Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

Rhymes with Cabinets

May 14, 2018

In 2010, I had arrived back in Baltimore after living in New Jersey for 9 years. I was a little at a loss for what to do with my life and I felt like I was adrift. I had worked professionally in theater for five straight years but I had lost my passion for it. I also wanted my nights and weekends back. At the time, my mother had started dating a man who is now my stepfather and, through him, I was introduced to a good friend of mine who I quickly began to call my cousin. It was suggested that I join him in working on a political campaign, something I had never really done before. In fact, I was 27 years old and I had never really voted with any regularity. However, I needed something to do and I was told that working on the campaign might lead to a job. And so I spent the entire summer of 2010 putting up 4X8 political signs and I spent the fall knocking on doors and cold calling people. It was probably one of the hardest jobs I have ever had but it taught me a lot.

As I am writing this, it is Friday, May 11, 2018. Yesterday, the candidate I worked for, Kevin Kamenetz, suddenly died of a heart attack. It was quite a shock. I know for a fact that Kevin was quite wealthy and took care of himself physically so I was surprised to hear he had been taken so suddenly. While I have not talked to him in eight years, his name has never escaped my mind and it never will. I used to put up gigantic 4X8 signs with his name emblazoned on them, I wore a shirt with his name on it, and I said his name so often that it became second nature. I will also remember his name because of the friendships that formed in the trenches of that campaign that I value to this day. Finally, I will remember his name because Kevin made sure that people remembered him by being an impressive politician.

More than impressive, I saw Kevin as a force of nature. I was rarely at campaign headquarters because I was often out on the road but when I know that Kevin was also rarely there. He was the leader of the Baltimore County Council but he was also always out campaigning. He was shaking hands, making appearances, and attending meetings all while sincerely working for the people of Baltimore County. I had very few run-ins with him while all of this was happening (at least not until late in the campaign) but every single one was memorable. I attended a meeting as his assistant once and I got to witness him talk. He must have been a great attorney before politics because he spoke with conviction and passion and he was impossible to ignore. As we drove to and from the event, we talked one on one and he made me feel like he was listening to what I had to say.

Obviously, I was not the only person impressed with Kevin. He gained a huge following and, in the last few days, plenty of people have had kind words for him. Even people I thought of as his enemies, like Larry Hogan, had great things to say about him. The thing that I always pointed to when asked during the campaign was the thing that I continued to be impressed by in his career. He was a champion of schools and education which was why he was originally endorsed by the teacher’s union. He was involved in trying to make sure that all Baltimore County schools had air conditioning so that we did not have to choose between baking our children or sending them home early in the early and late parts of the school year. As somebody who spent a lot of time sweating in 100-degree weather for his benefit, I appreciated the focus on good air conditioning.

It took me a while to sort through and figure out what Kevin had given me. At the end of the campaign, he did give me a chance for a job. In the end, it was not something I was passionate about and I should have used it as a stepping stone instead of a missed opportunity. Beyond that educational experience, working for Kevin taught me a bit about the inner workings of politics as I talked shop with the people around me. I started to read the news more and pay attention to the world around me. I really started to decide what kind of person I was going to be when it came to my politics. In the end, the person I became did not agree all the time with Kevin’s policies. However, it was clear that he and the people who worked for him were dedicated to serving the community as best they could. If he had lived, I definitely would have considered voting for him for governor (especially against Hogan).

I am proud to say that I worked for Kevin Kamenetz. He was not always the easiest person to work for because whatever you accomplished he always demanded more. While this was frustrating at the time, maybe it was way more positive than it first appeared. Always striving to do better is how you succeed in life and in my last few jobs, it has been a personal goal of mine. In the end, Maryland has suffered a loss and it will take a while for the political system to recover. My heart goes out to his family and friends who must be way more devastated than I am.

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Summer Camp Pt. 2

September 4, 2017

(Oops this was supposed to post weeks ago.  Pretend I posted it before Part 3. Happy Labor Day!)

