Good Evening
Good Evening

Wet and miserable and summer camp

Josh Shalek is a cartoonist and blogger living in Portland, Ore. This is excerpted from his blog, Welcome to Falling Rock National Park, at I hate camp. I really do. Camp ruins a perfectly nice day outdoors. Camp was not for me, probably because I'm a cantankerous introvert who hates fun. No, seriously, I like fun just like any American. But I don't understand the mass appeal of camp. People who liked camp really liked camp. They talk about it for the rest of their lives. The songs they know by heart, they learned at camp. The games they play, they learned at camp. Their life is defined by this apparently transcendent experience. It was not always this way with me and camp. I was happy to try it. Shopping for supplies was fun. My mom and I had to mark my name on every item of clothing I owned, which was fun. I looked forward to writing letters to friends and family, and getting letters (and maybe cookies!) in return. But, you know, they call them POW camps and internment camps for a reason. Every hour of every day is brutally programmed. We even had scheduled "free time." Was this school? No, it was worse. At least you get to leave school at 3 p.m. Camp is forever. They were always planning activities to ostensibly bring us closer together, so that by time the session concluded, we'd all be telepathically linked for the rest of our lives. This psychic bond never really happened for me. Was I resisting? Probably. You have to understand, when someone gives me a boundary, I look for ways to get around it. I hate being told what to do. There is also something a little sinister about enforced fun. You can always see the wires behind the curtains, which signify a sham. We went horseback riding. I got stuck with the biggest, slowest, most indifferent horse. When I kicked to try and catch up with the group, the horse would not respond. I could hear the counselors way ahead of me, shouting helpful bits of advice. "Kick his sides!" "Kick harder!" Eventually their voices became indistinct as they grew further away from me. I should consider myself lucky. One kid got the easily-spooked horse. We all watched in horror as he was carried into the woods, helpless. My experience at camp was fortunately shortened by illness. I spent a lot of time at the infirmary, throwing up and watching all the "Rocky" films in order. They at first assumed I was homesick, but a doctor back home had a different diagnosis: acute strep. I thank my weak immune system for saving me from even more camp fun. But I am glad I tried it. Camp is a rite of passage for so many, I'd feel like an atheist at Christmas Mass if I'd never been. I was at camp long enough to discover how wrong it was for me.