Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Today I went tubing with some 10-year-olds

I've had more fun the last week and a half of boys camp than I've had the whole past 6 weeks combined.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Today we went biking in the Pisgah rain forest...

...and it rained the whole time! The whole trail was just slush. These pictures don't do it justice, but it was wicked fun. We were covered, and at one point, I stopped to help one of the kids with his brakes, because I didn't believe him that they were sticking, and lo and behold, I went flying over the handlebars. That's never happened to me before. I landed on my chest, but somehow mostly scratched my leg. One other kid lost control, fell onto his bar, smashed his balls, then rammed his face into a tree before his bike stopped. When I found him, he was curled up in the fetal position, holding his balls, his helmet half hanging off, and sobbing. Poor guy. But he was fine. He's gonna have a nasty bruise on his face, but that just makes him cool.

This was supposed to just be my legs, but once again, Charlotte can't take pictures.

The best part was the mud actually started sliding into my underwear, and I could feel it in my butt!

The Order of the Cross

I think the thing I like about boys camp over girls camp is the history of traditions and rituals that are not observed as heavily at girls camp. Boys camp has clubs, and "societies," and lots of secret activities. Which normally I would hate, but I think in this environment, and with kids, it's okay. They're positive and esteem-building, and give the kids a feeling of belonging. There was actually some debate about this the other night in the office to which I was privy. One side arguing that it was damaging, and the other side arguing that it gave kids something to strive towards. I belong in the latter category. This whole, "everybody has to make the team so no feelings get hurt" bullshit drives me crazy. Kids have to learn how to cope emotionally with disappointment and failure at some point. But I digress. I like the clubs.

Plus I get to be a part of it.

Last night I was sitting playing cards with some people at about 10:30, contemplating going to bed because I've been sleeping sooooo badly lately (having trouble with both falling asleep and staying asleep, which doubly sucks) when one of the head counselors, and a friend of mine, walked into the room and said he needed to speak with me outside. He took me off the porch, and around the building, and had a rolled-up t-shirt in his hand. He turned to me and said, "You have been chosen to become a member of the organization of the Order of the Cross. If you accept, you must wear this blindfold, do whatever I tell you, and agree to be initiated. All I can say about it is that you will not be humiliated. Do you accept?"

So I accepted.

He tied the t-shirt snuggly around my eyes, blocking out any light or vision whatsoever, put his arm around my shoulder and told me to walk with him. We started down along the gravel road through camp, but soon veered off into the rough terrain, and from what I could tell, the steep downhill slope towards the gym down by the waterfront. My suspicions were confirmed when he guided me down a short series of wooden steps, to a wooden floor, which could only be the gym. He sat me down on the floor, told me not to speak to anyone, remove my blindfold, or stand up. He would come back for me.

I sat there, totally blind, for probably ten or fifteen minutes. All around me I could hear other people being brought in, light footsteps, various whispering. Occasionally, I could sense a flashlight beam being shone across my face, but only vaguely.

Finally, my friend came back to collect me. He whispered to stand up, that we were going to take a "trust walk." This essentially entailed leaving my blindfold on, but having no guide, either, except to follow the sound of my friend's voice, and trust that he wouldn't let me fall or run into anything.

Okay, that sounds easy enough, but anyone who has walked the terrain of CP knows that it's rough enough in the daylight, when you can see. I did okay, and didn't really have any trouble trusting him, until we got to the part where he led me out on the docks. He had me keep walking and walking, until I was sure I was about to reach the end and plunge into the lake. So he stopped me, had me spin around a couple of times, then start following him again. I wasn't sure, since I had spun around, if I was going back towards the shore, or if he took me left, since the dock is an "L" shape. So we get to an edge, he stands next to me, and tells me to jump.

I don't jump.

He says to jump.

I still don't jump.

He says, "You have to trust me. Jump right now or it's over."

So I jump.

And land on sand.

And he laughs at me.

And I laugh at myself.

So he leads me on. "Follow my voice. Follow my voice." I do all right, and I have a pretty good idea of where we're going, judging by the terrain. Finally he stops me, and removes my blindfold. I'm standing on the edge of the lake, near the counselor ring, where there's a fire going. He tells me to stand still, don't talk, stare at the lake, and think about why I've been chosen. He says he'll be back, and he disappears.

