Thursday, August 13, 2009

Watch out for Warren


At age 14, I finally reached the pinnacle, Tunk 13, the oldest and coolest bunk in camp. Our new bunk theme song, which we sang at the flagpole, in the dining room, at the pool, and everywhere else around camp, went like this: “I don’t know but I’ve been told, 13 girls are mighty bold. I don’t know but it’s been said, 13 girls give good head!”

We were the pride of Camp Akiba. Role models for all of the little Villagers, the youngest campers.

Nightly raids to boys’ side were what we waited for with baited breath. Taps would play each night around 10 pm, our counselors would be in by midnight, tipsy from their favorite local bar, the Thirsty Camel. We would start gearing up for a raid around 1 a.m. Dark clothes? Check. Sneakers? Check. Flashlights? Check. Cameras? Check. Just the necessities. We would tiptoe around the bunk, so as not to wake our counselors who slept, usually in a drunken haze, on the two opposing cots closest to the front wooden bunk door.

One night, too tired to go on the raid, I decided to stay back with my friend, Lynne. As my fellow bunkmates slipped out of the front door, Lynne and I heard a voice in the night; a voice that was the most terrifying voice a camper could hear: Warren! Warren was the 40 year old peg-legged night watchman who could sense when campers were planning to raid bunks of the opposite sex and would wait outside in the woods to catch them. He was a real life Freddy Krueger who would come out only at night and, legend had it, Warren would sometimes wait under the covers in a camper’s bed, to scare the living daylights out of the camper as he returned from a raid.

“Girls!” Warren hollered. “STOP. RIGHT. THERE!”

Inside the bunk, Lynne and I shuddered at the sound of his voice. Up until that point, Warren was a mere Camp Akiba legend and I wasn’t even sure if he really existed.

“Holy shit, Lynne! It’s W...w..w....warren!” I whispered urgently. Lynne jumped into my cot, throwing the covers over both of our heads. Our counselors woke up in a startled haze and flipped on the bunk light. “Where the hell is everyone?!” one yelled in a panic. At that moment, we heard my bunkmates shrieking, giggling, and running, their sneakers skidding on the gravel outside. They knew that Warren's bum leg was no match for their adrenaline-fueled speed. In his most diabolical tone, Warren yelled after them, “I’ll be waiting for you when you get baaaack!”

“Oh my god!” Lynne panted, gripping onto me, buried under the covers. “Get up, you guys, this isn’t funny!” my counselor prodded in her valley girl accent. “Funny?!!! WARREN is out there!” I insisted, as if he were an ax murderer, hunting down wayward campers. “Turn off the lights, are you crazy?!”

My counselor flipped the light off with a grunt of disgust and climbed back into her disheveled cot. “Whatever, you guys can sit on the field house porch from sunrise to sunset tomorrow, for all I care.” “Sun-rrrrrrrise, sun-set!” Lynne and I began to sing. We giggled and climbed out of bed, feeling a bit safer in the dark. “Where is that psycho fuck?” Lynne pondered, roaming the bunk in her trademark cowboy boots and white boxers, peering out different screened windows from a distance. She walked back over to my bed and pulled the rope that hoisted my window open. The two of us peered out into the pitch black Pocono night and saw nothing but the bunk next door. "I know he's out there," I whispered to Lynne, as the two of us inched closer and closer to the screen. “Boo!” Warren screamed as he popped up into my window, shining his flashlight on his face like out of a horror film. We let out blood curling screams. “I think I’m having a heart attack!” I yelled, laughing, clutching my chest and pulling the covers back over our heads.

My counselor stormed out of bed and flicked the lights on again. “What is it NOW?!” Warren limped up our bunk’s front wooden steps. “Don’t let him innnnnnnnn!” I freaked. My counselors stepped outside on the bunk front porch to meet Warren. I caught a glimpse of his long greasy hair under the porch light and shuddered at the sound of his maniacal cackle. What my counselors discussed with Warren, I’ll never know. Lynne and I continued to scream until we heard him limp back down our bunk steps and wander off into the foggy Pocono night, looking for our bunkmates.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Shore Memories, Then and Now

33 summers. 5 generations. 1 house.

If this one could talk, it would tell tales of hoagie eating, card playing, wave jumping, sandcastle building, sunbathing, and stargazing. It would tell secrets, of children eating candy in their bunk-beds at midnight and a beloved poodle making “pishy” on Gram's new sofa. It would talk of our family marking our own territory, carving our initials into the Ventnor playground, our footprints in the sand. It would remember sun-kissed, barefoot children, with nicknames like “fudgie wudgie,” a favorite dessert from everyone's favorite ice cream man.

It would recall the strollers, the bikes, the rollerblades, racing out the door to the boardwalk, lazy summer days playing in the sand. The sandcastles, paddleball, boogie boards, and bathing beauties. It would talk of scavenger hunts, running bases, wiffle ball. It would sigh at the thought of sleepy children being tucked into bed, dreaming of the rides in Ocean City.

It would remember Fralinger’s saltwater taffy, butter creams from Jagielky’s, tuna hoagies from Dino’s, Saco’s, and White House, pizza from Jo-Jo’s, milkshakes from Lou’s, cinnamon buns from Michelle’s, and water ice from Mento’s. It would remember being the life of the party, the meeting place for friends and family, cocktail hours, hor d’oeuvres, barbecues, feasts. It would laugh at how messy it sometimes got, with water and whipped cream fights, sand in the beds, and that rebellious poodle making “pishy” yet again. It would talk of the family, gathering around the roulette wheel at the dinner table, launching fireworks from the deck, floating in the ocean, with the older generation in shower caps.

It would fondly remember a father showing his daughter every star in the sky, and a mother who told her to reach out for them. There would be stories of cousins becoming as close as siblings, listening to Grandpop's war stories, learning how to take a wave in from Gram. It would remember all of the hugs, the kisses, and the laughter that echoed through its walls. It would reminisce about Nanny and Pop-pop, and friends, who once walked this shore, and cry in joy at every new birth of a baby who would come to love its walls, its secrets, its memories, its view of the beach, the boardwalk, the birds, the ocean, the dolphins at sunset, the horizon, the past, present, future, this world and beyond.

Through the sound of the waves breaking gently upon the sand, it would whisper, very softly, “Can you remember, even just for a minute, a life as good as this?”