This morning I did this ritual I’ve done many times over the years. Cleaning up somebody’s abandoned campsite in the Berkeley hills.
This one was a mysterious one. Last year these guys hauled up enough camping gear to last for years. Everything but the proverbial kitchen sink (actually they DID have this portable wash tub). But then they were almost NEVER there. I only talked to them once, briefly, the whole time. It seemed bizarre that they would set up this elaborate camping set-up and then rarely use it (I speculated they might have been using it for some kind of marijuana processing operation or something more shady).
Anyways I figured I better take care of it today before the rains start coming in. Because it’s a real mess to try and clean up a muddy, wet, mildewy pile of crap.
I don’t know if you can tell from the photo but the terrain is pretty treacherous. It’s very steep. One mis-step and you’ll fall 30, 40 yards. And you won’t STOP falling until you hit the dry creek below. They had leveled just enough land for a two-man tent and that was about it.
It took me two hours to pack up all the crap (the photo only shows part of the mess). And then the real pain in the ass — hauling it all down the road to several garbage cans. By the time I was done I was soaked with sweat and cursing the gods. It’s a chore. But it’s made tolerable by the wonderful realization that these bums would never be gracing my neck of the woods ever again. And amen to that.
I swear to God one of these days I am going to KILL that goddamn wild turkey. He’s been stalking me — and my cat food dish — for YEARS now. Every morning he’ll be CONSTANTLY circling around my campsite from every direction. And as soon as my back is turned he’ll make a mad dash for the cat food.
Well this morning I happened to feed my feral cats a tin of baked ham. Which was pretty salty. So naturally the cats were pretty thirsty. But wouldn’t you know it? As soon as my back was turned that goddamn turkey made a play for the cat food dish. And in the process the clumsy goon knocked over the water dish and spilled out all the water. So now I gotta go all the way down the road to this spigot to get more water for my goddamn cats.
I was so pissed I had a bit more speed than usual and I chased that goddamn turkey all the way down the hill screaming bloody murder all the way. And I picked up a big branch and hurled it at him and hit him right on the butt. He jumped up squawking and feathers flying and disappeared off into the woods.
It’s only the third time I’ve actually hit that turkey in all these years. I have terrible aim. It was very satisfying.
I pulled another genius move last night. As many of you know, I camp in the Berkeley Hills. And I literally camp on the side of a hill.
So last night I go staggering up to my campsite around midnight. And I got my sleeping bag in a bag. But I put it down in the wrong place. And it went rolling all the way down the hill. Much to my chagrin.
Its pitch dark. And I’m drunk. But I made a heroic effort to find my sleeping bag. I blindly staggered down the hill. Slipping and falling into the rain-soaked mud on several occasions. But, to my credit, I didn’t break my fool neck.
So, after much pointless thrashing in the bushes in the darkness — and cursing the gods for the cruel fates they inflict on mortal men — I concluded it was hopeless. There was no way I could find my sleeping bag. So i staggered back up the hill. Falling into the mud several more times (several more loud curses at the gods, the bastards) and made it back up to my campsite. On my hands and knees.
Fortunately I had some ratty blankets stashed in the bushes. But lets just say it wasn’t the most comfortable night I ever spent. And at least Mini Scaredy, the feral cat, had the decency to sleep on top of me all night long to add an extra layer of warmth. And the next morning I retrieved my sleeping bag at the bottom of the hill and lived happily — if muddily — ever after.
The kittens had been missing for the last 10 days. I don’t know why. Mom is holing them up in a secret nest somewhere. But the whole gang came barging into my campsite in the middle of the night last night. Meowing incessantly. They were HUNGRY!!
I wake up still half-drunk. My campsite is a total mess. My cardboard matting is wet from the rain and falling apart. My blankets are strewn haphazardly in the mud. And the raccoons have dragged my backpack down the hill (bastards!). Its pitch dark. But after frantically searching through 20 different bags I manage to find a can opener and a can of mackerel.
But the can opener is a piece of junk. It opens the can halfway and stops working. The kittens can smell the mackeral so they’re really going nuts now, jumping all over me and meowing so loudly I think they’re going to hyperventilate. Which doesn’t help matters. I’m trying to pry the can open with my hands. And its one of those weird real life dramas where NOTHING is more important at this particular moment in time and space than getting this damn can of mackeral open. If only to shut up the cats. The fate of the universe is hanging in the balance.
Finally, after several lifetimes, I manage to pry the can open with a razor. Plop the food in the dish. And the cats eat breakfast happily ever after.
And I plop back down on my blankets. Its a triumph of the human spirit, I tell ya.
Of all the feral cats at my campsite, Fatty is probably the least “feral.” She has none of the high-strung paranoia and aggressiveness that most of the other cats have. Her personality is incredibly sweet and easy-going. While the other cats all attack the cat food like sharks at a feeding frenzy the second I start putting it in the dishes. Fatty always stands back and patiently waits for an opening. I often have to make a special effort to make sure she gets her food and doesn’t get left out.