THAT WOULDN'T DIE
They call me Joe Pinecrest. Well, to be honest, no one
has ever called me that except me. But after 40 consecutive summer
vacations at idyllic Pinecrest Lake, nestled in the Sierras 30 miles above
Sonora, I felt I deserved the honor.
I first went to Pinecrest when I was five years old and
havenít missed a summer since. We owned a cabin for 12 years (the land
lease ran out and the Forest Service replaced it with a picnic table), weíve
rented cabins, and some years we even stayed at Lair of the Bear, the Cal
alumni camp, which we fondly dubbed "Club Med/Somalia."
This summer was much like the others. Not much has
changed since I was a kid. The 2:30 daily sailboat race, the outdoor
movies, the children yelling for the mythical "Elmer" each
evening before playing "Capture the Flag," the nightly campfiresÖ..itís
all the same, except for one little change I noticed this year.
After 40 years, Iíve grown a little sick of the
Itís true. Joe Pinecrest, who assumed he would
keel over into a bed of pine needles after at least 80 consecutive summers
at his beloved lake, is calling it quits. One more summer vacation spent
taking the same hikes and the same bicycle rides to the store and old Joe
is likely to blow his brains out.
I donít know what happened. It was clearly a
revelation of sorts, because it came out of nowhere. One minute I was
boasting about my 40th consecutive summer at Pinecrest, and the
next minute I was horrified that Iíd been going to the same place for so
It might have happened when my 16-year old daughter
refused to join me in a rousing game of "King of the Raft." Or
when my 18 year old daughter showed up for a grand total of one day. Or
maybe it was because my 9 and 10 year old boys were sleeping in until 8:30
each morning, and then waking up and playing Gin Rummy.
Iíve always thought of Pinecrest as a very
healthy place for kids, and it is. The routine of seeing the same summer
friends each year and joining them in the same healthy pursuits year after
year creates a stability that every child should have the opportunity to
But enough is enough. Itís pretty clear, at
least to me, that none of my children are showing signs of ending up in a
clock tower surrounded by SWAT teams.
In other words, theyíve developed to the point
where a missed summer at Pinecrest will most likely not cause any
irreparable psychological harm.
In other words, Goodbye Pinecrest, Hello Anywhere Else.
The decision made, it was time to do some cleansing.
First I sold our little eight-foot El Toro sailboat, which in its 10 years
with me had the distinction of winning the daily 2:30 race---once. In
1993, I think. Hasta la vista, you old slug.
Then I called the owner of the 400 square foot cabin weíve
rented for the last eight years. My parents rented it for one summer 39
years ago. It still has the same furniture, pillows, bedspreads, even the
same dishes. Kids love it, adults do not.
The only thing that changed for us each year was the
rent, which the owner gleefully raised every summer, knowing rentals were
scarce and we were stuck.
When I told him we wouldnít be back, he offered to
spruce things up a bit, maybe even buy an electric can opener or
something. I told him even if he splurged and purchased an actual can of
paint, it wouldnít matter. We were done, and it felt good.
Finally, it was time to tell the children. They had all
spent every single summer of their lives splashing in the cool, clear
waters of Pinecrest Lake. With a little discipline, coupled with my
premature death, they probably could have broken my record of consecutive
summers. Telling them the streak was ending would be difficult.
Needless to say, the girls were crushed. Their nods of
understanding, coy little smiles and chants of "Tahoe, Tahoe,"
masked the huge disappointment Iím certain they were feeling.
As for the boys, Iíve yet to break the news. They
truly love the place, as I once did, and one, or both, could easily become
the next Joe Pinecrest.
Saving them sounds like the final job for me, Joe