Journal Entry # 35 - Road Entry#25 (Edgewood Cafe - Nashville, TN - 11:23am - September 14, 2010)

"People say that what we're all seeking is meaning for life... I think what we're seeking is an experience of being alive" - Joseph Campbell

I started off this blog posting with this quote because it made me think today. What "alive" experience am I seeking and living? I think that my travels, adventures, and life have been a combination of a quest for a life-meaning and experiences of being alive.

If you just started reading my blog or have been reading all along, I ask you this same question.

What experience are you seeking that makes you feel ALIVE? Are you still seeking the meaning of life? Or have you already found it? Please share your opinion in the comments section.

I woke up Saturday morning to ring of my cell phone; an alarm reminding me that my father would shortly be in driveway of my mother's house. I took a brisk shower and ate some breakfast along side mom before hitting the road to Lake Arrowhead. I left off the last journal entry informing you of my trip up to see my brother at the Woods camp in Lake Arrowhead. There had been a 5-month gap since my brother and I had a conversation/interaction in-person.

Dad and I got into the car and started to make our way east of Pasadena/Los Angeles to the Big Bear Mountain area and Lake Arrowhead. We took the I-210 freeway up to the mountain resorts exit approximately an hour later. On the way up the slope, Dad turned on a recording by Rabbi Mordecai Finley, our Rabbi at Ohr HaTorah in Los Angeles. It was interesting to hear his viewpoint on the way Americans and American Jews are approaching and thinking about the everlasting middle eastern conflict in 2010. The lecture addresses the fact that "we" (Americans) are now becoming apathetic to the conflict and struggle - sympathizing with both Israeli and Palestinian parties. From what I remember, Rabbi Finley believes that we need to dig our feet into the sand and fortify our position with strength, power, and domination for what we believe in - freedom and democracy. The Rabbi's lecture lasted the entire mountain climb, allowing my father and I to discuss his words and our thoughts for a limited period before meeting Ben at the pizza parlor in the small town area of Lake Arrowhead.

The pizza parlor/restaurant was up a couple flights of stairs. I couldn't wait to be up there with my little brother - together the Goldsmith boys. The climb up the stairs and into the parlor went by in a fury, my intent eyes leading me to find Benjamin like I was the tiger and he was the impala. I found him in line at the pizza counter - "BROTHER BEAR!".

Ben was there with a horde of like-minded and like-bodied twenty-somethings; all of them sporting sun-shades, tank tops, bikinis, bathing suits, and smiles. My brother is a camp councilor, boat captain, and honor-bartender at The Woods Family Camp. His peers in line had similar titles - yet they all had the same attitude: "We're living a happy life and summer!" As we stood in line, Ben started to introduce me and reintroduce Dad to all of his comrades. Names and smiles were being thrown at me like ninja-stars. I was just happy to be there with Benjamin and dad. We ordered our pizza and salad and sat down outside on the deck. Ben, dad, and I started sharing stories while waiting for our food. All of the stories centralized around summer activities and our engagements that encompassed our diverse lives in the past 2 months.

The three of us spent the most time on the deck talking as Ben's colleagues all left back towards the north-side of the lake and the campground. Dad, Ben, and I drove together to camp to play tennis and jump in the lake for a cool down after sweating. This was going to be the first time I played Ben in tennis since the horrible match I played against him in Palm Springs (December 2009). He did beat me, fair and square. He also out hustled me and beat me because I was carrying so much weight. I couldn't wait to play him and beat him - I know my fundamentals, tennis strokes, and serves were better than his.

I Lost.

But I had a great time playing with him. My stamina on the court lasted through the whole match and he beat me in 3 sets. I cruised through the first set 5-2. He won the second set 5-4. We played a third set, best of 5 and he beat me 3-1. I can't wait to play him again. I'll complement his mental toughness during the match - he kept his composure and I made a lot of mental errors, along with showing my mental weakness to him through acts of frustration (physical and verbal). Dad wanted to play, but we wouldn't let him in on the match because we were in the thick of competition. It was so much fun!

