Thursday, October 4, 2012

Up the Lake: Closing Time

A Not so Grand Finale
Or
When Good Kids Do Bad Things For Good Reasons



Labor Day generally acted as the official close of the Up the Lake season.  The place stopped being open during the week after that, but remained accessible on weekends for the rest of September. There was much more finality to it in the years where more people spent the entire stretch from Fourth of July to Labor Day at the cabins.  As the crowd shifted to be mostly weekend based anyway, the holiday weekend became less of a hard stop.

I did go up many times during September, even before it was common place, though usually in the beginning of the month.  Those times provided what was normally a more relaxed and marginally less insane Up the Lake experience than in the summer.  Despite the benefits there was one weekend I, and all of my friends would not go up.  That was the one in mid-September designated as our parents “Closing Weekend”.  It began innocently, when my folks and their friends went up without the kids in the way to shut down everything for the winter.  Over the years they figured out that they could have a lot more fun together if they corralled us into helping with most of the closing work on Labor Day.  Then they could dedicate their weekend primarily to having vast communal meals, poker games, and other types of entertainment.  Even after reaching adulthood (in appearance anyway), with families of our own, my group would never violate the sanctity of the weekend reserved for “The Crew” as our folks were known.  This is mostly because we would find it highly unnerving to see our parents acting with the same sense of lunacy and foolishness that we succumbed to when unobserved. 

Any visit after their weekend was always highly limited in nature.  The place was totally sealed up, with almost anything useful (bedding, utensils, food, happy meal toys, etc.) packed away or taken home for the winter.  The biggest reason to not go Up the Lake after the Closing Weekend was the insistent, inevitable, and infinitely long lecture about the importance of replacing each and every component to its post-Closing winter state before leaving.  However, after losing what had been my annual biggest juggling gig, the call for the dynamically powerful mental therapy of reading Hulk comic books on a hammock in the woods was too strong to ignore. Therefore, with peace of mind in mind, I threw a sleeping bag and some supplies into my Bronco, and drove up on the Saturday morning of the final possible weekend.  That year due to a trick of the calendar, the last weekend spilled over into October on Sunday making it (what I believed to be) the absolute latest I could ever be on the property. 

Little did I know what lay in store. 

With the refrigerator off, and limited space in the bought-on-the-way-up more-fragile-than-the-falling-leaves-which-surrounded-me Styrofoam cooler, I was forced to choose carefully to make sure I brought something from each of the four food groups:

(1) Alcohol

(2) Caffeine

(3) Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches

(4) Pez 

My sister realized that there was a flaw in my nutritional plans, and fortunately came up shortly afterwards with potato chips.  In addition, she arrived bearing a container of some blue (theoretically fruit flavored) liquid, which I believe could make the car windshield squeaky-clean. 

It was a very quiet and restful weekend.  As an illustration of how few people were around, only six guys named Joe were present. (This is a mere third of the usual Up the Lake quota.)  The first day was totally uneventful, if chilly.  It was the last time I hadn’t worn shorts up there until the year I had to be on Plavix which short circuited my never get cold super power.  It was also the first time I hadn’t worn shorts up there since I stepped on a ground beehive around age ten.

Two hundred bees up your pants will get you leaving your legs uncovered for almost two decades as well!

The temperature dove even more at night.  Our plan was to make a fire - to avoid freezing to death - sit by it to read a bit, and chat over a couple of drinks -to avoid caring if we did start to freeze to death.  This plan went swimmingly for all of thirty seconds.   Then the effect of my sister’s schedule hit her.  The only way I can figure out how she thought she could survive at that pace was:

I’m pretty sure she believed that there were seventy-five minutes in an hour. 


If you consider this as a given, her plans would have worked fine.  In the real world, however, the result was that if she sat still for more than half a minute at a time, she fell asleep.

As an example, she fell asleep in church: which is common - standing up: which is less common, at least outside our family. I did it once after a four mile swim.  Riveting preachers we have in them Up the Lake churches.

With her out colder than a cucumber my evening’s activities were limited. 

