Monday, October 15, 2007

For the Birds

I have arrived. The conference went well, as did my individual paper presentation (I think). The conference also created the opportunity to meet StinkyLuLu. As it turns out, he lives within a mile of my parents’ house. We also attended the same highschool (though at different times). Small blogosphere, eh?

Alas, TenuredRadical eluded me. For some reason, the American Studies meeting doesn’t have a central message center. In contrast, the American Historical Association transitioned from a bulletin board to a conference-based e-mail system. It makes it a lot easier to connect with people. Take note, ASA.

Since I was only in town for a brief jaunt, I didn’t get to see much of the city. The little I did see, though, reminded me that I missed being in a more urban venue.

Don’t get me wrong, I am grateful to be at Big Midwestern University. Midwestern Funky Town also has a great deal to offer. Indeed, it is the funkiest of all the midwestern funky towns. Still, it is a town. As it turns out, size does matter.

Or maybe I am growing more concerned that the number-one recreational activity of the queer community in MFT seems to involve camping. I don’t mean “camping” in the fun Paul-Lynde sort of way, either. No, not camping that involves ironic quips about popular culture or the tragically ludicrous. I mean camping with a tent, sleeping bag, dirt, cold, and all that nature has to offer. Let me tell you, I am not that type of gay.

The number-two favored activity among gay MFT's seems to be canoeing. Don't these people spend any time drinking?

I understand the appeal of camping and other outdoor activities in the same theoretical way that I understand the appeal of sports. These things must be great for those who enjoy it. I don’t in anyway begrudge them their fun. For me, though, I can’t think of anything less that I would want to do than sleeping outdoors. I hated it when my father dragged me away to the mountains when I was a child. I imagine with 99 percent certainty that I would hate it as an adult.

Perhaps I also find the notion of camping in the Midwest even more perplexing. Maybe I am just too much of New-Mexico son, but why would one camp where there are no mountains? Rather than a rigorous hike up a steep incline to find a fabulous vista, aren’t you just basically sleeping outdoors? Your view is of . . . trees? I have those in my backyard and I don’t even have to open the door to see them (Thank you glass – another invention of nature-avoiding humans).

What I dislike about gay campers, though, is that they are always trying to change my mind. “Come on, GayProf,” they say, “You’ll looooove it once you are out there! Think of it as returning to nature.”

If nature was so great, why did we decide to build houses in the first place? I side with the homo-sapiens who first said, “You know what? This nature stuff sucks. The hell with it. I am inventing a roof.”

I don’t understand the inclination of some people who try to convince me that I don’t know what I like and don’t like. It’s not as if I am resisting sampling the thirty-second flavor down at the local Baskin Robbins. If it was something that I had never tried, I could see their point. I have, however, been camping in my life and I know what it involves: the aforementioned dirt, cold, hard ground, lack of showers and general absence of hygiene.

Why, then, do people persist after I tell them that camping is not my scene? I don’t try to convince them that they really hate camping. When somebody tells me that they are spending the weekend camping, I don’t respond with, “Wow – You are going to have a lousy time! If you have enjoyed camping up to this point, you have just gone with the wrong attitude or the wrong people! If you stay home with me, I’ll show you why that activity that you think you like is not at all what you really like doing.” I just don’t do that. Why do they believe that they can change my mind?

Camping is like some type of cult around here. If you don’t camp, you aren’t one of the chosen people. Maybe that was one reason I felt more at home in Boston. For most of the queer folk that I met in Boston, “roughing it” meant that they couldn’t get a cottage with a third bedroom in Provincetown.

Camping (or my dislike thereof) wouldn’t necessarily be a problem in MFT except that it narrows an already extremely tiny gay dating pool. Actually, it’s not really a pool. It’s more of a small pond – in the middle of a drought – with a serious algae problem.

Don’t get me wrong – It’s not that I don’t appreciate natural beauty. I love our nation’s forests – especially when they have been turned into Danish-modern furniture (It’s a joke – Please don’t send me environmental hate mail).

