Although I was born and raised in a small South Central Texas town, I never knew all that much about true rurality. Compared to some of the kids I grew up with, I was by all intents and purposes, a “city” girl. I never knew anything about feeding beasts of burden, slopping swine or milking bovine.
I’ve always liked modern conveniences.
I was always a fan of the marvels of electricity, too. I”ve always been a devotee of overhead lighting and lamps and air conditioning and I’ve always heralded whoever invented plumbing.
Was it the Romans?
Those crafty Magyars, maybe???
Anyway, I’d never gone camping in my life. Never ever wanted to go, but my cousin Dawn loved it. She’d been trying to get me to go “camping” with her since we were kids. Her mother, Corinne (my favorite aunt) also loved the feel of sleeping in nature, which I found completely unnatural.
After almost 20 years of harassing and haranguing me about going camping, I finally relented.
It was the summer of 1985.
I’d just graduated from college that May and was living in San Antonio, trying to secure a job as a nubile anchor/reporter in television. (I assure you, THAT is a whole other post!!!) So, Corrine and Dawn called me and said that the coming weekend would be the weekend in which I would finally go camping.
We were going to do so at the beach…more specifically Port Aransas (pronounced Uh-RANZ-us) smack dab in the heart of the Texas Gulf Coast and fortunately for me, my aunt had just bought one of those 18-foot long pop up campers. It slept six…which meant the three of us would have our own “bed” (as it were) and it also had something of an abbreviated kitchenette that dispensed potable water. In the very same conversation, I asked about its bathroom facilities and my aunt told me that it was HUGE. I thought “Great! I love big bathrooms”. Then she explained that by huge, she meant the Gulf of Mexico would be my toilet.
And everyone else’s.
I cannot tell you how disgusted this made me. You see, I love Texas Gulf shrimp. I envisioned looking down at my next bowl of Scampi. I could see no shrimp in there…just shrimp shaped turds.
At the time, lo these 20-plus years ago, my cousin, my aunt and I were big party people. The drink always flowed whenever we got together and this camping weekend promised to be no exception. We loaded up the coolers (plural) with ice, more beer than Hank Hill could swill, and one gallon bottle of Cuba’s best import. My aunt loved Cuba Libras…Coke, rum and a squeeze of line.
Ah yes, getting loaded.
I’d be comfortably numb when I would further soil the delicate ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico. That’s right–I wouldn’t care at all about spoiling the “pristine” nature of the filthy water that buoyed tar balls, hypodermic needles and vile, unidentifiable flotsam.
Now this is important: that summer I decided to go MTV chic and got my hair cut very short as was the style back then. It was cute, but very short. All you 40-somethings should envision if you will, a most unholy protein union atop the noggins of Pat Benatar and Liza Minelli (before she discovered Ativan and carbohydrates).
OK, so remember that my hair is ridiculously short. Almost Sgt. Vince Carter, the obstreperous Drill Instructor on “Gomer Pyle: USMC” short.
We finally arrived at Port Aransas and found a nice spot, not far from the shoreline. The beach was crowded. Vacationing families, rough looking scooter trash straight from the cast of “Lost Boys” and rowdy teenagers all hopped up on goof balls.
This was going to be fun.
We got the camper in working order, pulled out the coolers, unfolded the folding chairs, slipped on our swim suits and began drinking. We did what any 56, 25 and 22 year old educated women would do while drunk at the beach….we started harassing every man who strolled by. The cat calls were so classy:
“Hey there Joy Pecs..how you doin’?…”
“Hi ya, Love Chunks!”
“Show us your muscular May pole, Big Daddy!”
It was great fun.
The drunker we got though, “may pole” became “maple”, hence only becoming relevant if a guy from Vermont walked by.
We laughed and drank and drank and laughed. Then the afternoon slipped into evening.
The moon was full and it was lovely. It, in combination with the phosphorous in the waves, created a very beautiful sight. It was so light out, you could almost see without a flashlight!
By 11 o’clock that night it was time to pass out. My aunt announced that the camper door was locked, but all four sides were nothing but screens and therefore, completely easy access for any would-be rapist.
So, in order to protect her charges from anything that would possibly go “hump” in the night, Corrine had an Anthony Perkins/Psycho regulation butcher knife that she’d keep right by her side.
Dawn and I were so waxed, we didn’t care.
Hours later, we were awakened by what sounded like a Camaro with glass packs and high performance headers idling right outside our camper. Some classic Nazareth was blaring over the car speakers. A young male voice (obviously inebriated) called out….”Hey, any chicks in there? Hey??? Are there any chicks inside this camper, uh thingie??”
By that time, my cousin Dawn sat up in bed, her long hair cascading down her shoulders. Obviously, they could see her silhouette in the moonlight. Dawn said nothing. Corinne then sat up, knife in her hand…at the ready.
“Alright Chicks! We found some chicks!! Cook. Say, any of you chicks wanna party? We can have fun. We got all kinds of party favors?”
Well when I heard that, I sat up!!
They took one look at my, my short haired silhouette and we heard them say, “Oh, there’s a dude in there with ’em. Sorry dude. Didn’t mean to hit on your bitches”.
And they drove away.
At that point, I screamed, “But wait…what about the party favors???”
Corrine admonished me saying, “Laurie! Behave yourself! God knows what would’ve happened had we answered them”. And then my aunt, Corrine the Unhip said, “Besides , they were looking for Negroes”.
Dawn looked at me with an odd expression “Mom, what do you mean by that?”
Corrine replied, “Because they were looking for “dudes” and all Negroes are called dudes”.
I sat there for a minute and even in my beer and rum induced haze I wracked my brain trying to remember if I’d ever heard that one before.
All dudes are Negroes????
Dawn and I had no idea what she was referring to. We wrote it off as rum and menopause talking, along with her skewed, Depression era South Central Texas upbringing.
“Goodnight girls” Corrine said as she drifted back to sleep.
I looked over at her and simply loved the irony when I realized that she was all wrapped up white sheets.
Quiet had returned, but was broken a few minutes later when Dawn started giggling “Good thing you had short hair, Larry!!!”
“Yeah, good thing”, I answered. I pitied my aunt’s small town myopia for a few minutes, then I realized, I wasn’t at happy about the gender confusion. I suddenly felt very self-conscious about my appearance. I cursed the Kendrick gene that gave me these damned Bronko Nagurski shoulders!!!! And as Dawn reminded me, my short hair only helped the ambiguity.
We went back to sleep and and slept through the night, uninterrupted.
The next morning, Corinne and Dawn were extremely hungover and I had a complex about looking mannish.
Mercifully, we cut our trip short and arrived back home by 1:30 that afternoon.
By Christmas, my hair was much longer and cut even more bizarre. All you 40 somethings: it was exactly like the funky, geometric, reverse Mohawk hair style of the lead singer from “Flock of Seagulls”, seen here:
On New Year’s Eve, my aunt, Dawn and I went camping again at the beach. It was a lovely, moonlit night.
The exact same thing happened, but this time, I was mistaken for a big wrench.