vacation tales: madness and mad magazine
by Turtle Jones
Since it is Summer and both of us are feeling hot, tired and wet, we decided to send something out to you. When you are sick of it all. Just need a break. Mark your vacation days and get out of town. Where do you go to relax?
One place, or two, that you have always loved to go to get away from it all. Some of you have never had that chance. Some of you always had dreams of going to Spain of Germany but you really couldn't get there. This post today is about where you did go. Not where you want to go. Just a place that you always went to. To get away. From everything. Just spend some time with friends and watch the sun go down as you wonder why couldn't this be everyday.
We will tell you ours, but as always, we ask you to tell us yours. And why.
Lake Tahoe, CA
Or more specifically Donner Lake and the Tahoe Donner area. There is a house up there that I have full access to. Somewhere I go when I just wanted to get away from everything. Lake Tahoe is an hour away from most places in Northern California.
I drive fast.
When the strains of the day get to be too much, I would stock up on dog food and fresh fish from a local store. Pack the dog in the car and just drive. Fresh cigars and music. Hit the open road. Air conditioner on till I actually hit the hills. Then the snow would slowly start showing up. The smells would hit you. And you were only halfway there. The car could take the elevation. The dog looked happy with a new chewie. We were set. I didn't have to talk to anyone. Just a few days to relax at this mansion on the side of a golf course. I could drive around in a golf cart to get more fish so I didn't need a car. Just me, the dog and a huge BBQ. In those times, I would sit on the back deck with the stereo cranking out Neil Diamond while thinking of life. If I really wanted to play this game anymore. Was there a reason to go back? I mean really, I could just sit on the deck and try to watch myself wither away as my last breath was sucked out by the trees around me. Pretty perfect way to die if you ask me.
Dying will be another day.
I looked around the house always for new cigars. OHHHHHHH. Score! A humidifier! Cigars! I would lite one up and grab some monk fish and salmon (fuck you to all who laugh at the way I say it) and grab a can of Alpo. Dog takes off running into the woods. She will be back. She always comes back. See the thing about my dog is, she knows where the food is gonna be. She might fuck around all day, but she will come back. Cause if Ed McMahon eats it, its gotta be good.
The quiet. That was the killer. The only part of being a city man is that when you get up in those areas, your brain talks to you. It's almost maddening. The first day or so you pray to hear something. Anything. A blown engine. People yelling. Doors being slammed. But, up there you don't get that. Just pure quiet. Except for turtle on the back deck grilling up fish, blasting Neil Diamond with his crazy dog attacking trees. Cause the trees, they talked shit to her. Light up another cigar and throw more salmon on the grill (once again, fuck you for you for laughing at me) sit down in the chair and listen to Mr. Diamond sing about how he was dumped again. Man, this dude has no luck. I think he just gave up and started singing about America cause his balls dropped off him from lack of sex. Hell, I don't know. But all of his songs are kinda sad. Ya know, you would think someone with that much talent would be getting a lot of play. Maybe he isn't into 60 year old housewives.
I would tap them like a faucet.
Anyways, the quite was interrupted by a turtle and a dog. A cigar and a BBQ. Mr Diamond. The sun went down cause, well it always does. I got comfy. The dog came back and just sat next to me eating Alpo and slowly fading out. Sleeping dog. Solitary Man. Dreams of Ed McMahon and tree killing must be running thru her head. Me dressed like I'm numero uno at the gay rodeo and art exhibition. Ashtray on my chest. The stench of monk fish reeking this small, once pristine area.
Wild trees and pine trees. Golf carts and a naked turtle on the back deck wearing nothing but a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. Hey. They were there. Gotta wear them. Converse gets old after awhile. Well, that's not really true. But there was a cowboy hat and some boots so I strapped them on. Fucking security light. Why does this keep going on? My dog. She is setting this off. Sitting in the middle of nowhere naked is fine unless you have a light blasting you every five minutes like a stripper on stage. This light had to come down. I was the one to do it.
18 feet up. Well, fuck. I walked out front, totally naked and opened up the garage door. I needed a ladder. There was one in the garage. It was dark. No one to see me. Party across the street. Meh. I turned the corner and more security lights hit me. Totally lit up by three lights. In the front yard.
The party stopped and just looked at me.
Naked man with his cowboy boots and cowbay hat walking into a garage.
I grabbed the ladder and pulled the light out. Now I can sleep.
I was woken up in the morning by my dog. She slept inside that night. She was banging on the glass to get out. What the fuck? It's only five in the morning. I looked around to see what was happening.
Two little fawns had walked up on the deck and were staring at me.
It was kinda neat.
But they ate all my damn fish.
