2014 Newsletter #2
Hello again from sunny and temperate New Hampshire, where last week’s steamy and unsettled weather has given way to near-perfect July days – perfect conditions for the first Baker Valley sports day of the season on Saturday. Many of your sons will have participated in the ten contests in five sports against our friendly rivals from Camps Moosilauke, Kingswood, and Walt Whitman (as we trust your boys will inform you in the letters they wrote on Sunday). Occupations got off to a bang last week, and a number of overnights ventured out into the White Mountains as well, all of them coming back happy if a trifle damp. On Saturday, Larry Davis departed for the caverns of Schoharie, New York with first-time cavers Charlie Bonetti, Jarrod Henry, Will Katcher (on whom more later), Will Jones, Hugh Jones, Jack O’Connor, Brandon Somp, and Jack Wood. So Pemi ’14 was off to a rollicking start even before as good an Independence Day as we can remember varied our program last Friday.
Our Fourth was preceded, the night before, by a lollapalooza thunderstorm, which began its slow approach just after supper. While the Intermediate campers and their counselors retreated to their cabins to see how the impending tempest would develop, the Seniors and Juniors hurried down to the Lodge for the first installment of the “Big and Little Buddy” program. The older guys introduced themselves to their younger counterparts and then enjoyed some tasty ’Smores together. More formal entertainment for the evening featured Ezra Nugiel and Nick Case on guitar, Nick performing an amazing medley of numbers ranging from “Hey, Soul Sister” to “Kids.” As some major storm clouds turned down our valley, though, and the raindrops began slapping at the roof, the remainder of the event was called, the Seniors dashing back to their nearby cabins as the Juniors were ferried back home in three vans. For those of you who know our “Marching Song,” their motorized progress down the lakeside was reminiscent of all those “plutocrats in their Cadillacs proceed[ing] on gasoline.” Not especially sustainable, perhaps, but the boys’ safety trumped any environmental concerns.
Now for the patriotic day itself. For the second year in a row, we decided to celebrate American drive and productivity by letting everyone sleep in for an extra half hour. Given the active first week, however, the extra sack time was hugely appreciated. The first special event of the day was the Annual Pee-rade, ably marshaled by Jonathan Merrin and blessedly free of the rain that had been predicted. The energy and creativity of the “floats” was as impressive as we can remember, all the way from the Juniors (who consoled themselves for the US soccer team’s exit from the World Cup by imagining what would happen if we played England, Canada, Scotland, Germany and – yes! – the Vatican City in “real” football on a “real” gridiron) to Senior Three (whose Stomp-inspired rendition of daily inspection set a new standard for rhythmic invention and verve. Watch and listen here! And reminded us that Alex Duval does indeed enjoy his sleep.). Both acts won First Prize in their divisions, each garnering a reward eminently appropriate for America’s Birthday – a bag of Swedish Fish. Other winners were (in the Lower Lowers) L-3, with “The Revolution,” featuring counselor Theo Nickols seeking to impose his tea habit on some feisty colonials, only to be downed and doused by his own highly-taxed beverage; L-7 (in the Upper Lowers) with “America’s Got Talent,” highlighted by Harrison Green as Danny Kerr exhibiting his knack for deodorizing his mellow retriever Bode (played with unnerving doggy-ness by Jackson Morrell); and U-5 with “A Commercial Break” (a hilarious little skit narrated by Kai Soderberg proving that, if nothing else, the spirit of capitalism really has infused the American psyche to its very heart.) This writer was particularly fond of S-1’s “Change of Perspective: G-day,” which turned the tables on our recent efforts to rid the shores of Lower Baker of the beautiful but chronically untidy geese that have paid us court for several years now. In the skit, three aggrieved fowl – “Goose R. Jr.,” “Reed Harrigoose,” and “Kenny” – deployed a distinctly bazooka-like “Big Bertha” and drove a gaggle of tuition-paying Pemi Kids right out of town. Maybe the act was too politically-correct for the judges, though, as Tighe Burnham’s boys garnered no more than Runner-up status.
Afternoon saw the traditional Pemi Independence Day baseball games replaced, for a second year, by the “Fourth of July Extravaganza.” All campers, young and old, were assigned to one of eight teams and – enjoined to don, variously, red, orange, light green, light blue, black, dark blue, white, or dark green clothing – participated in one of a huge variety of activities. Amongst them were a number of Minute to-Win It-style challenges: “Bouncer” (alternating throws, two players must bounce ping-pong balls into five cups on a table); “Bucket Head” (the bucket is held over a player’s head, and he must toss three ping-pong balls into the bucket, keeping his arm below his shoulder); “Cup Stack” (moving cups from the top of a stack to the bottom, alternating hands, until the odd-color cup is on top); “Cookie Face-off” (contestants move Oreos from their foreheads to their mouths without using their hands); “Scramble” (group puzzle-assembly at speed); “Cup Race” (blowing through a straw, participants move a cup from one end of a table to the other and off the end); “Skittle Carry” (moving one Skittle at a time from one bowl/table to another using only a straw [hint: try suction!]); “Stack ‘Em” (using only a cup, stacking die in a tower, ultimately five-high); and “Elephant Walk” (with boys using a “trunk” made of pantyhose and tennis balls to knock down a series of cones.) The level of hilarity—as you can imagine—was extreme, augmented by staff members whose lively and energetic oversight suggest that, should they someday find themselves amongst recent college graduates without a job, they have a solid shot at replacing Guy Fieri at NBC. Meanwhile, their color-coordinated teammates tried their hand at slightly more conventional activities: Wiffle Ball, beach tennis, croquet, and a special White Mountain variety of Bocce.
