Thursday, July 19, 2012

This sleepaway camp.. the Adirondacks costs $11400 a summer and is practically impossible to get into.  So goes the headline about Raquette Lake Summer Camp in upstate New York.  However, yours truly did get into that camp, and for free, in 1979, as a soccer coach thanks to the  British Universities North America Club (which has meanwhile itself expanded somewhat, it would appear).

What I found in the  summer camp didn't seem particularly exclusive: dangerous flints in the soccer fields, lavatories that didn't function until the day before Parent's Visiting Day and endless peanut butter sandwiches - yuk!  The only hint of exclusivity was John D. Avildsen, the Director of Rocky, who came to visit his son, landing in a helicopter and stepping out in a boiler suit. Still, shining flashlights at  the bears at night was fun (you could only see their eyes) and we won the World versus USA Soccer Game  8-0 - I still have the pennant!

That first hop across the pond to New York in 1979 was epic - 24 hours in an "Evergreen Airlines" DC 10 that took off from London, stopped at Paris, then refueled at both Shannon, Ireland and Bangor, Maine before limping into  JFK. I then  got in a yellow New York taxi cab and getting out forgot the direction traffic flowed on American streets and opened the door on the  wrong side.  A passing truck slowly bent the door back 180 degrees  - oops! 

Churchill did worse in 1931, though  - making the same mistake he stepped into Fifth Avenue and was run over. He later wrote, "There was one moment--I cannot measure it in time--of a world aglare, of a man aghast. I certainly thought quickly enough to achieve the idea 'I am going to be run down and probably killed.' Then came the blow." Fortunately, Churchill's injuries, while requiring three weeks in hospital, did not threaten his life. "I do not understand," Churchill wrote, "why I was not broken like an eggshell or squashed like a gooseberry . . . I certainly must be very tough or very lucky, or both."

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