Sunday, September 19, 2010
A Little Bit Camp
Get to know me even a little bit, and you will immediately become aware that I am not low maintenance, appearance-wise. Stemming perhaps (certainly, this is not an immense psychological challenge) at least a decade of extremely low self-image, inevitable comparisons with two very attractive sisters and some bullying experienced in formative years, a lot of my current confidence is gleaned from the ability to look in the mirror and, objectively, like what I see. And, objectively, my natural reflection grants me none of this self-assurance. My addiction to hair-dye began at 13; eye-liner at 15; hair-straighteners at 17; and expensive foundation at 18. I consider my unprimed image a blank canvas, requiring extensive and painstaking application of paint (preferably MAC) before public exhibition may be considered. I know this isn't healthy - I am envious of those who unthinkingly leave the house in the mornings fresh-faced with pillow-imprints still upon their blithely smiling faces - but nonetheless it is a fact of my life. My ability to interact with others, do my job properly and behave like a functional human being relies almost exclusively upon the strength of my face-faith. This means that I am rarely (OK, never, I sleep in my make-up, I can't even DREAM confidently with a naked face) unmade up, I refresh this facade frequently, and I consider a bad hair day no less an affliction than the clap. All of this then culminates in one certainty: camping is not my natural environment.
The irony of this escapes me not, the whole point (or so I am informed by those with an earthier bent) of camping being "getting back to nature". My response to this "why would you want to do such a thing?" I firmly believe that the whole campaign of human accomplishment is premised on the ultimate goal of getting as far away from our natural roots as possible. Keep your caves - I'll have a penthouse. The higher the better! If I can be closer to the sun than to the earth then I must be extremely successful! Natural materials? No - give me stainless steel, titanium, the harder and less bio-degradable the better. Why would something subject to degradation be desirable? Unfathomable. Living as I now do on the 11th floor of an apartment building as asthetically pleasing as a single cinder block stood on end, I consider myself to have come rather far in the world. And yet, this very weekend, I voluntarily subjected myself to something that ought to have been obliterated as a leisure-activity when resort hotels were conceived of - camping.
I can only put it down to FOMO. Or perhaps the formation of fissures in my thus far rock-hard attachment to the concrete jungle in which I reside - maybe the move to Japan has awoken the nature-lover within (think it vastly unlikely)... Anyhoo, I am a boastful recent survivor of Lake Toya '10, the destination for a Hokkaido Welcome Camp at the end of a 3 hour bus-ride. This was back to basics stuff (or as basic as I can manage, which still involves an iPhone, vodka and liquid eye-liner). No mattresses. One toilet. And no showers. Not that thatmattered in the end, as "camping" as an experience legitimated all my hitherto blocked-out memories; and it rained, near constantly, from the moment of arrival to precisely the minute we were back onboard the bus. My last camping experience was circa '05 and was less of a "getting back to nature" event so much as a "drinking as much alcohol in as short a time as possible" vendetta. Five years appears to have had less of an effect on me than I might have thought (have now thought hard, have only marginally longer hair and a tattoo to show for one half-decade departed) because I found myself gleefully skulling a lethal vodka/lemonade concoction out of a water bottle whilst sitting in a circle playing "I Have Never". Despite the fact that this last blog documented clearly the onward march of my 20's, methinks much of the 17 year old remains in me still, and not merely in the form of a Harry Potter addiction. So how did I survive nearly 20 WHOLE HOURS without electricity? Simple. I was drunk for most of it, and asleep for the rest.
Camping therefore remains an experience, if not wholly foreign, then certainly blurry to me (NB: Have discovered how to use italics. Expect more of it). I feel it is best left that way. And yet: now, back in my apartment, with a laptop on my lap (where else, pray tell?) and a perfect fringe, I feel a certain freshness that I certainly did not have at this time on Friday. There is something to be said for the power of nature, for the beauty of Lake Toya is really best left unsubjected to sarcasm. The water was cool and grey; the leaves yellowing and collecting at the margins of the shore; the mountains at the horizon really did loom and tower like all the best mountains ought (though Japanese mountains do mirror their human counterparts in their smallness and uniformity)(dammit, nearly made it through that whole description sans sarcasm. Alas). Though my shoes are ruined and all photos of the event depict me with an alarming expanse of forehead, I do not regret this regression into a less vain past. Time (20 HOURS) away from the city has zenned me out. I am drunk on ozone (and, admittedly, red wine).
Maybe occasionally (very), it would do me some good to be reminded of the wonder of an unmarred landscape, even when compared to the genuinely impressive results of a flawless MAC finish... A gentle constant rain may be soothing - bugs in ones food a source of protein - a sleepless night on rocky earth a chiropractic success... But next time I'm bringing an air-mattress. And a pillow. And a small - but well-equipped - collapsible bathroom.