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Cracker…

This is my son, the day he arrived at home after spending the first 9 months of his life in his birth country of Viet Nam. This is before the “American Adoption” made him officially a US Citizen born abroad. While we were going through the process, the social worker asked us repeatedly if we were ready to be a “family of color.”

It’s a stupid question – of course we weren’t.

I could share all kinds of stories about t

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And just like that – nothing was ever the same again

Motorcycle

It’s been six months since my last on-line confession. Because it’s taken me that long to write this. Mainly because it took a wonderful freedom offered by my wife TJ in order for it to happen. And the last vestige of it is in this picture, taken in the fall of 2019. In it, I’m wearing my father’s motorcycle jacket. And it was the last time I wore it to ride. When I picked up my new jacket, I didn’t even know why I was compelled to buy it. But I get it now. And Christmas day, as I slipped down the driveway wearing it for the first time I carried nothing of my past life. Nothing from my father who died in January of 2018, no momento of his years on his own motorcycles. Only in my memory. I now live in a different town, doing a different ministry, with a wife he’d met once. With daughters he never met, a new son as well (we don’t do steps or halfs in this family). Blessings all.

I think I can finally put my finger on it. It started on an afternoon in May, in 2014. The day I told my son that his mother, my wife of seventeen years, had died while he was in school. I went numb and five years later, in May of 2019. One month after marrying TJ, I found the last edge of the hole that had been in me for five years. A hole that is separate from the pain of my second marriage and divorce, and the loss of my father, the perceived betrayal of friends. And only today did I realize, while reading Neil Peart’s description of dealing with his own grief after his daughter and wife died, do I understand it. When I look back, their is a psychological disconnect from “that guy.” I share his training, his memories, his experiences, and no matter the distance, as the drummer extraordinaire explains, “I could ride – but I couldn’t hide.”

And I tried. I tried in a way that was nearly textbook “how not to handle grief.”

I denied it, and went crashing into situation after situation, and enough ink has been spilled about that. I had to get out, I had to look at the man I was and say, “Sorry man, the new volume you thought you started? It was just the postlude to the first part of your story. The next book can only begin when you embrace, not what you were, but the next phase of your life, take with you the things that are good, but leave the bad behind.”

I had to come through it, and I was fortunate that I not only had friends that came back in my life from before I met Lori, but reclaimed friends that knew her before cancer, and those that knew her as she fought for more than the six official years of her diagnosis. People who helped me put the puzzle together, to see each piece as a part of a hole, and truly embrace what it was. A flawed, but ultimately good marriage where vows were lived and God was present. Yes there were struggles, but there were also so many laughs. And closing out the year at her mother’s house, with my son shooting BBs in his grandmother’s yard, seemed a fitting way to reintroduce those two to each other. To take with him the things that were good, and leave the bad behind.

And none of it would be possible if it wasn’t for my wife TJ. Who carries her faith in front of her and demands those around her honor and acknowledge it. Who not only professes the importance of family but backs it up with her actions. There are not halfs or steps in this family. Warrens, Johnsons, Williams, Hohmans, Rollins, Heltons, Clarks, Olszewskis, Bouchers, like it or not, we’re the same family now (and we travel together too). D is overwhelmed, he’s not used to having four brothers and sisters and I don’t think it’s even hit him that he’s an uncle – but that’s ok, mom is still working on the great-grandmother thing. And it is a beautiful thing.

Because it taught me something that made the other guy obsolete. For all the grief that could be carried, there is an overwhelming level of love. For all the sorrow, there is much more joy. If you let it be. And that’s why it’s taken so long to write. Because it wasn’t something that was active, it wasn’t planned, it was simply something that snuck up and overwhelmed.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans, in the eighth chapter, verse 18, he writes, “For I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

The people who have claimed the gift of grace are not to be replaced, nor are they to be forgotten, but none of them would wish loneliness or isolation. Lori specifically asked that I find someone that would be a good mother to Donovan (that wouldn’t let him go to Duke). My father spent years in conversation preparing me for the time when he was not. He saw it, on the horizon, and wanted me to be the one to remind the family that as he sailed into the distance, his boat getting smaller with each moment, there was someone on the shores we can not see excited to see his catamaran getting larger, ready to welcome him to the kingdom (a bit of prose that we joked about, for it’s truth and for the level of corny). My grandfather who told his stories, the hundreds of friends that I’ve overseen services for, and for all of those that passed too far away to be visited.

