Thursday, November 19, 2009

T.A.P. - The Adventure Project

When I was a camp counselor way back in the late 90's/early 00's, there was nothing I hated more than going on field trips (I had long since conquered mosquitoes by adopting an "if you don't show fear, they won't bite" attitude and refusing to wear bug spray, which totally worked). I hated six hour roundtrip bus rides, I hated having to be out in the sun in one location for hours, I hated having to choose between crappy packed sandwiches or over-priced beach/amusement park food, and I hated having to deal with my campers wanting to know when the fuck we were leaving.

One time we took a trip to Mystic, Connecticut (ironically now the home of Megan's parents and somewhere I go many times a year), which they had taken only the oldest kids to the year before with great success but which was a disaster when you factored in a bunch of 12-13 year-olds who are too old to go to the aquarium but too young to spend the day shopping. Rather than put my boys through the agony of spending half a day in an Army/Navy store where they couldn't afford anything, I ponied up my own cash to take them to the movie theater and kill a few hours; unfortunately, there were only two movies playing, and since none of them were old enough to see an R-rated horror flick, I ended up sitting through Runaways Bride with eight 13-year old boys (and most of the rest of the camp, who had reached a similar impasse).

After I picked up a bit of tenure and became assistant director of my assigned age group, the only time I really threw my administrative weight around was to make sure that if I didn't have a day off when we went on trips, I at least hung around the camp and did busy work rather than go through those weekly nightmares. My buddy Tom Rosoff was of a similar demeanor and would pull the same routine.

One week while the rest of the camp was at Water Country or something, Tom and I were sitting around trying to figure out how to kill time between naps since we had no intention of actually mowing the fields or whatever job was left for us. We were sitting on the deck of the camp's boathouse overlooking Lake Quacumquasit, Tom most likely smoking his 25th cigarette of the day, when we gazed across the water at the ominous green mountain located on the other side and suddenly both came to the same conclusion:

"We should do T.A.P."

"T.A.P." was our acronym for "The Adventure Project," which was a scheme we had been working on all that summer. Basically, both Tom and I had been attending Camp Frank A. Day for nearly a decade at this point, yet neither of us really knew what was on the other side of the lake. Sure, we had driven the road that wound around plenty of times and seen the nice summer homes and random yarn stores, but we both found it intriguing that there was this huge mound of forest nobody we knew had ever explored and became convinced something magical lay at its summit.

We grabbed my trusty DV camera and went about documenting what we knew would be the odyssey of a lifetime (not thinking it would also be video proof we had not been doing our jobs that day). Fueling up on some Subway we had run into town to snag earlier and hopping in Tom's beat-to-shit white Saab, we began our journey to T.A.P. Mountain. Watching the tape later, we enjoyed pointing out to fellow counselors (not campers) that I kept swerving the camera around during our drive over to avoid getting Tom smoking on camera while still allowing him to provide his portion of the narrative flow.

Arriving at the base of the hill (we gave up our "mountain" misconceptions pretty quick), we ditched Tom's car in the least illegal looking place to park, checked the camera batteries (all good) and began our ascent. Right off the bat we saw a "No Trespassing" sign and took turns filming each other chuckling in it's direction, or literally laughing at danger if you will.

It's times like this I wish my friend Nelson hadn't borrowed a cable for my camera and never given it back the next summer as I can't provide documentation of the things we saw on T.A.P., but they were something. Not even twenty paces up and we spotted an abandoned looking house straight out of the Blair Witch Project we took care to avoid because while we weren't afraid of the law, we were terrified of ghosts.

A little ways after the haunted house, we started venturing into unoccupied terrirtory, which meant a shitload of thornbushes and us regretting wearing shorts. Tom had burned himself on his calf a week earlier while playing with some incense or something so we showed the scar close-up on camera and claimed that he had gotten it from one of the thorns and we had to cauterize the wound with his lighter.

We made it through the briar patch, but hit a bit of a dead end not long after as we came up against a fence surrounded with barbed wire. Luckily this was only a minor setback as we had no problem blatantly lying to the people we had told we would climb this mountain all summer. We went back down a little ways to a clearing, filmed Tom saying we had gotten past the barbed wire and that we were headed to the top. We went back down a little more to what looked like it could have easily been the top (we were surrounded by woods, it's not like people were going to know) and filmed a triumphant Tom kissing a tree and us congratulating ourselves.

Our mission unaccomplished but committed to film nonetheless, we drove back to camp proud of our adventures. Once there, Tom dared me to ride on the roof of his car while we slowly pulled in since nobody was there, then proceeded to speed off the road and swerve wildly through the unpaved areas of camp, nearly killing me in the process because he can be a dickhead. In a moment of supreme karma, he ended up hitting a stump and knocking a large portion of the exhaust pipe clean off the bottom of his car. We told our bosses this was what prevented us from mowing the fields.

There is no moral to this story.

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