My mother has a problem. For some unearthly reason, when you put her and a tent together, it always rains.
Not one of her pictures…this was just a pretty search result.
Once or twice? A coincidence. (If you believe in coincidences.) But multiple times with multiple
victims people? It starts to become clear that Someone Out There doesn’t like her.
(Apologies for the bad picture. I lightened it a little, but don’t know why the person taking it didn’t tell everyone to take their hats off. L-R: my mom’s coworker [whose name I can’t remember], her son, me, Mom and Wayne [Mom’s boyfriend from 2004-8]) (I need a name, so I’ll call the coworker Rachel and her son Ben. [Anne and Chris also comes to mind, but, as I said…])
Our first trip camping together was to South Manitou Island in 2006. Since Wayne was retired, he’d come by and grab me and my bag and take me back to his place about an hour before Mom would get off work, so that I could help finish packing and we’d be ready to load my mother’s car when she got there. Since this was twelve years ago, my memory is a little fuzzy, so I don’t know if my body threw much of a fit1, but it was an otherwise lovely ride up to Traverse City on a summer Friday evening. We overnighted there and drove the remaining half hour to Leland, where we had breakfast (or rather, I attempted it2) and met up with Rachel and Ben at the dock to board the ferry for our weekend of camping.
That night, it rained.
This wasn’t your average summer shower—it rained so hard, Wayne’s tent flooded3, thunder shook the island, and the wind gusted through the trees so hard that…well, it didn’t sound like a tornado was coming, but it sure sounded eerie!
Fortunately, it was just Saturday night, so—outside of the hardcover book that was ruined (shouldn’t have brought it with me) and not having a shower between Saturday morning and Monday night—it was okay.
Well, I thought it was just going to be Saturday.
(Big Sable Point lighthouse, Ludington. I love Ludington so much that I sighed happily when I saw that picture.)
Fast forward to 2007. This year’s destination, the new Jack Pine hike-in campground at Ludington State Park (about two hours south of Traverse). When I was little, it had been a site for large groups, but they’d recently converted it to ten tent-only lots and my mom—being an avid backpacker by then—was eager to try it. Other than a slightly rainy setup and a damp first morning; this, too was a good trip. (Even more so for me, as I was able to persuade my mom to walk to the showers in the main campground with me at least once and didn’t have to be dirty all weekend.)
Having spent my childhood with grandparents that would call every time a major storm rolled in (to check on us and to remind us to go to the basement if there was a risk of tornado), I was antsy when my mom arrived because a warning had been issued and Wayne hadn’t showed me where the door was to his basement. My mom must have pointed it out shortly after her arrival, because not ten minutes later, I decided I didn’t like the sound of the wind and was slipping on my flipflops. Apparently, she felt the same way, because she was hot on my heels!
When the wind cleared, we went outdoors to find corn leaves, foam, leaves and other debris in the yard—even someone’s report card!
We debated whether we should still go to Ludington—and we did in the end, much to my discomfort—but it was scary coming back and seeing the devastation, realizing we’d been a mere three miles away from the tornado. (My dad lives six miles away from where the tornado touched down, so I’m sure I was anxious about leaving him behind, too.)
(The Viking Arms in Ludington, where my mom and I stayed during our annual Labor Day Weekend trips. I thought they were cool back in the day because they had a big library of videos that you could rent for a buck each. Wonder if they switched to DVDs or just got rid of the whole concept with the advent of streaming on Netflix?)
You think I would’ve cottoned on to my mother’s issue by August 2010, but it still hadn’t occurred to me that something might be wrong. Between my anxiety acting up (which we didn’t yet know I had) and no Wayne to mediate between us (he’d dumped my mom in 2008), it was the worst camping trip I’d ever been on. (Yes, even worse than that final one with my grandparents where my preteen bitchiness4 put an end to everything.)
It wasn’t a bad trip in the daytime…we went hiking at one point, went to the beach (where I played so hard with some kids that I could barely stand up for exhaustion afterwards), ate at House of Flavors at least once…but the rain just had to come back!
I don’t know if it’s walking to the bathroom in the rain.
I don’t know if it’s because rain makes the tent stuffy.
I don’t know if tents trigger claustrophobic feelings.
All I know is that I cried when the storm came in and did not want to be in the tent!
Watching this come in was fun…sitting in a tent while this comes in? Nightmare!
Even when it wasn’t raining, I had a hard time sleeping—probably because of cars driving around at all hours5 of the night! One of us had Advil PM in our bags (maybe it was both of us), but it turns out that diphenhydramine (the sleep ingredient in APM and other OTC pills) makes me nauseated above a certain point, which made the situation even worse. By Sunday, Mom was upset with me and I was unhappy in general, so we went home a day early. She must have calmed down after we were on the road for a while, though, because we played a few word games, and that what how I found out uglifruit existed!
Would I be happier now that I have klonopin on my side? Probably not…I can still see myself longing for my childhood trips in a travel trailer!
Next Page: Sorry, Mom—it’s not me, it’s you!
1If you’re not familiar with the nature of my health problems, feel free to ask.
2I haven’t been able to eat a proper breakfast since I was a junior in high school. As a senior, I imagine it was anxiety…and in the years after, more anxiety, given that I would often be up for breakfast only because I had a job interview.
