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Camping Season: A Survival Guide

[My column in the Sunday magazine.]

It's camping season! Time to dive into the wilderness with nothing but your wits, your gear and your jumbo cooler jammed with enough steaks and iced-down beverages to supply the entire 3rd Armored Division! Herewith, some tips for becoming a happy, indeed wildly euphoric, camper:

Bringing proper gear

When you are out in the woods, roughing it, getting in touch with your inner Wild Person, you don't want to discover that you forgot to bring enough propane to operate both the Coleman Mosquito Deleto 2200 System bug trap and the Coleman "Hot Water on Demand" Portable Water Heater. A good rule of thumb on propane is to bring so much that you need an extra axle on your vehicle.

Sure, as you're unpacking your gear, you might think: "Did I really need a massage chair? Was it a little over the top to bring the queen-size inflatable Eddie Bauer Raised Insta-Bed and the two-sink collapsible "gourmet kitchen" and all those backpacker's martini glasses that nest together so nicely and are made of incredibly durable Lexan? polycarbonate?" The answer is, you're going camping, not joining a monastery. The outdoors is the new indoors, which means you'll need all the gear you can possibly fit in the trailer you'll be pulling behind your car. But if you really insist on "going native," don't bring the champagne flutes.

Picking a campsite

The spot must be reasonably level and free of stones, sticks, ant beds, snake holes, human bones or any other evidence of ritual sacrifice and cannibalism. Avoid areas with poison ivy. If you are unsure what poison ivy looks like, presume that any green plant is poison ivy. If necessary, camp on pavement.

When the tent is set up, ensure that all campers know how to reach you at the motel you spotted earlier in the day.

Starting a fire

Find dry sticks underneath logs, and perch them in "tepee" formation on top of leaves, bark, etc. Take a stick, and insert one end in a depression in a rock filled with leaves or thin bark shavings under the tepee. Twirl stick violently between your palms while explaining to younger campers the principle of making a fire with nothing more than natural materials and human ingenuity. Add lighter fluid. Ignite with match.

WARNING: Gasoline is never recommended, as it is highly volatile and should be used only by a "volunteer," while you take cover at least a quarter-mile away.

CAUTION: Never leave a fire unattended, or leave a campsite with a fire still smoldering, unless some other camper nearby has a much better fire and better beverages, and you are reasonably sure that your original fire will not burn down the entire forest or that, if it did burn down the entire forest, the land would be better off used for agricultural purposes or housing developments anyway.

Backcountry camping

This is when you go someplace that lacks a store, showers, volleyball court, swimming pool and amphitheater. Never advised.

Leaving no trace

You'll want subsequent campers to find the campsite in the same condition that you found it. Covering your beer cans with a light layer of dirt usually creates the illusion nicely.

When camping in bear country

Bears in most camping areas have learned over time that food can be readily found in backpacks and bags that are suspended high above the ground using ropes tied to branches. That's like shooting off a flare to attract bears. Better to keep it safely out of sight, in the tent, in your sleeping bag.

If attacked by a bear

Bears will usually not eat something they believe is already dead. Thus you should collapse on the ground and stay absolutely still, like roadkill. Even if you feel the animal sniffing at your feet, and then slowly nosing its way up your body, and you can tell that it is getting angrier and angrier as it begins to growl and root around with its snout and teeth and giant wet tongue, and finally it's at your neck, and you feel the saliva gushing from its gaping, slobbering, beastly maw, don't move.

If bitten by a snake

You'll probably die horribly, but there are fabulous social opportunities in the meantime as you search for someone to suck out the venom.

By Joel Achenbach  |  June 25, 2006; 7:37 AM ET
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Next: Dropping the F-bomb


Where are you supposed to string up the party lights?

Posted by: TBG | June 25, 2006 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I have happy memories of camping when I was a child. Of course, there are campgrounds and there are campgrounds. The Park Service campgrounds don't have hot water or showers, but if you look, there are others that do. That's the essential divide among campgrounds: privies or real flush toilets, no showers or real hot water and showers. Not that such facilities would be acceptable at home, but they do make a difference in the wild.

Posted by: Slyness | June 25, 2006 8:58 AM | Report abuse

The last time I went camping was in the backyard with my daughter. Since she abandoned the project around midnight because of scary sounds, the prospect of ever taking her on a real camping expedition is remote. Further, the other members of my family have informed me that, as a matter of principle, they shall never leave the safety of our home unless a heated pool is involved.

Fortunately, I have my memories.

As a kid we used to camp at Penrose Point state park. This was sissy car-camping, with coin operated showers and campsite electricity, but it was still fun. The sound of a sleeping bag zipping closed still makes me smile. And I am proud to say we always followed all of the guidelines mentioned in Joel's column, including the one about the gasoline. For once you have seen a man use a large Styrofoam cup full of high-octane petrol as kindling, well, you have a new appreciation for the Fires of Hell.

Posted by: RD Padouk | June 25, 2006 9:54 AM | Report abuse

My main camping experiences were with the Girl Scouts. Our troop leader was real serious about it. I remember endless searches for firewood and cooking whole meals in tinfoil over the fire. None of this endeared me to the experience, though in retrospect the foil packs were kind of cool (though not particularly tasty). The best part was the s'mores. My mother, who was assistant troop leader, was famous for telling girls to go find firewood then taking them aside and saying they should explore and play, just remember to bring back some sticks.

When I was in eighth grade an unusually hardy science teacher took a busload of kids on a trip to the East Coast, from Maine (and Niagara Falls) through Boston, NYC and DC down to the Carolinas and back to Oklahoma. We lived in tents, with cooperative cooking, etc. It was an amazing experience but I find I've blocked out most of the "camping" part.

My dad, having started life on a farm and gone through WWII in the infantry, was not fond of camping. I think he would have enjoyed it with Joel's cautions and recommendations. His idea was a nice cabin somewhere, or a motel with hot water. Even an RV was a little more work than he wanted to take on for a vacation. I endorsed this view, and still do. I may take the boy camping sometime, but not for any extended period.

