This week in the “Something You Don’t See Everyday” category I offer our weekend at the Methodist Men’s retreat. Evan is going through the age-old Methodist “confirmation” process which of course means he’s getting some formal training in the definitions of all those religious terms. But part of the process includes a father/son retreat at the local camp (there we go; camping again). This event was designed by guys for guys and no mistake. The agenda was as follows (and I’m not making this up):

Introduction
Seminar
Small Groups
Feeding Frenzy (junk food only)
Wrestling

Needless to say, Evan had a good time. The feeding frenzy in particular was done in best manly fashion; the food was literally thrown from a central bar-like place. It was actually the registration table but the men got behind it and used as a food bar and would literally yell “who wants beef jerky?” and all the little hands would shoot up and he would toss food to them like he was feeding a bunch of animals at the zoo. In a way, it was probably appropriate. No utensils, no napkins, and no manners. There was at least a pickup-load of jerky, chocolate, snack cakes, peanuts, gum and all manner of things that I didn’t even get a chance to see. Plus one can of SPAM – unopened.

There were no complaints.

In order to work off all that poor nutrition and the associated hyperactivity, the mattresses were removed from all the bunks and thrown down onto the floor in the common room. One of the men showed up wearing a referee outfit and whistle and proceeded to orchestrate the wrestling matches. Until 1:00am, those boys wrestled. There were even a couple of adults who went at it. Yours truly was not among them.

Both nutrition and behavior were remarkably improved for Saturday’s agenda. Like the cub scouts, they had mucho ritual and ceremony which seems to appeal to little boys. Way too touchy-feely for me but I’m probably unique in that. I was never much of a butt-slapper either.

Evan had a question about the rented reverend that they had brought in to lead the seminars:

“Why is he lifting his hands like that when we’re praying?”

Good question. I don’t know. I’ve always wondered that myself. For me, it has always been a warning sign that I may have accidently stopped at the wrong church but since we knew everybody there, that obviously wasn’t it. Maybe it was a form of Tai Chi. Perhaps he was high-fiving Jesus.  I’ve spent my life seeking answers to the questions of how the universe works but I’ve never devoted too much time to figuring out human behavior. Perhaps one of you can shed some light on the “raising of hands” thing. I’ll pass it along.

So there were lots of guitars, junk food, wrestling, and souvenirs (in the form of a pocket-sized New Testament and a ring) so what’s not to like? (If you’re a kid that is). I even found a fellow woodworker to pal around with and compare tools with. I don’t know what sorts of stereotypical things the girls are going to do during the women’s retreat but I wouldn’t be surprised if it involved shopping and a bunch of interpersonal relationship stuff and in-general talking everything to death. No offense but we all know what I’m talking about now don’t we?

It was a fun time but I only personally saw the promised land when I got home and went to the local woodworking show. The convention center was filled with rodeo attendees so for a moment there I had another “am I in the wrong place?” moment but sure enough, tucked away into a corner was the Woodworking Show. I have seen the promised land and it is in central Texas where they have a woodworking school where they teach you working with hand tools. I stood there for two hours awestruck watching these two guys make dovetailed drawers and other complex joints without ever actually measuring anything and with only about three hand tools. It’s very unlike me to ignore all the high tech gadgetry but I’m ready to plunk down my tuition and head south to Elm Mott (near Waco) and become a medieval apprentice. There’s something perversely amusing about a guy with a Ph.D. in physics wanting to learn woodworking with hand tools like some Benjamin Franklin era tradesman but there it is.

Maybe some day.

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