Nature for me, though, is something that you enjoy from a distance. Sure, I get enthralled by the spectacular sights that are devoid of humankind. Mountains, in particular, impress me. Oceans are grand. When I was in grad school, I also spent a couple of different afternoons at the dunes of one of the great lakes (which really was, as the name promised, a great lake).

Couldn’t we just see do those sorts of things in a day hike? Do we need to take up residence to enjoy nature? My feeling has always been that we could just do a quick walkabout and return in time for cocktail hour. Or, better yet, can’t we just skip the hike altogether and enjoy the view of the mountains from the bar patio?

What I need are the gays who are less into nature and more into . . . well, apparently, alcoholism. Yeah, yeah, don’t bother telling me that you can drink while camping. It goes without saying that I would need to drink because I was camping.

**Le Sigh**

Such thoughts make me think that I’ll be alone forever in MFT. Or maybe I am just regretting that I didn’t spend more time chatting up the hunky guy who sat next to me on the plane ride home. He had a whole Anderson-Cooper vibe working for him. I bet he hadn’t been camping a day in his whole life. Better luck next time, I suppose.


Alan said...

Hmm... You've met people in MFT who camp? I think your sample is not representative. Though my partner and I camp, I don't know a single other MFT-ite who does. Nor do I know anyone else who likes to canoe. Are you sure you haven't just been hanging out with the lesbians?

As for the drinking, exactly what do you think we do when we go camping and canoeing?! :)

Haven't found the MFT-gays who like to drink? How could you miss us? The smell of gin usually carries for miles. :)

Ooh...gotta run. Time to go drink.

MaggieMay said...

GayProf, you are my secret gay male (latino) twin. Here, to prove this I will share with you a story:

When Maggie was a wee girl, her parents took her camping in Canada. At the end of the trip, her parents decided to splurge on one night at a super-duper fancy hotel (I think in Toronto) with an enormous lobby; I remember it had fountains and a glass elevator.

As I rode in the glass elevator with my father up to our room, I reportedly turned to him and said, "Daddy, this is the kind of camping *I* like."

You see? Twins.

Frank said...

Preach it, soul brother! I, too, have absolutely no idea what people see in camping. Our ancestors spent millenia despoiling the Earth to get pesky nature under semi-control. Who are we to reject all of their hard work?

Marlan said...

Rustic camping? Hah. If only teh gays in MFT had a clue. You see, they have this "camping" resort on the west side of the state that is in fact, the gayest place to camp you'll ever find. Think half naked, half drunk men with Donna Summer on the stereo and lots of tiki lights.

You want to drink? Pulleeeze. They drink a lot at that "camp"ground--sometimes all night long.

Oh, and did I tell you they have a pool?

Yes, canoeing and rustic camping = lesbian territory. We call that the U.P.

Jefe said...

My dad, too, dragged me on countless camping trips as a child. And I was a Boy Scout, so I tented more than my jeans throughout adolescence. And I grew up thinking I hated all that stuff.

Until I was brought back to it as an adult, when I came to realize that my aversion to camping as a kid was all about my discomfort with its masculinist overtones, which I felt much more comfortable refashioning to my own (ahem) purposes as an out, gay adult. Of course, that particular re-entry into the world of camping happened to be in a especially thrilling location, on the banks of a South African river with mama lions patrolling the opposite shore. But I've had enjoyable outdoor slumber parties since then, with nary a lion in sight.

You might surprise yourself. Especially if you bring along some 'shrooms.

pacalaga said...

Dear GP, you should come camping with me. When I camp, I bring a camper. Said camper has a hot shower, a fridge, a microwave, an espresso machine, a tv and dvd player, a queen size bed, and a flush toilet. There are plenty of cabinets in which to store liquor. People might say that isn't camping, but what else does one call it when one is staying in a camper?
The only thing it's missing is room service. And my favorite place to stay is a stone's throw from Camp Pendleton. Lots of scenery. And the ocean looks pretty, too.

Steven said...

Keep the chin up GP. Pardon the cliche, but you will find the one when you least expect it. Perhaps even an intellectual in the collegiate community. By the way, I know of a great camping.....

Sarah said...

