Thursday, July 05, 2007


No, that's not some drunkard's word-of-the-day, nor is it the new (illegal) prison where the U.S. keeps "detainees" (aka, "prisoners of war") to be "interrogated" (aka, tortured and held without Geneva Convention rights). Wow! Sorry about that! I guess my political nose is getting more bent out of shape lately...although there are so many different directions to sniff, I can't quite decide which head-shakingly awful thing our government has done THIS week to pounce on.


No, "BLFAC" is an unpronouncable acronym for Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, a fairly well-known summer camp near Michigan's west shore. I've been thinking about Blue Lake a lot today, because last night Dr. Tessmacher and I went to the St. Johns Independence Day festivities, and the highlight of the evening (fireworks excepted) was a performance by the BLFAC faculty band. Sitting there, watching those folks wear their ubiquitous blue shirts (and pants...and socks...and shoes...y'ever try to find BLUE SHOES? I mean the men, of course...) and playing their instruments, I was really transported back to my teenage years of Blue Lake attendance.

First things first. For those who DON'T know, Blue Lake was formed in 1966, and while the band-o's probably think of it primarily as a MUSIC camp, it really does treat dance and visual art on an equal footing. I think that reputation-wise, Blue Lake is kind of second banana to our perhaps more-famous arts academy, Interlochen. I've never been to the Interlochen summer camp, so I have no point of comparison. But, as Interlochen also serves as a year-round school, their "campus" is much more collegey-looking than Blue Lake, which retains the rustic charm of unheated cabins and dirt trails.

When I was in junior high, my parents kind of signed me up to go to the junior version of Blue Lake, called Camp Emery. I spent two weeks in August at Camp Emery before both 7th and 8th grades. While there, I was immersed in all of the musical challenges that my own small-town band could never afford me. I also learned how to REALLY kiss, courtesy of a cute blonde bari sax player named Laura (and yes, I gallantly hauled that fucking saxophone all over camp for her...but, y'know, she was a year older than I was and she was a very patient teacher of kissing, willing to devote almost all our free time to it). Ahem.

By the time high school rolled around I had gotten completely over my first-summer jitters of being away from home, and I tackled Main Camp with gusto. Good friend Lisa of Great Lakes Running Gal was there that summer, with her friend Sue. Who played the horn. (Note to self: sax embouchre = good kisser; horn embouchre...not so much.) I made some great friends at main camp: mainly Bill and Jeff, but there were other guys too, like Rick, who flitted mothlike around the bright light created by the three of us. It's odd, though: I never kept in touch with these guys. It's like...we were "camp friends" only. I saw Bill a few times while I was in college, and Jeff randomly emails me every few years...but, really, it's been almost 20 years since I've seen these guys.

I met my "first love" at main camp. GJ and I kept up a relationship throughout high school, but she lived near one end of Michigan and I lived near the other, and we really didn't see each other much outside of camp. She taught me a lot about myself in those formative years of being a boyfriend; you know, what is and is NOT acceptable to say, concepts of loyalty and truthfulness, and how to really work on developing a relationship that was deeper than one based solely on kissing. Even though GJ was a year YOUNGER than I was, I always felt like she was the older one; I'll be the first to admit that, in certain ways, I took a VERY long time to reach "maturity."

I also learned a lot about MUSIC at Blue Lake, which I guess was supposed to be the ultimate reason I went to camp in the first place. My high school band director, Mr. B, was a nice guy who did a lot to keep my musical passion burning bright, but he just didn't have the resources in our tiny town to do a lot. At Blue Lake I consistently worked with Tracy, a young George Carlin lookalike who drove various incarnations of VW buses and looked like he partied pretty hard once we campers were snug in our bunks. He did great things with me percussively, and it was always a treat to see him every summer. By the third summer, I asked him if I could be be excused from our daily studio work, inasmuch as I'd heard him teach it for two years. He allowed this, but put me to work with a vibraphone trying to pick out the notes of Over The Rainbow by ear. I did pretty well, not having the slightest clue that he was having me engage in basic ear-training. Good for him...AND me!

George "Tracy" Tyler and his bus.

In the summer before my senior year Gail and I arranged to do the Bavarian Tour together. We spent the month of July, 1985 wandering around (at that time) West Germany (including a great picnic day at Checkpoint Charlie), Denmark and Switzerland. This was a great musical time for me. Also I learned to drink and smoke. A-heh. Whoops.

