ISSUE 87

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 Camping—a fun excuse to test someone’s rock bottom. It’s a trial for a partner, friend, or child you’re thinking of abandoning. Simply by adding gnats and tent instructions made by an absolute moron, you will sift through the psychos and decide who you want to keep as a loved one. Sadly, that psycho might turn out to be you. Here, however, is a guide to help.   
 How do I start a fire?
 It worries us that this is your first question. Officially, fire is best left in the hands of professional candle lighters and teenagers without strong authority figures in their life. Unofficially, starting a fire is like finding the right Tupperware lid—some people can do it, some people can’t. It’s frustrating, and most end up completely losing their shit.     
 If you still want to try, there are two ways: the normal way or the redneck way. With the normal way, you use words like “tending,” as in “I am tending this fledgling fire in hopes it will one day provide warmth for my family.” The redneck way involves a different vocabulary: “yee-haw,” “flaming up good,” “outta control,” “PUT IT OUT, PUT IT OUT, GOD DAMN IT.” At the beginning, you may not have a Southern accent, but after siphoning gas out of your neighbor’s car and using it to create a fire that ultimately burns down their house, you will.
 Should I go hiking?
 Nature, exercise, wildlife, mountains, rocks, blah, blah, blah… You should need no other reason to hike than to be able to snot-rocket the contents of your nose on the trail and shrug it off as normal. Any other situation and you would be ridiculed, abandoned, referred to Kleenex as someone is referred to Alcoholics Anonymous. But in the wild, you will be honored, as it is a gesture of solidarity, an action that says, There isn’t much holding me back from drinking my own pee.   
 I want to buy supplies from REI but can’t afford it unless I use the money I was saving for my kid’s college tuition. Should I do it?
 REI is to outdoorsy people as a sex shop is to a sex addict or peanut butter to someone who really loves peanut butter. You get a catalogue in the mail and with shaking hands and dilated pupils, you open it, so close to the page you might as well be licking the photos of backpacks and carabineers. What we’re saying is you don’t really have a choice. 
 Should I camp at a designated campsite or go backcountry camping?
 It all depends how you feel about backcountry permits—because nothing says adventure more than paperwork, rules, and vowing to kill government bureaucrats. Backcountry also lets you experience the frayed nerves and whiney dribble of a camping partner dealing with the consequences of packing their own backpack.
 At a car campsite, you can easily shove this person in the trunk of the car, but in the wild, you have to be creative. Well, it seems we lost the map, Jerry. How about we go find civilization, and you sit here and wait? Great! Here’s half a Luna bar. We should be back in ten to fifteen days.
 On the other hand, designated sites allow you to hear the campers in the site next to you as if they’re in your tent. You can catch up on things like Grandma’s hip replacement, baby Asher’s bowel movements, and someone’s yeast infection. If you’re unlucky, your dreams will involve… well, it’s best not to get into it. Basically, you will have a really, really hard time sleeping for the next few months.
 What about showering?
 Showers are often not available. However, if you need to tempt your acquaintances to bury you alive—not as a vindictive thing but to protect the sanity of everyone else—then go camping.    
 Should I bring people with me or go by myself?
 The advantage of company is someone will drag you to safety if you get attacked by a bear. The disadvantage is someone will be mad when they get attacked by a bear and you leave them to die.
 But how can I be sure everything will go perfectly?
 In short, camping is all about relationships and latent violent tendencies. Pick your camping partners with care—more care, apparently, than they’ve picked you—and you will have a great trip.     
   
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