A Honey Pot Runneth Over

Posted: February 14, 2014 in McTrip posts, Uncategorized

Part 2
When I agreed to a long weekend of ice fishing in Northern Minnesota, at a remote cabin with no running water or electricity, I anticipated peculiar things might happen. A urine shower while I slept was not one of them.

Thankfully, that only almost happened. My suitcase was the nearest potential victim, about five feet away from the drip site, but even it made it out, um, undrenched. Still, that’s a little too close for comfort, for both my head and my suitcase.

And now, I suppose you want to know why this near-miss happened in the first place. Demanding reader, you!

Three of the seven of us on this ice fishing trip slept in the cabin’s loft. Because there was no electricity and therefore no lighting, navigating a ladder in the middle of the night to go outside and urinate is rather tricky.

So, seasoned woodsmen (which apparently I am now one) resort to using large urns as urinals. My sophisticated and debonair host refers to them as honey pots, I suppose as an attempt to juxtapose something nice sounding with something really disgusting.

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(Part 1 of 2)
photo-2I used an outhouse for the first time. In fact, I used it three times on a recent four-day ice fishing trip with college friends in northern Minnesota. The temperature was right around zero the entire time. On my final trip to the outhouse (and if there’s a god in heaven, my final trip to ANY outhouse) the temperature was 11-below zero.

Survived a toilet seat at 11-blow zero felt like surviving Chernobyl. Or Auschwitz. Okay, that’s overstated. But trust me, it was simply horrific.

Said outhouse and adjoining property is owned by the father of a college friend of mine. He finally succeeded in coercing me to leave the 80-degree weather of my hometown and spend a weekend watching a bobber in a 6-inch hole cut in a frozen lake.

Remote only begins to describe this place. If you’ve ever seen “The Shining,” it’s like that, without the opulent hotel or Jack Nicholson with an ax.

In case you want to visit, here are the directions: Work your way to the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota, exit the highway, and head back into the tall pines. Stay on an icy two-lane road for about 12 miles. Then, make a right-hand turn onto a very narrow, snow-packed road for another five miles and pray another vehicle doesn’t come the opposite direction (which it won’t because no one in their right mind is back here). Finally, park your four-wheel-drive vehicle at a clearing, mount a snowmobile with all your belongings and supplies, and skirt through the woods another quarter mile to the cabin.

Let’s just say it’s not a place to have a heart attack.

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IMG_2507“Uncle J, how can you not know where everything is in our kitchen?” my adorable little niece said as I asked, for about the twentieth time, where something was in my sister’s cabinets.

It’s custom in our family that I make a complicated/challenging/gluten-infused dessert on Christmas Eve, often requiring hours of work. My family insists I do this every year, I suspect, in order to keep me out of the living room where I’m bound to offend somebody. Or where I might roll over the dog’s tail in the rocking chair.

For me, I participate in the annual tradition as a test to confirm I can still follow directions.

I’ve made some pretty impressive desserts in my sister’s kitchen, if I do say so. But I’m sorry, little Miss Rememberpants, I don’t recall where your mother stores the food processor. Or the cream of tartar. Or the spring-form pans. Or the brandy. Wait, that’s a lie. I know where she keeps the brandy.

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1531677_1379384392315582_2113765239_nClichés can be so insipid. But there’s one I can’t get out of my head–the one about living every day like it’s your last.

Last Wednesday was Steve Pryseski’s last day. He died at 54 years old. His friends, of which I’m honored to have been one since 1984, called him Pry (that’s him on the right, sitting). Only a few months ago, Pry’s world was normal, proceeding on course. Then came cancer, then an operation, then complications, then more cancer, then death. A wife and daughter suffering with him, by his side watching it happen.

Like so much death I’ve witnessed, Steve’s leaves me just numb and befuddled. His passing reminds me of just how much things have changed–in the world, in my life, and in the way death has evolved for me.

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imagesI prepared my friend that this would be a holiday party attended mainly by women.

Wow, I was spot on. It was like walking into a Tri Delt reunion. Or accidentally wandering into the women’s locker room at the gym.

These are writers who are part of an online community of which I’m also a member. But I’m new so I don’t recognize anybody and know only a few names. I predicted it would be mainly women because I see the daily postings, and they’re mostly women’s names.

Sure, there are a handful of guys at the party. A Burl Ives clone on the couch. A middle-aged dude in a tattered pilot jacket, nearly as disheveled as me—who may have hitchhiked to the party. Two cute guys in the far corner who, other than my friend and me, might be the only other gay guys here (spoiler alert: turns out they’re not gay.) And the husband of the couple who hosted the party.

Those are the men I remember seeing. And then there were like a hundred women.

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running-manThis guy, Michael Ward, worked the same job for 10 years, hammering out a routine that began at 6 every morning. When he got laid off, his internal clock didn’t get the message. He found himself wide awake at the crack of dawn every day with nothing to do. He had never been a runner, but he decided to start. First with just a couple miles a day. And then building, and building and building, and eventually, he ran a marathon. He called running his salvation in a time of tremendous financial and professional strife.

Wow, I totally get that. I’ve been running for years but it’s never been more necessary than in the last year, as I purposely set out to create a new identify after intentionally abandoning the previous one.

Running is now something I need every day, like a glass of Malbec and a few minutes with Jon Stewart. The best thing I did for my health when I was in my 30s was to stop smoking. The best thing I did for my health in my 40s was to start running.

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KnittingWorldWar2_LifeMagazine1941-746717“What’s up with the knife,” a fragile-looking teenager asks me at Starbucks, overhearing my request for the disposable utinsil.

“Self defense,” I say. “I hear it’s a bad neighborhood.”

Clearly I’m joking. It’s a flimsy plastic knife and this is Palm Springs, where the worst crime is wearing plaid shorts and a striped shirt.

He doesn’t give up. “Did you order a bagel?”

Dear god, I think, what does this child want?

“What are you knitting?” I change the subject. He draws yarn from a spool stuffed deep inside his coat pocket, never looking at the needles.

“A beanie.”

“Like the one you have on?” I ask. Yep, sure enough, he made that one, too.

I complement his work, wish him a good day, and retreat to the patio, alone, but not for long.

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