Copyright 2000, RPK&A, Inc.
Setting: A trailhead parking lot, western Oregon
Characters: Me, my girlfriend Cindy, and Gustave, who is living in a tent near the trailhead.
Cindy and I graduated from college in December, then worked for a few months to save some money. Now we are ready to set out on our first backpacking trip.
In college, there were so many students who appeared to be very experienced in the out-of-doors. They wore fleece this and fleece that, sandals that I could never afford, and hanging from the expedition backpacks that held their notebooks was a water bottle made of special plastic that didn’t make your water taste funny. They often had rock-climbing devices (I don’t know what they are called) hooked onto either their pants (used as a key ring for their mountain-bike lock), or to their backpack, in which case it wasn’t used for anything–maybe good to have in an emergency, I don’t know.
I was rather envious of these people, because I also wanted to be skilled in backcountry life. Finally I bought some gear and prepared to embark on a three-day hike. On the way to the trailhead, I consulted my guide: “Backpacking, One Step at a Time,” by Harvey Manning, Keith Gunnar, and Bob Cram. Now Cindy and I are standing at the back of our station wagon, double-checking that we have the Ten Essentials–things everybody should have on them when hiking, according to my book.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, we each have an extra set of long underwear, pants, and a top.”
“Good. It says here we should always keep one set of clothes dry at all times. They aren’t cotton, I hope.”
“No, nylon. Why? Is cotton bad?”
“Cotton? You mean the Death Fabric? Just kidding. Actually cotton is comfortable and breathes well, but when it gets wet it can freeze your ass.”
“Hey, you guys going hiking? Hi, hiking is real good around here. I’m just living in that tent, but I’m going to start–you know what I’m going to start? A relaxation center where people can go and listen to relaxing music 24 hours a day. I’ve got all kinds of music. Yah, my CD collection is in the thousands, right in that tent there. I didn’t used to have anything of course. I gave it all up. My father had me in a stranglehold, like this. I could’ve knocked him one, but I didn’t… maybe should have. I said goodbye to all his money. He was in the hotel business. Nah, I don’t want anything to do with that…”
“Hi, nice to meet you… Cindy, can you see if we have ‘number two’: extra food? There should be a bag of couscous, dried seaweed–don’t you think seaweed is a good camping food? It’s light, has all kinds of minerals–and dehydrated miso. That shit is REALLY good for you. It’s in the–”
“You guys have the right idea to go hiking, get out there and… you know if you ever meet a spiritual teacher and he tells you that we must suffer now because this is the Age of Suffering–they’re full of shit! You know why? BECAUSE THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS GOOD OR EVIL! They’re full of shit! Like Rajneesh–”
“Yah, Rajneesh. I had a friend who was a Rajneeshee–them and the Hare Krishnas are the biggest coke runners in North America! He tried to suck me in. I walked right past him and he looked at me. I felt his power. Sure he was VERY charismatic. Some of those people, once they attain a minor level of lucidity, they can suck people into their group.”
“Yah, man, you know, they see people who are pretty aware in the world, they see their third eye wide open, and then they just dive straight in and get you… but I just kept walking right by him, didn’t even look at him. No way, man.”
“I found the extra food. What’s next?”
“Sunglasses. You’re wearing yours, but I don’t have any. Oh well, it should be OK. We’re not going up to the glacier. After that, a knife.”
“That’s right, there is no good or evil! Peace on Earth is possible at ANY MOMENT. I know this, it’s a fact, don’t ask me how I know, it’s a mathematical fact… everything comes down to math… once you get the breathing going, you know, get in the groove, and the chanting… you can move mountains…people can have peace at any moment, and we better do it quick.”
“Cindy, we should hurry up if we’re going to set up camp before dark. Next–a fire starter.”
“Check, here in the plastic bag.”
“What people have to do is raise their chakras, raise the energy down here…” He holds a broom horizontally at the level of his pelvis. I’m not sure why he has a broom with him. “…up to the higher energy center, raise the vibration.” He moves the broom up over his head. “That’s the only chance. They’re looking to colonize outer space, BUT IT WILL NEVER HAPPEN! You know why? People are too evil. They will NEVER be allowed to leave the Earth. The Moon? We never went there. It was a big hoax. Sure, the space shuttle is real and all that, but just look at the Mars probes–crashed!”
“It’s up front.”
“Last thing–a compass.”
“We just have this one, I guess we should both have one, no?”
“You guys come from pretty well-off families?”
“No, not at all.”
“Oh, OK… you just have a nice car?”
“Hey! We bought this used. It’s 20 years old.”
“Oh, that’s good. Yah, I live in a tent now, but you know I’m related to all the royalty of Europe. My dad was a French aristocrat. My name is Gustave de la Plage. My mom, though, she’s from Austrian nobility… and gypsy.”
“Wow, that’s fascinating… we should be going, though. Cindy, looks like we have the 10 essentials from the book. They say we could also take a few other things like a whistle, sunblock, insect repellent, a repair kit, and a toilet kit–we have that. Then of course, the sleeping bag, ground mattress–”
“Right, I’m Jewish… and Catholic. I’m related to all nobility all the way back to Christ.”
“Wait a minute–Christ?”
“Because when Joseph was killed, Mary fled to England.”
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