Regular readers of my blog may remember a website that I and my associate John put together for the band Prymal Rhythm. Well there’s a little back-story about how the responsibility of building that website came to fall in my lap. You see I happen to be related to three of the five members of the band. One of them is my cousin and two others are his uncles. That being the case I volunteered a great deal of time building that site up from scratch into the polished looking site it is today and I did so with joy because, hey, we’re family.
In a gesture of sorts to thank me for all the hard work I did for free, the three members asked the organizers (my aunt and uncle) if it would be cool for me to attend this years family reunion/vacation, which has traditionally been limited to immediate members of their family. So about a month or two ago I was contacted by my uncle and was invited to join the family on their family vacation. Being invited to join this group was sort of like being inducted into a secret society of epic coolness I can only begin to describe.
These yearly vacations take place at a small cabin that my aunt’s father originally purchased in the 1970s in Shell Knob, Missouri on Table Rock Lake. Since that time the entire family (or as many as are able to make the time) have dedicated one trip out of every year to reunite at this cabin and proceed to have a rejuvenating amount of fun together.
Now before I get into the fun part of the trip, I should mention something that I have a high amount of respect for; a certain rule of sorts the family has had at all times. And that is: Keep the technology to a bare minimum. There is no air conditioning at this small cabin, only a lot of fans for every window. There is no TV and no hand-held video gaming. Text messaging or using your phone while in the presence of others is frowned upon and more or less anything else that could suck you out of the familial bonding going on around you. Being an addict of the Internet with websites like Digg and Reddit, you might have thought I’d lose my mind being isolated from these things, but it was quite the opposite. There were far more interesting stuff to do that the thought of wasting time in front of a computer by myself never crossed my mind.
Swimming in the lake on an inflatable bed with a cold beer in your hand was just a way to break the ice on the first day and try to stay cool when it’s over 90 degrees outside. I got a some compliments out of using my sandals as ores to row my air raft of sorts. At one point I was so relaxed by the beauty of the forested area surrounding me that I actually backstroked an eighth of a mile away from the shore before I ran into the shore on the opposite side of the cove from our mini-beach. I felt like I was literally inside a giant bowl filled with water, rimmed with trees and the horizon had a slightly curved fish-eye camera lens effect to it. I was AWAY and at peace. So peaceful that I was unaware of the horrible sunburn I was about to receive (but it was worth it).
Above: Me and my cousin Johnny
So what kind of activities did we have? Most of these are actually traditions that everyone did every year and in some cases plan ahead for. There was a whole shelf filled with board games; RISK being one that was hyped quite a bit on the first day but so much other stuff occurred that the RISK geeks of the tribe never got around to it. Other games included Catch Phrase, Charades, a card game called Mafia, and the list of games could go on and on (I’m still kicking myself for forgetting to bring Apples to Apples with me). On one night there is a talent show, where everyone is encouraged to go up “on stage” and perform some sort of act. Now that I know about this I’ve got to get started on thinking up some sort of performance. There were three Djembe drums there at the time… perhaps I’ll go buy one of my own and next time I go do some sort of ten minute jam with other volunteers.
One of the other benefits of the location we were at was the fact that there was far less light pollution in the sky at night, making the stars a lot easier to see. It was mesmerizing to look up at them and notice how seldom you get to take in that kind of scenery back at home in the city. I took the opportunity to change the topic of conversation to outer space, mentioning a lecture I saw on TED.com where the speaker called the exploration and study of space “the archaeology of the future” because, like traditional archaeology that digs stuff out of the ground and the deeper that stuff is the older it usually is, so too in space the older something is the further away from us it is (because of how long it takes light to travel across the universe). Though my uncle being retired from the Navy told me about what it’s like to see the sky at night from the middle of the ocean where there is zero light at all. The view is 10 times that much more clear.
One of the most involved activities I participated in was a 2 mile hike through some woods to a secluded cave that few know about.
The story goes that my aunts brothers were wondering around about 35 years ago (probably while high on peyote or something, though I never bothered to ask just what the hell they were doing wandering around a forest in the early 1970s) and just found it by accident (or perhaps you might say “serendipitously discovered“).
This cave is about 100 yards long, 30 yards deep/tall and 2 to 10 yards wide depending on where you were standing. Getting to this cave was a very refreshing thing because you go from a hot and humid day hiking uphill sweating your ass off to a cool 60 degrees in a pitch black darkness. It added another dollop of awesomeness and unique flare to the entire collective event.
Above: A very happy family
On the last day we had a speed boat and everybody took turns heading out in groups of 10 to go test their luck at water skiing, wake boarding and slalom skiing. I’d been skiing on snow in the mountains many times but never on water. I wiped out on the first three tries but on the fourth try I managed to stay up for about 15 seconds before wiping out again. Had I not sustained a horrible sunburn on day one, I would have gone back out with the last group for a few more chances, but I didn’t want to press my luck with the risk for skin cancer.
The food was spectacular! Each night different people were involved/responsible for putting dinner together. On two nights out of the three we actually got to eat some elk that someone had hunted themselves with a .30-06, served in cuts as well as Kielbasa sausage, not to mention the pork ribs, BBQ chicken and a plethora of veggies. Nothing quite as satisfying as eating delicious food after a long day of fun.
It was one of the most memorable vacation experiences I think I’ve ever had. There is so much to respect and admire about the entire thing. I commented to my uncle about his father-in-law purchasing the cabin, “What an investment it has become!” So I think I’ve found a somewhat new goal in my life. Before I die, I’m going to buy a small cabin of sorts to start hosting my own family reunion from on a regular basis as a long term investment in our future. But before that, I’ll probably buy a boat and lend it to the cabin I’m now a proud member of.
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009