Summer 2015: Newsletter # 2
As we scribble away at this on Sunday, July 5th, we can say with all honesty that Pemi 2015 is off to a terrific start. One dependable gauge of a successful seasonal kick-off is singing in the Messhall, which we indulge in at every mid-day and evening meal. Seldom have our collective croonings been more lusty than this past week, as we have picked up old favorites like “We’re From Camp Pemigewassett” and “The Happy Wanderer” with all the passion and spiritual frenzy of a revivalist choir, complete with hand and body motions for every other word. You haven’t experienced Pemi until you’ve seen 250 young men, women, and boys all but soaring under the Big Top as they sway back and forth, side to side, belting out the lyrics to “The Man on the Flying Trapeze.” First-year pianist Luke Raffanti has been remarkable picking up the downbeat from Oberlin keyboard predecessors like Ian Axness and Josh Hess with unerring deftness and musicality. Speaking of fast musical starts, we all stand in awe of English rookie counselor Jed Cutler who is doing our bugling despite never really having picked up a horn until a couple of months ago. If he maintains his learning curve, Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis beware!
Speaking of music, tryouts for this year’s Gilbert and Sullivan production, The Mikado, have recently moved through call-backs to the posting of the cast. So flooded was director Dorin Dehls with talented camper aspirants that more of the principal roles are going to tuition-paying individuals than we can ever remember. Only the parts of Pooh-Bah and the Mikado himself require a performer truly broken and embittered by the trials of a long life such that it was necessary to cast older and more jaded sorts (Larry Davis and Tom Reed, Jr. respectively.) Meanwhile, romantic royal rebel Nanki-Poo will be played by Caleb Tempro, hesitant headsman Ko-Ko by Nicholas Gordon, chief nobleman and bottle-washer Pish-Tush by George Cooke, the fetching if somewhat vain Yum-Yum by Drew Johnstone, generally wise schoolmaiden Pitti-Sing by Owen Wyman, her mischievous schoolmate Peep-Bo (on successive nights) by Christopher Ramanathan and Henry Moore, and G&S’s answer to Maggie Thatcher and Liz Taylor rolled into one, Katisha, by Lower Baker dramatic mainstay Ezra Nugiel. Campers in the choruses include Ted Applebaum, Eli Brennan, Jonathan Ciglar, Andreas Geffert, Oliver Giraud, Tanner Howson, and Simon Taylor (all of them Schoolgirls) and Sam Berman, Pierce Haley, Tucker Jones, Suraj Khakee, and Owen Lee (all of them Noblemen – in both role and character.) The show is bound to be brilliant. (Parents of boys in the cast are welcome to attend—either Tuesday, August 11 or Wednesday, August 12—though if you can’t, don’t fret as DVDs will be available).
Despite a couple of soggy days, the Trip Program has also been quick out of the starting gate. Lowers 5, 6, and 7 and Upper 3 have already enjoyed al fresco suppers across the lake at Pine Forest and Flat Rock, and Ridley Wills and the boys of Junior Three spent Wednesday night at our Adirondack shelter on Pemi Hill, enjoying by full moonlight the newly cleared view of Mt. Carr, six miles distant at the bottom of our valley. Juniors 1, 2, 5, and 6 have all scaled Rattlesnake Mountain, a modest but strategically placed (and actually snakeless!!) eminence in the Baker Valley over towards Plymouth from which views of West Rumney down below are charmingly reminiscent of an HO-gauge train layout. Add ascents of our immediate neighbor Mt. Cube by Lowers 1, 2, 3, and 4, an optional, pick-up jaunt up Mts. Welch and Dickey near Waterville, and two abbreviated back-packing trips and our total outings for Week One hit sixteen – with only three real fair-weather days we could work with. The most ambitious expedition was that led by specialist trip counselors Harry Morris and Michael Kerr, on which Noah Bachner, Wilson Bazant, Jacob Berk, Pierce Haley, James Allen, Nick Bowman, and Matt Edlin spent a gorgeous night at Garfield Ridge tent-site northeast of Mt. Lafayette – proceeding the next day across the ridge to Galehead Hut and then down the Gale River Trail to Route 3. Surely there were many moments of accomplishment and satisfaction on all of the other jaunts, though, and we look forward with keen anticipation to next week’s three trip-counselor-led overnights and pair of pilgrimages to the two AMC huts in the Presidential Range.
