I’ve held off writing about my trip to Zephyr for about a week. After I got back that day, I was pretty exhausted and I still had some other stuff to do. Plus, I wanted to savor the memories that flooded me while I was riding around the camp.
Change is good, right?
Well, even before I arrived at Zephyr, I called ahead a few days earlier to make sure it would be ok if I came by to take a tour and some pics. The girl I spoke to on the phone said it would be fine. She asked me how long it had been since I visited.
“About 15 years,” I said.
“Yeah, a LOT has changed since then,” she replied.
And she was correct about Zephyr, but Lagarto doesn’t seem to have changed much.
West Shore Baptist Church
This place was my first real taste of church. I was five when we started going here. I remember mostly good things about this church. There were a lot of people whose names I cannot remember who were very sweet to me and my family. I had a huge crush on this lady who taught an aerobics class on Saturdays at the church. Her name was Sharon Matthews and I wrote her a poem on my mom’s typewriter. And, of course, she thought it was so sweet and read it to the church.
That might have been the first time I ever wrote something to impress a girl. And I guess it kinda worked, even though she was 35 years older than me and married. At least she didn’t get disgusted when she read it (like the girl I wrote a note to in 8th grade). It seems odd thinking of her. I’m 33 now, so she must be somewhere in her mid- to late-60s.
The 534 Club
Now, I am still not entirely sure of all the circumstances surrounding my parents (and new step-dad) at this time in my life. I just know my mom and step-dad both drank. A lot. And fought. A lot. And I missed my real dad. A lot.
My mom got a job waiting tables at the 534 Club, which was just up the road from the two-bedroom trailer we lived in. There were a few times we were up at the bar when mom was working. I know from experience, trying to work while your kids are with you is a huge pain in the ass. But hey, we were in a bar and I guess she couldn’t afford a sitter.
Me and my brothers would play on one of the pool tables. Couldn’t get anyone to give us a few quarters for an actual game. Plus, I don’t think any of us knew how to play. So we played a form of air hockey with the cue ball.
I also remember being at the bar with my mom when the 49ers and Broncos played in Super Bowl XXIV.
The Little Green Store
I’d say this place is probably the most well known “landmark” in Lagarto. I think the last time I went here it was bright green. And I don’t remember alligators painted on the outside. But as long as it’s little, green, and a store, no one is gonna complain. Plus, it’s gotta sell beer (I checked, it does).
Sometimes, my brothers and I would walk to the little green store to get us some sodas. I would say we probably weren’t properly supervised by today’s standards. But we all turned out fine, I guess.
The main attraction
I pulled into the encampment and headed to the office. I had a nice conversation with the fella at the front desk. He seemed to be just a good ol’ boy who liked working outside with his hands. Not some overtly religious phony. I’m sure you think, based on what I’ve said before, that I think all churchgoers are phonies. But I don’t. We’re all just trying to get by as best as we can.
Here’s something different. A lake right next to the lake. A place for the kids to swim, but don’t have to worry about Lake C.C.’s currents or fauna. It was getting kinda hot out there and this pond looked inviting.
I had another conversation with someone else who worked at Zephyr as a groundskeeper. He’d been there for 10 years and he gave me a run-down on what has changed since I last came here. Honestly, I don’t remember much of what he said. I just remember asking him if it was still forbidden for campers to wear shorts in the tabernacle. He said that depended on the churches. Sort of a case-by-case basis. I felt kind of annoyed, because I remember our church chaperones saying the camp workers wanted us to show respect for the building by not wearing shorts in there.
Either way, it’s not a big deal anymore. The world’s going to hell, according to some, so what’s the big damn deal about wearing shorts in the South Texas summer inside a freakin’ building? Some might say that’s more practical. You could certainly believe god is practical, right? I would like to think so.
