Monday, August 13, 2007

Stupid. Stubborn. Full of heart. Determination.

When I was 14 years old I spent my Summer at a coed sleep away camp.

My fellow campers were all in high school but for some reason we weren't all grouped together by our age. The counselors were slightly older college kids so you saw all sorts of statutory stuff going on but at least you had to leave your bunk to participate in that.

In my own bunk, my own cell, I was trapped with 10 guys. And two empty beds where the counselors occasionally slept. 12 people living together with 1 toilet and 1 shower.

The camp was located in the Poconos (Pennsylvania). Most of the campers were from New Jersey. Towns likes Teaneck and West Orange. Westfield and Milburn.

I was the only guy from New York City. This would have worked in my favor had I been cooler in 8th grade. But when I was 14 I still took myself way too seriously. I hadn't found my sense of humor yet. I hadn't suffered enough.

Lack of humor aside, my main problem was having just turned 14 which made me the youngest age you could be and still attend this camp. The majority of the kids were 15, 16 and 17 which is a sort of difficult obstacle to overcome at 14.

Females are already more mature than males of equal age. Let alone 14 year old me hanging with 16 year olds. Actually the female part was great. At least they were kind.

It's the 16 year old guys that aren't too cool when you're 14.

There was one kid in my bunk who openly declared his status as bunk bully. He was a football player and wrestler. And of course he was older. As if his being an aggressive athlete wasn't enough of a physical advantage.

Whenever this kid wanted to punish his fellow camper his favorite move was to put you inside of a laundry bag. The type that tightens when you pull on the two strings of rope on the end. He would then hang said laundry bag from a hook on the wall. Gravity took over from there and whoever was inside the bag would remain stuck inside since their own weight would pull the bag down and keep the strings tight and locked.

Our bully was a hard worker- after a week or two everyone in the bunk had hung on the wall from inside that laundry bag.

Everyone except for me.

And the bully.

I stayed out of his way. I had dealt with way harsher meaner scarier kids in the school yards of Brooklyn than this suburban football tough guy.

He was scary. But he didn't scare me. I was already having a rough Summer without this kid. I didn't want to be at this camp. And not really caring if I got kicked out gave me a freeing nothing to lose attitude.

So when he announced one night that I was going in the laundry bag, I looked him right back in the eye and said "No I'm not."

"You're going in the bag" he repeated.

"I'm not going in the bag" I clarified.

By now the procedure for us campers was to simply climb into the bag by ourselves and thus avoid the whole physical encounter part. This way you only had to endure the humiliation of being hung. Not the actual pain associated with getting into the bag.

Still I refused.

"Get in the bag."

"No."

"Get in or else I'm going to make you get in."

"Then make me get in."

And so he tried. He came over and put me in a head lock. He began to squeeze.

"I'm going to keep squeezing harder until you get in the bag."

I shouted "You can squeeze as hard as you want. I'm not getting in that bag."

He squeezed harder.

"Get in the bag."

It was hard to breathe. It hurt.

Still I said "No."

Everyone was watching intently. He roared out loud and squeezed as hard as he could.

And I refused to acknowledge the pain.

I remember thinking to myself that I don't care if he kills me. I'm not getting in that bag.

And then I passed out.

I'm not sure if it was from the blood being cut off from my brain.

Or my body simply checking out from the sheer pain.

But I fainted.

I woke up a few minutes later.

No one was happier to see me awake and alive than the bully.

And of course the way life works the bully and I got along after this experience. Suddenly I was his friend. The only one stupid and stubborn enough to stand up to him.

I share this story because I'm noticing a common theme in my life. I get myself involved in difficult tasks. Quite often I'm in some sort of a hole. And I reach a point in the experience where I know most people would quit. Just get in the bag.

And yet it's in these times, these low points that something inside of me seems to get energized and only work harder. Chase whatever it is that I'm chasing even more. Even harder.

The Poker Gods can take pots away from me when I'm an 80 or 90% favorite.

They can do it over and over again.

They can test my resolve.

They can make it feel personal.

They can take away all of my money.

But they're not going to break me.

They have no idea who they are dealing with.

5 comments:

ckbluffer said...

Robert,

This is a beautiful post. I admire your courage and determination. What's even more stunning is that you share these ups and downs with the rest of us. We're all rooting for you back in NYC. *Hang* in there!

Check Raise Chin said...

fortune favors the brave and bold.

Keep up the good work bro!

Willy's World said...

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

eric said...

If this ain't TILT I don't know what is.

Me and the DOO Crew will be out in Vegas in September -- not for the draft, but to do an intervention. We're gonna stick you in that laundry bag and drag you back to Brooklyn.

Darren Aronofsky said...

i completely relate. i survived a whole summer without getting a wedgy. but i did much more passive aggressively.