Posted by: Ivansmom | June 25, 2006 9:59 AM | Report abuse

You can probably count on all your fingers and all your toes how many times I have faked snakebites in order to have fabulous, brawny, outdoorsy, half-tamed he-men men suck on my legs!

Works best of the faux snakebite occurs just as the sun is starting to go down. I've also been known to tie a fake rattle on many a harmless, round-pupiled snake.

Posted by: Loomis | June 25, 2006 10:17 AM | Report abuse

Since Joel's "Dropping the F Bomb" is already posted on the home page, I ask:

Is it the French Connection United Kingdom ...or...French United Connection Kingdom?

And as far as censorship goes, no way, just no way are we moving to North Carolina because of a Wachovia merger, if the North Carolina religious-right gets all prissy and forces a local school district to outlaw this book and others on its list. (O.K., North Carolina chamber of commerce business and economic development types, think about it.)

From the U.K.'s June 24 Guardian:,,1804805,00.html

The author of what has been described as the definitive dictionary of slang is gobsmacked, gutted, throwing up bunches, honked, hipped and jacked like a cock-maggot in a sink-hole. A North Carolina school district has banned the dictionary under pressure from one of a growing number of conservative Christian groups using the internet to encourage school book bans across the US.

Jonathon Green, who compiled the 87,000 entries in the Cassell Dictionary of Slang, which was published last year, said that North Carolina is the only place he knows of where the book cannot be used in schools. ...

The ban comes a week after a children's book about Cuba was removed from Miami-Dade County school libraries because it painted too rosy a picture of life on the island.

Posted by: Loomis | June 25, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Cassell also has dictionaries of rhyming slang and euphemisms, not to mention that there's a Big Book of Sports Insults.

Thinking of teepee-shaped piles of wood, a classic photo from the southern tip of Florida shows a fairly large teepee of mangrove wood. The caption explained that the wood had been cut in 1935 and covered in soil, and was ready to be set fire to make charcoal, when the Labor Day hurricane roared through the area. The soil covering was removed in 1960 by hurricane Donna. Last year, Wilma, a relatively weak storm, caused the most extensive flooding in the Keys in a century, as well as a big storm surge at the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park, where park facilities were pretty much destroyed.

Back to that teepee of mangrove wood. I can't imagine present-day Americans doing such terribly hard work to make a product of such low value (unless perhaps there's a luxury market for organic, handmade tropical charcoal).

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | June 25, 2006 11:11 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, boodle. Glub glub. Worked on getting our boat in the water yesterday and intended to do more of the same today (painting-removing, hull waxing, bottom painting) but we're in a monsoon here in Southern Maryland,so I'm confined to interior honey-doos (new wand in the downstairs shower, new switch in the guest bed ceiling fan, and whatever other misery my wife can concoct).

Loomis, French Connection United Kingdom is correct, because the whol idea is to print the initials on the T-shirt without actually printing the F-bomb. Very juvenile, in my view, just like the bumper stickers that says S---happens. I always figured, if you have to be seen using dirty words for shock value, then you aren't using them properly. Nobody cares how gutsy/revolutionary/free-speaking you are, pal.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | June 25, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Junie B Jones is being banned? For what? First they come for Junie, Then they come for Captain Underpants. Who will be left to speak for Magraret?

Posted by: yellojkt | June 25, 2006 11:23 AM | Report abuse

I have very grave news for the boodle. Parts of our herb garden are not doing well, and we don't know why. Our roma tomato plant has died, and--here's the heartbreaker--Mr. Stripey appears to be on his last legs. A nearby be-bomb plant is also suffering. However, other parts of the area are doing fine. Mysteriously, two years ago, our three tomato plants in the same locations were practically Sci-Fi mutants, growing nearly six or seven feet tall and popping out tomatos like crazy. This year---zip. And we can't figure out why.

Keep your fingers crossed for Mr. Stripey.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | June 25, 2006 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Our thoughts are prayers are with you Curmudgeon. Be brave.

Overspray from something, perhaps?

Posted by: RD Padouk | June 25, 2006 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I was going to mention this on Cassandra's birthday, she she mentioned her affinity for the little cartoon character, but forgot. But yellojkt, since you mentioned Junie B. Jones...

SpongeBob SquarePants hails from Humboldt State...the cover story in the latest edition of the alumni magazine (article starts on page 12):

The Man behind the Sponge: Paint. Catch Waves. Change World...Welcome to Stephen Hillenburg's Life
by Vernon Felton

(i)Spongey-whuh?(i) If your social circle lacks seven-year-olds of your TV is simply stuck on CNN, you might draw a blank at the mention of this name. Rest assured, however, that more than 56 milion of your fellow Americans--young and old alike--tune into "SpongeBob SquarePants" every month and are intimately familiar with all things SpongeBob-ish.

What you are about to read, however, isn't actually a story about SpongeBob. It's Stephen Hillenburg's story. Hillenburg is the artist and Humboldt State alumnus who created this yellow, global phenomenon. What happens when following your dream winds up changing the world? It's not a question many of us will ever ask ourselves, but it is something Hillenburg has cause to ponder.

Love at First Tidepool
Stephen Hillenburg's story does not begin on, under or even near the sea. In fact, it starts 1,315 miles away from the closest beach, on a military base in Fort Sills, Oklahoma. That's where Stephen Hillenburg spent his early years. His father, an Army enlisted man, eventually moved the family to Southern California where the elder Hillenburg joined the civilian ranks as a draftsman in the booming aerospace industry.

From an early age, Stephen was drawn to the tidepools around Dana Point and Laguna Beach. ...

Posted by: Loomis | June 25, 2006 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Since the weather's not cooperating, I'll be spending some time today getting my camping equipiment together for next weekend.

I might start packing it in our little 6' x 6' trailer, too.

On the F-bomb topic, I think my favorite efing movie quotes are Dennis Hopper as Frank Booth in the always eccentric David Lynch's "Blue Velvet": "F**k you, you f**king f**k!", and in a "A Christmas Story" when Ralphie drops the lugnuts in the snow. Well, the resulting chaos around Ralphie's use of The Word is the best part.


