August 17, 2008

Not sure if anyone is aware of this, but recently the boys and I got an opportunity to escape for a Man-cation. That’s right, it’s not a typo, I said “Man-cation”. The ladies were not on the invite list for this one. It seems my good buddy’s parents live a couple of hours down the road and they have the perfect spot for boys of all ages to enjoy themselves. Six acres on the water with plenty of woods, a swimming pool, boat dock, etc.-  this place had it all. So all the men folk climbed up into my big red truck and drove to southern Maryland. Now, I am aware that I could have taken Connie’s minivan, gotten better gas mileage, and enjoyed the comforts associated with a fully-loaded, luxury vehicle, but minivans just don’t have that “Man-cation” feel we were looking for. Besides, nothing counteracts testosterone like a “Soccer Mom” bumper sticker and baby on board warning triangle, so I believe the $3,200.00 fuel bill was money well spent to maintain the manly aura of our adventure.

The three men under the age of eight (Mackinley, Larry- formerly known as Cayden, and Jack) were extremely excited to venture into the wild with us. Mack must have heard us talking about the stark conditions that we would be enduring because, when he jumped in the truck, he was better armed than most presidential security details. I patted him down prior to deploying in order to prevent the local authorities from apprehending him and placing him on the terrorist watch list, but he still had a few pieces of hardware stashed on his person- just in case.

The ride down was pretty uneventful. We talked sports, home improvement, and commented a few times on how smart we thought men were- basically the stuff guys talk about when women are absent. We made sure not to say anything negative about our spouses (not that we ever would), but considering the current audience, even the slightest barb was sure to find its way back to our better halves, so best to keep our mouths shut. When we arrived into the wild, we were greeted by my buddy’s parents, who turned out to be phenomenal people. The wilderness was not as wildernessy as I had anticipated as we approached a great big house, great big swimming pool, on and on and on. The closest we would probably get to roughing it would be the trek to the refrigerator to get a cold one. Perfect.

Like most men, we wasted no time in getting started. As men, we do not feel the need to engage in obligatory small talk, so a quick handshake and a hug were all that were needed when the grandparents greeted us. You could tell they wanted to talk to us, but men don’t have time to sit around and blah, blah, blah all afternoon. So all that nonsense about heat advisories, poison foliage, big foot sightings and boat engine failure would have to wait until after we completed our hike through the woods past the giant footprints, next to the pretty flowers we picked, to get to the boat we would be going out on all afternoon (by the way did anyone bring sun screen?) As I said, no time to talk; we’re on a man-mission.

So off we went, cruising along the water in our 17-foot boat in the blazing heat looking for fish to terrorize. We were smart enough to bring a cooler, but stupid enough to forget the bottle opener. At one point, I considered sticking the top of the bottle against the propeller in order to neatly chop off the cap. Obviously my brush with heat stroke had warped my sense of judgment, making me oblivious to the fact that I would likely chop off my hand. Mack came to my rescue, however, and produced an edged weapon that came complete with an old-school bottle opener. Good man. Beer effectively canceled out the impact of boating on the surface of the sun for everyone over the age of 21, but three of our crew were still far from the legal age of consumption. We monitored them closely, but warm Dr. Peppers did not have the same cooling effect as Mr. Budweiser so we knew we had to act quickly before they melted before our eyes.

This is the part that I chose not to tell Connie when I returned from Southern Maryland. We had long given up on catching fish (they had obviously swam out to cooler waters and besides, Mack’s casting technique was more frightening than enticing thus the chances of running into a fish capable of chasing down his bait was highly unlikely). So we put down the rods and decided to go swimming. To test the depth of the water, I used the “boy-cast & retrieve method”. Simply explained- toss the lightest individual into the water and then pull them back into the boat. Cayden’s waif-like build won by a landslide so I tightened up his life jacket and hurled him over the side; he was delighted. Next thing you know, my buddy Chris and I are chucking all three of the boys out of the boat and they are doing their best to get back in, laughing hysterically I might add. From a distance this must have looked a bit bizarre and I am sure the other boaters were perplexed at the sight of two guys apparently chumming the water with 5-8 year old kids, but I assure you it was all in good fun and completely safe. We got a lot of dirty looks that day.

We eventually made it off the water and spent the remainder of the afternoon swimming in a tamer venue (Chris’s parents’ shaded swimming pool). We also made the boys drink water (a lot of it) as we slathered them in sunblock. Of course, all of this happened after 5:00 p.m. so our display of responsible parenting was more for us than them.Besides, we both knew that the sight of “lobster boys” would raise some questions so at least this way we could say “Of course I put sunblock on them” with a degree of sincerity.

All said and done, I think Chris and I did a tremendous job with the boys over the weekend. Sure, we had a couple of minor hiccups (i.e. complete lack of proper hydration and melanoma avoidance measures), but all said and done, not bad for a couple of guys, right?

The rest of the Man-cation was totally benign, completely void of hazards, almost tranquil, and unless Connie finds out about the fireworks, cigars and one slightly dead muskrat then that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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