As with trips, so with sports. Last week saw the 13s and 11s soccer teams acquitting themselves well on the pitch in our annual Baker Valley Tournaments (one standout being David Armini, who netted 5 goals in three matches for the younger team!). 10s baseball dropped a close one to our neighbors at Camp Moosilauke, but on Friday, in a Bonanza day of sports involving all age-groups and including soccer, basketball, ultimate Frisbee, baseball, and lacrosse, Pemi ended the day with 21 wins against 6 losses and 1 tie. As important for us as the victory count was the fact that the entire day was marked by the best of sportsmanship to balance the competitive spirit. Also of note was the last of the update announcements in the Messhall that evening, when Ezra Nugiel rose to announce that the Pemigewassett Nature Team had enjoyed singular success in a local butterfly field – with a special shout-out to ninth-year camper Patterson Malcolm who “most impressively chased his insect all the way from one side of the field to the other.” Ezra’s encomium brought down the house with laughter, but it did make a nice point about the range of things Pemi guys can get pumped about.
If you were to walk down to the Boat House right now you would see, arrayed along the shore, five compact single shells, just rented in anticipation of returning Visiting Professional Jean Friedman (mother of Jacob Smalley and Emerita Coach of Rowing at Mt. Holyoke College), who will be teaching three hours of occupations this coming week. Jean’s classes were a huge hit last summer, even before everybody in the world had read The Boys in the Boat, and the sign-ups in 2015 are sure to be energetic. Jean’s residency, by the way, follows that of former counselor and current prep-school teacher and lacrosse coach Kevin O’Brien, who spent the better part of last week with us passing along some key lax-at-summer-camp pointers to first-year Lacrosse Head Max Breschi (Yup, nephew of Joe B. at UNC!) When he wasn’t out on the field, Kevin was teaching Pemi’s first ever occupation in Power Yoga (which he assures us is not an oxymoron.) Talk about innovation, you should have been in the Lodge on Wednesday to see roughly 70 campers and staff members staying out of the rain and getting into the Cobra Pose, the Boat Pose, and (our personal favorite) the Downward-Facing Dog Pose.
We can only imagine what the original Four Docs, all of them stoic athletes from Oberlin College, would have said to see their Spartan brand of baseball in the rain devolve into chakra-quests on an indoor yoga mat. And speaking of the cosmically unprecedented, the decision has just been taken to postpone this week’s regular Sunday evening meeting and, instead, watch as a camp the finals of the Women’s World Cup Soccer Tournament between the United States and Japan. Back in 1908, our Sunday meeting was undeniably Protestant in form and content, and while for multiple decades now we’ve gone completely Humanist and non-sectarian – and taking full note of the fact that, in many parts of the world, Football itself is virtually a religion – it’s easy to imagine there will be some ancestral grave-spinning going on as we tune in to Fox for the big match. After all, one of our signature Pemi tunes, penned and scored by Dudley Reed, confirms that at Pemigewassett “we sport on land and water, /far from Eve’s disturbing daughter.” Then again, the parenthetical thought that follows is, in truth “Though, perhaps, we hadn’t oughter!” Okay! So let’s just take this to mean that, even back in the last century’s teens, folks at Pemi were already suspecting that gender attitudes might need some re-working. So, we’re fully prepared to move ahead with our radical Sabbath-night plans. We can already hear the chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A!” issuing from man, boy, and woman alike as Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe, and Hope Solo take the field. Here’s to the Eves of America, fierce, fit, and fighting for glory!
Speaking of patriotism, we could easily go on to document all the varied components on our annual Fourth of July celebration – Pee-rade, Vaudeville, Counselor Hunt and all. We shall, however, leave them to your boys to describe, either in their letters home or as part of your excited and informative post-camp de-briefings. For now, we will sign off with renewed observations that the summer is starting off very well indeed. We look forward to being back in touch in a week’s time.
— Tom and Danny