Posted by: bc | June 25, 2006 12:40 PM | Report abuse

When we moved to the NW, I envisioned lots of camping and hiking. The first spring we lived here, we went camping in March - way too cold and wet, not to mention we wound up on a very rough road that we later figured out was a hiking trail, not a road meant for cars. We tried camping on Memorial Day weekend a few years, but it always rained. We learned to wait till July, at least. My kid was always a good camper, although he could be leary of the bathroom facilities. But as I got older, the work and discomfort involved with camping overcame the allure of nature - I haven't been for about 15 years. I miss being in the woods, though.

One of my earliest camping memories was with my family in NW PA. My brother was extremely disappointed because there were trash cans - which meant we weren't in the wilderness at all! It rained cats and dogs - we wound up sleeping in the car. My stuffed panda bear got soaked - he had a windup music box that never worked again.

Posted by: mostlylurking | June 25, 2006 12:42 PM | Report abuse

This may be a historic day: Achenblog's first Trackback. Joel's new linkiness is paying off!!

[I can't really believe it's the first one, but I know I haven't noticed any before.]

Posted by: kbertocci | June 25, 2006 12:51 PM | Report abuse

I had to camp regularly as a geology student. When I was 22 and Mrs. D was 19 (before we were married) we spent two months camped in a quarry on a excavation in eastern Virginia. No running water, no electricity, 110 degrees F during the day and 90 at night. Yet somehow we survived it, mostly enjoyed it, and got a lot of work done.

Fast forward 10 years. Same quarry, same conditions. The first night we didn't sleep at all, laying in pools of sweat, covered with mosquito bites, wondering "How in the He11 did we EVER do this?" That's the last time we ever camped in tents there.

Loomis: don't write off the southeast too fast. I think the only way it will change is if new people move in. Besides, if you're in Winston-Salem you'll only be an hour from my museum! Show you a good time! *w*

Posted by: Dooley | June 25, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Joel, where can I buy the Mosquito-Deleto?

Posted by: Dooley | June 25, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Wake County, LindaLoo? That's Raleigh. Not to worry. Wachovia is headquartered in Charlotte. I expect the problem arises from all the conservative Baptists in Wake Forest, where the fundamentalists have taken over Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and destroyed it.

Charlotte and Winston-Salem, on the other hand, are in the Piedmont and are much more cosmopolitan and opened minded than the verry conservative eastern part of the state. You'd be fine.

Posted by: Slyness | June 25, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

I guess the bloom of first love covers up a lot of misery, Dooley.

I suspect it was simply more humid the second time. No way you're in pools of sweat at such temps unless it's humid.

I survived similar conditions in INdia although we supposedly had more luxuries--- no tents, but similar temperatures. It was really hot in Rajasthan but it's a desert climate so it helped. I still didn't sleep very well there anyway.

Didn't mind though as I had too much to see and to do.

Posted by: Wilbrod | June 25, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

Always humid in that part of Virginia--I think the big difference was being 32 instead of 22. Now we usually run the excavation out of a pop-up camper.

I still use a tent in Wyoming and Peru (in the desert).

Posted by: Dooley | June 25, 2006 2:41 PM | Report abuse

>I have faked snakebites in order to have fabulous, brawny, outdoorsy, half-tamed he-men men suck on my legs!

Linda, that's hilarious. Decency demands I say nothing else, but you'd make a great "straight man". :-)

Posted by: Error Flynn | June 25, 2006 2:42 PM | Report abuse

What the eff are all these Boodling handle e-mails doing in my inbox?? 'Mudge, what did you DO???

And a "Mongolian Clustereff" handle? I didn't know Mr. Carlin Boodled...


As for camping, nothing quite compares to sharing a GP Medium tent with about 12 other soldiers, all of us doing our best to remain quiet as a rather large wild boar came wandering through. Seems the old boy was looking for more goodies along the lines of the scraps from the KP trench.

Then again, sharing a exposed rock ledge overlooking a steep valley along the Applachian Trail with about 8 other Outward Bound participants, watching satellites pass overhead, was also pretty damn cool. That unfortunately makes me remember, however, the attempt at backwoods pizza... Feh.


Posted by: Scottynuke | June 25, 2006 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon, my sympathies. My Mr. Stripeys did not perk up after the rain as I had hoped. Herbs, cantaloupe, pepper, broccoli, hybrid tomato all flourishing (or at least green and standing) but Mr. Stripey and his friend Mr. Stripey are still looking like a bad night out. It can't be anything I've put on them, since that would have required actual gardening activity on my part. All my surviving plants tend to be very hardy.
Good thing about camping (or even hiking in the woods) -- eating growing things. There are often berries and almost always sheepshower. This is actually some sort of sorrel, but in my family we call it sheepshower. Tart, with an almost cloverlike appearance and little yellow or purple flowers. I had the hardest time convincing Ivansdad, who grew up in a suburb, that you could pick and eat stuff from the yard.

Posted by: Ivansmom | June 25, 2006 3:05 PM | Report abuse

I'm back from a fishing vacation in northern Wisconsin. We stayed in a "rustic cottage" by a lake but saw lots of loon, deer, otters, turtles, herons, bald eagles, grouse, turkeys, but no bear this year. Last year they set up a bear trap in back of the cabin and the bear went in and out with the bait and took off into the woods - "good stuff" which caused trap to spring too far back in big pipe trap.

"Rustic cabin" had tv, heat, and a/c so it was not camping but pleasant way to spend vacation. Caught lots of fish - crappies, bluegills, perch, walleye, bass and a few northern pike but no muskies unless you count the one that got caught in the fishing line and dragged the boat a while before biting through it (the line, not the boat.)Released most fish (too small) but froze some to eat during winter. It takes an expert to catch 4 inch long bluegills and perch.

Back in the seventies I did a lot of camping in the Colorado Front range in the Roosevelt Nat'l Forest with tent, sleeping bags, snowshoes, ice axe, alcohol stove up about 10,000 to 12,000 ft. Looking back, wonder how I did all that - great to be young and energetic. Also camped in a tent on an island in Wisconsin Lake where our little "watch dog" did just that as racoon - we think - growled outside. Last time I camped in tent, in 1978 in New Jersey, a gypsy moth caterpiller ate a hole right through the tent material. Tough caterpillers they have in NJ.

