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Letter from Koji

Santa Rosa, Calif.
Oct. 8, 2001

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Last week, for my birthday, I decided to impose Yosemite on the family. Only a few weeks ago, we had embarked on our first camping trip ever with the chums, just a short drive up the coast for an overnight a few feet from the car in a county campground, but I was convinced we'd never actually make it through. We didn't even know what campground we were supposed to meet John & Nancy at. We drove around three different Sonoma Coast campgrounds before I finally spotted a pay phone and called Bruce to ask him where the hell I was supposed to be. He wasn't surprised at all that I didn't know, and he told me where to go, but by the time we got there they had left for home and given the campsite to someone else. Stuck on the campsite marker was a sign from Marisa and Kim to their two friends: "Gone to the store." Hmmm. Only four women. Would they mind four strangers, two of them under 4 feet tall, sharing their tiny camp site with them? We set up our chairs and decided to find out.

It turned out to be one of those serendipitous surprises that there's no planning for, but the kind of thing that, when you think of it, reminds you to get your butt out of the house and into the car for an outing or a trip, rather than staying home and fixing things, just because things like this happen when you do. It turned out our four camping mates didn't have any objection to our hanging out with them. They even shared their wine with us that night and their Jiffy Pop with us the next morning. Kim, it turns out, has a rottweiler who sounds a little like Barry White when he snores; Marisa has a terrier named Koji who was happy to let Em and Ellie lead him up and down the rocks like he was a mountain goat all evening and the next day. Now, weeks later, both girls are getting love letters from Koji, and based on what I know about human boys, I think I'd offer up the dowry and blessing to old Koji if he came 'round asking.

So we're campers. We camp. I had no trouble talking Jen into a trip to Yosemite on my 39th birthday. She was as good a sport as she ever is when we're going anyplace but Paris, which is the only place she really wants to go. On the approach to the park, we stopped for a pit stop in Coulterville, where we quickly discovered a sweet little saloon on the ground floor of an old stage coach hotel, dating back to 1850. Halfway through two MGDs, we noticed Em was missing, then discovered her in the pool room where a regular was showing her how to use the cue stick to break. I don't mind that, just please don't rip the felt, because I don't think I can get the four of us out the door, into the Jetta, and out of town before the sheriff comes looking for us to pay up. We stayed until someone (Em? Jen?) dropped the cue ball while trying to sink the 8. We missed the late afternoon sunlight on Half Dome and El Capitan for this diversion, and rolled into Lower Pines campground as dusk gave way to dark, still happy from discovering the joint, and maybe a little proud of our girls for not ripping the felt on the pool table.