Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A tent, chowder and a car show

I haven't been camping in a while, let alone shacking in a tent with my two boys. The offer came up and the family shipped off with a car full of stuff, three nuggets stuffed in the backseat, my lady in the front, and a bike rack stuffed in the hitch. We were off for Father's Day weekend in Pismo Beach where we would meet up with my parents and their big RV and my sister, her husband and my nephew and their fifth-wheel trailer.

Oh Pismo. What can you say about it. If this was your first visit to Pismo Beach then you would truly freak out. It was a bit of Mad-Max mixed with an episode of Twilight Zone. Car shows can be a interesting study of people. You have such a cross-section of folks ranging from the wealthy old guys who have enough dough to sink into a Mercedes Gull Wing, to the blue collar guy who bought an old truck already polished, to the Cholo who has a nasty Impala dropped to the ground, and finally the white trash redneck who has decided to sink more cabbage into a '69 Camaro than into his single-wide mobile home.

The people that attend a car show of this size is actually more interesting than the presenters. The white trash level was high as was the range of mullets and muscle shirts. I saw more Cholos with bar codes inked on their neck than I would see on a Friday evening in Echo Park (not that I go there, but it sounds good). I am an extreme people watcher. I get it from my mom who is a professional at it. I mixed in well because perhaps I have a bit of white trash in me too. I mean I split a foot-long corn dog with my family. My son Cole still has the stick to prove it!

Camping in a tent in a camp site at the beach with family is an exciting thing. It's an opportunity to sit around a carefully groomed fire (thanks to my dad), talk smack, tease, joke, catch up on things, etc. My mom and dad usually camp on their own in their big RV so when the normal two-person site became 10, it put my dad's camp senses into overdrive. He's perhaps the greatest camp site organizer the planet has ever seen. Laying the turf, grooming the dirt, surveying the local dumpster for discarded objects like what appeared to be (according to my dad) a stand for a cooler. "All I have to do is take a wire brush to it, sand it a little, oil it, and paint it flat black." It's this mentality that has brought me many-a-treasure from random places. Things like a train set that the boys still use, plenty of sweatshirts from used cars and garage shelving racks that were left for dead.

My mom is the matriarch of the camp site. She's clearly the boss and if you are a bunch of Cholo guys who plan on blasting gangsta rap at 7:30 in the morning be prepared for the most gutsy woman ever to waltz to your site and let you know she doesn't feel like hearing it. A 25-year-old Latino tough guy is no match for my mom. In the camp my mom maintains a chair that turns her normal powers into superpowers. Suddenly, instantly, as if the camping chair with the cup holder released powerful energy, chores are shouted out in a mild-mannered tone. "Dick (my dad) can you get the tomatoes?", she says. "I think we need another log on the fire." It's poetry really. My mom's Italian blood needling my father's German genes. Somehow, someway, after all these years and all this time together it still works. Pissy in the one moment and loving in the next. It's a study in tolerance, patience, persistence, obedience, romance (maybe?). It's classic to watch.

Camping is also a time to indulge in all sorts of behavior. Eating smores every night, bringing out the Jiffy Pop (yep, they still make it) and not showering for four days. Camp fires too isn't something you make often if at all unless you camp. It's a time to unleash your inner-pyro and burn sticks and paper. Camp sites also provide for some excellent people watching including the lame-asses who blow $500 on a cooler scooter, or the aforementioned gangstas with bad taste in music and judgment.

It was a great bunch of days spent at Pismo and while the car show was a bit chaotic, the last evening was pretty sweet. The crowds had all but cleared out and the quaint, semi-edgy beach town returned to its true spirit. We ate good chowder, strolled around and had yet another carefully constructed epic camp fire. The next morning we packed up and hit the road, but not before my dad cleaned out in between the planks of wood that make up the top of the picnic table. I think he found some bottle caps and 26 cents.

Image_1: One of the many cool old trucks at the car show. I dig the primer color and faux rust look.
Image_2: Cole ready to mack down on a smore. They came out of his braces eventually.
Image_3: Luke: The kid who never seems to pose "normally" for a picture. Love it.
Image_4: Baby Hope was mesmerized by the carefully constructed camp fire.
Image_5: My nephew Tyler. He wants to be a fireman.
Image_6: I think my dad found 26 cents.