Corn is growing well with recent rains which have helped with drought conditions. I thought you'd like a report from the boondocks.

It's going to take a while to catch up with the kits and boodles but it seems the regulars are doing well.


Posted by: boondocklurker | June 25, 2006 3:13 PM | Report abuse

LindaLoo, anything to add on the author?


'Mudge, as much as I'd hate to hear of Mr. Stripey's untimely passage, it probably wasn't a good idea to bulk up the garden with that dirt from behind Camden Yards' home plate. Too many steroid-soaked loogies, I'd wager. My condolences.


Posted by: Scottynuke | June 25, 2006 3:18 PM | Report abuse


Some advice from the 12-year-old-girl set on how to handle the F word on the radio tomorrow...

My daughter and her friends have come up with code for the "bad' words: Ford (the word you can use tomorrow), Honda, Dodge, Buick.

You get it... first initials. What the Honda do you think it means?

And do me a favor on the radio tomorrow, will you? Please ask when they'll stop calling it the New Washington Post Radio. Is it still new?

Posted by: TBG | June 25, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

Looks like Dooley has learned about Wyoming's great unhumid summer climate. In my job with the Bureau of Land Management, I tended simply to use the pickup's seat. In Cody, even the winter climate could be pretty nice--I did just enough winter camping to realize it could be more fun than being stuffed indoors.

Praise be to Loomis for the SpongeBob story:

"When did he realize that he'd created a major hit? "It sort of creeped up on me. I was driving down to Baja on a surf trip and at the Mexican border there were all these ceramic SpongeBobs. When you see that happen, you know something big has happened. It was a bizarre moment. I really didn't expect what I was doing to have any kind of mass appeal or success." "

It's good to know that the creator of SpongeBob surfs!

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | June 25, 2006 3:52 PM | Report abuse

Good TBG. Even better than Luxembourg.

Posted by: RD Padouk | June 25, 2006 3:54 PM | Report abuse

Years ago we used to camp on weekends at Kopachuck State Park just 15 miles from our home in Bremerton, WA. (Why do all the place names in Washington sound as if they were made up from left over Scrabble tiles?)
Our kids were in grade school, and that 15 miles made them feel they were in the wilderness. My husband would take me and the dog and the pop-up trailer, and leave us there Thursday night to "hold" the campsite --- kids and Dad came after school on Friday. Some of our best times.
The kids loved the camp biscuits --- a Bisquick rope wound around a smooth stick and baked over the campfire.

Posted by: nellie | June 25, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

TBG - You realize, of course, that I shall never again be able to watch a commercial for Ford with a straight face. I mean, when they offer me a new Ford for no money down and low financing it takes on a whole different meaning.

Posted by: RD Padouk | June 25, 2006 4:02 PM | Report abuse

scottynuke, I am clueless about your inbox. I don't think I sent you anything. What is it? (e-mail me if you want.)

Loomis, my wife and I are thinking of retiring in the viciinity of Charleston, S.C. or Savannah, Ga., if that helps any, and so you won't be entirely along. (But I'm not falling for the ol' snakebit trick.) We're going down there in a few weeks to scout locations.

I hereby confess to doing the full course: Cub Scouts, Boy Scotts, Explorers. And this was "back in the day" when Scouts really did camp out without modern amenities such as microwave ovens, GPS, portable wide-screen TVs, and all the rest. By and large, I enjoyed it, though I also remember more than a few camp-outs and jamoborees in the rain, when I (and several thousand others) were wet and miserable for two or three days; camping in snow and freezing off parts of my body to which I was then quite fond; drinking warmish stream water into which we had dumped various pills and emolluments, eye of newt, etc., to kill germs (this was before we discovered vodka). As an adult and husband/father, though, we never got into campaing because my wife's idea of roughing it ia Holiday Inn, and room service. (Somewhat oddly, she loves the boat, which I view as kind of a nautical version of camping out.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | June 25, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

Well, it's not exactly camping advice that I need from the delectable boodle community (I loved camping as a kid, however). I got a new shower curtain from the New Yorker store, which is a very cool cover from 2000, I think. Anyway, as a brand new item, the plastic has a stink to it that is making me feel a little green, if you catch my drift. I mean, it really stinks. I think I'll sleep in another room tonight. Just sprayed some Lysol in that bathroom, maybe merely to mask the scent with another one, but does any of our brilliant boodlers know how to get rid of the stink or let me know how long I'll have to boycott that bathroom? Starting to feel as if the carcinogens are taking over my condo. Don't want to breathe, deeply or not. Yuck.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 25, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

firsttimeblogger: You are enduring long-chain molecules emitted by fresh vinyl. These include phthalates, the source of "new car smell." Some suggest this is a health hazard, but the evidence is weak. What is known is that these molecules leach out at their own sweet rate.

In other words, you are doomed.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the process can be accelerated by applying warm air. Or you can just, you know, go with it. Some folks pay good money for that particular odor.

Posted by: RD Padouk | June 25, 2006 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Thanks RD. I think I'll aim my blowdryer at it for a bit.

Always appreciate the ever so wise and wry counsel from my fellow boodlers (hmmm, getting hungry for some ham on wry).

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 25, 2006 5:15 PM | Report abuse

My family went camping all the time when I was growing up. First because it was a cheap vacation and also because we liked it. My dad likes the mountains. My mom prefers the ocean. After a few Colorado/Wyoming/Montana vacations, Mom lobbied for a beach holiday. I guess she was thinking maybe a beach house somewhere. Instead, we took our big canvas Sears tent and our new Ford station wagon and camped out on Padre Island, off the Texas coast, for three weeks. Beach camping is interesting. There were no facilities whatsoever. We drove down the beach periodically for water, and we had a portable toilet back in the dunes. We had a canopy where we were required to be in the shade from 11:00 to 1:00 every day. Sweeping the sand out of the tent was a twice-daily chore, at least. We never did get all the sand out of that car. Memories from that vacation:

(1) I was about seven and had no experience with the kind of waves that can knock you down. My brother was ten and I remember him holding me up so my head would be out of the water, even though it meant he had to be underwater to do it. That impressed me--he really cared about me!

