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May 24, 2009

Share your campfire? Buy a drink with no ID?

May 24. Day 328.

My idea of a fun mountain getaway involves: cozy cabin, waking up to the sound of woodpeckers outside my window, making waffles for breakfast, going hiking or skiing, stopping for pizza and a drink at the local brewery, taking time to read, write, and think on the lovely backyard deck overlooking a crisp stream, topping it all off with homemade hot chocolate or a glass of wine by the fire.

Mr. A's idea is identical to mine, only he'd replace everything with one word: camping.

Since I'm not a camper, have never been a camper and (sorry, amore mio!) will never be "a camper," we compromised and booked the Forest Suites Resort, complete with spa and heated pool for me, and the word "Forest" in the title, for him. Close enough, right?

Jokes aside, I've been relatively open to the idea of trying to rough it. As long as I'm warm at night, and I don't have to carry twice my body mass in supplies, and the bears are on sabbatical, I decided to give camping a try. One day. (Hey, if I've slept in a mosquito infested hut in the Peruvian jungle, an overheated car in Mexico, and a hotel lobby couch on Halloween in San Francisco (long story), I should definitely be able to handle a sleeping bag in the High Sierras. Right??? Please say yes.)

Tonight, to give me a feeling of what camping would be like, Mr. A proposed we take a stroll through a campground by the lake as the intrepid adventurers settled in for the night.

Just after sunset, we wandered in. All around us, small groups of people were searing meats on their barbecues, sipping beers and talking in low whispers. Music played here and there. It did look relaxing.

As we strolled, I mentioned I hadn't asked for anything yet. Maybe I could come up with something here? See the inside of a mobile home? Have dinner with some strangers? Solicit advice for a potential first time camper?

I didn't want to ask for the sake of asking, so I thought about what I really wanted. And then it dawned on me: all weekend, I'd been smelling the burning wood of hundreds of campfires. And that's one thing we couldn't do at our hotel. Mr. A was on exactly the same wavelength.

We walked around the now dark lakefront property, wondering who to ask, "Can we share your campfire?" Then Mr. A suggested I refine it to "Can we share your campfire for 5 minutes?" Then, stay longer if they invited us to. That would give people a chance to test us out without committing, since we really didn't want to impose on their holiday. But who knows? Maybe someone would be up for it? Plus, if someone agreed to let us hang out, we'd offer to buy a few beers or food from across the street. And then chill out for an hour, or as long as we felt welcomed.

A family with kids seemed like they'd be quickest to reject us. We also decided to avoid couples, since it seemed likely they'd want the evening to themselves. That left groups of adults. Some had chairs set up, with no room for extras, so we walked by. Other groups were completely silent and it seemed strange to bust in.

For some reason, I was feeling nervous. People come to the forest to escape strangers, not commune with them.

Still, what was the worst thing that could happen?

We settled on a group of three guys who were in their twenties. Or so they seemed in the light of the fire.

We walked up, and they smiled as we approached. Or so it seemed in the light of the fire.

"Hi," I said, softly.


"We were just walking around, and we were wondering if we could share your campfire for 5 minutes. Just to warm up. Would that be ok?"

"Sure," one replied. Or so it seemed in the light of the fire. No wait, actually he really did.

They stopped talking, and it felt kind of awkward.

"Thanks a lot," I continued, filling the silence. "We're staying at a hotel nearby, so we can't have the campsite experience there."

"No problem."

Then, we were all quiet for a minute or so.

Next, a young man and woman walked out of the tent, and her body language screamed "leave."

"What are they doing here?" she asked her friends.

"They asked if they could stop by for a few minutes," one guy told her.

"We don't camp, but we were taking a walk and asked if we could share your fire for a bit. Do you mind?" I asked.

"Actually, that's weird," she said. "That's not normal behavior. We don't feel comfortable with you here. Please leave."

We thanked the guys and left.

Afterward, I started dissecting the interaction. What if we'd come earlier, so they could get a better visual read on who we were? What if we'd come with beers, or offered something from the start? Or maybe it's an unspoken rule of the forest: to each her own campfire.

"Relax," Mr. A told me. "Don't beat yourself up. You tried."

I guess.

To ease the sting, we headed across the street, to an empty bar. Rojo's Tavern. A reggae band was starting soon.

I ordered a cocktail, and when the bartender carded me, I realized I didn't have my ID in my wallet.

Where was it? Probably in the hotel.

"I'm almost 30," I told him. "Ancient. Can't you see my white hair and wrinkles?" I joked.

He laughed merrily.

"I believe you're almost 30, but I can't sell you a drink without an ID."

I really wanted to talk back. Both to question his reasoning and rail against the idiotic U.S. drinking system. Doesn't work, except to prevent legal drinkers with missing IDs from consuming a cocktail. Drinking age should be abolished, period. So there.

But what was the point.

We left.

I found my license in the car.

Next bar: didn't get even carded. This place, The Brewery, was packed, had delicious house cocktails and yummy appetizers, for great prices.

Gained: Two rejections in one night. Still alive!!
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