52.8 F

Davis, California

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Column: Where them wild things at?

I had it all worked out. I’d be sitting around in class earning some knowledge and I’d spot a beautiful girl reading my column, laughing out loud despite herself. She can’t help it; I’m funny.

Then the following exchange ensues:

Me: “Sup, girl? Like the column?”

Girl: “Oh my god. It’s Will Long!”

We’d talk for a while, she would be enthralled by the staggering combination of my wit and good looks, and then:

Girl: “So, what would Ol’ Dirty Bastard do now?” (Referring to the title of my last column.)

Me: “He’d ask if you wanted to get a drink later. So do you?”

Boom. What a line. Naturally, she would agree, and we’d ride downtown in my Aston Martin, or atop my tamed Tyrannosaurus (as long as we’re dealing in fantasy).

Unfortunately, my game doesn’t extend beyond this written page. Knowing my luck, tomorrow I’ll have this exchange:

Girl: “Hey, I liked your column, how about that drink?”

Me: “Ghhuh, I’m not hungry – I mean, thirsty.”

That about sums up three years of romance for me here in Davis. I’ve been living here for a while now, so it’s important for me to get out of this town every now and then before it drives me nuts.

This past weekend, I went on a trip into the beautiful Armstrong Redwoods State Park to celebrate a buddy’s 23rd birthday. I was traveling with many known rapscallions. You can find a few of them on the FBI’s top 10 most mischievous list. Minor devilry aside, it was a trip dedicated to just having a good time and relaxing in the shade of the redwood giants.

Did my computer come along? Nope. Cell phone? Off. Homework? Fuck that shit. All we really had was beer, firewood, some musical instruments and good company.

I learned something while I was up in those mountains. It wasn’t some spiritual truth, and I made no contact with my raccoon spirit companion. The stars did not align themselves before me and open my third eye.

No, what I learned was that some park rangers are absolutely insane. Like, Gary Busey insane. I had always assumed park rangers were a lot cooler than regular police – even after our ordeal, I still think most of them are.

Not this one. Not Ranger Toni. The first time we spoke to her, she was cool.

“Oh, it’s your birthday?” she asked. “Great, have a good time.”

Sweet. We drove into the nearby Guerneville to hang out and stock up on supplies. When we came back, Toni had changed.

“I know what you kids do, I was in the 60s,” Toni ranted. “I know how to smoke grass. I marched. I protested. Twenty-third birthday? When I was 23, I was a widow with two kids. The state of Tennessee -”

She actually trailed off, leaving us looking at one another in a state of disbelief. What was with this woman?

Oh, but it got worse.

“You know you kids are marked right? We’ve been watching you. You’re already on the radar,” she said. “I want to be on your team, but Lord, I know what you kids get into. All that sex and pot, running around naked in the woods. Hippies.

“Quiet hours start at 10 p.m. If you so much as whisper after that, the rangers will kick you out. They’re watching you.”

It turns out our group in particular wasn’t marked for Smokey the Bear’s brutal justice, but all people – everyone – between the ages of 18 and 25 were. What a trip. We finally escaped after about 20 minutes of her checking everyone’s IDs and trying to put pieces of tape on our parking permits.

But, not all of us were so lucky.

Another car full of our friends came later. God help them, but Toni was still on duty and worse for wear. Our friends explained they were with us, and they were glad to have found the right place. They told Toni they were going to hit up Safeway before heading up to meet us.

“No, no,” Toni said. “You have to go meet them. Now. Besides, what do you need at Safeway?”

Our friends said something along the lines of hotdogs and guacamole.

“No, no, no,” Toni insisted. “I know what you kids get at the supermarket. All you kids ever buy is booze. And drugs!”

Luckily, that was the last we heard of Toni. I don’t know where she shops, but drugs at Safeway? Yeah, you can pick up 2 percent milk, eggs and some methamphetamines all in aisle six. Peyote? Oh, aisle 14, left of the bread. Toni must have been tripping out in that rangers’ booth a few years too long.

Aside from our run in with lunacy incarnate, it was a great trip. I encourage everyone to get out of here now and again. As great as Davis is, this place can inspire cabin fever just like anywhere else. So go camping. Tell the books to take a breather.

WILL LONG’s Facebook tells him he needs to get involved with organized crime and get a Christian girlfriend. Tell him what the Internet thinks of you at wclong@ucdavis.edu.


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