In our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck.
— Tevye the dairyman
It’s not much, in the scheme of things, being a camp director. And not even a real camp director at that. But in our little village of Fern Hill, it counts for something.
Scoring our campsites at El Capitan last year may have been a minor-league victory, but a victory it was. At the time, I recall a distinct David vs. Goliath sort of feeling.
At a low point last year, when everything seemed hopeless, I still remember what Jay’s mom Jennifer said to me:
You’re spending all this time—going to the location, and talking to all these people, showing them what to do, and taking all this crap. Why? To make memories for your kid. And mine . . . . And when someone ran you down, you got up. You said, You do your best. You try your hardest. Thank you. Just thank you.
Fern Hill is the sort of place where mostly everyone knows mostly everyone. Nobody’s special. Everybody’s special. I never asked Nick about it, but I think he liked my role in last year’s camping trip. I liked it. I liked all the thank-yous and awesomes I heard. I liked, in our small pond, being known for something.
I liked it so much that I forgot the misery and desperation I felt last year when every turn pointed to a dead end. I forgot how hard those thank-yous were to come by, even in a small pond.
Now the demons came out, and whispered:
Last year was a fluke, Mr. Blasé, you swelled, complacent head. Leo Carrillo is for professionals. Should have been more nervous, you should. You won a small pond game in the bush leagues, you did. Last year you had 30 seconds. This year you have two.
On the morning of the site rush, I get on the phone with my group leaders. Not much talk this year. Serious fingers. The previous evening I’d modified the plan—the now obviously inadequate plan—in hopes of scoring a few more sites. But it had been too late to make any real changes.
The seconds tick by. 7:59:58, 7:59:59.
“Go,” I say.
An explosion of clicks. I have everything set up in my browser. Somehow I start hitting the wrong keys. It’s 8:00:03 before I realize my error. Goliath 1, David 0.
At 8:03 I move to the tally page to start tabulating our results. Nine sites! Same as last year at this point. I count to ten and refresh. Twelve sites. We need 21 if we want to go camping at Leo Carrillo.
All the results aren’t in, but I can’t wait. I send a message to the entire team: Buy everything you land on. Just like Monopoly. Again.
One by one the troops, all twenty-eight, straggle in to the teleconference.
“What have you got?” I say as each joins the call.
A slow grind, last year’s agony all over again. But no group site this year to take us over the top. We had more people, more training, better technique this year, but we’re still short. A truth dawns: It was pure luck that El Capitan was the target last year. If we’d gone for Leo Carrillo then, we’d have failed.
The last few are reporting in now.
“What have you got for us?” I say.
Then, “Two sites.”
Another, “Two sites.”
Where’s Richard? Richard who said to me last year, “These videos, Wolf. Are they really necessary?”
“What are we going to do now,” someone says.
I have no idea.
Then, “Richard here.”
“Richard! Where have you been?”
“Any sites for us?”
“Two,” he says.
Not possible, I think. Not possible.
“Two,” he says.
When the dust clears, we have 24 sites. Last year’s tally exactly, but purchased more dear. What is it about repeating victories? Last year was a triumph, this year a squeaker.
No matter. We’re going to Leo Carrillo. Half the team got their assigned sites, half didn’t. In the coming days I speak to everyone to find out what worked, what didn’t, and why. I start to plan next year.
Years ago, I had the lead in a play. It was, in retrospect, the summit of my acting career. Some nights I rocked it, some nights I needn’t have shown up.
“What can I do?” I whined to the director.
“You’re going to take the next step,” he said.
“What’s the next step?”
We’re going to Leo Carrillo.
This is the second part of a two part post. Part 1: Top Banana
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