And so, I proclaim to you this truth…

Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance, the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12: 1)

Any loss brings about a moment, where you know, just like that, nothing will be the same again. But do not remove yourself from the love that surrounds you, from the possibility of love coming into your life. For God so loved the world…. and loves you.

May you persevere, until the present sufferings give way to glory, and may it be revealed in a way that leaves no doubt of God’s love for you.

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Why I Ride: July 30, 2019

I’ve had sermons I didn’t like before, but a few weeks ago, I had one that I hated with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns. I looked at my family over lunch and asked, “Did that, at any point, make ANY sense to anyone at this table?”
In that moment I promised myself to go back to using notes and notebooks to write, no more staring at a computer’s blank screen trying to fill in the blanks of a pre-written outline.

So, last Friday morning, when Tammy and the kids were asleep, I took my note cards and headed north up route 11 until I was ready. Then, I pulled the bike over to the shoulder, put my raincoat down on the wet grass and started writing in an old notebook. I didn’t even think about how odd it must have looked. Not that I was stopped along the road, but that someone was actually using a pen to write on paper.

Eventually, someone did stop. I heard the bike before I saw it, a fully dressed low & loud cruiser with ape-hangers. The rider? A full-patch 1%er. He’s the guy you think of when you think “motorcycle gang.” He stopped because that’s what bikers do. His first question, after he shut the engine off was, “Hey, you ok buddy?”

I told him I was fine, just working on a sermon. He tilted his head like I said I was teaching giraffes to play basketball. Then pulled out a water bottle and we started talking. Eventually, I made some jokes about road-side conversions and that, as a Presbyterian, I could do a baptism from a water bottle. He laughed and said he’d met a lot of pastors on the road and we were always by ourselves. Apparently, none of us mind that he doesn’t believe in God, and make the same road-side conversion joke. But at least the water-bottle baptism was new. Then, his head raised up to the sky and he said, “But I’m starting to think God is trying to tell me something.” I pointed out that statement showed he was starting to believe. He nodded, and started his bike.

Before he was out of ear-shot, what I’d just offered hit me. As a Presbyterian, I’ve taken a vow to uphold our polity and a road-side conversion and baptism are a definite no-no. No proper instruction, no church promise to support him, no public declaration of faith… but after the rumble of his pipes went into the fog in the valley, I couldn’t help but smile. Because I do know, if he’d said yes, we’d talk for a bit, then I’d wipe off the top of my water bottle and douse that guy in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

After all, as a good Presbyterian, it wasn’t luck that put me there, it was God’s providence. And I knew that he and any of his crew that wanted to come to worship would be welcomed at 125 West Main.

 

 

 

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The 11 year old flashlight.

For “legal purposes” I will say that these stories are entirely fictional. Any similarity between this and actual events is purely coincidental.

Once upon a time… there was an altercation @ school.

Boy B was picking on Boy C as he had all year, taking his water bottle and teasing C about it. Boy D told him to stop it. B told him to shut up. D stood up and walked over to B, and told him to give it back. B picked up a ruler and held it out. D stayed between the other boys. B then hit D in the head with the ruler. D stood his ground. He reached out with one hand, grabbed the ruler & with the other hand slapped B’s hand so D now had it. He dropped it.

B then made sure teacher A wasn’t looking, then punched D in the eye. D pushed B to the ground and told him to stop picking on people. B got up and told D he was going to tell on him. D worried about it all day.

When D came home, he immediately told the story to his parent. The lecture & lesson was stressed and he was reminded about the importance of “hockey rules” (the second guy always gets the worse punishment). D was accepting of any punishment he might receive, because B was being a bully, and D was tired of it.

Still, D assured his parent it was over, conditionally. He will defend himself, he will always stand up to bullies when his friends are being hurt. He will always try to use his words first, and he won’t fight on after the other kid has no fight in him. But, he will stand up for “the kids that can’t stand up for themselves.”

