• Camping with the Incognitos


    Thursday morning 1Okay, in an ideal world, this would have happened Thursday morning. In reality, we didn’t leave the International House of Johnson until well after 2:00pm. we packed up the MVoD and headed out to the Maumee Bay State Park for a long weekend of camping.

    I took a great many photographs of our camping trip and would like little more than to share them with the world. Unfortunately, the family with whom we were camping is in the Federal Witness Protection Program and we had to go to some lengths to ensure that none of them were captured on the digital equivalent of “film”.

    For example, here is the father of this very private and (understandably) secretive group. Though his true name and even his assumed name must be kept confidential, I shall henceforth refer to him as “Matt”. That the pseudonym I have chosen for him happens to be the name of one of my oldest friends, whom I have known since I was a child, is mere coincidence. 2“Matt’s” wife, “Sheila”, is by far the most paranoid of the family, and so I was unable to take any photographs of her at all. Reviewing shots in which I was certain she … Continue reading

    I will not divulge the reason for the family’s exile into a life of relentless secrecy, but I will reveal that “Matt” once worked in Washington, D.C., and in doing so it is entirely possible that I have already said too much.

    Here is “Marja”. Like her father, the lass’ features must remain concealed; unlike her father, “Marja” has chosen a stylish set of sunglasses instead of a large straw hat behind which to obscure her identity. “Marja” is a traditional Finnish name that means either “beloved”, “a berry” or “a member of my family witnessed a horrible crime and I must now live in constant fear of discovery”. Finnish is a complicated language.

    I should point out that the barrier surrounding “Marja” is not intended to confine her, but rather to keep any would-be attackers from reaching her should the family’s true identity be revealed.

    Young “Drew” (seen here hiding in Kyle’s tent) takes after his mother, proving all but impossible to photograph. He has adjusted very well to the family’s lifestyle; so much so that his nickname ought to be “Mint Jelly.” 3‘Cause he’s on the lam. “Drew” and Kyle got along very well for the most part and they spent most of the trip hiding from the adults. While I’m quite certain that we found Kyle and took him home with us, I cannot be sure that “Drew’s” parents found him when it was time to leave, so there is a very real possibility that the lad is still hiding somewhere around sites 221 and 222 at the Maumee Bay State Park campgrounds.

    By the end of our trip, Kyle had picked up some tips from “Drew” and his family. My attempts to photograph him on the playground were largely unsuccessful due to his uncanny ability to interpose objects between himself and the camera. I have since had a long discussion with him, explaining that we aren’t in the Federal Witness Protection Program because his daddy knows to keep his mouth shut and not go blabbing to the authorities every time he sees a prominent politician get whacked by an overzealous lobbyist.


    1 Okay, in an ideal world, this would have happened Thursday morning. In reality, we didn’t leave the International House of Johnson until well after 2:00pm.
    2 “Matt’s” wife, “Sheila”, is by far the most paranoid of the family, and so I was unable to take any photographs of her at all. Reviewing shots in which I was certain she would appear, I found that she had somehow managed to quickly disguise herself as a camping chair, propane grill, or—on one occasion—a lens flare.
    3 ‘Cause he’s on the lam.
  • Camping in the Rain


    The weekend was certainly interesting. Friday evening, we met the Wiitalas (Matt, Shiela and Drew) and Winklers (Steven, Velta, Mara and Peter) at the Maumee Bay State Park. Laura and I arrived just as the Winklers were finishing dinner (steak and baked potatoes) preparations. We had two campsites, one for the two tents (ours and the Wiitalas’) and the other for the dining fly and the Winklers’ pop-up camper. Almost every other site in the immediate vicinity was occupied by kiters, who had descended upon the park for their annual (?) gathering. There were windsocks, windmills, banners and (of course) kites everywhere.

    Unfortunately for everyone, it rained most of the day on Saturday. We had just gotten the dining fly erected a little before 8:00 Saturday morning when the first rain came in, and the weather just went downhill from there. We spent much of the day clustered under the dining fly, the screened walls of which didn’t offer the best protection from the rain unless you were standing in the very center of the fly (which was occupied by a picnic table). The next dining fly we get will be a bit bigger, I think, and have retractable tarpaulin walls.

    Breakfast Saturday morning was bacon and eggs, cooked in the rain. We spent the remainder of the morning running in and out of the dining fly, as it would rain one minute and be bright and sunny the next. I managed to get a good bit of American Gods read before the sun gave up entirely. As afternoon approached, we determined that a trip to the nearby Wal-Mart was in order. The rain was coupled with stifling heat Friday evening and much of Saturday, so the dry, cool shelter offered by Wal-Mart was very attractive. When we returned to the campground, Laura declared that it was lunchtime (so much of camping seems to revolve around the meals).

    At one point after lunch on Saturday it was pouring so hard that everyone abandoned the dining fly and sequestered themselves away in tents, campers and vehicles. Laura and I sat in the MVoD listening to the first disc of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which we’d picked up from Wal-Mart (along with ice, chips, charcoal and other supplies). After about an hour, we returned to the dining area and began preparations for dinner. In spite of the rain, it was decided that we’d cook dinner in the fire ring.

    Laura was determined to have s’mores for dessert, so Matt and I held our umbrellas over the fire and roasted marshmallows in the pouring rain, both getting thoroughly drenched in the process. The sight of two grown men huddled over a smoking fire roasting marshamallows in a downpour was undoubtedly very amusing. Unfortunately, our digital camera was sitting back home on an end table, so the moment wasn’t captured for prosperity.

    The rain had moved east by Sunday morning, so Laura didn’t get any extra water in her pancake batter. After breakfast, we packed up our gear and headed home. We were all on the road by 10:30, and Laura and I arrived home a bit before 1:00.

    I spent much of the day ripping the 17 Harry Potter CDs to Apple’s proprietary AAC format, renaming all of the tracks to a common format (“Chapter 01, The Other Minister-A”, “Chapter 01, The Other Minister-B” and so on) and then changing the file extensions (from .m4a to .m4b) so they’d all be bookmarkable in iTunes and on my iPod. While I ran between Laura’s computer and mine (her DVD-ROM drive is better for ripping the discs, while the music collection resides on my computer), Laura listened to the CDs in the living room. I had all of the discs ripped and organized by late evening. Laura finished listening to the book at about 6:00pm yesterday, while I finished at about 3:15am today.