Thursday, February 15, 2007

the oliver north bus

A summer memory on a cold day. Taking you to 1987 in my Way-Back machine. I was six years old.

My sister Amanda and I were sent to various day camps in the summers of our youth. We hated day camp. One time we ran and hid from the school bus that was to pick us up and we said we missed the bus because we were "looking at something behind someone's house" (Mom drove us to camp anyway. Plot foiled). I can't speak to why Amanda hated camp, but I hated it because I was shy and socially awkward; day camp is about making friends really damn fast because the day-time games and activities are only so fun on their own. If you can't handle that, you're alone and bored and spend the day wanting to go home. But I was a dour six year old anyway. This was in the midst of my phase of never ever smiling for pictures. Mom has a stack of photos that might be mistaken for "Sponsor-A-Child" photos. I'm not smiling because my village doesn't have running water.

This was the summer of Kelly's Camp. It was way out in Bumblefuck, IL and a school bus picked us up for the hour long commute to camp. One day, the camp had a Bus "Theme Day," the theme being chosen by the camp counselors who chaperoned each bus route. Most of the buses were fun themes like "The Party Bus" decorated with streamers and balloons or "The Hawaiian Bus" dressed up with grass skirts, and the campers on the buses came dressed theme-appropriately.

Our bus was "The Oliver North Bus."

The Oliver Fucking North Bus.

1987 was the fallout year of the Iran-Contra Affair and Lt Colonel Oliver North was called to testify and was subsequently tried for selling weapons to Iran (oops) to fund guerrilla rebels in Nicaragua (double oops). It was the big news that summer. We couldn't be The Party Bus, we had to be The Oliver North Bus. The average six year old doesn't give a poop about military scandals. Hell, the average twenty-six year old doesn't give a poop about it. And how does a camper go about dressing up for The Oliver North Bus? Mom and Dad helped us out. They dressed us as Nicaraguan guerrilla rebels:

Amanda (right) and Carly (center) await the arrival of The Oliver North Bus. I sit with my shoe in my lap, slack-jawed from the jungle madness. War is hell.

It's obvious we didn't have any real military camo around the house. The best we could do was random animal prints. I don't think Amanda was going to be well-concealed unless she stumbled along a peaceful intermingling herd of zebra and leopard. I have no idea what the hell shirt I'm wearing, but the makeshift headband is stylin'.

About half-way to camp that morning, our bus gets in an accident - we slam into another car. Now our bus wasn't a full-sized school bus. It was one of those midgety half school buses. I don't remember it being a bad accident (nobody was injured), but it was bad enough that we required a new bus to get all of us to camp. We got off the bus in a suburban neighborhood, twenty-some kids dressed like little terrorists or soldiers. Goodbye Oliver North Bus being towed away!!! In retrospect, it was a fitting tribute to Oliver North.

Nothing to do but wait for a new bus. We sat and played on somebody's front lawn. The fun lasted until the homeowner turned the sprinklers on us. This all never would have happened to the kids on The Hawaiian Bus.

The Oliver North Bus continues to be one of those memories that gurgles to the surface. A few years back, Amanda made a mix CD for me. She titled it: *Music For The Oliver North Bus*. She sent that mix to me in 2002 when I was having another miserable summer working in West Virginia. But that's a whole 'nother memory for a whole 'nother cold day.