Today I have been tasked with posting about summer camp and bugs. I left the “and bugs” out of the title because… marketing? I dunno. It just seemed not great sitting up there. See, I don’t really care much for bugs. I get they are a necessary part of the ecosystem and all that. But I still am not a huge fan (exception: I lived in the Washington DC area when the 17 year Cicadas emerged in 2004 and it was amazingly fun and awesome.) But enough preamble. Let’s get to it.
I only went to two overnight camps as a kid. One was some camp in upstate New York I have mostly forgotten about (I was 11) and the other was Buck’s Rock in New Milford, CT, where I attended for four summers from 1980–1983. That first summer at Buck’s Rock was a half-summer, August only. July of that summer was a day camp. All I really remember about that is falling madly in love with a girl named Christine and appearing as The Professor in South Pacific. My first half-summer at Buck’s Rock is a bit of a blur. But I do remember sending Christine a love letter and getting one back. This made week 2 of camp a time of magic and miracles. Week 3 or so saw the arrival of a second letter in which she broke my heart. But my favorite counselor at camp, Glenn, really helped me through it. Glenn was awesome. He was compassionate, funny, and a brilliant writer. He directed and performed in a one act play called City Suite that he wrote. I remember thinking it was fantastic though I couldn’t tell you a thing about it today. I also remember he performed in a dance number to some amazing song that I had never heard before and that I became totally obsessed with. Back at the bunk that night when he returned I ran to him and said, “What was that song you danced to on stage with towels and crabs and other funny costumes…” He told me it was Rock Lobster by the B-52s. I had never heard of them. When I got home, it would be the first LP I ever purchased. (On a whim, I googled Glenn and found a movie and tv writer with the same name. So I tweeted at him. Maybe it’s him? Who knows? Think he’d remember a dorky 12 year old kid with girl troubles?)
Buck’s Rock was and still is a camp for creativity. I spent nearly all of my time either acting in plays and musicals (Free to Be You and Me, Once Upon a Mattress, Pippin, Godspell, Arsenic and Old Lace) or working in the Photography Shop where I learned how to use a camera and how to develop my negatives and prints in a dark room (one day I will have a working darkroom in my house!) But, more than anything else, I hung out with Mike Robbins listening to a ton of Styx (1981 is the summer of Paradise Theater). (I’m getting to the bugs part. Bear with me.)
Interlude: Where I spend over an hour getting lost in looking at Buck’s Rock yearbooks that are all online. Finding pictures by and of me and stories of plays I was in… wow… the only photograph I can find actually credited to me was in 1982 of my girlfriend Stephanie who is looking at me like, “Are you really going to take a picture of me?”
Mike and I loved going to the square dance. We got a kick out of Karl Finger who lead the dances and lived for doing both Snoopy (to Draggin’ the Line by Tommy James) and the no-name dance set to Amos Moses by Jerry Reed (who was in my favorite movie as a kid, Smokey and the Bandit.) And there was always great jugs of bug juice (there was always bug juice) and there were the tall light posts (I think our square dances were on the tennis courts or something like that) and there were always a million bugs flying around them.
But here’s the really weird part. Today, I generally dislike being outside at night in the summer, especially in a dark place, because of the bugs. Mosquitos are especially awful and they don’t really bother me much because they find my wife and daughter far more appetizing. But if no one else is around, they settle for me and make me miserable. And yet, aside from the million-bugs-around-the-light-posts thing I mentioned, I have no memory of dealing with mosquitos at all. I even remember, early in the 1981 camp season, being way out in a dark corner of the soccer field, just on the edge up against the woods, making out with my girlfriend Kathy (we dated for all of a week. It was awkward, at best) and you think we would have been swarmed by mosquitos. But no, we weren’t. We were found by Rat Patrol, the people with flashlights specifically looking to stop people like us from doing what we were doing. But I do not remember anything about bugs at all.
So I am not sure what I can really say about summer camp and bugs. I can speak about either topic alone, but put them together and I got nothing. But I am glad of this chance to take a walk down memory lane. Buck’s Rock was such a foundational part of my life from when I was 12 to 15. I still have close friends to this day, especially Bobby Feigin who I was fortunate to reconnect with more than a decade ago. And every once in a while, I still put on Paradise Theater by Styx and Rock the Paradise.