Of course I start to look around, and in the glow of the fire behind us, I notice that there are several of us, spaced about 20 feet apart, all standing silently, staring at the black lake.

Around this time it starts raining, and it was already cold. Behind me I can hear the running and stomping of multiple feet. Other people are being brought into the counselor ring, dragged backwards along the grass by two people, and stopped at the entrance. I hear their voices, shouting, asking who dares to enter their campfire.

I wait and wait, hear this happen several times, then finally, I hear the footsteps behind me, and both of my arms are grabbed, and I'm dragged along the grass to the entrance of the counselor ring. I'm suddenly blinded by about ten flashlights all in my face at once, and someone says, "Who dares to enter our ring of fire? Do you know the password?"

Then one of the men that's dragged me and is holding my arm says, "No he doesn't, sir, but I do, sir, and I'm willing to vouch for him."

The first voice then asks for the password, which is whispered in his ear, and I am pulled into the counselor ring, and set on my knees before the fire, where about 10 or 12 other people are already arranged, also on their knees, facing the fire pit. This goes on for some time, until about 20 people, both staff and campers, have been placed around the fire.

Eventually we get into the ceremony, which is basically just explaining what the Order of the Cross is, and why we'd been chosen. It's an organization based on "service," whose tenets are Helpfulness, Hopefulness, and Love of Nature. You have to be nominated by someone already in the group, and then be voted upon. They said the people chosen had figured out that to be in the service of other people was the greatest gift you could give mankind, or yourself. Everyone chosen, it was explained, gave selflessly of themselves, imparted wisdom and kindness to others, accepted and took responsibility, showed a great love for their fellow man, and helped to foster a love, appreciation, and respect for nature and the earth.

Some quotes by famous people about service were read, and then the Bible verse from Corinthians about love was read (which is one of the few Bible verses I actually find really moving):

love is kind,
it is not jealous,
love does not boast,
it is not inflated.

It is not discourteous,
it is not selfish,
it is not irritable,
it does not enumerate the evil.
It does not rejoice over the wrong, but rejoices in the truth

It covers all things,
it has faith for all things,
it hopes in all things,
it endures in all things.

But now remains
faith, hope, love,

these three;

but the greatest of these is love.

Eventually we were told why we were chosen, and taught the "secret handshake." All in all, it was a really pleasant surprise, and I felt incredibly honored to have been chosen. Ultimately, I'm not sure what any of it really means, except the knowledge that you have been recognized, and you're appreciated. And if I should come back next year, of course, I would help pick the new recruits, and participate in their "hazing." I've never been initiated into anything before, and it was fun.

Today they're going to give out patches for recognition, and I'm going to put it on my blue jacket when I get home.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Albert Ellis

Today marked the death of Albert Ellis, the man who, in 1957, officially founded cognitive behavioral therapy. He was 93.

A 1982 survey of clinical psychologists ranked Ellis as the second-most influential in the field -- ahead of Freud and behind Carl Rogers, founder of humanistic psychology.

Ellis, who was born in Pittsburgh and raised in New York, wrote or co-wrote more than 60 books, including "A Guide to Successful Marriage," "How to Live With a Neurotic" and "A New Guide to Rational Living."

After receiving a doctorate in clinical psychology from Columbia University, Ellis started a private practice specializing in sex and marriage therapy. R.E.B.T. grew out of his own experiences and the teachings of Greek, Roman and modern philosophers.

While Freud's school focused intensely on childhood and the unconscious to explain the source of neuroses, Ellis' brand of talk therapy asked patients to take immediate action to confront irrational thoughts.

His work, along with that of others including Dr. Aaron Beck, is considered the foundation of cognitive behavior therapy. Ellis was also known for his irreverent lecture style and salty language.

He is also the founder of the Albert Ellis Institute in New York, which is thriving today.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

And we can act like we come from out of this world, and leave the real one far behind.