Now, ladies, gentlemen, all who might care, here’s the field where, on June 19, 2001, Lacey dumped me. She was wearing a shirt that said, “Carrot for one another,” and “Olive Jesus.” There were two other religous vegetable-related puns on it, but I can’t remember what they were. She also had a Winnie the Pooh visor on. She was the vision of loveliness. No, really. I have always thought that. She might not have thought it, but I certainly did. Even as her big blue eyes teared up when she told me we should break up. I wanted to cry just because of how beautiful she looked at that moment.
Our relationship, at that time, was a standard-issue high school relationship. It seemed better between us before we became a couple. Did that ever happen to you? You liked somebody so much, all you wanted was to be with them; then, when you finally, finally, become a couple, things get awkward. Like you’re suddenly supposed to be different. It felt like it was expected of you.
And so, after both of us feeling awkward for nearly four months, I started liking someone else. Someone who, at the time, didn’t make me feel awkward. Lacey picked up on it pretty quickly. And she decided, mercifully, to end things between us. She said she wanted us to be friends. And I thought she was being insincere.
But events took a turn where we ended up living across the street from each other a few months after that happened. And, well, we became a couple again. I think you know the rest of the story from there.
I don’t really believe in destiny, or in that phrase “everything happens for a reason.” I just believe things happen and we need to make the best of them. Good, bad or indifferent. Destiny can go suck an egg.
Clachie is a bitch to ride on. Especially if it has recently rained. It’s slick and not as packed down. And the photo above might not look like it, but that trail was easily the scariest patch of road I’ve ridden on to date. It was steep and had a crap-ton of large rocks going down. I actually got off my bike and walked down it to make sure I could handle it.
I walked back up, tossing some of the larger stones out of the way. I had to stay on the right side of the trail because the left side was craggy due to recent rain water running down. I took it oh-so-gingerly, squeezing my brake handle every few seconds. I slid down it, even with my brakes engaged. I was just trying to keep Daphne right-side-up so I wouldn’t have a 650-pound hunk of metal on top of me, sliding down a hill.
But I made it to the bottom, unscathed.
A nice view of the lake greeted me at the bottom of that scary ass trail. And yeah, this does look like a scene straight out of “Friday the 13th.” Only the legend I had heard when I was a kid was about Karankawa Joe. And it wasn’t very original. But, when I was 9, it scared the shit out of me.
Onward to the past
This doesn’t look like much, but this is the place where I met one of my best friends. I almost rode past it because everything was so overgrown. But this shitty old building caught my eye.
Now, I’m not going to bore you with the details on the circumstances of how I met Ryan back in 1991. It’s a story in an of itself. But it did involve a camp out, two hungry boys and a family-sized can of ravioli. By the way, when we go camping, to this day, we eat ravioli on the first night as a tribute.
I don’t want to tell his story for him, but Ryan also met his future wife at this camp about ten years after we met. I don’t think they shared ravioli, just one-liners and sarcasm.
It was getting about time for me to go, so I rode back up to the main road toward the office. I told the guy at the front desk “thank you” for letting me tour the place and take a few photos.
Why did we ever go?
I can safely assume 90 to 95 percent of the teenagers who went to Zephyr for summer camp did so because they wanted to have fun. Notions of spiritual growth were largely on the back burner. I feel pretty certain about that.
I can also safely assume the same percentage of kids did have fun. But what about the whole “spiritual growth” thing? Well, that is definitely more complicated.
So I will only speak on my experiences. Yes, I did feel like I had a close connection to god during the times I went there as a teen. It felt genuine. The music they played during times of worship made me feel good. And sometimes vulnerable. I shared a few secrets about my family life there during one of my trips.
All of what was shared with us by the camp leaders and speakers seemed to make sense. We were never given a preachy, I-know-more-than-you-because-I’m-an-adult lecture like we got in regular church.
But we were cloistered away from our real lives. I realized on the day before I was set to leave, that nothing in my life was really going to be different. As I returned the reality of school and family life, I didn’t really want to change. I liked using profanity. I liked who I already was, more or less. It didn’t bother me much that I didn’t have a great spiritual awakening.
I’m just glad I had fun. And I have some great memories.