I love camping (the rustic kind, sans camper, with pot). But way to go sticking to your guns. All that dirt isn't for everyone. And I'm sure you'll find some equally camping-averse gays in MFT soon. :)

dykewife said...

i enjoy camping with limitations. i like sleeping in a tent so long as i'm not on the ground (so that means at the least, a thick air mattress). i love roasting weinies and marshmallows.

however, i don't enjoy the insects, the nighttime trips to the outhouse, the outhouse, not being able to shower, cooking on one of those stupid camp stoves and doing dishes in a basin.

so, i guess i like eating in the back yard until the mosquitoes emerge from their graves to suck the blood of, well, me. then i want to be inside the house enjoying a cool iced tea and watching television. i really enjoy private, flush toilets and showers that don't involve an intimate knowledge of many spiders eating moths that aren't fluttering in my face.

i guess that means i'm not keen on camping either.

Marius said...

I want to go camping with Pacalaga. We could form an ABBA cover band and tour the country in her camper. That would be fun.

Anyway, I enjoy nature and camping when there's a clear goal in mind. I'm interested in conservation biology, and I've done some field research. I love observing animals and insects, collecting tons of data. However, I don't go camping just because.

tornwordo said...

I'm in the camping cult. But only in the summer. Cold sucks. I don't know about camping without drinking though, that sounds awful boring.

vuboq said...

Camping. Ugh. I went on a 2-week scorpion collecting trip in college with one of my professors. We camped the entire time (in New Mexico, btw!). That cured me of EVER wanting to camp again.

Day hikes are nice though.

I'm sure you will find the non-camping gay niche in MFT soon enough. *smooches*

Alan said...

Marlan wrote; "You see, they have this "camping" resort on the west side of the state that is in fact, the gayest place to camp you'll ever find. Think half naked, half drunk men with Donna Summer on the stereo and lots of tiki lights."

Yup, we know. That's where we "camp." :)

Dave said...

Okay, but maybe we should try one of those housing-swap things where I spend a couple weeks in Funky Town and you can stay in my place in New Orleans. More drunks here than you can shake a stick at and no decent camping for 200 miles.

Earl Cootie said...

You know, I like nature and all that crap, and we camp as often as possible. What we don't do as often as I'd like is stay in cabins. Yes, they have those. Houses. In the woods, in the mountains, by the lake, by the ocean. Everywhere. With showers and sinks and fridges and stoves and toilets and beds and lots of safe places to stow liquor. Le sigh. Indeed.

Les said...

I spent an inordinate amount of time camping last summer. Like, more than a month. Because it is much, much cheaper than getting hotel rooms.

For Europeans, "camping" usually means staying in "caravans" (my people call them campers). These have kitchens, bedrooms and a tent which expands to include some sort of dining/sitting room and often a small patio outside of that. In Holland, they all face pretty little canals. It's possible to rent time in a caravan, but I never have.

I slept in a tent and tried to avoid skeeters and keep it so that rain would stay out. But, I did get hot showers.

After spending all day biking, the hardness of the ground is sort of moot. But also, alas, too exhausted to get any loving.

Although I'm dyke/transgender sort of manly guy, so yeah, it sounds like you either fell in with lesbians or Tom of Finland enthusiasts.

GayProf said...

Alan: With only one or two exceptions, all the gay men that I have met here have brought up camping or some other outdoor activity within a few hours of meeting. Perhaps we need to trade queer groups.

MaggieMay: During one adventure in the woods with my father as a child, I decided that I had enough and locked myself in the car.

Frank: I agree -- Now hand me that cocktail shaker and crank up the AC.

Marlan: Yeah, I am aware of their style of "camping." To me, that's cheating. I don't have desire to do either version. But if you are going to go camping, I say camp it up!

Jefe: So, in order to enjoy camping, you are suggesting that I need to first ingest psychotropic drugs? Um, yeah -- I could just do that at home.

Pacalaga: Perhaps this also brings up something else I hate -- Road trips.

Steven: But I am always expecting it! When will that be, then, that I meet him? When I am asleep?

