Ah, Fall. Camping season. That wonderful, magical time of year when a man can pack up the bare necessities, on the spur of the moment, and drive to a remote site in the wilderness where the troubles of everyday life in the city can’t find him and eventually will stop looking if he can hold out—and hole up—long enough.
This year, I decided to get a very early start. Indeed, I left my home for the woods two states away well before the sun came up, and on a Thursday. I suppose it was technically Wednesday night. I’d more or less just gotten home when it occurred to me that an impromptu trip would do me some good. I didn’t even take the time to let anyone know that I was headed away for a long weekend—they’ll figure it out. I just grabbed some snacks for the road and whatever cash I had in my apartment and went! I figured I’d pick up whatever I needed to camp on the way. They sell tents and stoves and food and clothes in stores, don’t they? Of course! You can get anything on the road these days!
Some people don’t care for sleeping in a tent. It’s so flimsy, they complain. It’s drafty. It’s just not comfortable. Valid points, but you know why I do like tents? Because when you’re in a tent it’s just unlikely that the police are going to bang on the flap in the early morning hours claiming to have a warrant to search the premises for drugs, stolen goods, and/or human remains. When you’re in a tent, you’re safe. When your tent is in the woods, you’re free. And when those woods are actually private property and not technically designated camping grounds, you’re the envy of anyone who needs to lay low until the heat dies down.
Usually when I go camping, I bring my dog, Lucky. This year, though, I left Lucky at home. Not locked up in my apartment, of course—although he’d probably have been fine for the couple of days until the NYPD broke in the door. No, I let him out for a walk and then slipped away while he did some of his "business." He’ll forgive me, I’m sure. A week in the woods—maybe two—just wouldn’t be fun for a city dog. And Lucky’s a barker. Better that he be able to bark to his heart’s content where everyone and his pet is making noise, rather than where he’d just wind up calling attention to a guy just trying to enjoy some peace, quiet, and complete solitude for maybe a month, but probably not longer than that. I will miss Lucky, though. I hope nobody misses me as much as I’ll miss that dog. It would be totally okay with me if nobody came looking for me.
What’s your favorite part of camping? Mine is the smell of the outdoors. It’s fresh, it’s clean, it’s invigorating. It doesn’t smell anything like fear—not the fear of being caught breaking open a parking meter, anyway—and even when you build a fire it doesn’t smell like the fire you might use to burn bloodied clothes, for instance, or documents connecting you to a blackmail scheme. Even the ground has a pleasant odor, as long as you’re smelling the ground somewhere other than where you’ve buried something you absolutely could not let anyone find in your apartment. And the real pines smell nothing like the air fresheners of the cabs whose drivers you’ve robbed at gunpoint, if that’s something you’ve ever done. If it is, I’m telling you: You will love camping for six months to a year!
Matthew David Brozik wrote this and many other short humor pieces, which have been published in print and online by The New Yorker, Adult Swim, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grin & Tonic, The Big Jewel, and no one.