December 2011 Talk: The Dinner Line with Liam Downey
Photo by Jake Stangel
AS SEEN IN THE DECEMBER 2011 ISSUE OF FREESKIER
WORDS BY LIAM DOWNEY
The dinner line is a technicolor congress of goggle-burned, logo-draped tweens. Only the little ones, “cretins” as they are called with guarded fondness, roam the campus concrete now. They forego nourishment in favor of dinner hour’s vacant trampolines and unused video game consoles. “I don’t need dinner! I just ate some gummy bears,” one grommet shrieks as he jukes two counselors in a headlong run, skateboard in hand. Without dietary direction, this one will ride his sugar high to the furthest limits of a 9-year-old’s metabolism (somewhere around 7:30 p.m.), at which point he will fall asleep in full skate padding and helmet.
“It’s Chinese night!” observes a mid-line camper known as Poopsmith. He has been saving up for a heavyweight scatological bout that is slated to take place in Cabin 10’s bathroom later tonight. The excrement architect looks about as pleased as Randy Marsh on his way to a PF Chang’s party. Behind Poopsmith’s crew stands Mike Hornbeck, whose curly nest of gray hair is being studied in a series of sidelong glances by a portly ginger camper with a bowl-cut. “My corn back,” the kid keeps saying under his breath, half approximating Hornbeck’s reaction to this knee-slapping amalgam, half hoping the coach will overhear and award his creativity with some free Armada gear.
Free schwag is, after all, the only currency with any purchasing power here at Windells. It’s not unusual to see an iPod traded for a tee shirt. Most of the older kids try to play it cool when there’s free stuff getting tossed around, but there are still one or two balding adult campers throwing elbows in the thick of each hog-wild scrap for stickers. The cretins fare the worst in the gear toss format, left to fend for scraps on the fringes of the frenzy. A head-bandaged camper at the front of the dinner line offers a grim reminder. He reenacts the free-shitstorm that caused his wound for the benefit of a girl in a bedazzled unicorn tall tee.
Even crutchless, this kid could pass for Tiny Tim in any grammar-school rendition of A Christmas Carol. His jaw-wrapped head dressing lends the boy a sort of meager conviction, which plays in his favor as flirtation gives way to spirited ski-geek debate. “I heard that Tom Wallisch bought a house for everybody in 4BI9, like Vince from Entourage,” upholds unicorn girl. “Well Witt Forester is in 4BI9, and he doesn’t live there,” Tim rebuts with confidence, “’Cuz he’s like, forty years old.”
In actuality, Witt’s last name is Foster and he’s only 23, but Tim has fallen victim to one of many common camper misconceptions: that it takes somewhere around a half-century to grow a beard. Old people are hardly his concern anyway, and Tim is counting on his head wound to earn him some combination of Gnar points and sympathy from his pig-tailed quarry. But the pair runs out of things to talk about by the time they have filled their plates, awkwardly exchanging Newschoolers account names before choosing picnic tables on opposite sides of the porch. The chicken, once so sweet in anticipation, has soured for poor Tim.
The food line is all but gone now. Its remaining members maintain a silent vigil, their attention divided between the dining hall TVs and a rudimentary sex-ed seminar taking place near the door. The lesson is being taught by a pimply kid. “Naw, he didn’t get a handy yet,” he tells his eager audience, pausing to adjust his turquoise headband and fake gold chain, which reads BLING in diamond-encrusted cursive. “But they’re prolly gonna 69 in a port-o-potty tomorrow.”
This information, while not intended to horrify a visiting dad seated nearby, seems to have exactly that effect. He has just left his son alone in the skatepark, next to which there is an entire row of these portable shitters. Dad pushes back his chair hastily, perhaps to gather his boy, perhaps to scold this pimpled prophet of lost innocence. His motive shall remain unclear, however—no sooner has he risen than he suffers a crippling blow to the shin by a passing cretin’s folded razor scooter. The ice-cream-chinned offender never looks back, knocking over two chairs on his way out the door.
The kids are tired, even at this early hour. The group dynamic of the glacier is all but gone now. The campers, girls and boys alike, have broken into gossip-ready same-sex groups of two or three. In these small spaces the dirt is sifted. The day’s accomplishments are compiled into checklists of achievements both real and imagined. Long after the last cabin light goes black, whispers cast the half-truths that make up fleeting friendships.