Or the dog did.
Still not sure about that one. - T
It's late summer, 1969. I'm in Roscoe, New York ("upstate") at my aunt and uncle's summer home. It's a shaky old house that's set on a lake in the middle of the woods in the middle of a town where people sit on their front porches and chew toothpicks and play the banjo in the middle of the day. Middle of nowhere.
I'm sitting on the deck next to the kitchen, reading an Archie comic. My cousins are in the lake. Me, I don’t really do the lake thing. Maybe they don't mind swimming in something that’s so muddy and gross you have to wear sneakers in the water. Maybe they don’t mind swimming with snakes and newts and mosquitoes. And I guess they don’t mind getting caught in a crop of lily pads, which, as everyone knows, are really evil, living things and will wrap their vines around your legs so you can't move or swim and you'll find yourself pulled under the swampy water where some evil beaver will hold you down until you drown and then bury you in the mud to save you for winter dining.
I don’t like the water. Not just the lake. I don’t like any water.
So everything my family does upstate - fishing, swimming, boating - are things I want no part of. Yet my family insists I at least try. I get in the rowboat, put on my life preserver and hang on for dear life. My cousin rows out to the middle of the lake, then heads toward the part where the lake opens up and stretches out far enough so you can't see the end. I panic. Take me back. Now. I hate open spaces. I hate the water. I hate not having an end in sight. I hate it here. Hate it. I just want to go home.
We get back to the house. I find a Mad Magazine and head back outside. I walk, barefoot, over rocks and dirt. I follow a small stream set in the side of the road. It takes me down a steep hill and curves into the woods at the end of the hill. I follow it still, to where it opens into a much larger stream. The grass here is up to my stomach. There are butterflies all around.Tiny frogs run across my feet. A dragonfly circles my head. I walk to a clearing and sit down on a huge rock that juts into the stream. I sit there and read my Mad Magazine. Lighter Side of Shopping. Spy v. Spy. Do the fold-out thing. I find myself just sitting there. Not reading, not thinking, just listening and watching. It’s quiet except for the bugs and the water. I feel peaceful. Serene, even, though I didn't know the word then. But I feel at one with the world around me. It's a cool feeling for a seven year old to have. I’ve just learned to appreciate what Roscoe has to offer me. Maybe I don’t hate it here so much.
We go back every year. Sometimes with my parents and sisters. Sometimes I’m shoved into the back of my aunt’s station wagon with six other kids and sent off for a week or two. Everyone learns to just leave me alone. Give me my books, my comics, my Mad Magazines and let me just do my thing. I don’t want to swim. I don’t want to go boating. I don’t want to shoot BB guns at squirrels. I just want the quiet. I want to feel like I’m the only person in the world. I’m like Burgess Meredith in that Twilight Zone episode where he just wants to be left alone to read. Except there’s no apocalypse. And I don’t wear glasses. But you get the point.
We stop going upstate at some point. Too much trouble with jobs and kids and stuff. Years pass. My uncle has rebuilt the house since the last time I was there. Last year, we decided to take a ride up to the house and spend a few days in Roscoe. More nostalgia than anything else, I think. Me, the kids, my parents, my sister and her family. The whole drive up I reminisce about how much I loved the solitude and quiet, how I just sat for hours and enjoyed what nature was around me while I read. I was looking forward to no phones, no computer, no sounds of traffic, no jumbo jets flying over my house 40 times a day. Quiet. Relaxation. Tranquility.
Things change, I guess. The quiet that was so comforting as a kid was now claustrophobic to me. Laying in bed at night looking out the window to complete, utter blackness. Listening for anything besides the occasional sound of a bat slamming into a window. Nothing. Just blackness. Absolute quiet. It was like existing in a void. I would get up, walk out to the deck and look up at the stars. Take some deep breaths. Look out into the darkness and see the outline of the lake and think about the depth of it in the middle, the way it stretches out far and wide to the right. The vast sky. The darkness. The openness.
I thought myself into a panic attack. So much for tranquility.
It’s funny how my perception of things changed so much. What I loved as a child became frightening to me as an adult.
If only it worked so that the opposite were true, that the things that scared me as a kid would be less frightening as an adult. But, I’m still afraid of Zuni fetish dolls. So I guess not.
[all the pictures are photos i took in roscoe last year. you can see the whole set here, if you want] -M
So this is what we called a getaway. Somewhere to sit back, read some magazines, ignore the world and have fun with you dog. Sure, you might hate everthing about it, but you still did it. For some people it was a couple days in the sun. For others it might have been a family reunion from hell.
This was your vacation. You had to do it. By force or by circumstances. It had to be done.
So where was yours?