Or is that “cool as a cucumber?”
Doesn’t make much sense either way does it?   
Moving on –

She did provide some entertainment, and not only when I was pushing her up into a sitting position to remove her head from the fire.  At one point she demanded paper towels and then (since she was, in fact, talking in her sleep) had no recollection why she needed them or even asking for them, prompting her to toss them directly into the fire

Her occasional dances coupled with a rendition of the old classic, “My Sneakers Are on Fire,” were also a hoot.  Left mostly to my own devices, I fell prey to the inborn inferno building addiction of all Up the Lakers.  I coaxed the flames up higher and higher, until every piece of wood not actually part of a live tree or cabin was involved. (This may explain my sister’s sneaker issue.) 

Between restoking the flames, and refilling my drink, I was good and toasty (or is that toasted?) all night.  The only slight problem occurred when I went to turn in, and couldn’t decide whether to kneel down to untie my boots, or go into the next room to change.   Apparently, according to my amused sibling, I tried to do both simultaneously, and pitched out of the doorway with my face travelling directly floorwards in at far above the recommended velocity. 

The next day was primarily concerned with resealing; reclosing; replacing and re-everythingelseing the whole camp site back to the “shut for the winter” mode.  Some of our cousins from the neighboring cabin arrived to take our shared boat out of the lake and haul it up to the cabin for off season storage.  Unfortunately, just as they pulled in, they were informed that their brother had fallen off a ladder.  He ended up OK, but they had to go to the hospital. This was just one in a long line of (unsurprisingly, almost exclusively male) various relations of mine with this problem. To prevent repeats of my family’s past performance, I issued a letter to the New York legislature proposing a law banning the entire Frissora clan from climbing anything higher than a step stool.  The gravity of the situation must be appreciated.

Sorry, I’m much better than that one.

The result of their abrupt exit was that my sister and I (with some help from a Joe or two) recovered the boat and locked it up under the bedroom.  I think it was this final grain of chaos (on top of the infinite mountain) that caused the lapse. 

After double, triple, and even fourple checking (in a happier world) everything, we left the lake for what (in a happier world) would be the last time of the year.  In the wee hours of the night, as the end effects of the sugar and caffeine wore off, it hit me,

“THE KITCHEN DOOR!” 

While I had locked it, I never put the wedges in place to prevent rain, wind, snow, and any small creature attempting to avoid the rain, wind and snow, from getting in.  I realized calling the owner was not an option, because if she wasn’t immediately going up, the wind could blow the wedges somewhere past East Jabib in a couple of days. 

Plus I’d have had to call my parents to get the owner’s phone number and admit to them I was an idiot. 

I foolishly thought this would surprise them.


Going Up the Lake after it is closed is the be all and end all of Up the Lake rule breaking.  Even the mere suggestion of it brought this response from a fellow camper who I am contractually obligated to refer to as “the young, attractive, skinny lady from up the hill a ways”:

No. No. No. 
It is against the law to go up there on Monday. 
It is October.
You are not allowed to set foot on the property in October. 

Read your rule book - chapter 42 section 11 sub-paragraph D:
"Thou shalt not set foot on the property once the moon sets on September 30 of any year."

See?  I told you so. 
You don't know what will happen. 
The last people to try it had two people taken off their “permanent resident” list. 
They were allowed to visit on alternate Tuesdays for the month of August if it was raining, but had to leave their car at the gate.

You have been warned.  I am not responsible for the consequences.



Faced with these dire consequences, it was obvious that breaking THE RULE would be insane.

Faced with the idea of confronting an enraged New York Italian family, whose cabin door had blown off, the insane option was the only one available. 


My initial plan was to:
1) Jump in the car while it was still dark.
2) Drive up to get there at sunrise.
3) Leave may car at the now locked gate.
4) Walk up to the cabin.
5) Secure the door.
6) Head straight to work.  

There were two problems with this plan: 
A) The knowledge that my sister might tell me, “Oh yeah, I put those in right before we left.”
B) The knowledge that if I fell asleep driving and ended up dead in a ditch, it might make me late for work. 