In his article, "The Republic of Marfa," printed in McSweeneys a few years ago, Sean Wilsey claims that Marfa, the town in Texas, was named by a railway overseer's wife "when an unnamed water stop became a town in 1881." The name Marfa is the name of the family servant in The Brothers Karamazov, the novel by Dostoyevsky, which the woman happened to be reading at the time. Wilsey spends a good deal of time in the 25-page article transpositioning the novel's unnamed Russian town to Marfa, in fact, even going so far as to draw a parallel between the name Marfa itself, and the infamous Marfa lights.

Wilsey explains that in the novel, the servant woman's last name is even Ignatievna, which means daughter of Ignatius, which, in Latin, is derived from the word ignis, meaning fire. Having never read Karamazov, I'll take Wilsey's word for it that the character is a "stoic" woman, and smart, and when her son dies, because her superstitious husband fears it is a dragon and refuses to care for it, she "takes it stoically." Intelligence and stoicism: two desirable qualities in a frontierswoman. The significance of this name, Marfa Ignatievna, Wilsey also claims, could not have escaped this railway overseer's wife, since she had to have been reading the novel in its original Russian. It wasn't translated into any other language until 1884 (German), and not into English until 1912.

Wilsey spends a great deal of time detailing Marfa's isolation and its connection to light out in the desert. Apparently, southwest Texas is one of the most sparsely inhabited places in the whole United States with Marfa (at the time of writing), having a population of just 2,424 in a county that covers over 6,000 square miles. Locally it is referred to as el desplobado, the uninhabited place. Naturally, this type of environment is going to draw all sorts of different characters, but Wilsey tracks largely how Marfa became such an art hub. That's not nearly as interesting to me as the other stories about the crazy Texan renegades he writes about, like the people with multiple chemical sensitivity (who are basically allergic to every chemical in our modern life; think Safe) who built an all-natural compound near Marfa. The next year a group of people belonging to an annual Bible retreat began spraying DDT upwind from the compound, making its members violently ill, but despite the commune member's pleas, the Christians refused to stop spraying it, because the mosquito problem was too bad. The sick people had to leave.

There is also the story about a man, Richard McLaren, who, citing a legal technicality in an 1845 Texas annexation document, dubbed himself not only the chief ambassador and consul general of the "Republic of Texas," but also sovereign of the independent nation of Texas. Apparently he was quite the bully in the hills of Marfa, described by his neighbors as a man "capable of tremendous violence," who filed false liens against property, threatened his neighbors, and collected vast stockpiles of weapons. He was photographed in 1996, while celebrating "captive nations week" with some of his neighbors, with two police cruisers in the background, keeping an eye on everything. His story got much more complex in 1997, when he took the president of the local neighborhood association and his wife hostage in reprisal for the arrest of another "Republic of Texas" member, who was arrested for stashing illegal weapons. The police agreed to release the ROT member in exchange for the hostages, but having prepared for just this situation by building a series of underground bunkers and stockpiling more than 60 pipe bombs and other assorted goodies, McLaren refused to surrender himself or his hostages. After several days the standoff was finally resolved, with the Texas Rangers getting McLaren to agree to surrender if the U.S would agree to treat him under the rules of the Geneva Convention.

Overall, it's a fascinating article, full of celebrity gossip, strange goings-on (like the time the author and his girlfriend set up a picnic somewhere outside Marfa, and a Mexican from across the border tried to steal their car), and interesting facts. The part about the Marfa lights was especially interesting to me as well, as there is a similar phenomenon in Joplin, Missouri, about an hour from where I grew up in Arkansas, which my parents took my brothers and me to see several times.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

I've been tagged.

By Kat. Here are the rules:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog post about their eight things and include these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’re tagged and that they should read your blog.

My 8 Things (none of which will probably be much of a surprise to anyone who knows me, but I'll do my best):

1. When I was little, I wanted to be Snow White when I grew up. And yet, somehow, my mother didn't immediately assume that I was gay. Or maybe she did.

2. I was the reason my mom's pet miniature schnauzer died. She was a very old dog, and I was in high school, and let her out one day in the summer to go pee, and forgot she was out, and my dad came home from work, and found her lying in the ditch outside, dying of a heat stroke because I'd left her out all day long. We took her to the vet, but there was nothing they could do: her brain was baked, so they put her to sleep. I'll probably feel guilty about that until the day I die.

