My husband’s family has this cabin in the woods of Tennessee near Land Between The Lakes called Sunset Lodge. It’s less the horror movie set it sounds like and more of a magical nirvana where there is no internet or cellphone reception except at like two in the morning when the moon is full. I mean, yes, there was that one time the lake haints and woods zombies carried off a friend’s pomeranian, but we considered that more a stroke of good fortune than an actual haunting. It’s kind of a fancy place. The man who built it had high hopes his family would spend a lot of time out there. The wife went once and said they’d never go back. When my husband’s grandfather bought it after the man’s death, there were still monogrammed linens in it. There’s also a bedroom with a private bath off the kitchen. We assumed since it had its own bath it was the master until we noticed the lock was on the outside of the door. Come to find out it was the maid’s quarters. Rich people! They’re just like us! Of course the question remains as to why he didn’t keep going to the cabin and tell her she never had to go again, but BY GOD he was going to get out of that house for some quiet, and shoot animals, and drink cheap bourbon, and I don’t care one iota what fabric you want to use for dining room curtains, COULD YOU PLEASE SHUT UP, WOMAN?! But, you know, everyone’s family is different.
My family’s cabin in the woods is more like a tin can on stilts. With rats. There is indoor plumbing, and I don’t even mean the hose reaches into the house, so it’s got that working for it. The Men use it when they aren’t freezing their butts off in a shooting shack or a marsh. And I really do mean The Men because historically The Ladies have gone up there only when they ran out of things to harass The Men about, and the decor of the place–Early American Brothel Slash Mossy Oak Camo– is good for about a week of HOW CAN YOU STAND IT UP THERE??!! The answer, of course, is that no one asks that question at The Camp. I believe the little store up the road accounts for approximately 70% of U.S. Vienna sausage sales because that’s the only thing I’ve ever known anyone to eat up there. It’s in the Mississippi Delta and I’m told there’s a serious wild hog problem this spring. I haven’t been in a long time and would like to go, but in spring and summer the bugs over there ride their own four-wheelers and the snakes are Winnebago sized. I’ll wait until November, thanks. Also, WILD HOGS.
Despite the fact I was raised in the city and have always considered roughing it to mean no valet parking, I rather like Sunset Lodge. I like fishing and building giant fires. I also enjoy a game we’ve come to call How Old Is This? Apparently the cabin is built on a vortex which ages pantry staples overnight. For example, you might clean out the pantry one weekend and throw away all items which expired before Colin Powell changed his mind about Iraq. But next weekend? BOOM. You reach for a can of soup only to find out that it is old enough to drive. My best find was a box of Jell-O last year with an expiration date of 1998. We recently found unopened bottles of salad dressing with use-by dates of 2009. This is AFTER we pulled everything out of the kitchen to remodel it about two years ago. How it happens is a mystery. We’ve narrowed it down to an aunt who likes to shop bulk discount stores or aliens.
Besides the fact that being there makes me feel like I’m in a cocoon which no one can penetrate mainly because they don’t have the phone number, I like reading trashy novels. At the cabin, you can read crap with impunity. Haven’t started the Porn Lite series Fifty Shades of Grey? Secretly wanting to gobble up a Nora Roberts trilogy? Don’t want your BFF to know you’re a Hunger Games fanatic? Soft spot for vampire romances? The cabin is the place. The same is true for trash TV. New Year’s weekend we got lucky with a Walking Dead marathon. How can a year be bad if it starts off sitting in a recliner for twelve straight hours stuffing your face with various cheese-based delicacies and Prosecco?
We used to have a place in Pensacola Beach. When we went down in the summer, it was the only time my brother and I could get pre-sweetened cereals. He always got Fruit Loops and I got Sugar Pops, which I’m disappointed to know is now called Corn Pops. These days I enjoy the adult version of vacation cereal. This is a chance for Twizzlers and Peach Nehi–the finest of the Nehi flavors. You know how you’ve been eyeing the cheese-stuffed-cheese in the deli? You know what I’m talking about: a layer of cheddar, a layer of Stilton, and up to three other layers of miscellaneous cheese goodness. Now’s the time. Take it to the cabin. Bagel Bites? It’s a bagel AND a pizza! A breakfast you and your mom can agree on! Were Planters Cheez Balls (the undisputed KING of ALL cheez ball products) still in existence, I’d eat three cans on a short trip. Cream soda, PBR, potted meat, whatever your guilty food pleasure is, it should be indulged at Sunset Lodge. Especially if cheese is involved.
Not that you shouldn’t eat something real. At some point you’ll need a salad or an apple just to push the sludge through your system. Trust me. And you’ll also realize you’ve had so much beer that you are your own personal floatation device. When that realization comes, it’s time to go home and detox until the next trip. Or until you have an unholy craving for Hot Fries and pickled eggs.