In a zero tolerance world, D is the one in danger. He stood up, he joined in, and despite the fact that he was hit & punched, he hit and pushed. He got involved when he didn’t have to be. He didn’t tell the teacher. He went from witness to participant by his actions and his choice. To the school, this may be seen as a “bad” choice.

But, knowing what D can do, knowing that he’s taken kids that are older by three grades, taller by a foot and outweigh him by forty pounds before. Knowing his punches come from his heel and his hips shift at the moment of impact. Knowing his tolerance for pain in the moment is overridden by his sense of what is right… D’s dad was kind of proud.

Knowing that when the boy was down, D knows to drop a knee to the chest, just above the belly to knock the wind out, how to sweep the defending hands to the side and reign down closed fist hammer punches on the nose and eyes and ignore everything else until, someone pulls you off…

Knowing D DID make the choice to get involved, but he also made the choice to stop.

D won’t hold a grudge, because his dad found out about his friend’s older brothers who taught D to wrestle, taught him about MMA and the need to “win,” not just this fight, but all the fights that might come from the crowd. His dad knows, he can’t “unlearn” the techniques, but like any skill, he has to learn to control them. D’s dad had to learn the same lesson.

“It is good to know what you can do, but it’s more important to know what you will do. You have to make that choice for yourself. The anger you feel, whatever is inside you, because of what has happened to you, won’t go away because you hurt someone else. That’s what bullies do. You can tell yourself it’s right and fair, that it’s good. That you’re teaching them a lesson, that you’re showing them there is someone stronger, meaner, better than they are. But when you lay your hands on someone, you’ve become what you think you’re fighting. When you go past them giving up, you’re just a bigger bully.” D’s dad isn’t smart, but he has learned a few things.

Those are the words of D’s grandfather, to his own son, D’s dad. He noticed one morning that his son was wearing long sleeves on a summer day, he saw that his own son’s hands were cut up, his wrists had scratches. He asked him how it happened.

D’s dad let him know, he went to a friend’s house for a party. There was a guy there, dragging a girl out by her hair. D’s dad walked up to the guy and told him to let go of the girl. He pridefully told the story about “saving” the girl. About how words were exchanged, how a punch was thrown, and slipped and how quickly and easily the abuser was put down… how his arms were pinned and how punches were thrown until a friend dragged him off when it was over. D’s dad explained what a good son he was to D’s grandfather. He’d stopped it.

At the end, D’s grandfather asked a simple question. “What happened to the girl?”

D’s dad didn’t have an answer.

D’s grandfather said, “Then it wasn’t about saving her, it was about you looking like a hero. It’s good to know what you can do, but it’s more important to know what you will do…”

He ended with these words, that echo in D’s dad’s mind years later, when his wife was dying of cancer, when his mom became a widow, when he found a new love, “… in situations like this, your first job, is to protect the girl.” And D’s dad would learn, “the girl” is anyone being pushed around, the minority, by viewpoint, race, by size, religion, age, gender identity, your wife, your children, your friends… “protect the girl.”

Do not try to “save the girl” because they ultimately must save themselves. But get them to safety, keep them from harm. It is better to take a hit to the ego, a shot to your pride, a boot to the head, or risk being included in their scorn, because that’s the model we follow.

D’s grandfather’s favorite biblical lesson? When Christ was about to be taken away, beaten, mocked, denied, tried, crucified… He took the time to heal the ear of a man who had come to arrest him. While his own were prepared to fight for what they believed was right, he “betrayed” their human thinking – and protected them with his words and deeds. Even though he had prayed, to the point beyond exhaustion, that it might happen a different way, he suffered for the sake of others.

D’s grandfather had stood, preached and prayed for equal rights in rural Mississippi before and after “they” shot Dr. King. He’d out grown the coal-town fights boys had to establish the ladder. He revamped church literature on a state-wide and national scale to recognize that the “white-way” was not the “right way” for everyone. And there are churches in the South where, regardless of their demographic where his son can preach and have to “live up” to the reputation, and where anyone with his last name can visit, and be asked if they are family. But that was never a goal. And he never cast a shadow, because he was too focussed on shining a light.

D’s dad heard things that are still being understood. “Don’t join the darkness son, the world has enough of that. Always shine the light.”