The other major summer camp I went to was Camp Shohola up in Greeley, Pennsylvania. The camp is situated on Lake Greeley and down the road a couple miles from actual Shohola, Pennsylvania which always confused me a little bit also for reasons I will get to in a minute. This was my first taste of real independence. Mom and Dad and my brothers were all a four-hour drive away and none of my other relatives were any closer. It was my first shot at being out there ‘on my own’ and I jumped into it with wild abandon. Not that I hated my folks at all but I guess I needed a little bit of space. I was given the option to go to summer camp for four weeks or eight weeks and I chose eight. I know my mother was astonished but my folks agreed. I was off to the wilds of Pennsylvania near the New York border.

When I arrived, the grounds seemed so big and they were. They were huge. While we were not far from the road, it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. I was introduced to my cabin. That was a big adjustment. It was the first time that I had shared a room with other people aside from motel and hotel rooms on family vacations. It helped that our cabin banded together pretty quickly. I was such a good kid but it was cool to hang out with a bunch of tricksters and jokesters. It definitely added new elements to my young personality to be able to break the rules and test the boundaries. I have fond memories of all of us lying awake in our bunk beds late into the night. Our bunk counselor usually went over to the staff lounge or elsewhere until later in the night which was the norm. There were assigned patrols that watched the cabins to make sure we did not get too out of control. We definitely drew the ire of the patrol now and then. I especially remember pulling out my camera and flipping on the bright flash and just setting it off in pitch blackness to blind my bunkmates.

The food was delicious. I remember looking forward to meals a lot because there was always plenty of food and the cooks were dead set on making each meal delicious. They knew they were catering to over a hundred boys of various ages and they never got into exotic territories. Meals were always a flurry of passing of platters and pouring of drinks as we all devoured meals like sharks. For each meal, there were assigned ‘biddies’ which meant that you had to go to the dining hall early and set your assigned table. It taught me that setting the table was not really that hard and not the arduous chore that I thought it might be. Plus, I learned how to carry eight mugs at once. Every Sunday we got ice cream at the end of lunch and if your bunk had won that week’s cleanliness award, you got two scoops instead of one. It was a much sought after prize. We also had a weekly visit to the canteen where we were alotted one soda and one candy bar. I often traded my candy bar for another soda.

From early on I was way into waterfront activities. I have always loved to be in or near the water. I guess that goes hand in hand with growing up in a city like Baltimore. I was never a big fan of structured swimming because I find laps tedious and exhausting. Instead, I loved to sail. Our camp had little two-person Sunfish sailboats. A friend of mine and I worked really well together in those boats and we actually won quite a few races that first year of camp. Of course, in order to sail I had to do an enormous amount of laps without touching the H dock to prove that if the boat went down, I could still swim back to camp. I hated it so much but in the end, it was worth it and I completed the test each year so I could sail, canoe and raft.

Yes, I said raft. The camp was very good at getting us out on trips every so often. They organized trips that you could sign up for so you could escape the routine now and then. I went rafting on the Yough<>, I went hiking at High Point State Park (in Jersey), I went to musicals, I went to ballgames and so many more things. That is not to say that I did not love a lot of the activities actually on camp grounds. Camp Shohola was the first place I ever fired a gun in Riflery, learning to respect the power of firearms. It is also where I happily fired bow and arrows and learned that I was pretty good at it. I may not have gotten jazzed over stuff like soccer but I loved the geekier sports. I even got to do horseriding regularly and I really enjoyed it. It was scary at first but I felt powerful and tall for the first time in my life on the back of a horse.

On rainy days, we were chased inside to a big barn of a building with a movie screen and plenty of floor space to sit on. I do not remember them ever showing us any movies in that place, though. I remember them showing a lot of sports highlight movies, I suppose as an effort to continue the sports mindset despite the rain. I remember them showing a lot of compilations of football (soccer) goals. The volume was turned low as most of the commentary was in Spanish anyway (which I was studying at the time). Impressive soccer goals are really fun to watch but I remember seeing those videos enough that I got bored. As long as we stayed calm, we were allowed to talk amongst ourselves. So I would find somebody I knew and we would just hangout and have a chill time. It was a little boring but sometimes it is good to be bored.

I have a lot more to say about Shohola so tune in next Monday for the end of Summer Camp for the year. (Just in time for school to start!)


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