Tag Archives: nature

The Ballad of Phin, Little Nancy, and Walt, or The Importance of Being Regular

by Walter Bjorkman

19 seventy and somethin’ early, Phin rode into town
Walt was doin’ somethin’ crazy, but couldn’t let his friends down

Phin and Little Nancy came by for a stay
Barely room for himself in his pantry bedroom – no way

With no room for Walt’s Brooklyn friends at the inn
Nacimiento woods their only away in a manger option

Walt can’t remember how they got there or back to the stoop
But here is this inspirational story’s poop:

Pitched tent in a cathedral of three redwoods with no sway
With a natural bed of pine needles and an inviting portway
Then cooked up somethin’ like beans in a pot
What was it they downed before, during and after? – we forgot

Boy Scout training kicked in in the back of his mind
25 yards at least from camp to do your after-meal slime
No Scott’s tissue to mar the pristine land
Just use nature’s tools – a leaf, whatever’s at hand

Sunset coming upon them like a fog
Walt did it sitting over a log

Then down to the riverbank on this starry starry night
Phin, Little Nancy, and Walt, with no fright
No moon was there to block the view
Of distant galaxies and constellations running askew

Heads gazing up and tripping out
Minds realizing there is nothing about which to pout

Time to get back into their sheltered haven
They turned into the total blackness of the forest’s heaven
For minutes that seemed hours they were lost from their mission
What to do? they couldn’t even see each other’s visage

“I have twelve strike-anywheres!” Walt exclaimed with delight
“We will go our ways through the underbrush and yell to each other of our plight
Then light one up to show position and help the others look
We will find it sooner or later” – it was only a short jaunt from the brook

Desperation set in as the matches did dwindle
Were they doomed to sleep in a huddle and get swindled
By the biting insects and snakes of this legendary land?
Please, some divine inspiration come down and give this threesome a hand

Further apart they roamed to find the tent
Things were getting crucial, frustrations no longer pent
When all of a sudden instead of briars and brush
In which his bare feet got entangled, in his slow rush

A soft-slimy pile enveloped Walt’s toes
Like a vision from heaven, his mind got the news
“Yo! Phin, Yo! Little Nancy, Walt know just where we be!
Walt is where Walt went when Walt had to do more than pee”

“The safe-haven is just twenty five yards yonder
Use your last matches to not wander asunder”

They all reached camp and tumbled into their tent
Then related to each other about where they all went

So in the end it is not about why you got to where
But to have faith in yourself – your own shit will get you there.

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The Runner’s Manifesto

When running on the busy Chicago lakefront, be prepared for closed restroom facilities. Be prepared to run far and fast, because you are running on a thin strip of grass between Lake Michigan and Lake Shore Drive, and there are only bridges every mile or so for runners to access the more frequent restrooms on the non-lake side of the highway.

Be prepared to imagine your buttcheeks clenched so tight that you couldn’t sneak a well-lubricated Q-tip™ up there. Be prepared to accept that five minutes of such clenching while running is the equivalent of those little machines that scramble eggs inside the shell: your intestinal blender is set on purée.

When you finally give up and are reduced to hiding behind a clump of unmowed waist-high grass so that you can be seen neither by the people fifty yards away with the Frolicking and Curious English sheepdogs nor the heavy traffic on the road, be educated about the physics of nice flat rocks:

  1. they won’t scratch your exposed and sweaty ass
  2. they allow you to squat very low to the ground
  3. they have a far greater splash factor than grass

Next time:

  • you will wish to store a handkerchief in your pocket
  • you will wish to wear older, less white running shoes
  • you will wish to make your exit with haste, for Frolicking and Curious English Sheepdogs are expert at locating fresh purée
  • you will wish to remove your headphones while squatting so that you can hear the approach of strangers over the blare of C+C Music Factory

Be forewarned that being caught sniffing your fingers quizzically while sprinting from a clump of unmowed grass makes you look suspicious to dog owners and runners.

Be pleased with yourself for sporting compression shorts that are too tight to suffer crack contamination.

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The lake effect

Summer in a southern town: an outing to a small, man-made lake, my girlfriend and I. This was a special day, as we were finally taking out her little sailboat which we’d been hauling and storing for years without ever using.

At the lake was a tiny beach where you were allowed to swim – a crescent of imported sand, a tennis-court sized plot of green-brown water demarcated by a rope with bobbing buoys, the whole area packed with the hundreds of people who decided that this was a fine use for a sunny July day. There was a concession stand and public bathrooms and picnic tables, and the whole thing was entirely unappealing: hot and crowded.

