The Summer Camp That Made Me a Commie
At 15, I didn’t know a whole lot about life. In many ways I was a typical teenager, which is to say: stupid. And to be honest, I was pretty much fine with that. Unless it involved the physical act of love, I really wasn’t all that interested in learning about anything. I certainly didn’t have any firm ideological convictions outside of a general, since-proven-correct sense that everything is kind of terrible. But that changed after I spent a week of my young dumb life at a summer camp for losers learning about the power and glory of free enterprise that explored both the philosophical arguments for capitalism as well as the practical reality of it.
By the end of the week I was a communist.
Why did I attend? Who knows? Maybe it was boredom or a desire to spend some time away from my parents and asshole friends. Perhaps it was a simple, base desire to ineptly hit on and try in vain to hook up with girls who were from other schools and thus not yet in on the secret that I was most definitely not cool. Whatever the case, during the hot and steamy mid-Atlantic summer of 2000 I packed up my things and headed off to a small Pennsylvania college to be indoctrinated by local business leaders.
Before you ask: Yes, of course my life is full of regret. But like World War I, the camp was inarguably something to do. But, again—and this is important—it also raised the possibility of mingling with members of the opposite sex who, given that this was Camp Capitalism, could very well determine it in their own rational self-interest to engage in a minimal amount of physical contact with me. I brought a copy of The Fountainhead just in case.
The camp was called Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week, founded by business interests in 1979 to address the “compelling and urgent issue of workforce preparedness.” I could look forward to hearing from people like then-governor and future terror-threat color announcer Tom Ridge about how big business is what makes America great and how the propertied elites should be left to rape and pillage the working class as they see fit—and applauded for their initiative (not his exact phrasing).
After settling in to our dorm rooms, the campers—a diverse array of white middle-class nerds from eastern Pennsylvania—were broken into teams and ordered to establish the rigid hierarchy necessary for any exploitive power structure to flourish. With a local businesswoman as our mentor, we dutifully chose among ourselves a CEO, a CFO, and all the other assorted middle-management ways to say “asshole.” Our purpose? To compete in a fun and educational simulation of the business world where we’d sell undefined “widgets” to made-up clients.
Each morning our team would receive a printout listing our fake assets and the fake demand for our fake products, upon which we were supposed to base decisions about allocating our resources. We would then submit our decisions to the adults, who would in turn leave our fate to the devices of a Dell home computer. That the results would be determined by an inscrutable mix of dumb luck and algorithms was a deft, realistic touch.
As the future unemployable English major of the group, I naturally fell into the role of the bullshitter, aka the ad guy. It was my job to draft compelling copy about how my firm’s brand of widgets would help you attain spiritual fulfillment and last longer in bed, which I presented along with our firm’s future plans before a group of faux shareholders. Since my charisma is not quantifiable by mere machine, this portion of the contest was judged by the human automatons in charge of everything. And the sort of damning thing is they liked me. A lot, actually. Turns out I could really sell a widget.And then my group won.I don’t know the how or why of it, but the dude with the Dell said my group of not-sex-havers was the greatest widget-selling firm of Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week session two. Best of all, this being a lesson in capitalism we would of course be generously rewarded for our efforts. To think, I said to myself with a smug little smirk, I could have been off somewhere having fun with my jerk friends at the beach or something. But now I was successful. I was a dick.
Continue

The Summer Camp That Made Me a Commie

At 15, I didn’t know a whole lot about life. In many ways I was a typical teenager, which is to say: stupid. And to be honest, I was pretty much fine with that. Unless it involved the physical act of love, I really wasn’t all that interested in learning about anything. I certainly didn’t have any firm ideological convictions outside of a general, since-proven-correct sense that everything is kind of terrible. But that changed after I spent a week of my young dumb life at a summer camp for losers learning about the power and glory of free enterprise that explored both the philosophical arguments for capitalism as well as the practical reality of it.

By the end of the week I was a communist.

Why did I attend? Who knows? Maybe it was boredom or a desire to spend some time away from my parents and asshole friends. Perhaps it was a simple, base desire to ineptly hit on and try in vain to hook up with girls who were from other schools and thus not yet in on the secret that I was most definitely not cool. Whatever the case, during the hot and steamy mid-Atlantic summer of 2000 I packed up my things and headed off to a small Pennsylvania college to be indoctrinated by local business leaders.

Before you ask: Yes, of course my life is full of regret. But like World War I, the camp was inarguably something to do. But, again—and this is important—it also raised the possibility of mingling with members of the opposite sex who, given that this was Camp Capitalism, could very well determine it in their own rational self-interest to engage in a minimal amount of physical contact with me. I brought a copy of The Fountainhead just in case.

The camp was called Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week, founded by business interests in 1979 to address the “compelling and urgent issue of workforce preparedness.” I could look forward to hearing from people like then-governor and future terror-threat color announcer Tom Ridge about how big business is what makes America great and how the propertied elites should be left to rape and pillage the working class as they see fit—and applauded for their initiative (not his exact phrasing).

After settling in to our dorm rooms, the campers—a diverse array of white middle-class nerds from eastern Pennsylvania—were broken into teams and ordered to establish the rigid hierarchy necessary for any exploitive power structure to flourish. With a local businesswoman as our mentor, we dutifully chose among ourselves a CEO, a CFO, and all the other assorted middle-management ways to say “asshole.” Our purpose? To compete in a fun and educational simulation of the business world where we’d sell undefined “widgets” to made-up clients.

Each morning our team would receive a printout listing our fake assets and the fake demand for our fake products, upon which we were supposed to base decisions about allocating our resources. We would then submit our decisions to the adults, who would in turn leave our fate to the devices of a Dell home computer. That the results would be determined by an inscrutable mix of dumb luck and algorithms was a deft, realistic touch.