3. I really like men's armpits. In a sexual way. I really, really like them. A lot.

4. When I was 6, I had a Ken doll that I used a Sharpie to color pubic hair on. And chest hair. My brothers found it and of course told my parents (while laughing hysterically). My dad took it away from me (while trying to stifle laughter himself), but I still don't know why they took it away. Maybe I should ask. And yet, somehow, my father didn't immediately assume that I was gay. Or maybe he did.

5. The first career I ever really wanted as a kid was to be a pediatrician in the 3rd grade. Then I wanted to be an architect in the 4th grade. Then in high school I wanted to be a therapist. Then I abandoned that idea because I didn't want to go to school for it. I should have gone to school for it.... *sigh*

6. I used to masturbate incessantly to a picture of Gerardo I tore out of a magazine of him wearing unbuttoned jeans. I tried to jerk off to that "Rico Suave" video too, but I found all those ugly girls too distracting. (If you're keeping track, this was pre-Marky-Mark.)

7. I once lost interest in a man I was dating because he really liked a movie I hated. I couldn't get past it. I mean, I really hated this movie.

8. I regularly get huge crushes on TV characters. Not on actors; on characters. Sometimes I even fantasize that I'll meet someone just like that character. I know, it's pathetic.

I guess I'll tag Bryan, Mark (though I know he won't do it!), Tom (even though he just arrived in England today!), Sturge, and.... that's all that hasn't already been tagged by someone else.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Friday, July 13, 2007

Christopher Pike

Last time Mark I went to Dallas to visit Mandy and Victor, the three of us got into a conversation about what we used to read as kids. I couldn't really remember a whole lot, except for when I was in elementary school I used to read all the Little House on the Prairie books, and even had a little box set (damn, I wish I still had that!).

But I couldn't really remember a whole lot of what I read in junior high, until Mandy reminded me that I used to read all those Christopher Pike books, which I had totally forgotten about. Christopher Pike is a young adult fiction factory, and everything he wrote was horror, and always involved a mysterious "accident," and generally a group of kids receiving some kind of retribution through a mysterious stranger picking them off one by one, or otherwise terrorizing them somehow. At some point a horrible secret would be revealed, there would be much betrayal and bloodshed, and usually one person was left standing. His books were populated with beautiful protagonists, and I had a massive crush on more than one Christopher Pike stud. The main character in Chain Letter, in fact, which was my favorite book, specifically walked around a lot in his underwear (because he sleepwalked, and this was a detail the author always pointed out). I also really loved the Final Friends series of books; there were three of them, with subtitles like The Party, The Dance, The Graduation.

I seem to remember I Know What You Did Last Summer being based on a novel by Christopher Pike, but upon my research, I discovered it was written by Lois Duncan, whom I was also a big fan of, and who had her own none too shabby cottage industry of trashy teenage horror fiction (including Killing Mr. Griffin, which was the inspiration for the crappy Kevin Williamson movie Teaching Mrs. Tingle).

Anyway, I just discovered a couple of days ago that here at camp there is a "library," and I never knew about it before because it's settled among the cabins on one side of the hill, and during girls camp, boys aren't allowed in those areas. But as I was perusing its shelves today, I came upon a gold mine of Christopher Pike novels. Almost all of them were there, all with the original hand-drawn covers I remember from junior high, and I was immediately transported back to that time, spending hours in class and in my room, devouring those books. Some of them I read over and over again, and everytime a new one came out, I got myself to the bookstore as quickly as possible to buy it. This afternoon, I must have spent 30 minutes just pouring over the covers, savoring each detail and remembering them so vividly. I'm sort of tempted to grab one (um, like Chain Letter) and read it again (I'm sure I could get through most of it in one sitting), just to see how much of the actual content I actually remember.

Friday, July 06, 2007

3 Hookers and their grandmother

Anyone who knows me knows that Sex and the City is my second favorite show of all time, and that I've seen every episode of all 6 seasons at least 3 times, and that the final episode makes me get all teary-eyed every time I see it, even though I've seen the final episode about 5 times. But even I think this ship has long sailed. 4 years ago I would have been all over it, but come on. Aside from the obvious reasons why I'm just over it, they all ended up married and happy at the end of the series. What could the movie possibly be about? How they all get divorced now that they're 45? Who cares.

