Tuesday, June 21, 2005


I don’t know whether they still have Color Wars in summer camp any more – the term is fraught with potential danger and political incorrectness. After all, we live in a society where a person can be chastised unto job loss for using the word “niggardly” in a sentence. [That word, incidentally, means “cheap” – it has no racial overtones whatsoever, except in the minds of ignoramuses – but let that pass for now.] Healthy competition is sometimes viewed with disdain, lest it cost someone his or her Self-Esteem. And, even worse, that horrible word...War! Why, it evokes...images of violence!

But years ago, when I went to day camp in the summer, we had Color War.

Camp, it should be explained, lasted for six or eight weeks, beginning at the end of June when school let out. In addition to providing us kids with a Valuable Recreational Outlet, it freed our mother up to play golf almost every day. No way were two snot-noses going to get in the way of her fulfilling her heavy responsibilities as a charter member of the Fairway Women of Bethpage.

[Yeah, that Bethpage. Five 18-hole courses back in the day, the Yellow and Green courses fairly easy; the Red and Blue moderately challenging; and the Black a total ball-buster. She’d play ’em all – and respectably well, too.]

But my brother and I would be packed off every day (sleep-away camp would be a couple of years later) for our sojourn at Captree Day Camp. And it had its good points. Baseball, archery, target shooting...all the kinds of stuff they probably don’t let kids do anymore for fear they’ll hoit their widdle selves.

The last week of camp was Color War.

The entire camp population was divided into two opposing sides, each designated by a color. My memory is a bit hazy on this score, but I’m pretty sure it was Blue versus Red. And for the hell of it, each side picked the name of a country. Our side chose the USA, and we were obnoxiously patriotic about it. I have no idea what country the other side selected as their avatar – but who gives a shit? They couldn’t stand up to the mighty USA.

The “war,” per se, consisted of any number of competitions. Baseball, track events, you-name-it. Forging a competitive, “never say die” spirit and teaching us that self-esteem is something you earn through your own hard work. What-ever.

And we would sing Color War Alma Maters and crap like that, which I now suspect the counselors and staff made up when they were drunk or stoned and had been reading too many Mad magazines:
We thank Uncle Mike and Aunt Flo
For teaching us things we must know
Shirley, Joan, and Sy for helping us live and play to-ge-ther...
(to the tune of “Younger Than Springtime”)
Even today, that fucking song sticks in my head like an earwig.

But we won, dammit! USA rules!

And then summer was over. Back to the real competition. Back to Grade School.

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