A few years later, D’s dad was in college and started dating a graduate student. One night, they saw a movie that triggered a discussion on domestic abuse. She told him a story from her own past.

One night, she was at a party with her new boyfriend when her old one showed up drunk. He was always violent when he was drunk, so she decided to go outside with him. They argued, at one point, he grabbed her hair and was dragging her to his car. She wasn’t going, even if he ripped her hair out. It was over, and she was making sure he knew that. He was slowing down, and she thought it would soon be over.

Then some guy playing hero got involved and beat him up pretty badly. She ended up taking him to the hospital where he got stitches. She felt so bad for him, and he was so sorry, she agreed to “just be friends.” After her relationship with the other guy ran it’s course, they got back together.

It was all going fine until one night when she was trying to leave him again and he grabbed her by the hair and slammed her face into the dashboard of his car. That was when she got a her new face. He fractured an orbital bone & broke her nose.

Fortunately, when he kicked her out of his car some of her friends were nearby & rushed her to the hospital.

Their relationship didn’t last long. It ended on Valentine’s day, before the date started, with thrown flowers & a slammed door. Apparently her friend, and part of the scheduled double-date took one look at him as she met him and said, “What’s hero-boy doing here?”

“Don’t join the darkness son, always shine the light.”

The day after the incident at school. D and C had lunch together, because C and D are friends, E, F, & G join them. A few minutes later, B comes over with his tray. There is a moment that passes between B and D. A nod is all it takes to end it. D scoots over and says, “Here, sit by me.”

“Shine the light my son, and the darkness will never overcome it.”

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So – what turns you on?

Me during a conversation about gender & sexuality issues (not really in my cis-gender WASPy wheelhouse) with an old friend who doesn’t “get it.”

Me: “Do you know how an ignition switch works?”
Him: “Not really”
Me: “Yet you use it every day, and you trust that it works?”
Him: “Yeah”
Me: “Well, it’s kind of that.”
Him: “But I can find out how that works”
Me: “True, but you trusted it to work for years without knowing.”
Him: “But I can find out, and then I’ll know.”
Me: “Right, talk to an expert, look it up on line, if you care you can learn right?”
Him: “Right, so it’s different.”
Me: “Not really – If you care enough to learn about it, talk to some experts, you can learn about people who are LGBTQ and then you’ll have an idea of how that works too.”
Him: “And you’ve done this?”
Me: “Not as much as I should, but like the ignition switch, I know that it’s more complicated than I think. But once I accept the fact that it works, I can care more about the whole car.”
Him: “What?”
Me: “I care more about the whole person than just worrying about what turns them on.”
Him: (laughs) “Fine, but what about the people that switch genders.”
Me: “Hey, I used to be a Ford guy and you were a Chevy-head. But now I drive a Subaru.”
Him: “Yeah, I’m still a Chevy guy.”
Me: “Hey man, whatever turns you on… Did I tell you I just bought a motorcycle?
Him: “Harley?”
Me: “Kawasaki.”
Him: (expletive deleted)
Me: (explained my decision, price-style-etc. especially the “dirt look”)
Him: “I guess you got the right bike for you.”
Me: “Yeah, can’t buy a bike because of some one else’s opinion. Have to get the one that fits me.”
Him: “Yeah, but still, I like that low and slow chromed out full-fender fat-boy look.”
Me: “Yeah, that’s not me – I guess you could say I’m trans-fendered.”
Him: “You (expletive deleted)
Me: (laughing) “Yeah but you love me anyway”
Him – more cursing

And that’s how I know he’s thinking about it. He’s trying to figure out how to deal with a family member struggling & accepting a lifestyle he doesn’t understand. But we may NEVER understand. But we cis-gendered WASPy folks can care more than ‘know’ and that’s the point. We are incapable of “hating the sin and loving the sinner” because we are still putting ourselves in a position of pridefully judging ourselves “better” & that.ain’t.love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails”1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So – If you find yourself lacking understanding, struggle to love anyway. Put down the pride and protect those struggling with identity and sexuality, trust that God is working within them, hope it doesn’t take long to resolve, but even if the struggle changes – persevere in love. Don’t let your love fail. And remember, when God works, it may not be the outcome we thought we wanted, but it may be the outcome God foresaw and worked toward.

