By BOB WIRE
Mrs. Wire and I recently took the kids for a three-day camping trip to Lake Alva, just north of Seeley Lake. In the privacy of my own scrambled optimism, the lake was named after famed Z-Boys kingpin skateboarder Tony Alva.
We set up our tent in the state campground there, and were pleasantly surprised to hear the tuneful strains of a guitar and violin drifting through the woods. It was about 8:30 Saturday evening, and usually in a state campground, this is when Skynyrd and Allman Bros. music starts pouring out the doors of big Chevy pickups. But this was earnest, gentle music.
We continued our card game at the picnic table, and a guy began to sing in a high, plaintive voice. After a couple of minutes, I picked out the lyrics and realized that this was definitely non-secular music we were hearing.
Now, I adhere firmly to the “live and let live” manner of tolerance. I have no problem with Buddhists, Wiccans, Christians, Muslims, Canadians, Hutterites, Baptists, or whatever sect likes to rally ‘round this or that set of beliefs. Whatever gets you through the night, neighbor. As long as you don’t try to push it on me.
Especially the Canadians.
But in a campground, where you’re close enough to your neighbors to hear them fire off their tent-withering farts every morning, concessions must be made.
If you’re going to play music it needs to be two things: well-done, and non-offensive.
That way, you’ll be mentioned along with other positive aspects of the camping experience like finding an unopened pint of Knob Creek bourbon in your cook box from last season, and not lumped in with the negative experiences like falling face-first into the campfire because you were pie-eyed on Knob Creek bourbon.
And whatever religion I may practice is beside the point. Let’s say I’m a fundamentalist Frisbeeterian (we believe that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and you can’t get it down).
If I want to sit around the campfire (which is not allowed due to fire danger), sip bourbon (which is banned due to the fact I like being married), and sing Frisbeterian hymns to my heart’s content, well, I should do it in my back yard, not a public campground. I mean, there is a lot of anti-Frisbeterian sentiment out there these days. I don’t want to throw gasoline on the forbidden fire.
By the same token, I would not sit in a campground and subject other campers to my song “White Trash Paradise” or any of my other compositions that feature an ass-ton of cussing and drug jokes. Unless it might help sell one of my CDs.
But not everyone is aware that religious music can grate on the ears of sinners. I suppose the grinning idiots in the group camping site meant well.
So on this particular evening, in the end, we decided to relax and enjoy the music. After a while all the songs started to sound the same, and I was wishing the violin player had brought a fiddle instead. I’m sure the 30 or 40 people in the Campin’ for Jesus group thoroughly enjoyed the music, and that’s a good thing.
My kids? They were more interested in breaking the land speed record riding their bikes around the loop than paying attention to a bunch of keening, apologistic, lightweight Christian folk music.
I did have my guitar along, and I couldn’t resist serenading them with my atheist gospel classic, “Jesus In My Heart.” (Sample lyric: “I’m prayin’ and I’m grinnin’ / ‘Cause I go right on sinnin’.”)
You can find the song on my CD Sentimental Breakdown or download it on Amazon. Give it a listen next time you’re feeling pious. Just not in the campground.
Check out all of Bob Wire’s posts in his blog archive.
Think of it as Gonzo meets Hee Haw: Missoula honky tonker Bob Wire holds forth on a unique life filled with music, parenthood, drinking, sports, working, marriage, drinking, and just navigating the twisted wreckage of American culture. Plus occasional grooming tips. Like the best humor, it’s not for everyone. Sometimes silly, sometimes surreal, sometimes savage, Bob Wire demands that you possess a good sense of humor and an open mind.
Bob Wire has written more than 500 humor columns for a regional website over the last five years, and his writing has appeared in the Missoulian, the Missoula Independent, Montana Magazine, and his own Bob Wire Has a Point Blog. He is a prolific songwriter, and has recorded three CDs of original material with his Montana band, the Magnificent Bastards. His previous band, the Fencemenders, was a popular fixture at area clubs. They were voted Best Local Band twice by the Missoula Independent readers poll. Bob was voted the Trail 103.3/Missoulian Entertainer of the Year in 2007.