Tuesday, September 01, 2009

catalina: a tale of small crappers and psychopaths

It seemed like both a good weekend and a bad weekend to leave town. On one hand, the air was like burnt soup. On the other, would town still be here when I got back? In my frenzy of trip prep on Thursday night, I texted with Amy. I could see flames shooting into the night on a hill that looked to be about five blocks from my house, though it was probably closer to twenty miles. When I heard sirens, I was sure I was about to be evacuated.

Amy: Laist says La Canada…your fire-fighters are probably headed out to help…we should bake them brownies!

Me: Google tells me the same. i better start those brownies!

Amy: Fire-fighters are awesome!

Me: And hot, or so the straight girls tell me.

Amy: Oh indisputably…just think how hot a butch girl firefighter wd be!

Me: True that.


The next morning, AK, Pedro, Stephen and I were on a boat to Catalina, sailing away from the mushroom cloud that hung over L.A. and crossing our fingers that Alyssa would not have to make use of the cat carriers I left out in case of evacuation orders.*

We docked in Avalon, then schlepped to the first of two buses that would take us to the campground at Little Harbor on the other side of the island. Camping without a car (or backpacking gear) involves a lot of schlepping, but I think we did a pretty good job of packing strategically.

After winding through Catalina’s undeveloped interior, which looks a lot like your average view from the 5 just past Santa Clarita, we arrived in Little Harbor, only to realize we didn’t know our campsite number.

AK had spoken with the main camping-office place in Avalon at least twice, but it never occurred to them to give it to her. But Gary, our bus driver, was convinced that we knew it somewhere in the back of our heads.

“Do you remember anything like...8...1...4?” he said.

“No, we really never got it,” AK said.

“Does anything ring a bell? Maybe 9 or, like, 16?”

I wasn’t sure how many campsites Little Harbor had, but it seemed like Gary’s strategy could keep us here a long time. Luckily we found a spot with cell reception, called Avalon and learned we were in 14B.

“Thank god he didn’t start naming letters,” AK said.

Our site was the kind my dad would have hated, right between two others on a little cul de sac. Camping with him was all about hustling for the most isolated site in the campground, even if it meant moving and re-leveling the motorhome every night. But here we were happy with our neighbors, even—especially—the loudest ones, who opened their truck doors to play rock and reggae, and organized their gaggle of small boys to trick a friend into thinking they had swine flu.

We heard loud details from their lives: “Hey, I hear Dave Matthews—your phone is ringing! I bet it’s Rosa Martinez calling with another ‘emergency,’ like when she was at Ikea and needed to know how high the ceilings were.”

Or: “Ugh, the small crapper here is awful! It’s smaller than at the casino. The ants crawl up your leg while you’re trying to take a shit.”

Or, after a prolonged period of silence when the ranger asked them to keep it down: “Yahtzee!”

They weren’t so loud, though, as to dissuade a small, nimble Catalina fox from hanging around. We were surprised to see him during the day, trotting over to the shade of a nearby bush and curling up for a nap. You rarely get to see animals relaxing in nature, unless you count Team Gato making themselves at home in our flower beds, and we (every one of us animal geeks) were hugely touched that this little guy decided to make our home his home. Though of course the opposite was true.

He had a stripy tail and ears that flopped when he walked, a jaunty gait somewhere between dog and cat. How could anyone ever hunt these guys? we wondered. We named him Mozilla.

When our neighbors saw him run by Sunday morning, one of them shouted, “Hey fucker, you stole all my chocolate!”

Food is no small thing when you’re camping. It took us forever to make a fire, and by “us,” I mean Pedro, Stephen and AK. I spent that time reading an article about Michael Jackson in Pedro’s GQ.

What? I spent a lot of time packing, okay? And it was a really good article.

“I think the owl lied,” Pedro said after trying to light damp morning kindling** for nearly an hour. “I don’t think you can start a forest fire by tossing a cigarette out your car window.”

Eventually, though, we managed to make hobo stew and chili and roasted corn and Tasty Bite Indian food and, of course, s’mores. S’mores and then some more s’mores.

In lieu of ghost stories the first night, AK, who had to study for her abnormal psychology final, gave us a quiz to find out whether we were psychopaths. You have to get at least thirty out of forty possible points to diagnosed as such, and, unexcitingly, none of us scored higher than a 13.

“Now let’s all think of the most psychopathic person we know and take the quiz on their behalf,” I suggested.

Probably an unfair game, but this time around, people got in the twenties, and my person, who shall remain nameless, got a thirty. Psychopaths among us! I’m pretty sure he’s the nonviolent variety, though.


The trip brought one hike…

…and much beach bummery. Little Harbor is just what its name suggests: small and nearly wave-less, with water that looks turquoise when viewed from the rocks above. For the first time probably ever, I was brave enough to swim out past where my feet touched.

We caught the Safari Bus back and caught a small herd of buffalo making their way across the road.

We finished the weekend with margaritas and a mariachi band at the Catalina Cantina in Avalon. The town was packed with sunburnt people and shops selling stuff bedazzled with seashells. We preferred the company of Mozilla.

*Okay, I was the only one who was really worried about that.
**In further proof of our city-people ways, AK kept referring to the bundle of sticks as “the kindle.”


El Changuito said...

Reading about our trip makes me want to do it all over again! We'll have to make sure to pack gasoline to start a fire, per our neighbor Greg's recommendation. :D

Tracy Lynn said...

Pretty sure my kindle would be useless for lighting fires and also, I bet I could get almost forty on that quiz. I'm just sayin'.

Cheryl said...

EC: They really did know how to tame the great outdoors.

TL: Bragger.

Claire said...

Dryer lint is good for kindling, so I heard on some science show. Ooh, also, you can take 2 D batteries end to end, hold steel wool to the connections and it'll catch fire. Not sure how you don't burn yourself in the process, but that's just details... :)

Also pleased to see the buffys. There's a small herd at a resort near me and first thing I thought when I heard it was sold was: what will happen to the buffys?

(More properly bison, but buffalo and buffy are more fun to say.)

Cheryl said...

Nothing like battery acid-flavored corn. :-)

Sizzle said...

Smores are basically the only reason I would ever go camping.

Cheryl said...

You can make them on your stove top too. But they taste best when campfired.