(2) We got up early in the morning, walked down the beach and picked up crabs; brought them back to the campsite and plopped them in boiling water, and then ate them for breakfast.

(3) I was stung by a Portuguese man-o-war. My parents kept trying to rinse off the stingers with water, not knowing you need ammonia or meat tenderizer or some other magic potion. I was in agony, and didn't go back in the water for a few days afterwards.

(4) We all got as brown as Indians. My brother's hair bleached blond and never returned to its former brown color.

Posted by: kbertocci | June 25, 2006 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Kbertocci-- Sun makes you permanently blond? I had a friend that went from black to red in tropical sun when he was living in Barbarados or whatever touristy hurricane spot it was. Fortunately it grew black again after he moved elsewhere.

Posted by: Wilbrod | June 25, 2006 6:14 PM | Report abuse

(in other words, KB, I think if your brother's STILL blond, he's been using a few bottles of sunshine on his hair.)

Loomis-- great line! It'd be at home on "Will and Grace" or whatever show now celebrates lust for the male body.


Posted by: Wilbrod | June 25, 2006 6:21 PM | Report abuse

wilbrod--my brother's hair color must have been more borderline than my sister's and mine--our hair stayed brown, but his really was a different color forever.

Posted by: kbertocci | June 25, 2006 6:22 PM | Report abuse

kb, you confused me with "Ford station wagon"; is Ford the new dirty word or not? I was thinking: wow, she really didn't like that car.

I propose "golf" as the word substitute.

It's a little known fact that the f word was originally a harmless word substitute for the then-dirty word "fore". People would be yelling "fore" all the time when they hit a bad shot. Eventually all the club members agreed to start yelling the new word. Nowadays you still hear a few particularly rude people yelling "fore". Do you public service and correct them on which word they should be using.

Posted by: SonofCarl | June 25, 2006 6:37 PM | Report abuse

SoC, haha.

Seriously, I ALWAYS wondered why Howard Stern didn't develop a code system when the FCC started fining him based on his words. Because he could talk about the subjects as long as he didn't use the forbidden words--why not just have a substitution system; even new listeners would be able to understand what was being discussed, by context. I'm tellin' you, Howard may be rich, but he's not all that smart. That system could have saved him a lot of fines.

Posted by: kbertocci | June 25, 2006 6:43 PM | Report abuse

I rushed over here as soon as I read the opinion piece on that word...
I just wanted to say - how true is that, mate.

When I was about 18, I met up a with a woman who was five foot nothing tall and weighed about 45 kgs. Her boyfriend, Bill, was 6' tall and a very BAD looking biker. I have never forgotten her saying to me, "I hardly ever swear. I never use f-word lightly. Then when I really really need to - I only have to say *&^% you, Bill and he looks like he's going to cry."

Posted by: clang | June 25, 2006 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, so sorry about your tomatoes. I came in this evening, and one of my tomato plants is hung over and bent bad. I haven't tied them up, and it has rained all day here. I do have a large green bell pepper on one plant. I just haven't had time to tie up the tomatoes. And my grandchildren are still here. I hope you can save some of them?

I won't be here in the morning, I have a test at the hospital real early. I will try to check later in the evening. If it's not asking too much, just say a word of prayer for me. Thanks.

Loomis, are you planning to move to North Carolina? If so, aren't we the lucky ones.

I have never in my life been camping. I've never had the desire to do that, and African-Americans when I was coming up, did not go camping. We cared nothing for the woods, and I suppose our history had a lot to do with that.

Posted by: Cassandra S | June 25, 2006 6:52 PM | Report abuse

>why Howard Stern didn't develop a code system when the FCC started fining him

SoC, I believe it was Infinity that was actually fined, not sure what was in his contract as to how much he had to shell out personally. But it's a good question anyway. I saw somebody do it on a talk show, maybe George Carlin but I'm not sure. He was making fun of it, and he said "OK, let's just use "glorp". And he then proceeded to use "glorp" profusely in a long "glorp" filled rant. It was hilarious, because you knew just what he meant and knew there wasn't a bloody thing they could say about it.

Posted by: Error Flynn | June 25, 2006 6:54 PM | Report abuse

*sharply awakened from dozing in his chair in his after-dinner posture* Huh? Wha'? Ham on wry? Somebody call me?" *looks around, closes eyes again, hopes he wake up in time for "Broken Trail" at 8 o'clock*

Posted by: Curmudgeon | June 25, 2006 7:01 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, good luck tomorrow.

Posted by: Error Flynn | June 25, 2006 7:05 PM | Report abuse

In French Canada, most of the swear words are religion-related, with the f bomb equivalent being the otherwise inoffensive word "tabernacle" (pronounced in french Ta-ber-NACK). The PG equivalent of saying "fudge" is "tabernouche".

The first time I trained with French Canadian soldiers they used it so often to finish a sentence I thought I had just learned another expression like "alors" ("then") which peppers French conversation like teenagers say "like".

Incidentally, nobody in Quebec says "Zut" or "Sacre bleu".

Posted by: SonofCarl | June 25, 2006 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, good luck with your test tomorrow.

Posted by: SonofCarl | June 25, 2006 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Scandiavian swearing is also religion-based. It's always the devil-this and the devil-that. If someone was really mad, he or she would say the equivalent of "go to the woods" ("dra åt skogen") (which it would appear, was "go to hell"). Always put me into fits of laughter. And, so, with that reference to the woods, and indeed in context with Joels F-bomb article today, I think we've come full circle.

Perhaps we should morph the F-word into a new one ..... like maybe "Cheney" -- as in "Go Cheney yourself". Whaddya think?

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | June 25, 2006 7:52 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, good luck tomorrow.

Posted by: Dooley | June 25, 2006 8:56 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, good luck on your tests, and rest assured I am sure many prayers will be said for you.

Posted by: dmd | June 25, 2006 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, good luck with your test.