Too many of my friends have self-medicated with drugs & alcohol, committed suicide, been turned away from churches, family and friends – been denied love, while struggling to find where God is in their lives.

So let us each be a representative of God’s love and Love our neighbors, our family members, our friends, because be they gay, straight, lesbian, pansexual, monosexual, asexual, transgendered, cis-gendered, non-gendered, trans-fendered… THEY are US.

Let us trade in our ignorance (lack of understanding) and our hard-hearts (lack of caring) for the bold and persevering love modelled for us in Christ.

“Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

And if you are so ignorant, so prideful, so vain to be sure you know the mind of God to the degree of condemning one of God’s children, throw that rock my way, and I’ll do my best to keep from returning it tenfold – because I’m called to love you too.

Loving people I agree with – that’s easy.
Loving people you can’t agree with?
That’s Godly.

And that’s why it’s hard on “both” sides.

And that’s why most people don’t try.

But that’s how God loves us. All of us. In our pride, in our ignorance, in our contraryness… It’s as if God said, “I have the key, I turn the lock, I ignite the spark, that triggers the battery to turn the starter to…”   You get it right?

We’re not the driver – we’re the car, or the bike. Different brands, different makes, different models, some built for hauling rocks, some for hauling… other things. Different colors, Made in different countries, changing over time. Getting broken, the occasional dent, dirty, scratched up – some of develop smells… And all of us end up totalled (but some donate their parts). But we’re all made by God.

Love is the key.
The Spirit is the fuel.
The scriptures are the map.
And God guides us on the road.
Stop being a pothole.
Stop being a STOP sign.
Stop trying to be a member of the highway patrol trying to enforce the law when God is driving.
Just let God open up the throttle and love.
Don’t put the brakes on God’s love and mercy.
Let God be in control & you’ll discover something. The road will be smooth, but it’s going to have some turns. The straights may be a measure of your strength – but God works best in the turns.

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The unintended consequence…

There is a tent in my living room. Inside it are: my XL sleeping bag (with washable cloth liner) on my inflatable bed roll (for my 49 yr old back) with two pillows (one for my big head, another for my knees – I’m a side sleeper), my mess kit (pot, pan, lid, 2 bowls, flatware, cooking spoon, towel, 2 cups) and my backpack. Just outside, two propane tanks & my burner (with fold-out prongs for pot or pan). Along side, my 300lb rated camp chair. Why? Because I’m going camping and before I pack, I lay everything out & practice setting it up. I want to know that I can set up & breakdown/repack everything on my own.

This is all “new” gear to me because my focus has shifted. I used to pack for “glam-ping on a budget” as a friend called it, but I don’t camp that way anymore.

Gone are the days of bikes and skateboards, pop-ups and screen tents. Now it’s Xbox-x and high speed internet, projectors showing movies on the sides of RV’s, I know I sound old, but I don’t want that. I don’t like rugged camping either (although Blue River has the nicest out-house I’ve ever seen).

I want to go camping. Not pretending to be a member of the Donner party, not driving a land-yacht to an RV park. Just camping. Enough electricity to charge a phone & a couple battery packs. A lake to swim in. Water from a spigot. But there are a few “concerns.”

My son hates camping, So, as I’m staring at my phone, about to pull the trigger on a pre-wired X-Box X carry-case with built in screen, the sheer weight of all I was going to take with me bent my shoulders. “I’m not getting away, I’m just relocating. I’m moving the same stuff around while adding more and more stuff.”

This is not what I’ve been doing with my life lately. Seriously, I’m “whittling” Beau out of Rob. I’ve let guitars go (to friends), I let my slowly-killing-me job go, I let my anger go, I’ve even thrown out perfectly good T-shirts!! I let comfort and stability go. I bet God and me against a miserable life…

Which brings me to concern #2, to make the beautiful woman who will be my wife and her 68 degrees or crying daughter and my son enjoy camping, I’m going to need more than a plastic case of wiring with a 19″ TV glued to one side. I’m going to need an air conditioned/heated camper with a private sound-proof room. I’m going to need satellite TV and high-speed Internet and a private bathroom with a human-sized shower. I might as well buy one of those travel-busses & paint the side movie-screen white.