Hard on the heels of the Extravaganza came the always-popular Counselor Hunt. Popular with the campers, at least. Those of us who hide, while knowing perfectly well that the campers aren’t really out for our blood, sometimes can’t help but feel as we cringe out there amongst the ferns that we’ve awakened from a pleasant dream to discover we are the principals in Lone Survivor. Some seek comfort in coming up with creative outfits in which to hide (and tremble). We remember, when he was last on staff, Sam Seymour hiding in a very flattering purple Teletubbie costume. Unfortunately, Walmart was all out of funky togs in Sam’s size, and he ended up dressing in black acrylic paint styled as a tuxedo. First-timer Teagan Burham, somehow mistaking arctic for temperate camouflage, came captive out of the woods looking like a giant marshmallow garnished with sprigs of dill. T. H. Pearson favored the Gladiator look, sporting lacrosse shoulder and arm pads and a full helmet – none of which particularly protected him when, taking the obligatory plunge off the high-dive as a penalty for being caught, he succumbed to the crowd’s promptings and executed a kidney-stunning back flop. Dana Wensberg, on the other hand, went for the classic belly flop – which, from a height of ten feet, in tantamount to tackling Adrian Peterson in your pajamas. Scotsman Mike McKeand, back for his second year, once again sported his kilt – and, as he leapt from the diving tower, Mike thankfully revealed that some from his country do indeed wear Under Armor beneath their tartans. Special kudos to Andrew Brummer who, even though he’s only visiting for a few days, thrilled the boys by executing a perfect “Egg.” Oh, did we mention that Assistant Director Kenny Moore was caught for the first time in his sixteen years on staff? The aptly- (and afore-) named Will Katcher is the one who did it, ending the longest staff “dry streak” in our memory.
The Fourth wrapped up with an exceptionally well-paced and–performed vaudeville show, the first to take full advantage of this winter’s Lodge renovations. With the audience facing the huge expanse of glass looking out onto the pond and the green hill beyond, pianist Jack O’Connor got the show off to a lively start with a stellar rendition of **. He was followed by Robert Loeser, who gave us a “Star-Spangled Banner” worthy of a World Series game. The next two acts proved that virtuosity is not limited to our older campers, as Gus Bachner tickled the ivory with the always-charming “Linus and Lucy” and Alex Goldman gave his second stirring performance of the year, perfectly channeling Tom Petty in “Free Fallin’.” Next to the mic was hyper-talented Assistant Counselor Harry Eifler, who introduced most of us to the quirky Decemberists’ tune “Red, Right Ankle.” (We suggest you Google it when you have a spare moment.) Owen Fried then whisked us from the quirky to the sublime, delivering a flawless rendition of Mozart’s “Piano Sonata # 16” – before he swopped the keyboard for a guitar, joining the Pemi Rock Band for their stirring “Viva la Vida.” Joining Owen in the rhythm section was James Minzesheimer on drums, while Nick Bowman manned (and crushed!) the tenor sax, Becky Noel the violin, Dorin Dehls the electric keyboard, and Pierce Haley, James Kemp, and Ezra belted out the Coldplay vocals.
The crowd was already bouncing in their chair and Crazy Creeks when five bearded “Wizards” strode into the hall. Looking like Gandalf and Dumbledore but sounding more like Jay-Z or Notorious B.I.G, Eoin Mullaney, Nate Kraus, Matt Sherman, Matt Cloutier, and Dana Wensberg brought down the house down with their customized Pemi rap. It might have seemed an impossible act to follow – but then Ezra Nugiel strode to the piano and out-Adeled Adele with his version of “Skyfall.” Only “The Little People” could, in turn, have held the rapturous crowd’s attention next. The Eifler brothers—Wesley and Harry—closed the show with reckless abandon. Most of you know the drill—they put shoes on their own hands while two buddies behind them provided their apparent hands and arms—and they ran through the typical Pemi morning routine with a few minor glitches: shaving cream on their cereal, milk on top of their heads, gargling with liquid soap, etc. The act is a Pemi perennial, and seldom has it been done better. Our favorite line? Harry, after a supposed dash from breakfast back to inspection when only his “hands” seemed to move, confessed “Sometimes I forget to move my feet when I run. I sort of just float back to the cabin.” We could all have floated on tears of laughter.
Well, time to sign off. Stay tuned for next week’s missive, from Program Head (and Assistant Director) Kenny Moore. For now, we hope you all had a restful and happy holiday and that the camper letters headed your way are full of engaged and informative detail. Farewell for now.
~ Tom and Danny