The boy and I had a long talk about the etymology and current meaning of many "unclean" words earlier this year (fourth grade, I guess). Regarding the Ford in question, referred to as "the f-word", he was happy with my explanation that "It involves a sexual act. Do you want to know any more?" He didn't. I think he has some idea what "a sexual act" is -- just enough to know he wants to stay away from the whole thing for now.

We encourage the use of substitutes. "Dagnabbit", for instance. "Oh my goodness". "Gosh darn it." "Avaunt, knave" (remember, we're a Shakespeare family). Since the boy's infancy we've referred to certain items as "shameless marketing tools". To some extent this actually works, and it is fun to hear.

Posted by: Ivansmom | June 25, 2006 9:25 PM | Report abuse


If your tomatoes are hung over, you really shouldn't let them get drunk.

ha ha ha ha

That's the kind of humor that comes from a person who has been sopping up her basement all evening. Sigh.

Posted by: TBG | June 25, 2006 9:58 PM | Report abuse


And good luck tomorrow. We'll all be thinking of you. Hope everything comes out the way you want.


Posted by: TBG | June 25, 2006 10:10 PM | Report abuse

OK, the reviews are in (mine, anyway) on the first half of Broken Trail: I liked it a lot. And speaking of the F-Bomb, I liked "Deadwood," but this shows you can make a perfectly good, authentic western without dropping the F-bomb once. I don't object to the F-bomb in movies, as long as it isn't gratuitous. But I'd also have to say 98% of the time is IS gratuitous (and bad screenwriting).

Nani, hope there were enough horses in Broken Trail to suit you!

Posted by: Curmudgeon | June 25, 2006 10:11 PM | Report abuse


> I think he has some idea what "a sexual act" is -- just enough to know he wants to stay away from the whole thing for now.

I think what you mean is that he wants to stay away from the whole thing WITH HIS PARENTS.

Posted by: TBG | June 25, 2006 10:13 PM | Report abuse

More on the Warren Buffet/Carol Loomis relationship:

Posted by: Loomis | June 25, 2006 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Best wishes, Cassandra.

My family never camped when I was a kid (in fact, my mother still thinks the whole idea is nuts). Once in college, however, I wound up hooking up with a series of women who insisted that heading into the woods to spend the night (or several nights) was fun. Sounded wacko to me, but I willingly followed since this usually involved the prospect of sex.

Now I'm a regular camper (and backpacker, before the kids), but have learned that comfort matters, especially in the following areas:
1. Good gear. The time and money to needed to acquire even the basics can be daunting, but it's way more comfy when you're well equipped.
2. Weather. If it's pissing down rain, or too muggy to sleep, get the Honda out of the woods.
3. Bugs. If the biting insects are inescapable, escape. Same principle as #2.

I knew things were right with Mrs ST when she agreed to follow principle #2, initially against her better judgment, on our first camping trip. The fact that our campsite had been caught up in a flash flood helped to sway her. I'm glad to say she's agreed to bail on camping in other lousy conditions since then.

Mrs ST keeps suggesting taking our kids (1 and 3) camping. I prefer to take them someplace with a pool but I acquiesce, even though the prospect of sex on such trips is virtually nonexistent. The first time we took daughter #1 camping she treated the tent and air mattresses as a bouncy castle, and very nearly collapsed the tent multiple times. It took us a long time to get her to sleep that night.

Posted by: silvertongue | June 25, 2006 11:19 PM | Report abuse

Hope everything goes well, Cassandra.

I read Mountain Time by Ivan Doig this weekend - wonderful book, with some camping scenes in Alaska and Montana (complete with bears), references to environmentalists Aldo Leopold and Bob Marshall, neither of whom I know much about, except I lived near the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana for awhile. I love Ivan Doig - he has a new book out, The Whistling Season, which I'm in the queue for at the library. My favorites of his are the "Montana trilogy" - English Creek, Dancing at the Rascal Fair, and Ride with Me, Mariah Montana - he conjures up the West so well.

Speaking of which, did someone say horses - I should check out Broken Trail.

Posted by: mostlylurking | June 25, 2006 11:38 PM | Report abuse

I think Broken Trail has just enough horses to fill the time between the real story which seems to be a take off of "Unforgiven" with better seenery (sp?)

Posted by: bh | June 26, 2006 12:34 AM | Report abuse

firsttimeblogger: That can work (the "go Cheney yourself" idea).

Dan Savage did it with "santorum."

I find it highly imaginative, subversive, clever and funny. I will never see a reference to Rick Santorum again without remembering the controversy and the resulting "Savage Love" column that gave the definition.

Posted by: kbertocci | June 26, 2006 5:13 AM | Report abuse

My family used to go camping in NE Penna, back in the late 60's/early 70's. All 8 of us in one of those canvas multi "room" tents with the expanding aluminum poles. It took 3-4 people to lift the darn thing out of the car and close to an hour to set it up. The final trip was the 6 kids, my dad and one of his friends. We just got the tent setup and it started to rain. Much like it rained in NoVa yesterday. The campsite was at the bottom of a small hill, of course. The water ran through the front "door" and slowly seeped out the seams at the back. We only had time to unload a couple of coolers from the car, so all 8 of us sat on top of the coolers. Six kids all under the age of 10, two of them in diapers, and two chain-smoking adults. It was a real treat. No one got any sleep that night. The tent was torn down and rolled into an enormous ball. When we got home, it was tossed into the backyard to "dry" out. It was never setup or moved from the backyard and eventually just morphed into landscape. It turns out that the camping trip coincided with my dad getting thrown out of the house (again) and he figured the only way he'd be let back in, was to have all the kids with him. Sort of the start of parental kidnapping...

Posted by: 1st_timer | June 26, 2006 7:10 AM | Report abuse


I'll finally be on my way to DC tomorrow morning. I've got my handy notebook with all the Boodle's suggestions for kid-friendly activites in my backpack already. I'm adding a few rain ponchos to that this morning.

Loomis, moving to NC wouldn't be so bad. Really. Even Wake Forest. It is close enough to Raleigh, where you can find awesome food from all over the world. NCState has LOTS of activites for everyone. My favorite spot: The Rawls Arboretum. Other favorite spot: NC Museum of Art sculpture park.