Sarah: I am more than happy to keep the home-fires burning for you while you are out frolicking in the woods.

DykeWife: So you like camping, except for the "camping" bit. Got it.

Marius: I would love to see you and Pacalaga create the sequel to Priscella, Queen of the Desert.

Torn: But we can drink in a city!! Why do we need to drink outdoors??

VUBOQ: I am getting close to having met all the queer people in MFT (except for students, who don't count anyway). Alas, Decaying Midwestern Urban Center is becoming my only hope.

Dave: I am happy to house swap. Remember, though, I can't gurantee decent camping here. It is the Midwest.

Earl: A house in the woods, eh? I might be okay with that. I mean, as long as there were other houses next to it. . . and plenty of markets . . . and cultural centers . . . and a subway . . . and a few skyscarppers. If that's the case, it sounds perfect!

Les: If the gay boys are this invested in camping in MFT, I just can't imagine what the lesbians are doing. I figure it has to involve wrestling with wild animals. It does explain, though, why MFT was ranked as the number one city in the U.S. for lesbians.

Cooper said...

Well, I still love you anyway. And despite what you say here, I know you have a deep appreciation for the natural beauty of New Mexico.

Michael said...

Yeah- camping is big right now, for a hot second. Too bad MFT isn't near Detroit, it has Ferndale and Royal Oak near by Ferndale has huge gays population with tons of stuff to do. Royal oak had the gay and lesibian film festival this weekend.

David said...

As long as there are hot showers, I'm fine, otherwise it's too rustic. And I'm with Torn, in that I'd only go camping in the summer. More opportunities to be nekkid.

Clio Bluestocking said...

kOh, jesusgod, save me from the hell that is camping!

Camping must be some big mid-west thing, because the only recommendation that anyone had about the Middle of Nowhere (pass the "Guns 'r gud" signs and exit) was "great camping." Is that at all possible?

Now I'm getting all itchy thinking about the bugs and filth. Yeesh.

hermit said...

I wish I could find the rustic campers among the alcoholics here in the city, but not a chance that I'd leave Big City U.

adjunct whore said...

gay campers, the cult of camping, camping in the midwest, needing a lover who drinks copious amounts....

maybe you, maggie may, and me were separated at birth.

you slay me.

GayProf said...

Cooper: I do appreciate NM's beauty -- So much so, that I don't think anybody should be allowed to camp in it.

Michael: Detroit and its decay is closer to me than you might imagine.

David: You can't be naked in-doors? Or naked with a cocktail?

Clio: The guns would be another reason that I avoid camping.

Hermit: Big City U must have a granola campy crew.

Adjunct Whore: If we weren't separated at birth, we were wrongly separated at the bar.

Michael said...

Detroit .. the only city in the world where even the gay people move to Burbs. Ferndale and Royal Oak are very nice. West Michigan has a gay resort area in Saugatuck. I wish I could get into the camping thing myself... but I can't

Roger Green said...

I hated camping as a child. Like GHW Bush, and broccoli, I feel that I don't need to deal with it as an adult.

Lesboprof said...

Hey, brother--that is how I think of you, since we share variations on a name--I am sorry I came late to the party. HATE camping. Totally. And just think--I am a LESBIAN in another Midwest Funky Town. Yes, they wrestle wild animals, commune with the goddess, and generally get on my damn nerves. I'd rather go to the movies and out to a kickass dinner, followed by drinks and intelligent conversation. So much more civilized... and no poison ivy.

Artistic Soul said...

You have summed up my feelings on camping EXACTLY. My partner and friends are always bemoaning how I won't go camping with them, and I just don't get it. It holds no appeal for me whatsoever.

Christopher said...

Camping is nothing more than making yourself temporarily homeless. It is perhaps the most idiotic pastime ever invented. After all, wasn't the entire point of the Industrial Revolution to get us the hell out of nature? If God meant for us to go camping, she wouldn't have given us air conditioning or internet pornography.

Christopher said...

Oh, and for the folks who camp with the homes on wheels, you are not camping. You have relocated yourself to a trailer park for the weekend. Sorry to burst your bubble.