As the future unemployable English major of the group, I naturally fell into the role of the bullshitter, aka the ad guy. It was my job to draft compelling copy about how my firm’s brand of widgets would help you attain spiritual fulfillment and last longer in bed, which I presented along with our firm’s future plans before a group of faux shareholders. Since my charisma is not quantifiable by mere machine, this portion of the contest was judged by the human automatons in charge of everything. And the sort of damning thing is they liked me. A lot, actually. Turns out I could really sell a widget.

And then my group won.

I don’t know the how or why of it, but the dude with the Dell said my group of not-sex-havers was the greatest widget-selling firm of Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week session two. Best of all, this being a lesson in capitalism we would of course be generously rewarded for our efforts. To think, I said to myself with a smug little smirk, I could have been off somewhere having fun with my jerk friends at the beach or something. But now I was successful. I was a dick.

Continue

Wet Hot American Bummer
Just hearing the words “summer camp” makes people think of fun games and swimming and popsicles and innocent over-the-pants handjobs. Little do they know, there is a whole other super serious, bummer-inducing breed of summer camps—the camps for at-risk youth, where Children’s Aid and social workers send scamps for a vacation. It’s a great place to get a job if you’re like me and you hate yourself for being white and privileged and educated and you want to be punished for the awesome life you’ve had.
Before I started working at one of these camps, I went through an intensive weeklong training program, but it left out a lot of important information, so I figured I’d write a quick little guide that contains all you’ll need to know to work at a summer camp filled with wild-eyed, crazy little people. 

STAFFThe staff are just as psychotic as the kids. That’s probably the only way these places can function. During my first week, I remember asking a veteran counselor, “Why would anyone do this to themselves? How does everyone keep coming back to this year after year?” She shrugged and said, “We’re all just masochists.” I thought she was exaggerating. But by the end of it, that’s the only reason I could come up with. What else would drive 16-year-olds to choose to handle a dozen squirmy, fucked up, shit-encrusted children? The pay worked out to be $2 dollars an hour. If you were lucky, you got one hour-long break during the course of the day. Everyone just hooked up with each other to numb the pain. There are people working at this special camp who have been either a camper or counselor there for at least 15 of the 20 years they’ve spent on this planet. Maybe they just can’t find pussy anywhere else? 
ORPHANSThere will be so many orphans with so many orphan stories. They’re the best simply because something about being an orphan really humbles a person. I met a kid who miraculously survived the fire that killed both of his parents. He would shit his pants constantly, but only because he had no concept of time. He just couldn’t figure out how long it would take to get to the bathroom. And he didn’t care either. He was so aloof and easy-going. I met another girl whose parents died. She would just study nature all day long. It was like they were just off in another world. Maybe a cooler world? Cos there’s no ‘rents.
DRUGS
The medicine line before bedtime was massive. I’d say about half of the kids and about 100 percent of the staff were dependent on pharmaceuticals. If you aren’t lucky enough to have figured out a system that would allow you to keep your job while regularly smoking weed, the next best thing is painkillers, muscle relaxers, stimulants, etc. I was addicted to Robiflaxin by the end of August, which was great because it totally helped with the anal sex I was having. Oh, and:
MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE MAINTENCE GUY    He will always have hard liquor. 
Continue

Wet Hot American Bummer

Just hearing the words “summer camp” makes people think of fun games and swimming and popsicles and innocent over-the-pants handjobs. Little do they know, there is a whole other super serious, bummer-inducing breed of summer camps—the camps for at-risk youth, where Children’s Aid and social workers send scamps for a vacation. It’s a great place to get a job if you’re like me and you hate yourself for being white and privileged and educated and you want to be punished for the awesome life you’ve had.

Before I started working at one of these camps, I went through an intensive weeklong training program, but it left out a lot of important information, so I figured I’d write a quick little guide that contains all you’ll need to know to work at a summer camp filled with wild-eyed, crazy little people. 

STAFF
The staff are just as psychotic as the kids. That’s probably the only way these places can function. During my first week, I remember asking a veteran counselor, “Why would anyone do this to themselves? How does everyone keep coming back to this year after year?” She shrugged and said, “We’re all just masochists.” I thought she was exaggerating. But by the end of it, that’s the only reason I could come up with. What else would drive 16-year-olds to choose to handle a dozen squirmy, fucked up, shit-encrusted children? The pay worked out to be $2 dollars an hour. If you were lucky, you got one hour-long break during the course of the day. Everyone just hooked up with each other to numb the pain. There are people working at this special camp who have been either a camper or counselor there for at least 15 of the 20 years they’ve spent on this planet. Maybe they just can’t find pussy anywhere else? 

ORPHANS
There will be so many orphans with so many orphan stories. They’re the best simply because something about being an orphan really humbles a person. I met a kid who miraculously survived the fire that killed both of his parents. He would shit his pants constantly, but only because he had no concept of time. He just couldn’t figure out how long it would take to get to the bathroom. And he didn’t care either. He was so aloof and easy-going. I met another girl whose parents died. She would just study nature all day long. It was like they were just off in another world. Maybe a cooler world? Cos there’s no ‘rents.

DRUGS

The medicine line before bedtime was massive. I’d say about half of the kids and about 100 percent of the staff were dependent on pharmaceuticals. If you aren’t lucky enough to have figured out a system that would allow you to keep your job while regularly smoking weed, the next best thing is painkillers, muscle relaxers, stimulants, etc. I was addicted to Robiflaxin by the end of August, which was great because it totally helped with the anal sex I was having. Oh, and:

MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE MAINTENCE GUY    
He will always have hard liquor. 

Continue