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A Dispatch from the Great Outdoors
We’re staring down a stretch of blazing-hot temperatures this week, with highs set approach 100 degrees every day. That’s to be expected in August, I suppose, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
In advance of this late-summer heat wave, however, something remarkable happened: it was actually nice outside this weekend. The weather was pleasantly warm without being too hot, and not uncomfortably humid—the kind of Goldilocks weather I pine for all year long. It was perfect for getting some yardwork done, cooking outside, and for enjoying a drink or two on the patio.
It’s also the kind of weather that presents a very particular kind of risk, though.
“Can we set up the tent and camp in the backyard tonight??”
Now, I am not a camper.
Don’t get me wrong; I have camped. I understand what it is all about. I even see the appeal for some folks. As a regular pastime, however, it is not for me. I enjoy the simple pleasures of a firm mattress and a house kept scrupulously at 69F. That said, we have a tent, because I found a decent one on sale for $40 at a discount store a few years ago.
I may not be a camper, but I am a Dad who appreciates a bargain.
Still, I hesitated.
“You should do it,” my wife offered encouragingly, both of us understanding implicitly that “sleeping outside” is firmly on my side of the Responsibilities We Do Not Share divide within our marriage. I fix leaks, kill spiders, and sleep in the yard; she negotiates car sales and remembers the names of our children’s friends’ parents. It works well most of the time, until I’m faced with the prospect of sleeping on a leaky air mattress in the yard.
Reluctantly, and with a heavy dose of self-inflicted guilt, though, I agreed.
In the spirit of the great adventurers of yore, I decided that I should journal my expedition into The Great Outdoors.
This is that log.
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4:30pm / We have entered a broad, flat clearing in a field of clover and weeds. There is a nice breeze, and the Wi-Fi signal appears moderately strong. We will make our camp here.
4:35pm / Unpacked tent. Doesn’t smell too bad. An auspicious start.
4:36pm / Our first wildlife encounter. A handsome but slow-witted wolf has entered the campsite. Children have fled.
4:40pm / Wolf has been coaxed away from campsite with promises of cheese and belly-rubs.
5:02pm / Tent has been erected with minimal profanity on the part of the children, and moderate but situationally-appropriate profanity from myself.
5:04pm / One of the tent’s poles has snapped.
5:11pm / Electrical tape has been procured from a nearby ranger station, and tent pole has been repaired.
5:12pm / Repaired pole has snapped in another place. Pole deemed unnecessary to success of mission.
5:20pm / Begin inflating air mattress. Battery pump cannot be located; must use hand-pump. Understand what the crew of the HMS Wager felt like.
5:28pm / Child appears with snack in hand, asks what I’m doing; is reminded that they specifically requested to sleep in tent tonight. Child offers no recognition of this prior discussion, but seems amenable to the suggestion.
5:45pm / Daughter has established her area of the tent, a carefully-considered arrangement of sleeping bag, blankets, pillows, stuffed animals and small decorations.
5:52pm / Son has established his area of tent, a Nintendo Switch and a throw pillow. Instructed to return pillow to couch and try again.
5:55pm / Wolf has returned, and has attempted to enter tent through fixed side window. Minor tear in screen, several stakes removed from ground. No further breakage to poles is observed, and wolf appears unharmed but extremely dim. Concerned for long-term survival of pack.
6:00pm / Recess for dinner and remainder of day’s allocated tablet time.
8:00pm / Build fire with wood remaining from raised garden bed that was abandoned after two seasons of pandemic-fueled manic gardening.
8:03pm / Learn that sawn lumber produces a great deal of sparking embers when burned. Beat tactical retreat. Marshmallows will be consumed raw.
9:30pm / Child who suggested tent in first place expresses desire to sleep inside. Complaint is logged in file and request is denied.
9:45pm / Have retreated to tent for evening. Wife sends Folgers “Camping Trip” commercial from inside house, noting similarity to our situation.
9:46pm / Sentiment is appreciated, though doubts remain strong that wife will wake up first. No sense in pressing issue; have already been kicked out of house.
9:49pm / Son requests game of UNO before bed.
