Saturday, March 10, 2012

Every Town Camp

Dwayne became increasingly angry. He became so angry that I became increasingly worried. Dwayne hasn’t had a cigarette in hours and clearly it was affecting him in all the wrong ways. The truth is, Dwayne had a smoking problem.

Dwayne pressed his switchblade closer to the throat of our imprisoned cabin counselor.

"Find the mother fucker who took my cigarettes!"

Sweat beads down our counselor’s forehead as he peers across the cabin.

“Dwayne, I haven’t the slightest idea who took your smokes.”


"Dwayne sir? Who do you believe took your cigarettes?"

"Don't even worry Westley I know it wasn't you."

Although he still had his knife to our cabin leader's throat the validation of my safety was nice to hear. I meant it more of a personal vindication anyway. Our cabin counselor was on his own, and somebody better bum Dwayne a smoke soon because I could see the vapor of old nicotine escaping his pours in dramatic fashion.



A week long get away in a forest set summer camp was a dream come true. My high school guidance counselor offered me free tickets to “Every town” camp, for what I thought was good behavior. Yes. I was going to be one of those kids. The summer camp kids. I was going to take my sister’s pre-recorded bug juice tapes and rub them in her face. I was going to be the guy with a knack for pine-tree obstacle courses and making out with Renee Fields behind the commissary dumpsters. Camp pranks? I was going to be the guy that invented camp pranks.

Until I arrived at camp and realized the prank was on me.

I stormed into a barrage of singing hippy aristocrats. As the bus emptied the camp theme song had already embedded itself into my skull.

“Every Town
 Every Town
 It don’t matter your color around
 Red, black, blue or white.
 We’ll accept you all right
 At Every Town.”

And then I found out someone had stolen my wallet on the bus.

This was about as much of a summer camp as it was the 5th street crypt gang’s new recruiting center. I didn’t have my dream Disney Channel summer camp tickets. I had delinquent reform tickets. Camp sensitivity training. Camp come to terms with your emotions. Camp wear the right colors. Camp two kids on my bus just got arrested for stabbing each other. Camp only god can help me.

Camp Every Town.

The goal at every town camp was to cry. If you didn’t cry, you didn’t release unwanted energies, and you didn’t get better. Camp every town was the saddest camp in the entire world.

Group activities consisted of share time. At share time, we had to tell our most inspirational/depressing/emotional stories while they played Sinead O' Connor and had us hold hands while staring into each other’s eyes. (one by one for fifteen minutes.) We did this until everybody shared and until you've stared into every single troubled individual’s retinas. From nine till noon we shared stories and cried. Like a scene from fight club and cancer survivors we cried, hugged, and gazed longingly into each other’s pupils.

One kid told me he never had a father.

Another kid told me he had witnessed the molestation of his sister.

The next kid told me he watched his little brother get decapitated by a homeless man in a park in Inglewood.

I told them we were poor once.

We held hands and looked into each other’s eyes.

One kid told me he tried to get out of a gang. He had to KILL the gang leader. This was his parole.

Another kid told me he drank and drove. He drank and drove so well that he ended up in someone’s living room. The kid paralyzed a teenage girl. He was out on parole.

The last kid looked me in the eyes. She said she was raped by a gang banger when she was fourteen. The gang banger was her cousin. He was out on parole. 

I told them we never had a lot of money.

“Were you starving?” “She said.

“My mom made spaghetti for like a week. It was awful.”

The truth is I didn’t belong there. From the get go I never fit in. I made two friends and my best friend Jermaine left early for bad behavior. He was caught smoking crack in the dormitory showers.

We all held hands every day and stared into each other’s gaze. Céline Dion’s “Because you loved me” Is usually on track one-

When I actually start to cry.

Somewhere between Alicia’s third gang initiation and her second roofie, I cry like a fucking baby.

In this moment on the third day of my sensitivity reformation journey I finally crack. I crack and I cry. I realize how great my life is. It was too much to handle.

I left the group and went back to my cabin. After collecting myself and looking around I grabbed a pack of smokes from my neighbors bed and went outside. I must of put down four or five cigarettes. Each time I inhaled I thought, “I’m young, my life is great, and I’m smoking these cigarettes goddammit.”

I smoked because I was grateful.

I smoked because I was seventeen and had a nicotine problem.

I smoked because my life was great.


I sat there trying to coax Dwayne away from my cabin counselor’s throat.

“But Dwayne. If you kill him, you’ll still need a cigarette, but even worse!”


Dwayne didn't know what to do. He looked us all up and down. He was sure it was Robin from the third bunk. Consequently sure.

"Robin you sneaky sonofa-" 

Just then camp security busted in and apprehended Dwayne.  They threw him down and took his knife.

He struggled, he fought, he cried. He cried for a cigarette. 


He really had a nicotine problem.

These guys have a camp of their own