Saturday, October 12, 2013

My f*ck-it list

My cabin at Chapman State Park
3 a.m. one morning this week, the unmistakable burned-tire smell of Mephitis Mephitis curled around my throat and I started to choke. I tried to bury my head more deeply in my sleeping bag but to no avail -- the nefarious odor pervaded all. "Good grief!," I groaned, "Man, I am addin' this to the f*ckit list!"

Ever since a certain comedy about two men with terminal lung cancer taking a road trip, it's challenging to converse with baby boomers for any length of time without one of them referencing a "bucket list." Being in my 30s, I haven't thought much about unseen places to explore, untried hobbies to pursue, and other "wanna do's" before I die. But I DO have a list of things I have ALREADY done and NEVER want to do again.

When in polite company, I call it my "unbucket list." Privately, it's my "f*ckit list."

I'm not talking about annoying but mundane items, such as eating canned vegetables, scooping out the cat box, or being stuck behind pickups going 20mph under the speed limit on 1-lane country roads. No, the things on my f*ckit list are gestures every bit as grand as visiting the Eiffel Tower or skydiving out of an airplane. But in a bad way.

I started my f*ckit list at the tender age of 15. I wanted to travel to Europe, but even after choosing the least expensive summer trip offered by AFS, I still couldn't afford to go. My parents and I sent beg-a-grams to all the businesses we patronized. I hosted Tupperware parties (or something like that). But the bulk of my funding -- more than $900, if remember correctly -- came from tag days I did, sometimes with my brother's help, at local grocery stores. Yes, I spent hours each Saturday for weeks on end, entreating neighbors to give me spare change so I could visit a country most people couldn't find on a map. At the end of each day, Ma and I would pry open the coffee cans, dump them on the dining room table, and roll thousands of coins. My feet would be sore and my hands smelled like dirty metal through Tuesday. 

I made it to Czechoslovakia, had a wonderful time, and after all was said and done, I am proud that I raised the money myself (well, with my family's help). But:


Next time I'll just break out the credit cards!

A few times these past few weeks, I have been thinking about my decision to lodge in state parks during my sabbatical. I made this choice because I enjoy the outdoors, and because cabin rentals stretch out my grant funding. But I have to admit, living this way every day hasn't always been easy. For $25-35 per night, the only thing one can reliably count on is a roof, an electrical outlet, a vinyl-covered bunk, and some form of heat. None of the cabins have bathrooms or sinks. Most lack running water. Some don't offer a cook stove or refrigerator. Wifi is unavailable in many of the state parks, and is sometimes inaccessible for miles in any direction. So heaven help you if evil, shotgun-toting rednecks a la "Deliverance" come knocking at the door. Added to this, I have discovered that my "absent-minded professor" character doesn't jive well with backwoods survival.

I thought about the f*ckit list on Sunday night when my police-grade Mag light rolled off the shelf in my shower stall, smashed my 2nd toe, and I left me limping for a week thereafter.

I thought about the f*ckit list on Monday night when I lost my way walking back from the group showers, dropped my dirty drawers somewhere on the trail, and realized I'd never find them again.

I thought about the f*ckit list on Tuesday, after a long hike, when scratching dozens of bug bites on my calves.

I thought about the f*ckit list on Wednesday when I forgot to close the drain plug on my cooler, left my cabin for the day, melted ice leaked all over the floor, and ruined one of my notebooks.

I thought about the f*ckit list on Thursday when, for the fifth morning in a row, the only song that I could hear clearly on the radio was Tyler Farr's "Redneck Crazy."

And I thought about the f*ckit list on Friday when that damn skunk sprayed my brand new Ford Focus.

Yet, I think there's still hope. For every accident and annoyance that I have experienced, I have surprised myself with new capabilities or discovered joys that I didn't expect.

On Sunday night, I had an amazingly clear view of the stars and I think I picked out the Leo constellation.

On Monday night, my lungs filled with the freshest air I've ever breathed as I laid in my bunk and read poetry.

On Tuesday, I righted my own way after getting horrifically turned around on a poorly-marked trail.

On Wednesday, I chowed on an impromptu skillet of whole wheat spaghetti, chicken, feta, and sundried tomatoes, made on a hotplate in my cabin.

On Thursday, I discovered I kind of enjoy Rascal Flats' "Why Wait" and Chris Young's "Aw Naw."

And on Friday, I encountered numerous blue jays, a flock of wild turkeys, deer, and other critters besides the skunk.

I guess only time will tell. In 20 years, I'll look back and think this was either the worst or best time of my life.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed this post tremendously, it started my day out with a grin and chuckle. I'm happy that you found things here in our "neck of the woods" that you enjoyed - tempered with the aggravations. P.S. When my hubby and I go hiking up at Chapman's, if we find your drawers along the trail, I'll let you know. :)