazy things Kanye West might do if he bought Boulder lake (make his servants walk around the lake barefoot because he couldn’t stand to have shoe prints on his trails). If you can’t tell already, I have a morbid fascination with that guy. He’s a caricature of himself.
We were about halfway around the lake when Chisi heard the soft moan of a loon. “Turn off the motor,” he said, the cigarette that sat perpetually in the corner of his mouth bobbing along with the syllables. “I wanna hear the loons.”
So my dad complied. He turned the motor off and we sat drifting slowly. A loon called soft and slow from the east side of the lake. Another cooed from the north end. After a pause the east loon called again, and we all made remarks on how nice it sounded. My dad went to start the boat up again and I said, “No, one more.” And sure enough, the north loon responded to the east.
Satisfied, he went to start the motor again. And it puttered.
Did not continue.
“Awww shit,” my dad said. He always accentuates the “sh” sound in shit. The desperate frustration is more apparent that way.
“Alright, how many paddles you got in here?” Chisi asked, tossing his cigarette butt into the water.
“None?” Chisi asked in that incredulous tone the Otto men have mastered.
“Nope. That’s on my to-get list for the camper,” my dad responded. Then he stood up to take off his sweatshirt. “Looks like I’m swimming.”
Somebody suggested the trolling motor. Corey hooked up the trolling motor and steered the boat towards the shoreline, in hopes that the battery would last until we got to a walkable depth. We all turned our gaze toward a light at the far southeast corner of the lake, near the boat landing of the campground, as if our combined stares could propel the boat faster towards the shore.
“All to hear a damn loon,” Chisi said.
“And now it isn’t even calling,” Ryan said.
“What an asshole,” I said.
My dad kept scratching his head and tightening his face into that tight grin he gets when he’s faced with the responsibility of problem solving. He gets that look when he’s pondering what’s wrong with a car engine or how he’s going to repair the overflowing washer again.
“We’ll get there dad, don’t worry about it,” I told him.
“Yeah,” Chisi said. “This is some funny shit.”
“Yeah, it’ll make good blog material,” I said.
My dad threw his head back. “You’re gonna blog about this?”
“Of course I’m going to blog about this. It’s hilarious.”
As the tone of the trolling motor got lower and the lights on the shoreline began to go out, I was glad that I was the only woman in the boat. Because of that, I would be the last one to be asked to get in the water to pull the boat into shore.
Eventually we got to water that was shallow enough to walk in. My dad jumped in, grabbed a rope, and began the slow trudge to the boat landing.
Soon Ryan stripped down to his underwear and jumped in to help.
Earlier in the evening my dad and I had a conversation about how some people might say he spoiled me but that he didn’t care, that I was his little girl. If this wasn’t proof, I don’t know what is. I mean, I know I wasn’t the only person in the boat, but you can bet that if I was the only other person with him, he would have given me his sweatshirt to stay warm while he trekked across the lake.
About two hours after leaving the dock, we were about 50 yards from the boat landing, it started to rain. By that point, my bladder could barely contain my four drinks. The men were all lucky enough to relieve themselves in a Folgers can kept in a cubby, but the same anatomy that saved me from pulling a boat across a lake also prevented me from relieving myself. Then I remembered that I had left all the windows on my wing of the camper wide open, practically inviting the rain to make all of my clothes, bedding, and books damp. Fortunately, we were able to get back to the campsite before the rain fell below the canopy and soaked everything.
What did I take away from this experience? First off, sometimes year-old batteries decide to stop charging themselves. Second make sure to have paddles in your boat. Last, and most importantly, loons are assholes who stop calling when the year-old battery in your boat dies and you realize you have no paddles. Also, if you ask nicely, your little brother will allow you to post a picture of him in his underwear on your blog.