Therefore I decided on plan “B”:
1) Sleep (some).
2) Go to work early.
3) Skip lunch.
4) Drive the hour and a half up after leaving work early allowing me to…
5) Duck under both traffic and sunset time. 

I pulled out of my company’s lot and my trusty truck galloped forth, unhindered by normal rush hour crowds.  My sister even called my cell phone just in time to allow me to win one last, “We’re on the dirt road!” proclamation.

This is a big deal to Up the Lake folk…
Well, at least our cabin…
OK just my sister and I but our kids adopted the game over later on. So there!  

I parked the car at the gate, when a huge slam on the roof led me to believe a flying monkey was attacking me.  It turned out it was only a crab apple.

Apparently stress and a lack of sleep make me jumpy.

After repositioning the truck out of the shelling zone, I got out and hiked up nearly a mile to the cabin.  I was bright enough to remember my “lake sneakers”, but dim enough to still have on my “work Dockers”.  While advertised as fulfilling a myriad of roles, business casual pants are, alas, no more built for hiking than a one flippered elephant seal is.  After the chafe filled climb up the shortcut through the woods, my trousers became fully camouflage colored, with all natural mud and grass dyes. 

I reached the cabin, and with offensively little effort for the length of the trip, wedged the door well and properly shut.  As I came back to the top of the shortcut hill to begin my descent, I heard a roar coming up the road.  The sound was much like an angered thunder god, or perhaps urgently searching Japanese import.  Up until that point, unbeknownst to me, the owner was down by the lake waiting for the port a john service guy to come and empty the beach front location. (And you thought your job was bad.)  Thanks to my penchant for phenomenal timing, he had just called and told her he wasn’t coming while I was goofing around with the door.  She saw my car as she was leaving, and then made her presence quite knownst to me.  

She didn’t appear angry, stated she figured I forgot something (other than my mind) and politely offered to drive me to my vehicle.  I declined and trotted down, beating her car to the bottom of the shortcut - hence its name.

She then passed me, opened the gate and drove through.  I walked up to the gate, thinking how cool it was to be the LAST person to leave the lake, and equally politely offered to close it for her.

The owner didn’t verbally answer, but declined my offer with every fiber of her being.  She then stepped out of the car, very deliberately, walked around to the inside of the gate, pushed it closed, and put the lock on.   

It was as if she was imprisoning me in the world of not Up the Lake. 

Her expression made it very obvious who was on the inside, who was on the outside, and who should be leaving. 

She drove away first, but slowly enough so that I caught up to her.  Then, convinced I hadn’t snuck back to replay my adventure in an attempt to cause even more damage to my work pants, she sped off.  

As I drove home I felt crest fallen. 

Not only had I, the GOOD kid, broken the be all and end all rule of Up the Lakeness, covering a hundred and thirty three miles (two of them on foot) in three hours to do it . . .

I got busted.  

Oh the shame of it all.

6 comments:

longbow said...

It is a testament to the quality of your wife that your daughter is not named 'Joe'.

Jeff McGinley said...

Yes, my friend. For that and many other reasons. Thanx for coming!

longbow said...

Though she could totally pull off being "Joe" as few other girls could.
Reminds me of Maria Rossi from my high-school intramural floor hocky team "The Droogs". One game,she got tired of being bumped into so much and floor-checked a guy through the double doors that led down a short flight of stairs to the outside. She then nudged the door open and shouted down at him crumpled on the landing, "and I can have babies, too!"

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx much.
Awesome story. Makes me proud of my less than impresseve high school gym days. I also got checked out of the gym doors durin gfloor hockey, but at least it was by a guy on the varsity hockey team.

Bruce Fieggen said...

It's that time again Jeff. I'm going to the Writer's Digest Conference in New York in April. There are lots of agents there looking for writers in humor and you are much more worthy of being represented than I am.

Come with me and we'll pitch together (to different agents.)

Here's the link: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ehome/51706/agents/

Jeff McGinley said...

Annnd, once again, they hold their conference the same time as my daughter's spring break when I'm previously committed. (Many people think I should have been previously committed years ago.) Seriously, they should move that conference.

Thanx for asking.