9:54pm / Begin to suspect son is cheating at UNO; do not remember rules of UNO well enough to challenge him at it.
9:59pm / Son has won at UNO.
10:00pm / Son requests second game of UNO. Daughter protests, claiming she wants to go to sleep. Make note to begin playing UNO at bedtime every night.
10:07pm / Son: “No, these are real rules you can include!”
10:15pm / Son has won at UNO again. Daughter is asleep.
10:17pm / Indicate to son that it is late and we should go to sleep.
10:30pm / Neighbor’s sprinklers turn on, startling son awake.
10:35pm / Begin New York Times crossword puzzle on phone. Son indicates that he would rather watch me do the crossword puzzle than sleep.
10:38pm / Son is asleep.
10:50pm / Crossword puzzle completed.
10:58pm / Hear animal footsteps outside tent. Text wife to bring wolf inside.
11:00pm / Receive photo of wolf sleeping on couch in response. Concerning on multiple levels. Decide not to pursue further, and try to sleep.
11:28pm / Nearly asleep.
11:30pm / Other neighbor’s sprinklers turn on, startling me awake.
12:05am / Google “what is other loud insect at night”
12:10am / Reading about katydids on Wikipedia.
12:48am / Still on Wikipedia, but now reading about history of Serbia, which was somehow six clicks away from katydids.
12:58am / Realize what time it is, decide to attempt to sleep again.
1:00am / Third and final neighbor’s sprinklers turn on.
1:01am / Begin to understand why I have the worst lawn on the block.
1:03am / Son has been startled awake by sprinklers, joins me on air mattress.
1:05am / “Daddy, what’s that noise?” “Those are katydids, son. They produce that noise through stridulation, which is a process similar to that of a phonograph needle being dragged across a record. The phonograph was developed by Thomas Edison, a famous inventor who engaged in the War of the Currents with, among others, Nikola Tesla, another noteworthy inventor from Serbia, or present-day Croatia.”
1:06am / “Wow, you’re smart, Daddy.” “Well, that’s because I always make sure to get a good night’s sleep, son.”
1:10am / Daughter has been startled awake by history of Serbia, joins son and I on air mattress.
1:30am / Children are asleep. Air mattress appears to be sinking; choose to blame it on added weight of children and not self.
3:30am / Awaken to sound of train passing several miles away.
3:45am / Reading about the Lousiville and Nashville Railroad on Wikipedia. Katydids have mostly quieted down; unable to calculate ambient temperature from the frequency of their stridulations as I now know is theoretically possible.
6:02am / Awaken to first rays of morning twilight and chirping songs of birds. Both children are asleep on top of me. Grateful for this fleeting time when they still want to go on adventures with their Dad, and still cling to me for protection when those adventures get a little too scary. Hope that they remember this time as fondly as I do. Air mattress has mostly deflated and back is sore, but heart is full; lie in the faint but growing light in full appreciation of a special moment that can never quite be again.
6:30am / Text wife for that cup of coffee she promised.
6:45am / No response. Wife appears to be asleep.
—Scott Hines (@actioncookbook)
Where in the #@&% is Glen From Cincinnati? WEEK 6!
We’re past the halfway point in our 10-week hunt for the world’s greatest culinary supervillain. In Week 5, a handful of you were cunning enough to figure out that Glen was dining at Flore Vegan on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighborhood, with Jeff G. notching his second win to date by guessing it first!
Of course, Glen escaped again, and he’s got a fresh set of clues for all the would-be food detectives out there:
To find out where I’m headed next,
Get inside the head of a chef.
In a state known for friendly waves
Find burgers that will draw your raves.
Seek one name for river and city
A two-tone brick facade looks pretty
A bird’s-eye view might get you started
But when you get here? I’ll have departed.
You couldn’t find me? I know you’re trying.
I hope that you don’t break down crying.
Spare us from the waterworks tune,
Look up, and you might reach new heights soon.
Any idea where Glen might be? The clues are there, if you read carefully!
Ah crap now he’s got me rhyming too. Anyways, as with previous weeks, submit your guesses at this Google Form link, and not in the comments: