Monday, July 23, 2007

On the Road With Harry Potter

Faced with the prospect of another fun-filled weekend of home renovations and reorganizing, we ran away instead. We decided to visit Theo at the Boy Scout camp where he's working this summer and see how the simple life agrees with him. Anna was quite excited about this plan - she couldn't wait to sit in the van with her 4 younger siblings for over 3 hours and then walk around in the woods of southern Virginia. (There really should be a font which indicates sarcasm.) Her displeasure was only slightly ameliorated by the fact that while she was sitting in the car, she could read the latest (and last) Harry Potter book without being asked to stop and help around the house.

Because we were leaving so early Saturday morning, we had to visit the bookstore at midnight Friday to get the books (yes, 2 of them - David ordered his own copy). Alas, if it were only that simple. What we really had to do was show up at the bookstore Friday morning, before it opened, and get in line behind the approximately 100 people who were already there in order to get a wristband that would enable us to get the books at midnight. Then, Larry had to take them to the bookstore at 9 that evening so they could sit around and wait 3 hours to get their hands on the precious tome. We had been warned that if we showed up later than 9, we might not be able to get in. It was true. I was supposed to relieve Larry of bookstore duty at 10:30, but he called and said not to bother - there was no way to get past the mobs around the front of the store. And even if I did, there was a bookseller with a bullhorn barring entrance to latecomers. Booksellers with bullhorns, attempting to calm an agitated crowd - hard to picture, isn't it? Larry's voice seemed to be shaking a bit as he relayed this piece of information to me. "Are you guys all right?" I asked him. He said they were, he was just a little freaked out by the numbers of people wearing capes and brandishing "wands." I guess he almost got it in the eye a number of times. "What's going on here?" he asked me. That's what you get if you send a Potter virgin to one of these book release extravaganzas. They suddenly realize that they don't know what's happening. It's not my fault - I had begged him more than once to read the books and brush up on his Potter lore, but he refused.

Where was I? Oh, yes - they managed to get their books and escape the mob outside the store. (I'm told Larry was yelling at the kids, "Hold it close to your chest! Don't let anyone get it!" as they made their way between the lines of police tape and out to the parking lot.) When they got home, I immediately confiscated both books and told the kids to get to bed and get some sleep before the trip. Which I did too, after I read a couple of chapters. (You didn't think I was going to buy a third copy, did you?)

We found Theo well and happy in the woods of southern Virginia. We had a picnic by the lake and he gave us a tour of the camp, including the disheartening scene of the staff members on their day off, all sitting around in a circle by the tents and smoking like chimneys. Theo says that they're not worried about getting addicted to nicotine. They're just smoking because they like to smoke and they don't want to stop. But they're not addicted. That's what they've told him. So that's okay. Theo's not bad in the sarcasm department himself, you know.

Anyway, we walked with Theo to the camp headquarters where he found that his copy of Harry Potter had arrived (yes, our family now owns 3 copies of that book - what of it?). He wanted to finish reading it that day because he had a waiting list of several other staff members who were going to read it after him. For 5 dollars a day. Apparently, Theo is nobody's fool. So we left him to his reading and continued on to West Virginia, where we were staying at an out-of-the-way navy base for the night. We only got lost once, on a winding country road; but we were helped out by a pleasant old gentleman who apparently hadn't gotten to talk to anyone since Bush's first Inaugural. So along with giving us directions, he regaled us with tales of his experiences in the Pacific during WWII and then stories of his grandfather's experiences in the Civil War (excuse me, I mean the War Between the States - we're in Virginia, you know). (In case any of you Yankees aren't aware of it, the War Between the States was never really settled in these here parts.) Every once in a while he had to step aside to let a car or truck go by, but then he'd come back and start talking again. After we finally managed to drive off, Rachel piped up, "Do we know that man?" We do now, sweetheart.

The Navy base was extremely isolated and extremely well-equipped: up-to-date playground, community center, game room, swimming pool, you name it. (Everything seemed to be named after Senator Byrd. It's not hard to imagine why. That's one senator who knows how to bring home the bacon.) We had great lodgings (3 bedrooms, kitchen, livingroom) for a mere 60 dollars a night (again, your tax dollars at work). It was ringed by beautiful mountains, which Anna and David barely glanced at, as they were engrossed in Harry Potter. Still, Larry and I enjoyed the change in scenery and we plied the younger kids with enough junk food that they enjoyed the experience too. And I finally got my hands on The Deathly Hallows (Anna is a fast reader), so I was able to read it before anyone could ruin it for me. Larry, however, is remaining steadfast in his determination to be a Harry Potter ignoramus.

Now we're back home, and wondering what to do with the rest of the summer. July is sort of a long month, you know?

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