Currently, my housemate and fellow comedian Josh Orr is serving as a camp counselor at a Quaker camp in the Appalachian wilderness. He wrote me a very sweet letter which I have reproduced below as well as the reply I sent him shortly after receiving it. Enjoy.
Dear ______* Family,
I have the flavor of iodized water in my mouth, and I just wiped my ass with a smooth stick. Then I sanitized my hands. I am camping on the Appalachian trail. All is lovely.
It may vindicate and still irk Miles to know that I have been happily singing songs about god for three weeks. I am still an atheist, and we’ve been singing non-god songs too, but as you know, that thing they sing to when they sing about god, it does appeal to me.
Seems like some of my eleven campers believe in god, but we don’t really talk about it. Most of them are just here for the teen adventure. Many of them seem somewhat interested in becoming shamans, since my co-leader and I introduced them to our shared set of spirit animal tarot medicine cards. So our campers think we’re fruitcakes, and they’re right.
One camper was assigned to my group because the camp director has felt for years that this young man should be a stand up comedian. He has been picking my brain about it, which is is fun.
Teenagers are often too self-absorbed and also too awestruck by older folks, so they don’t ask us any questions. But slowly the comfort level is rising, the teeter totter power dynamic becomes closer to the ground. Everyone has begun making fun of the fact that I’ve worn the same t-shirt for 8 days, and I welcome them to do so.
Here’s a joke I heard on the river, during a canoe trip in which we impaired four canoes and split one down the middle:
What do you call a skeleton in the closet?
Last year’s hide-and-seek champion!
A camper told me I look like the sort of guy who has an organic garden. I told her she was right. Now and again I wonder how big the tomato plants are and I wonder how hot the house is getting and I wonder what shenanigans are cooking on our couch in our nacho-colored living room and I think about how nice it will be to sit around some afternoon on the porch and do nothing but talk shit with you. I miss it all and our street , and reggae music at the flea market. But for now I’m still thrilled to have my food on my back or, more accurately, on the backs backs of the eleven little wood nymphs I boss around.
*Name of our house derived from street we live on
And then here is my reply:
I am glad to hear that you are neither sick nor injured and furthermore that you are able to derive so much satisfaction from so little. It is not surprising to hear you are enjoying the light religious propaganda offered at your camp. Your fetish for christian faith can only be likened to the rape fantasies of an avowed feminist.
I myself have been enjoying bicycle rides across Berkeley in order to attend my yoga workouts. My instructors regularly remind me that it is yoga practice and not yoga perfect, but I’ll show them ; (. In the evenings I perform stand up comedy in front of full grown adults. Then I go to sleep in my bed covered in soft sheets where I am free to masturbate as I please.
I imagine it is tough to relate with those awkward, self involved youngsters. “No more Terrence, from now on it’s TJ” thinks a young man to himself as you dangle a limp, broken tarot card in front of his flickering human headlights. But I know that you will win them over much like the hero in one of your beloved films about an educator who takes a risk when he or she starts to care about kids that everyone else has given up on, except with your campers there is an army of people engineering their success.
It isn’t difficult to picture you leading these children into catastrophe like a wilderness Willy Wonka. Each of them suffering a unique and horrendous fate at the hands of parasites, poisonous flora, and dangerous animals while you lead the remaining campers in an impromptu ditty summarizing the fate of the kid who was just raped by a male deer. At least by the end of the tour each surviving member of your group will have a horrific souvenir in the form of scar tissue, a missing finger, or the inability to see out of one eye, then won’t someone have a good story come first day of school?
Hope all is well.