May 2-4

I was thinking this weekend, about the Canadian May long weekend, "Queen Victoria Day". Like anyone even cares about Queen Victoria, or what her history with Canada is, or why we celebrate her birthday. I'm all for tradition, but I'm stumped if I can give you a valid reason. Not to say she isn't important to history, be it our country or otherwise. By, in today's current context, who cares, y'know? It's not like ANYONE out there, blowing off fireworks and getting blotto knows or cares. Why not just call it "May Long Weekend"? But, perhaps we already are there, since no one refers to it as "Queen Victoria Day", but refer to it as "May 2-4", the twenty four pack of beer so entrenched in our countries stereotypical unconsciousness. In that manner, the moniker is pretty succinct and appropriate.

So, I'm thinking about how things change.

"May 2-4", when you're young, is about going camping, or to the cottage. Supplies include:


  • a lawn chair
  • a package of hot dogs
  • an amount of beer/alcohol that only a determined teenager could find the reserves of energy to carry. These same teenagers complain and whine when asked to carry a half full garbage can to the street, but on this day, they are akin to Hannibal's Elephants, laden with every alcoholic beverage known to man.
  • a guitar, or music device of some sort. When the neighbouring campsite turns up their device, you reply in turn, a teen aged arms race where George Thorogood, Pearl Jam, and Garth Brooks fight it out to a cacaphonic nadir. The roots of this are in the blood rituals of the ancients, where the tribal drums would intensify, whipping the revellers into a frenzy. The roots of that are in sex, so, things come full circle, it would seem.

Not Required:
  • a tent (someone ELSE will have one.)
  • a change of clothes (if you don't sleep, you don't need to change, right?)
  • hygienic supplies of any kind (have you tried drinking orange juice after brushing your teeth? Try beer.)

And actually, the lawn chair & hotdogs should be moved into the "Not Required" category. One is usually prepared to stand all weekend, or sit in the dirt. And food can always be bummed from friends.

It is about cramming as many people and their cargo into as few vehicles as possible. Fun, en route. The pungent miasma in each vehicle on the way back, however, could make dung beetles retch, and surely lowered the resale value of each vehicle by several thousand dollars. Once arrived, park wherever, but usually as close to your site as possible. I have memories of a "tent" consisting of a tarp attached to roof of car and ground.

It is about sitting in a lawn chair and seeing just how high you can get that blood alcohol level. Frequently, you added other substances to the equation. If hallucinogenic toads were readily available in this climate, you can bet there would be a cooler of the bastards somewhere in your campground. In fact, that enterprising individual would be immediately elevated to a new level of cool for their inventiveness. "Lets see how many brain cells we can kill! I'll race you!!" was the unspoken gleeful refrain. You sat in said lawn chair, drinking and smoking WAY too much, laughing at things you ordinarily wouldn't laugh at, drinking with people you ordinarily wouldn't drink with, getting dirty, getting bitten, and sometimes, if you were lucky, getting some.

The added danger of a just-this-side-of-out-of-control fire is a pre-requisite. No one brought a change of clothes, but EVERYONE brought a container of gas. Gas, because time spent looking for dry kindling is time spent NOT DRINKING. The intelligent (ie sober) empty all but a small amount of accelerant onto the would-be-pyre, dripping a trail of safety away from the pyramid, in order to light unscathed; the non-intelligent inevitably lose body hair. The resulting explosion, if seen from above, resembles the French nuclear tests at Bikini Atoll, a perfect ring of plaid-ensconced warships withering from the shock wave, and if you are too close when it goes up, the Nagasaki-like mushroom cloud sucks the air out of your lungs. Debates on the likelihood of it being observed from space ensue.

Cave drawing shadows dance on the surrounding foliage. The roar of the bonfire a white noise against the sound of breaking glass, splintering wood, disintegrating relationships; fights, laughter, blood, sex. Things stop just shy of medieval, the human machine only able to take so much. Things literally sloooow dooooown, less and less stumbling revellers on their feet every hour. If one is familiar with the work of George Romero, one knows what the campground looks like at 4:45am. Every campground has one of god's special creatures, the "Perpetual Drinking Machine", the one that is still awake and tending the fire at dawn, and well into the next day, like an automaton Prometheus, although every time you see him, he is listing more and more. But he's like a Weeble; he never falls down. If the government could harness that determination electrically, we could tell OPEC where to stick it.

The morning sun brings the recrimination, the wails of anguish, the pain, the vomit, the panic, but also more laughter. The campground resembles No Mans Land at Ypres, May 26 1915. Survivors stumble around to greet fellow veterans, and recount exploits of the battle past. No one is unscathed, no one unbloodied, but the shared experience makes you stronger friends. A necessary, if terrifying, ordeal. You all agree that it will be much bigger NEXT YEAR.

So, now, all grown up, cringing with the thought that my children can't be TOLD about this, they must experience it themselves. The fire I'm tending is the BBQ. Actually, that's a lie, my wife tends that. I suppose my past still has some hold, as I tend to burn everything on the grill, wanting that fire to be BIGGER. I drink a beer, maybe two, BUT NO MORE THAN THAT, I just can't get up in the morning if I do, I feel like crap and am cranky when I do finally get up, and Max needs his bottle, no matter HOW I feel. Nothing like a hungry crying baby when hungover to make you rethink that extra bottle of beer.

The pyramid we built was of boxes, having finally got things almost squared away, 2 months after moving in. Max sleeps quietly in the next room, oblivious to the distant explosions outside, "Beirut on a good night". I sit in my living room, quietly watching Celebrity Poker ("Who ARE these guys?" I ask. Kris, looking up from her book informs me "The men from Desperate Housewives". Ugh. But they're not bad card players...), glad to not be enduring the evil drive home, stopping every 10 kilometres to allow another rider to vomit; not surrounded by friends, but with my best friend, her feet in my lap, reading some fantasy book I have no interest in, and that's how she likes it thank you very much. I'm thinking about hitting the sack after Heroes, I'm tired.

But maybe I'll stay up, way too late, have another beer, my own little celebration of the past.

"God, I'm glad I don't have to do it again! But if I had to, I'd do it again!"

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