I mentioned retiring and travelling the country in an RV once – and her response was kind, but questioning. An RV to my specs would run an easy 80 grand and she’s right, We’d have to stay in hotels or cabins more than 4,ooo nights to justify that expense. (Considering she gets 2 weeks vacation every year, it would take us more years than we have).

So, that takes care of that. Can’t go big, but I can’t stay home. So, I went to the garage and started looking at my bins. I’ve got some swag in there. My 14x10x8 instant up “cottage” with the external frame, my dual burner suitcase grill, which was replaced by a tailgate grill with dolly-wheels & can cook 6 steaks at a time, a foldable rack for grilling over fire, 4 sleeping bags that could zip together in pairs, my 7×4 cot, inflatable mattresses (now that the latex powder has been washed off), a good sized igloo that doubled as an air conditioner with a battery powered fan, center-mount ceiling fan with LED lights, my 4 person mess kit, my solar shower bag, my 5 gallon water bladder… Basically whatever luxury I could stuff in the back of my Subie.

I sighed. I hated the “bigness” of it. I can sleep 8, but I don’t know 4 people I’d share a tent with. It was just too much, too much to fool with and honestly – it KEPT me from going out by myself. bringing with me kept me from going. It needs to get – smaller, more manageable.

Like my diet, like my work-week, like my stress level…

When I camp, what do I need?

Something to do: My phone (books, music, maps, audio recorder, contact) and battery packs.

Something to sit in: A comfortable chair (one of my biggest complaints of camping is picnic tables).

Some place to sleep comfortably.

Some food & a way to prepare it.

A clean bathroom/place to shower.

Bugspray, first aid kit, rain gear, clothes… blah, blah, blah.

That’s it?

And that’s why there is a tent in my living room, next to a small burner, next to a chair rated for big people. This is my new rig, all I need.

Funny fact: All of it breaks down small enough to fit into my 40L backpack.

Fun fact: All of it combined weighs less than 20 pounds.

Freaky fact: Wearing the backpack, I am still physically lighter than I was by myself two months ago.

Fitting fact: the pack fits perfectly on the rear seat & mounting plate of my bike & has mounting straps to secure it.

Fantastic fact: That leaves my tank and side bags free for clothing, toiletries, food & water.

Final fact: I’ve already found 3 campgrounds within a 3 hour ride that have WI-fi so I can still catch a small-screen movie… but don’t have cell service.

Cue the music.

Lenny Kravitz, “I want to get away, I’m gonna fly away…”

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… Wait? There’s no WI-fi?…

I used to camp with my parents. We would pack up the van, put the bikes on the front rack, hitch up the trailer, pit the sailboat on top of that and Sanford & son our way to the North Carolina coast. There were a few incidents, like repacking wheel bearings on the road or when my dad’s buddy dropped a trailer on my dad’s foot and dad ended up in a cast, but it was filled with days of playing in the water, riding our bikes around the campground & finding new ways to permantly scar ourselves. It was grand.

At least I remember it grand. That’s probably why I continued to camp well into my forties, bought a few tents, really nice cooking gear, etc. and even figured out how to “air condition” a tent with a cooler, bag of ice & a battery-powered fan. My tent is an instant-up 14×10 two room cabin, my two-burner propane tailgate grill can cook breakfast for 4 while perking coffee. Sure it’s a tight fit for the back of the Subie, but it’s all good right?

It was, until I thought about it.

Blame the bike.

Because it’s a “mini-adventure” bike I had these dreams of riding from campground to campground, popping up my mini-tent, sleeping on my mini-mattress, and seeing America. I admit it – in my heart, I’m a romantic, even if my brain isn’t.

So as I searched for a tent that would fit in my water-proof back-bag, my brain reminded me that, near as I can figure, I haven’t really enjoyed a camping trip since about 1986. I’ve enjoyed the company, the stories, but as for camping, I just don’t have it in me.

I know that because I have a 14×10 tent that, if it wasn’t for the door, I could park my Subie inside it. I can put a 4-5 person tent inside my tent. It has two rooms – and weighs a ton. Why?