But a movie I am excited about is the new Golden Compass movie, based on the kids books. I'd never even heard of them until I came to North Carolina, and Matt's obsessed with them and pretty much forced me to start reading the first one (there are 3). I'm a little over halfway through, but if you like kids books about witches, cannibalism, alternate realities, people called Gobblers who kidnap children, bears that wear armor and are warriors, alcoholism, gay angels, and children in possession of weapons that can actually kill God, then the Golden Compass books are for you.
The trailer:

Matt wants to dictate right now (I'm at his house): "What was I saying? Something about Darfur. I don't even know where Darfur is. Where is Darfur?" Me: "Africa." Matt: "Are you writing about my ignorance of Darfur?" Me: "Yes." Matt: "I'm gonna read it in the morning and then I'm gonna beat your ass. I'm gonna beat your ass, Mr. Fast Typer. What's happening in Darfur right now? I'm gonna sound like an ignorant bastard. Note to self: find out what's happening in Darfur tomorrow, even if I have to ask a seventeen-year-old intern." Laugh, laugh, giggle, giggle. Matt: "You fuckin' bastard. I'm gonna set my alarm early tomorrow, even earlier than I have to, just so I can smash your face." More typing. Matt: "Second note to self: set alarm 50 minutes earlier, smash Ryan's face." Me: "Keeping up a blog is hard." Matt: "You poor thing. Keeping up a blog is hard. My blog is hard right now."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

She hates it, of course, but I think it's cute.


And here I am with a basketball on my head:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Call me for some overtime, call me in a sweet design

About a week after I got to camp, the battery charger for my cell phone started getting all wonky: not working half the time, and when it was working, making all these weird beeping noises, and making the screen on my phone light up. So when my parents dropped in for a visit, that night after the Biltmore, my dad and I ran up to the Sprint kiosk in the Asheville mall to see about getting me a new charger.

So I wait for the fat, goateed guy to get done flirting with the girl in front of me (which took about 20 minutes) and I walk up to the counter and tell him what the problem is, and he asks to see my phone and the charger. So I pull out my phone and show it to him and he actually starts laughing at me.

Yes, my phone is 5 years old, but it's small, and pretty, and compact, and I really love it. It fits my face just right, does everything I need (I don't need or want a camera, or the internet, or texting, or any of that other stupid bullshit that you have to get on phones now), and it's been with me through a lot. Granted, I tend to attribute human characteristics to inanimate objects like cell phones, but I can't help it. I'm nothing if not overly and ridiculously sentimental.

So after he gets done not so silently mocking me, the guy tells me that he can sell me a new charger for $20, or just upgrade my phone for $18, but he's not even sure the charger is the problem: it could just be the phone.

So I decide to go for the upgrade option. I had the internet service blocked, because it was an extra $5 a month, and if I ever use the internet on my phone I want whoever's near me to shoot me in the face, but I now have a camera, texting, and a whole plethora of other gadgets and contraptions that I have no idea how to use, and hopefully never will.

But I hate the phone. It's surprisingly a little bigger than my old one, doesn't fit on my ear or face as well, makes these hideous chiming sounds whenever I hit the buttons (which I can't figure out how to turn off, despite having read through the book several times, so I guess I just can't), has an awful (awful!) selection of ringtones and message tones, and the screen doesn't constantly display the time and date like my last phone did, so it just looks like it's turned off all the time. Whereas my other phone I could just glance at to see any of that information, and it even had a nifty little flashing red light that showed me I had a new voice message.

But it's so indicative of my life (and probably emotional maturity) that I still can't throw my old phone away. It's sat on my dresser in my cabin at camp, stone cold dead for 2 weeks now, utterly and completely useless, but I can't bring myself to throw it out.

I miss it. It's sad. We got along so well and had such a great connection.

But if you feel like sending me random text messages now, you can. I probably won't return them, but hey, if you're lucky I might. Or you can just be happy with the knowledge that I got your message while I was at camp and it most likely made me smile.