Embracing camp culture . . . As a grown up

It’s the end of summer. Kids are coming back from a mind-boggling variety of summer camps–from week-end art camps to stay-for-a-month horse riding camps and everything in between. But while I was reading American Airlines in flight magazine I saw an ad for a different kind of camp, a camp for grown ups. The “Game of Thrones” camp is a role-playing camp and so authentic they only dry clean the real fur cloaks twice a year. One can only imagine the authentic smell.

That article got me thinking about my own, most recent (and more pleasantly scented) grown up camp experience at Full Moon Resort in the Catskills. It’s called Music Masters Camp because the resort invites different master musicians to host week long intensive music camps. Usually about 100 Campers leave their cell phones and good internet behind for the woods and streams and their new home; tents, cabins, barns, and a communal dining hall.

My particular camp, the “Three of a Perfect Pair” music camp is held in August and hosted by three musicians who have played in the legendary group King Crimson: Pat Mastelotto (my husband) Tony Levin and Adrian Belew. King Crimson is considered the godfather to a genre of tricky and difficult-to-play music called ‘Progressive’, and it attracts a unique combination of talented musicians and brainiac fans. No, I am not a musician, nor a brainiac fan. I went with my husband.

For the first couple of years of attending this camp, I maintained my role as an interested observer. But a wondrous thing happened; I became one of them. This camp is now my camp, these Campers are now my people. It’s more like being invited to join a secret society and discovering, in addition to a common interest, a love for each member. We even have our own ‘Honk’. How did this happen?
It’s a simple technique, really, and it’s frequently used by foreign language schools. It’s called ‘immersion’. I was immersed up to my eyeballs in camp culture. And it changed me.

How does camp culture work? Professor H. W. Scarlett once wrote, “You get a rustic setting, away from modern devices … so you’re connected to the natural world and thrown back for the first time on your own instincts. Camp stresses caring – not a phony kind of care, but a very deep caring for the group. It takes time to develop that sense of community.” That’s why going every year seems to be important, and why it took a few years for camp to ‘take’ with me. You can’t just observe camp; you must immerse yourself in it.

Real camps, of course, sell the dream of perfecting something; that’s why you sign up. It actually does happen, but that’s not the treasure you take back with you to the real world. The true value you get from the camp experience is change. As camp photographer Avraham Banks wrote, “Now i feel like an old piano that was finally tuned. For how long will i maintain the change? There are people i met that made my life better.”
Me too Avi, me too.