Posted by: a bea c | June 26, 2006 7:25 AM | Report abuse


I'll finally be on my way to DC tomorrow morning. I've got my handy notebook with all the Boodle's suggestions for kid-friendly activites in my backpack already. I'm adding a few rain ponchos to that this morning.

Loomis, moving to NC wouldn't be so bad. Really. Even Wake Forest. It is close enough to Raleigh, where you can find awesome food from all over the world. NCState has LOTS of activites for everyone. My favorite spot: The Rawls Arboretum. Other favorite spot: NC Museum of Art sculpture park.

Posted by: a bea c | June 26, 2006 7:26 AM | Report abuse

Sorry about that. I got the message that I hadn't entered any text yet. Then it posted twice.

In Colombia, most people don't camp. However, when you go to a small town and stay at a motel, it is rough enough.

I used to go to "Camp" with the other Jewish kids. We would go to a field near one of those "motels" so we could use their kitchens and showers, but we stayed in tents. We learned to dig ditches, climb trees, find our way in the dark without a flashlight, etc. It was two weeks of sheer fun for boys and tomboys. I counted down the days from one "camp" to the next. They were held twice a year. Our youth group tried to give us some idea of what soldiers went through to protect Israel. Many kids from my congregation went to serve in the Israeli Army after high school.

Once we had a "real" experience when a troop of M-19 guerrilla was in the area (we didn't know it at the time) and the Colombian Army stopped by and held about 30 of us at gunpoint until they realized they got the wrong crew.

Posted by: a bea c | June 26, 2006 7:39 AM | Report abuse

a bea c;

Hopefully we'll have bailed out the city before you get here.


Posted by: Scottynuke | June 26, 2006 7:39 AM | Report abuse

I've always found Redd Foxx's definition of the "f" word to be the best: "You never Forded? Sheet! You never sheet?!?! FORD!"

This also reminded me of a funny thing that happened to me quite a few years ago due to my last name. It was two days before Christmas and the shops and malls were filled to overflowing. I had stopped in a jewelry to store to pay a bill and there were a couple dozen other shoppers there waiting their turn at the counter. When the clerk finally got to me, I told her my name and that I was there to pay a bill. She went to pull my card (this was pre-computerized everything days) and couldn't remember how to spell my last name. She yelled "Is that Fulkerson with an F-O or an F-U?" I yelled back "F-U" and the shop went silent. The best part was a little elderly lady standing behind me (who obviously missed the set-up). She tapped me on the shoulder and said "I don't blame you for telling her off... I've been waiting for almost 20 minutes".

Posted by: martooni | June 26, 2006 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Oh, Scotty, I didn't realize it was so bad. Just read about the road closures and power outages. We've had rain in Central VA, but nothing like that.

Well, we may have to skip the sculpture garden. I was so looking forward to Rodin's hands and faces on those men.

Posted by: a bea c | June 26, 2006 8:07 AM | Report abuse

OK, never mind. We're under flash flood watch here, too.

Posted by: a bea c | June 26, 2006 8:11 AM | Report abuse

No fair, folks! We need some rain too! You could share!

Martooni, that's hilarious. A good way to start a Monday morning.

Posted by: slyness | June 26, 2006 8:12 AM | Report abuse

Is there a link for washington post radio?
Is it this morning JA is on at 8:20?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2006 8:13 AM | Report abuse

I think Joel's appearance on WaPo radio this AM is effed.

Unless I missed it, then *I'm* effed.

Link to listen to WaPo radio over the
'net is here:


Posted by: bc | June 26, 2006 8:27 AM | Report abuse

This will get you started, although you need to specify the player.

Posted by: RD Padouk | June 26, 2006 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Nope, here he is, at 8:28 AM...


Posted by: bc | June 26, 2006 8:28 AM | Report abuse

Joel is on

Posted by: RD Padouk | June 26, 2006 8:29 AM | Report abuse

This is brilliant. Tune in. Only Joel could sound so scholarly talking about, will, Ford.

...and condescending about precipitation.

What - that's it?

Over too quick...


Posted by: RD Padouk | June 26, 2006 8:32 AM | Report abuse

a bea c;

I think the Mall's still above water.

For now.


Posted by: Scottynuke | June 26, 2006 8:34 AM | Report abuse

Short but sweet.


Posted by: bc | June 26, 2006 8:35 AM | Report abuse

Cassandra, regarding your post in the last boodle, I love you too. Hope your test came out well. If it was on your heart, you needn't worry. It's (your heart) always in the right place.

I was 27 years old the first time I heard the eff word spoken out loud (or even in a whisper). Jane Fonda said it in the film "Klute". There was an audible gasp in the theatre and not just from the ladies. I don't like that word. It sounds ugly. I like lovely, lilting, lyrical words. Eff doesn't roll off the tongue, it isn't aesthetically pleasing. But it's a free country.

Posted by: Nani | June 26, 2006 8:50 AM | Report abuse

In Joel's outlook it was mentioned that the "eff" work has that satisfying K sound. Humorists know that P's and K's are funny. (Why Purple Pickles are funnier than Red Beets)

Ever notice how many rude words, especially those dealing with body parts, use a lot of P's and K's?

Don't know what this means, but it sure seems ... peculiar.

Posted by: RD Padouk | June 26, 2006 8:56 AM | Report abuse


I saw that Carol Junge Loomis was on ABC News' "Good Morning America" program in their first segment after the headlines, speaking about Buffett and his substantial donation to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I Googled Carol Junge Loomis last night after you posted your question about where she fits on my family tree, Snuke.

She came from a very small town in Missouri, worked for Maytag in corporate communications, and joined Fortune magazine in the early 1950s, where she stayed and worked her way up--to become something of an iconic figure there.

Junge is her birth name. To what member of the Loomis family tree is she married? A Loomis from Missouri? Or a Loomis from New York, specifically New York City, one who could aid her career? If I were to guess wildy but intelligently, I would guess that she married a grandson of Alfred Lee Loomis, a titan of Wall Street at the turn of the last century. Alfred Lee Loomis's story is told in Jennet Conant's book, "Tuxedo Park." Conant is married to Steve Kroft, one of the co-anchors of CBS's program, "60 Minutes."