If you are lucky enough to have your own 12-foot yacht, you don’t have to mingle with the rabble. You launch at the boat slip, so of course you fall in the water. The county park ranger tells you there there’s no swimming except in designated areas, so you tell her you weren’t swimming, but she pretends she doesn’t hear you. You clamber back into your yacht in your now-wet blue-and-white flowered board shorts, muttering under your breath.

We got the sailboat all set up and waited for the wind. We waited some more. A slight puff filled the sail, and we were glad. We were still only about ten feet from the boat launch, however. We paddled a bit with the single oar to get away from the no-swimming-woman, but it was impossible to move the boat with any speed or specific destination in mind. But there wasn’t much in the way of wind, so we decided to enjoy the sunshine, drifting around the lake. We drifted eventually to the center of the small lake and had a picnic, letting the light wind take us where it might. While I was enjoying my sandwich, my meal was interrupted by the emergency broadcast system. First, shooting pain. Then:

BOWELS: We are full. You have thirty seconds.
ME: I’m eating lunch!
BOWELS: Twenty-eight.
ME: I’m on a boat, motherfucker.
BOWELS: Twenty-five.
ME: There are bathrooms at the beach.
BOWELS: The lake is a giant toilet.
ME: I’m not alone! What about her?
BOWELS: Nineteen.

My entire life I have been deeply envious of anal retentive people. I have about as much retaining power as a sandcastle wall. These emergency broadcasts are accompanied by sharp, shooting pains which make it clear that my bowels aren’t fucking around. NOW.

I explained to her, in an oddly tense combination of great humility and panic, that I had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW. That’s an unfortunate euphemism, but I couldn’t say that I was going to take a shit right in front of her. I yelled “Sorry!” over my shoulder and plunged into the lake.

First, I had to get off my board shorts. This wasn’t, of course, the first time that my bowels had pulled this particular stunt. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say that I know you have to get the shorts off.

I got the shorts to my ankles when my bowels released their burden. I propelled myself away from the boat backwards so I wouldn’t be floating in my own squid ink. All the pain stopped.

Relief. Ahhh.

“Are you okay?” she called.

“Don’t look!” I shouted. There was a trail of tears between me and the boat, and the last thing I needed was for her to be looking at it. We’d been together for years, but there was no reason for her to inspect the shameful herd of tiny brown lake otters surfacing by the boat. I continued pooping; my bowels weren’t shitting me about being full. It was a lot.

I was so relieved that I didn’t crap on the boat and that the intense discomfort was gone. I was so relieved that I didn’t quite make full sense of the loud noise breaking the quiet of the lake.

A motor. A skiff with two park rangers buzzed toward me. The megaphone blared a man’s voice: “THERE’S NO SWIMMING EXCEPT IN DESIGNATED AREAS. GET BACK IN THE BOAT.”

I look at my girlfriend, her mouth an O of surprise. The boat circles around me, about twenty yards away. I’m going to have to swim through an entire otter colony to get back to the boat. I reach down to pull up my board shorts. But they aren’t there.

“NO SWIMMING. GET BACK IN THE BOAT.”

I can’t find my shorts. I do a 360 but can’t see them anywhere. They are blue and white and flowered, so I should be able to see them. This lake is not particularly clean, even on a good day, and today is most assuredly not a good day.

I wave to the rangers to let them know I hear them. “Gotcha! Everything’s fine,” I shout. I’m just shitting in your little lake.

“GET BACK IN YOUR BOAT NOW.” They are motoring closer.

I am swimming in the middle of a bad dream. I can’t just clamber back into the boat naked, for God’s sake, with two park rangers and a future ex-girlfriend watching.

I’m thinking I swim around to the other side of the boat to climb in. My girlfriend’s seen me naked, at least. I’m half-treading, half-swimming, and I feel what I imagine to be a particularly mature otter rub against my loins. Yuck. I look down and am gratified to see a familiar clump of blue-and-white fabric.

Saved. I fumble awkwardly with my shorts, trying to slip them on and keep my face out of the water, swimming away from the skiff while the rangers shout each last warning to me. I finally wrangle my legs into the leg-holes and pull them up. I am no longer naked, I am no longer full of shit, and I am happy.

I climbed back into the boat and waved to the rangers and smiled weakly at my future wife. She shook her head and grimaced and we paddled back to the beach.

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