July 11, 2014 by

Reality TV is increasingly crowded with all manner of woodsy survivalist fare. Most programs focus on the notion of “extreme” something-or-other, with life-or-death cliffhangers leading up to every commercial break. So I thought I’d take my elder grandson, 4-year-old Easton, into the wilds (of my back yard) to test our mettle against the forces of nature.

Turns out that nature had nothing to do with our survivability quotient, and roughing it was the least of our challenges. The entire adventure ended up being an object lesson in the foibles of urban camping in my Country Club-area neighborhood.

The dreamy, awestruck look on Easton’s face as the four of us trekked from the deck to our campground was one I had seen only on the rarest of occasions, situations that usually involved Santa, Star Wars, or sugar.

The four of us? Oh, I neglected to mention Easton’s constant pillow-time companions, a pair of plush toys named Bug (a lady bug) and Guy (a wiener dog). Our bare-bones shelter was a 30-some-year-old pup tent purchased from Sears that is now held together by a patchwork of duct tape and jagged stitches hastily sewn around a campfire over the decades. It was the same tent and same back yard in which Easton’s father, Eric, first braved the elements of a now distant, earlier millennia.

We were well-stocked in the reading department, with Easton choosing a couple of favorites—The Cat in the Hat and Caps for Sale—as the stories that would usher him into the land of nod.

So far, so good. The rest of the evening unfolded as follows:

9 p.m. sharp
Easton’s out like a light.

9:06 p.m.
Bug and Guy follow suit.

9:20 p.m.
The party on a neighboring deck is in full (and loud) swing.

Midnight
Still awake as the beer flows freely next door. Worse yet? Country music.

12:33 a.m.
A staccato series of explosions off in the distance (Fireworks? Gunfire?) is followed by a symphony of sirens (definitely gunfire) and is later accompanied by a police helicopter strafing the ‘hood in pursuit of some midnight malcontents.

1:10 a.m.
The party over the fence mercifully fizzles out, but I am to the point where, now totally wired and checking my watch every ten seconds, all I can do is to think about how to think about getting to sleep.

2:00 a.m.
Surrender. I make if halfway to the house through the dewy, toe-tickling lawn carrying the dead weight of a sleeping child before a tiny voice murmuring the words, “Bug…Guy,” causes me to reverse course.

2:01 a.m.
Easton is nestled in a warm bed with his buddies and, again, completely comatose.

“Did you get tired of camping, Po-Po?” Easton asks the following morning using my nonsensical nickname, one of mysterious, unknowable etymology.

Yeah, I guess I kinda did. I had become tired of camping. The city had done what nature could not in terms of derailing our wilderness outing. Only Easton, Bug, and Guy came through the experience showing the resiliency of true outdoorsmen.

Po-Po? Not so much.

SMALL

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