The Cameron Column # 54
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 17 Sep 97 13:11:36 -0700
Subject: The Cameron Column # 54
Excerpted-from: The Cameron Column # 54
The final installment in the horrifying series on "How to
Take a Summer Vacation." It is based on a true story. If
you missed the first two and want to take a look, check out
The final leg of your cross country drive finds you curiously divided
between stupor and rage. You sit in a layer of dried french fries and
eviscerated taco innards and listen dispassionately to the ongoing
intellectual debate between your children:
"Could you PLEASE stop doing that with your lips?"
"Stop doing what?"
"Making those gross wet noises. You keep LICKING YOUR LIPS."
"You mean like this?"
"DAD! He keeps LICKING HIS LIPS!"
Though your "good parenting" training calls for you to urge upon your
children the adult traits of reason and compromise, your impulse is to
open the back door and fling everyone out onto the pavement. How can it
possibly matter that your son is licking his lips when the dog is riding
with its nose sticking into the jet stream outside the window, sneezing
so explosively every two miles that everything in the car has become
covered with dog mist? And if you roll the window up, the dog whines,
sobs, and ultimately barfs.
Your wife is no help in adjudicating the dispute: you've been having a
raging argument with her for two days, though neither of you has spoken
a single word to one another since East St. Louis.
Okay: just how much farther can it possibly be? That damn Jefferson
and his stupid Louisiana purchase, buying up all this land between your
house and the ocean!
"Dad, he licked his lips again!"
The maniacal glint in your eye shocks them into silence as you twist in
your seat. "Stop licking your lips or I'll rip them off!" you hiss.
"And you, stop hitting your brother!"
"I'm not!" she protests.
"But you will, and when you do, stop it!" you snarl.
"Wow, Dad's really lost it," your son admires.
"Is Mr. Mugster in the car?" you demand for the hundredth time in the
past hour. Mr. Mugster is a stuffed gorilla whose accidental
abandonment at a Stuckey's restaurant forced you to backtrack two
hundred miles. These were hard, Missouri miles, where corn has
overtaken all other life forms on the planet. You have the feeling that
had it been you at the Stuckey's, the vote would have been three to one
to press ahead anyway.
It is with a sense of unreality that you finally pull into the parking
lot of Big Al's Beach Resort. After all these days of being propelled,
your body can't quite adapt to being stopped.
For some reason you were deluded into thinking that Big Al's hotel
overlooked the ocean. Perhaps you were misled by the brochure, which
depicted a smiling and attractive couple completely unlike yourselves
holding little paper umbrella drinks as they admired the view of what
you now discover was the back of an automobile dealership. The only way
Big Al's will ever be on the beach is after three decades of global
Maybe by then your automobile will be fixed. You admitted it to
intensive care shortly after arriving at Big Al's and from your room you
can confirm that they haven't done anything to it since. In fact, it
appears they are using parts from your engine to fix other cars.
Should you be concerned that the name of the place is Jack Kevorkian
Well, you're here. Time to relax, enjoy your vacation. Time to be
spontaneous, to live for the moment. Naturally, this means you must
immediately compile a list of Fun Things To Do.
This is what Dad's do: make lists. No one reads the lists after they
are made or listens to you as they are being written or notices that you
are talking, or breathing, but that has never stopped you. When you
pass on you would like your headstone to read like this:
2. Die (Don't forget!)
3. Get buried here
Vacations make for particularly wonderful lists, but no one is listening
except the dog, who has finished drinking out of the toilet and has come
over to lick your legs. Your oldest daughter picks up the telephone to
initiate what will become a six hour conversation with her best friend
back home. She begins with the words, "you wouldn't believe how boring
it is here." Your other daughter wants to go to the mall because,
despite her three suitcases, she "brought nothing to wear." Your son
plops down in front of HBO, a study in Flatline Response Syndrome. Your
wife, muttering, tromps off to find a washing machine so she can tend to
all the laundry that has piled up over the past three days. You tell
her you'd like to help, but it's not "on the list." Her look indicates
that you'd better add "celibacy" to the list of Fun Things To Do. The
mechanic from the car dealership sends word that you need to hurry right
over to look at your vehicle's transmission, "never seen anything like
it since the war."
You begin looking forward to going home.
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© 1997 Peter Langston