Or I can simple e-mail Carol J. Loomis with my genealogy questions, since her e-mail address is on the latest Fortune magazine article about Buffett (to which you linked, Snuke. Thanks!)

Carol Loomis tells a bit of her own story here:

I laughed and recited the details of my uncomplicated life: I'd grown up in a rural Missouri town called Cole Camp, population 1,000; earned a journalism degree at the University of Missouri; worked for two years at Maytag in Newton, Iowa, editing a magazine sent to the company's dealers; and come to FORTUNE 21 years earlier, rising from an entry-level job to interviewing men like Geneen [chairman of International Telephone & Telegraph]. The PR man went away happy, while I fell to wondering how Geneen, a lightning rod for controversy then but still widely acclaimed as a manager, would use his new knowledge. He'd go at it in a sophisticated way, I thought, finding some spot along the line to coolly drop in a reference to my background.

Posted by: Loomis | June 26, 2006 9:02 AM | Report abuse

now that US World Cup soccer is over (finally!), yes, it's safe to go outdoors (kinda).

Posted by: farfrombeltway | June 26, 2006 9:57 AM | Report abuse

>Eff doesn't roll off the tongue, it isn't aesthetically pleasing.

I don't know Nani, brings new meaning to

(wait for it...)

EF in '08

Posted by: Error Flynn | June 26, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Good Morning! Martooni gets the "Badda Boom" Award this morning. Great story.

Posted by: CowTown | June 26, 2006 10:08 AM | Report abuse

The problem with Ford is that it doesn't insert into other words as easily as the real word. Like it doesnt seem quite right to say that the rainstorm was "unfordinbelievable". (Although to judge from Raw Fisher today, River Road was definitely unfordable last night.) (Oh, never mind.)

Thanks much to those of you who tuned into the, what, 2 minute radio spot, in which I think I failed to articulate any plausible reason why the f-word is a good word. The problem with live radio is that unless you're really good at it, you just start babbling, and words come out, and once they're out, you can't do anything about them, I mean you've put it out there, and you have to run with it, even though you wish you could gather up some of the words and cram them back into your mouth and emit different words. Does that make sense?

I am going to post the f-word piece as a new kit even though at this point its days old.

Posted by: Achenbach | June 26, 2006 10:26 AM | Report abuse

When I pulled up the WaPo front page this morning, I said "Ah ha! That is why TBG was mopping her basement yesterday!"

Had a basement like that when we lived in Falls Church --- nothing seemed to help. It always amazed me that the water that came in was quite clean, not a bit of silt in it.

Posted by: nellie | June 26, 2006 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Error, that leads to all kinds of campaign slogans too. I'll leave it at that.

That's some serious rain the DC'ers (Columbians?) had.

Speaking of Colombia, a bea c, is M-19 FARC or something else?

Posted by: SonofCarl | June 26, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

What was weird about the rain yesterday was the "train" effect--stopping, clearing, then starting all over again. About three time yesterday, it stopped raining, the sun came out, it looked like it was clearing, and I checked the Web Doppler radar sites, and it looked clear, Twenty-minutes later: monsoon.

Doppler shows another batch right over us now, and a bigger set out in W. Virginia, headed this way.

My first really major introduction to the F-bomb was when I went into the merchant marine a few months before my 20th birthday. I'd heard the magic word before, of course, but never in quite so sustained, creative, and all-purpose usage. I was in the "black gang" (engine room crew, left-over term from the days of coal, no racial implications implied, though we burned diesel oil) of a tanker, and Ford was pretty near the universal adjective. On my watch I worked for the 2nd engineer, a real redneck named Percy whom even the other engineering officers despised. So there I was, a polite, mostly suburban-raised Yankee collitch boah, working with and for a man only Faulkner could have created.
"Boah, han' me that effinhummah."
"Pardon me, Second? I didn't understand."
"Hummah. Hand me that effin' hummah. Next to the effinpapwrench." (Read: effin' pipe wrench.)(Effinpapwrench threw me a couple of different ways.)

An effinhummah, of course, was a tool with a wooden handle and an iron head, flat on one side, with which one strikes nails or other objects. Other variations include the geologists effinhummah, the balpeen effinhummah, and so on. Very often when disassembling a major valve, one would place the effinpapwrench on the effinnut, which was effinrusted, and hit it with the effinhummah to effinfree it up.

Every profession has its own specialized vocabulary, of course, and I soon became intimately familiar with effinhummahs, effinsplipjoints, effinphillipshayds, effinpapwrenches, effinspannahs (an effinspannah is a kind of wrench known to landsmen and the late John Lennon as a "spanner"). We used effinrags to mop up any spilled "all" or "effinall"; we used effinallcanes (read: effing oil cans) to lube the effinengines (we had a main effinengine, a big effer as big as an effin school bus, and two smaller auxiliary effinengines that supplied effinelectricity to the whole effinship).

I gotta say, we ate pretty good on that ship. The effinfood wasn't bad, and the effincooks and effinstewards put the effinleftovers out on effintrays at the effingalley window, and if you were passing down the effinpassageway on an effinerrand, you could always grab an effinsnack.

All in all, I had a pretty good time (there was a war on, and I managed not to ship out on an ammunition ship to Vietnam, which paid effingood money, but somehow I seemed to think working on a tanker carrying highly explosive, highly poisonous gasoline additives was much safer than carrying bombs. But I was 19; WTF did I know?

The biggest problem came when I returned home and had dinner with my folks. It took every ounce of restraint not to say to my mother, "Mom, please pass the effinsalt," and "May I please have more effinmashed potatoes?"

Posted by: Curmudgeon | June 26, 2006 11:19 AM | Report abuse

new kit.

Posted by: SonofCarl | June 26, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see my information has been useful.

Eric Schleien
Eric at
Editor -
Columnist -

Posted by: Eric Schleien | June 26, 2006 6:01 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: Paul | June 30, 2006 8:41 AM | Report abuse

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