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September 15, 2006

Mr. Henry goes camping

Filed under: Coffee,Japanese Food,Mr. Henry — Mr. Henry @ 8:55 am

When days grow long and hot, Mrs. Henry’s small apartment terrace with view of rosemary, basil, and the neighborhood flasher no longer satisfies her cravings for nature. She becomes consumed by urges to strike off into the great outdoors. To Mr. Henry’s recurrent horror, each and every summer she takes the family camping.

She approaches this activity with jaw set in grim determination. Each task becomes an emergency that requires Mr. Henry’s immediate attention. When he spies the camping face, he tries to follow the only prudent course:

He hides.

But inevitably he is found. Despite absolutely refusing to ever go camping again no matter what, he packs his hiking boots, UV-protectant shirt, wide-brimmed hat, and all the sport socks on the closet shelf. To lure him this year, Mrs. Henry bought an outdoor French press coffee pot. Was this sufficient inducement for the endurance trial that lay ahead?

Preparations are beyond scientific. Weight and space are carefully measured even though during the trip Mr. Henry will be piloting a borrowed SUV. Tea bags are counted out and placed, like everything else, in separate plastic baggies. Moonshots have taken along more serendipitous items than the Henrys take to Yellowstone.

Weeks before the baleful excursion, Mrs. Henry has shipped the tent and sleeping bags to Wyoming via UPS Ground. On the eve of departure, at Albertson’s in Jackson Hole Mr. Henry tries to add spice to their zero-gravity diet by throwing a single package of Cajun bratwurst into the cart, but he is reprimanded. At base camp in Moose, she stews up a vat of Mr. Henry’s least favorite meal – chicken noodle soup – and counts out the ladlefuls into a great wiggly plastic baggie. (Whoever said that chicken soup can’t hurt? The stuff is revolting.)

On the fateful morning of departure, however, he manages to squirrel away two beers under the ice in the mini-cooler. He grabs his pillow, too, masking its presence by cruelly binding it up with twine and hiding it in a trash bag under the driver’s seat.Kitchenaid toaster.jpg

Before pulling out of the driveway, Mr. Henry begins to miss his treasured bed. Is not the bed the greatest invention of man? The pop-up toaster runs a distant second.


  1. Oh, Mr. Henry! My heart goes out to you. When my offspring suggest camping, I say without fail, “I’ll be happy to send you if you can find someone to take you.” My idea of camping is spending the nights in a lovely bed-and-breakfast somewhere near day-hikeable mountains or forests. I absolutely require both a real bed and running water (that is, bathing and toilet facilities with indoor plumbing). I have a hard enough time dealing with reality even when these minimal requirements are met. No one wants to see me after I’ve spent an overnight not-sleeping on an air mattress in a tent which seems designed to attract every kind of annoying flying insect.

    As for chicken noodle soup, I’m sure you know it can be delightful, if, say, the “noodles” are lovely little tortellini and the stock is home-made, and redolent of rosemary and garlic? The stuff from a can or packet hardly deserves to bear the name “soup”, as it is only by the wildest stretch of the imagination edible.

    Be brave, Mr. Henry! These things we do for love, they ennoble the soul as much as they discomfort the body.

    Comment by Joan — September 15, 2006 @ 9:28 pm

  2. I absolutely loathe chicken noodle soup and always have! So nice to know there’s someone who agrees!

    Also, I’ve NEVER been camping. I wanted to go when I was a Girl Scout ages ago, but after I barely made it through day trips to amusement parks, my family got wise. People know better than to invite me camping as I am a creature of comfort. My friends didn’t even want me go to a weekend music festival with them — they all said “You know you’ll have to use the port-a-john and you won’t be able to shower and the whole place will smell?” I know they had my best interests at heart! And indeed, the bed is the greatest invention given to humanity. Followed closely by anti-frizz treatment.

    Comment by danielle — September 18, 2006 @ 8:02 am

  3. Oh, Mr. Henry, my sympathy! I always wondered about those camping “vacations;” usually (though not, I suspect, in this instance) they seem to consist of Dad getting to play, the kids getting to play, and Mom getting to keep house under the most primitive circumstances possible. Not much of a vacation, in my opinion.

    In my time, I too have had to go camping. I remember the teeth-clenching experience of shaving my legs in the water drawn from a sparkly COLD mountain stream; I remember praying that I would not lose a contact lens while trying to put it in, or, worse, have it carried off by the New Jersey State Bird (aka “mosquito”). One of the better camping moments was traveling with a room-sized carpet; period camping, at least, offers the possibility of camping with a certain verve. It also means even more struggle each day to be turned out presentably; trying to get my makeup on tidily either by dawn’s early light, or by the flicker of a candle inside the tent.

    These days, like Joan, my preference would be to go “camping” some place with wonderful room service, wonderful cooks, a fabulous hot tub, 700-thread-count sheets, and many, many stars by its name in a travel guide.

    Comment by La BellaDonna — September 20, 2006 @ 7:51 am

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