3They brought a single for me, but it was so small that even with the screen uncovered, it gave me a bit of claustrophobia. (Like those two were going to Do It on the hard ground, anyway!)
4Okay, maybe one part bitchiness and one part “my parents are divorcing and even though they’re miserable together, it still hurts!” (I don’t remember if we stopped going when I was eleven or twelve, though.)
5When I was young, each campground had gates that they’d close at the end of visiting hours; but I have no way of knowing if they stopped after determining it was a safety violation, or if it was just the DNR patrolling hourly.
Have you ever wanted to go back to a place or city that you’ve been to a couple of times, but the overriding reaction is, “There’s nothing left for me there anymore”? That’s happening with me and Las Vegas. I’m listening to Abbi McBride (wife, assistant and spiritual partner to the great illusionist Jeff McBride), which led me to check the list of people he’s following on Twitter to see if she had a feed, which led me to a nerdtastic list of magicians (some of which I’ve had the privilege to chat with over the years–however briefly), which led me to remember my last trip to Las Vegas. (Which, sadly, started with the thought, “Why am I here? There’s nothing really here for me, anymore.”)
The last time I went to Las Vegas, I attended the Vegas Vortex’s Fall Festival. I arrived on Wednesday, the day before the festival began and did “touristy stuff” during the day, while attending festival events during the evening. (After sunset is when my people come out, don’t you know! [Kidding…sort of.])
I don’t think they start on Thursday anymore, but in 2008, they had an opening potluck at the House of Mystery; Jeff and Abbi’s home, lecture hall, creativity center…whatever you want to call it. I tried to act my twenty-two years, but it was a bit of a struggle at first, as I was a huge fan of Jeff’s at the time. After the introductions and the opening activities, I was able to explore the house and see all the amazing stuff–including Jeff’s collection of awards, Guinness World Records and magic memorabilia. I won’t lie…it was hard waiting for Jeff to come home from the show he was doing at Palace Station! I hate using cliches, but I was jumpier than a cat at a rocking chair convention! Even when he arrived, it was hard to stay calm and behave myself…even after bouncing all around my hotel room to try to calm myself down! My friends Sabrina and Marie started warming up their bodhrans after Jeff’s arrival, Abbi sat down with her…bodhran, I think it was, and another gentleman and gentlewoman joined the group with their own instruments. Sabrina handed me a rattle so I could join them, but I was still so antsy (and busy keeping an eye on Jeff) that I had trouble keeping the rhythm. Finally, I gave up and got up to dance. Then I really let go.
I haven’t said much about myself since I started attracting a slightly bigger audience with fellow King of the Nerds viewers (and Moo, Celeste and Brandon–thank you all!), but besides being a novelista, I love to dance! Some might be afraid to get up in front of a group to dance–even a niche group of about two dozen or so, like there were at the potluck–but I’ve long said that music runs through my blood and I can feel the rhythm in my feet. If I get the urge to dance, I dance–others be damned! I just started moving extemporaneously and the next thing I knew, I had a little dance choreographed. I don’t think I actually realized it until another woman got up and started copying what I was doing! (In Monica Furlong’s Juniper, Ninnoc says, “Sometimes we danced the dance…sometimes the dance danced us.” That’s definitely what it felt like!)
Friday night, we saw Jeff’s show at the hotel/casino, for which Jordan Wright, his protege of the time, opened. (If you’ve never seen Jordan perform as “Mr. Right”, check out his YouTube channel…he reminded me of a young Dick Van Dyke.) I can’t tell you how amazing it is to see illusions live that I’ve previously only seen on television. Our seats were pretty far in the back, but it didn’t matter–Jeff is such an amazing illusionist, he’ll draw you in, wherever you’re sitting. After the show was over, we were all shooed out into the casino so they could start setting up for Wonderground and the Witches and Wizards Ball. I can’t describe the Wonderground for you…even this story barely brushes the truth of it! That was the first year the Ball had coincided with Wonderground, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ball attendees have gone every year since. Music, magic, dance, readings…Marie doing live painting on some nights…crazy stuff! (This is the video from the night I went…I can be seen from 1:04-1:10 in the white evening gown and circlet.) I’ll never forget when Sabrina and I left the casino to find a taxi so we could go back to our hotel…Jordan and his friend actually chased us down to talk to us one last time! (We were also a bit punch drunk, so we had fun giggling like crazy and chattering to the driver like he was a friend who had missed all the fun.)
My mother talked me out of going to Bonedance on Saturday (“What if you fight with Marie? How are you going to get home?” etc., etc.), which is a real shame. Yes, I have the memory of gazing out at the Rockies from my room while chatting on the phone with a sweetheart of mine (who happened to be in California at the time), but I still haven’t been to a ritual at Sekhmet Temple or an all night fire circle. I grant that everyone was exhausted the next day and could hardly function at HeartShare (the closing potluck), but how many memories did they make that I missed out on?
Sometimes, my heart calls me to go back to Las Vegas, if only to experience the exhilaration of Fall Festival one more time, or to break new ground by attending Mysterium or MayFire. But what’s left for me there, other than that?