Me, GJ and friends on the road to Neus...Nuyschwan...
fuck, that Disneyland Castle!

The sign you never wanted to see.

Ricardo helping Goran "escape" into E. Berlin.

I've not actually been back to Blue Lake since 1984, which seems like kind of a funny thing to me now. I mean, I probably only live a couple of hours from the camp, IF THAT, but I never go there. That's kind of a thing with me, in some instances. For as nostalgic a guy as I can occasionally be, there's a "face front!" aspect of my personality that puts certain times and places away in storage, to be sifted through like report cards of old, but never - NEVER! - revisited. And, like said report cards, eventually it feels like these experiences happened to "someone else," someone who only bears the most peripheral of relationships to who I am now. Hmmm. I must investigate this some future mind-numbing self-psychoanalytical blog. Don't wait up.

So, Blue Lake. As I sat there in the park last night, with dusk falling and bugs crawling around on my bare feet, the smell of pines and fresh leaves came drifting over me and I felt transported back to the band shell at camp. That's JUST the kind of thing a nostalgic guy like me appreciates, and perhaps one of the primary reasons I desired a Spawn: so that I could create these kinds of memories for her, so that a band concert in the park with fireworks afterward becomes a night of fullest magick.

P.S. (No Spawn yet. Maybe tomorrow...?)


Blogger L*I*S*A said...

Ah, yes.


Such a lovely acronym.

Many things learned, lived and lost those many summers ago.

I'm gonna dig out my baby blue polo shirt.

11:40 PM  
Blogger Suze said...

I actually worked at Interlochen for a summer in college. I stocked drinks in the store -- not exactly a glamorous job, but it was a great summer. I have heard of Blue Lake camp. Enjoyed this :)

7:42 AM  
Blogger Gknee said...

Blue Lake!! Oh how I love thee!

I hated the knee high light blue socks though. I would get in trouble for scrunching them down.

After High School was a counselor at Camp Emery. You think being a camper is fun!?! ;)

7:43 AM  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

I went to music camp. I have the scary pictures - complete with eighties hair - to prove it.

But, yes - the magic of music and art and literature and film... that's why *I* had a spawn.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Kim said...

Nothing like learning to kiss from a reed player. BTW, did I mention I played clarinet?

4:00 PM  
Blogger kat said...

Ok, I feel like I have to defend brass players as kissers... although, hmm, I think you're right about the french horn players - those WERE bad kissers.

BUT, we trumpet players are MUCH better. You'll, um, just have to take my word for it.

And, I guess I should throw in some words about BLFAC. I had sooo much fun there. A lot of us band-o's went together, stayed in the same cabin, and generally made our counselor's life interesting. It was also the first place I had to get some orchestra experience, which was great. I remember a lot more of the silly fun things we did than the music (it's the opposite for my time at Interlochen)...but the fun part was right for that middle-school, first-time-at-camp age. Plus, like you pointed out, I was probably learning things on the sly while having fun.

Thanks for the memory trip!

7:40 AM  
Blogger Mike said...

since fun guv was a sax player i'll hav eto agree with the kissing prowness of the instrament.

never went to blue lake as interlochen was 5 miles from the house growing up.

But i love how blue lake was the inspired "band camp" of american pie fame....nice refernce point for the fact a flautist is spawning for you.

10:32 AM  
Anonymous renee said...

Wow! loved BLFAC! and, uhm, I did happen to pick up a bumper sticker in the General Store that said: "Horn players have great lips." But I guess that doesn't say much about our kissing... ;-) (I tried... btw-- remember the end of the week dances? I vaguely remember something possibly called "checkpoint charlie" when the lights were all turned off for a song, opportunity for lots of kissing... learned some great things one year from a bassoonist... ah memories...)

Light blue knee socks-- Yikes! especially heinous in the early '90s when scrunching was the thing! I was perpetually embarrassed...

I was a camper off and on from about 1987-1991... did the Germany/Denmark/Sweden tour thing in 1988... great times!

Thanks for the memory!

1:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OMG! I think I went to blfac camp with you ... sooo ... soooo ... long ago. something about the smell of tree bark mulch too.

Thanks for the memory stir. Was a camper '83, '84, then Interlochen '85, and WMU '86-87.

Played clarinet in the military after college ... now I engineer computer networks for the federal gov't ... who'da thought!

I miss summers back home in MI ... live in DC now ... maybe it's just good childhood memories.

warm regards,


4:31 AM  

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