Because I once spent a windy 34 degree night in a 36″tall dome tent on an air mattress. I got “chilled to the bone” to the point where I honestly considered wetting myself just to be warm for a few seconds.

That same small tent once tried to kill me in a wind-storm. I was on the ground on a 12 inch tall cot and it kept bending until the fabric covered my face.

The whole time, I’m laying awake thinking someone was stealing our gear.

So I bought a tent that was the size of a suburban house bedroom. I could bring the gear in at night & get one of those queen-sized inflatable beds and really do it right. I can bring the gear in at night (I never have).

Did you know most of the cheap mattresses are either made of latex or use a powder to keep it bendy, but not sticky? I didn’t, until I woke up barely able to breathe. My son, still awake at 3am watching a Jake and the Never land pirates on the DVD player at least looked up from his screen. That same trip? I pinched a nerve in my back going off a diving board & spent hours on a folded out sleeping bag, on that mattress. It was 172.3 degrees and I considered wetting myself just to get cool. OK, not really, just because I didn’t want to try to get up or walk 300 feet to the bath-house.

Which reminds me. Apparently we decided as a culture that campground bath-house technology peaked in 1954. It’s somehow always “more” of the weather outside. If it’s 32 degrees outside, it’s somehow colder on the throne, and taking a shower above 90? Your Deoderant evaporates in the container before your shower is over. And fellas, if you not going to contribute to porcelain fund – find a tree – not the floor. I’m pretty sure that the mixture of hepatitis Z will be created in a campground men’s room & 28 days later, we’re all zombies.

Still though, the view… Is usually of an RV owned by a divorcee who “won” it in court, but is now too busy working to pay for it. It’s little grey satellite calls out to the campground children as the gather around, praying with their little tablets – just hoping there is free WI-fi, but there never is – there never is.

Which is why you wake up at 5am and find little children of the corn leaning on the side of the tent, there little faces pressed up against the netting, watching a 7″ wide screen from the outside. While you try to refocus, one will ask if you have any other DVDs, as if standing outside my tent like little Jason Vorhees at 5am and asking for a favor is perfectly appropriate behavior.

And that’s the another breakdown. When did campgrounds the gathering place of drunk Skynard fans? “Back in my day…” We had our own fields for bonfires, shenanigans & daring do. We didn’t pay $13 a night to howl at the moon next to a dentist that is trying to bond with the kids he never sees. If you’re going to throw .22L ammo into the fire, do it on your own land.

And THAT’s the real problem.

I noticed it yesterday coming in to Louisville. I grew up with my Grandfater’s farm, camping, day trips to the lake and long trips to the beach. I got disconnected from the land somehow. I don’t mean some “mother Gia is angry, so we shall dance to appease her” My mom & dad gave me that (and my first motorcycle). Pulling off on Hurstbourne Lane it took 2 minutes before I got my first honk – for not running a fresh red light.

Living on top of each other just makes us angry, anxious and stressed. It’s a living video game and people lose it. In parking lots, in lines, in traffic, in stores, we now live in a “whatayameanican’tgetfries!!” “Because ma’am, this is a bank” world. Where people pay $8 for coffee & complain about free WI-fi.

People think we’ve “nerfed up” the world with participation trophies and anti-bullying campaigns, while failing to realize it’s an attempt to improve the world. “They’ve taken God out of our schools” – maybe – but they’re trying to bring compassion, mercy, and kindness into the students.

They’re trying to create a world where the Dentist with the $80 adventure zip-off leg pants, luxury SUV and air-conditioned pop-up camper can walk over to a group of drunk Skynard fans and say “Turn it up man,” be handed a frosted beverage and sing “Sweet home Alabama” together at 2 am while some idiot in a mini-tent staggers outside to brave the palm-sized mosquitoes in the campground’s men’s room.

And that’s why I’ll buy a mini-tent, and figure out a way to sleep more comfortably. I’ll buy tiny things and pack them all into a bag that I can strap to the bike and just “go.” When possible, I’ll crash @ the houses of friends, but the preference will be with friends in a field.

Because, while camping hasn’t treated me well – My friend’s always do.

Just give me three steps…