Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Thoreau Analysis

Most regular readers of this column -- at least the ones whose anti-psychotic medications are managed properly -- have probably noticed that I try offer a big-picture perspective, like a Renaissance painter, while remaining topical, like an anti-fungal cream.

I might get around to that today, but first I have to tell you about my vacation.

I just got back from camping in Vermont and New Hampshire, where I spent most of my time trying to find an ATM so I could buy a key card that would operate the campground’s laundry machines, thus enabling me to dry my sleeping bag just in time for the next thunderstorm to roll through.

But I enjoyed living simply for a few days. With fewer electronic distractions and life management tasks, I could focus on my family and my insect bites.

President Obama recently vacationed at Acadia National Park, but it’s too bad he did not get the genuine tourist experience there: fighting traffic in Ellsworth, taking the Park Loop Road by mistake and having no way to turn around, nearly running over absent-minded pedestrians in Bar Harbor.

No, he has lackeys and secret service agents to do all that for him, so all he has to do is look at the lighthouses, trying to seem Presidential for photographers while gazing upon Maine’s most cherished phallic symbol.

Come on. Without some degree of stress in getting there, how can you feel like you really earned that view from Cadillac Mountain?

Just like Obama, my getaway was far too short, and I returned home to find all sorts of major problems waiting for me.

First, I had to deal with the pool.

The lethal mystery mix of chemicals we mix in had worn off, so we undertook emergency procedures. We were pool paramedics. We checked vital signs, we shocked, we billed insurance.

I feel awkward even telling you that we have a swimming pool. It feels immodest. When I grew up, they were reserved for the wealthy. I must have been 9 or 10 years old when my grandparents got an above-ground pool; I thought they must be loaded.

(They probably were, just not in the way I imagined.)

Nowadays, you’ll see these “pop-up” pools next to run-down trailers with rust stains on the siding, and no one thinks this is particularly odd.

We paid $75 for our eight-foot “pop-up,” a financial decision I vigorously opposed at first. Perhaps part of me felt subconsciously unprepared to claim pool-worthy status. The other part of me knew that we lived five minutes from a lakefront, making a pool seem unnecessary.

Besides: In Maine, it only gets truly hot about five days out of the year; five days of relief (which could otherwise be obtained from the lake or the shower) did not feel worth an entire summer of pool maintenance.

I’m not the type of person who wants to sit around worrying about the pH level in a vat of water.

On the other hand, I also don’t like worrying about my daughter. Now that we have a pool, she is already a better swimmer, at age 5, than I am.

So I caved, of course, and we got the pool, and now we have to go spend even more money on camping trips so we can feel what it’s like to have a simple life for a little while.

Our lives are full of conveniences that somehow do not make things feel any easier, and products that add a measure of security but don’t enable us to worry any less.

Well, at least my bed is almost always dry.

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