The cool-down result of tennis came in the form of both of us jumping off the dock into the lake. We didn't have much time to play around and even go out on the boat because Ben had to get to work at the Honor Bar - as the new guests were arriving to the camp. Ben changed out of his swimsuit nice a quick so that he could get to Honor Bar in time. I saw Ben go into work-mode as he got behind the bar and greeted the new guests with a smile and whatever-their-liking in cocktail form. I was impressed with the instantaneous mind-set change from fun to work. I wasn't feeling comfortable socializing in the setting with the clothes I had on. I also had some eye irritation due to my left contact-lense. I went back to Ben's cabin where I left my things to switch to my glasses. I made my way back to honor bar after I changed my clothes and my contacts. I got back to Honor-Bar and walked right up to Ben and ordered said hello, as if I was a new guest. It was great to see him do a double-take at me because he couldn't initially recognize me with my glasses and the weight loss. The same thing happened with my dad when I approached him with my glasses on and when he picked me up from the airport the first day I got into Los Angeles.

I approached dad with my glasses on as he was talking to Kim and David, a married couple on their vacation at this camp. They had a daughter (16) and a son (11) there with them at this camp. Kim actually asked Ben to help her daughter out with an acting lesson or how to get prepared for an acting lesson. We all chatted it up while eating hor'd'oeuvres and sipping out cocktails. The cocktail hour flew by. A 6pm dinner call was sounded by the bell as we saw the kids and councilors come in from the grass to the buffet style dinner setting.

The dinner finished and both Dad and I had some time to kill on the grounds before the camps intro-show at 8:30pm. I sat down at the game-check-out station and played/taught chess to Kelsey. She was one of the many councilors there at the camp. We talked about life, college, future, chess, and the summer. It was nice to play some chess again in-person, and not against the computer on my iPod touch. I hope I made her want to play chess more: it's a great long-term strategy game.

Dad and I then walked up to the Zen Deck at the camp to talk and catch the sunset over the lake and the mountains. It was serene. We spent our moments up there talking about dad's fitness level because it was quite a trek for him up the slope. He was dramatically out of breath as we got to the deck. I told him that getting to a point where climbing the stairs and not getting winded was good goal. I've seen guys 62 and older than my father running marathons. If they can do it, he can do it.

We then made the quick switch over to the stage area for the performance and intro-show for the camp. The councilors and staff get introduced to the entire camp and it's guests. The director and manager of the camp speak after a brief introduction and welcome ceremony. Then the performance by the councilors begins. Ben, Burke (my brother's friend and fraternity brother), and a bunch of others produced this welcome performance from scratch. They wrote all the songs, script, and direction of the performance. It was great to see. There was a story-line, songs, and dancing - complete entertainment for the family camp (especially the kids).

The only problem I had with the skit/performance was that there was a lot of negative speech and propaganda towards the University of Southern California. The bashing of USC was a constant practice throughout the performance. The other issue I had with the performance was that I disappointed with Ben's voice during his song. There was a tired-tone in his singing, and his voice sounded strained and broken. I told him afterwards that I wasn't impressed with his singing, but was with his acting as 'Pickering' the butler. He was very funny and performed the skit very well.

At this point, dad went off sleep at the motel he got for the night because I was staying with Ben in his cabin - and the other 40+ councilors that lived in "The Cedar". The Cedar was a three-storied building on the backside of the campground. The first two floors contained the living quarters of the councilors, while the third-floor was reserved as a communal room. The third floor was just a giant living-room, carpeted, with two staircases on each side and a bar on the south side. I was staying in Ben's room on the first floor, last room on the north-side of the building. Ben shared the room with two guys, but actually slept in the hallway a lot because of the crammed space they lived in. It was like a hurricane of papers, gatorade bottles, clothes, costumes, beer cans, hard-alcohol bottles, energy drink cans, and gum hit their room and their bathroom. As a guest in Ben's room, I cleaned up and straightened up a lot of the room and bathroom because of my sheer disgust.

While cleaning up I put on my costume and drank a beer. It was a Saturday night remember.

The costume that Ben thought of was a Van Wilder outfit because I was the older guy amongst the councilors and the theme of the party that night was 'College Life'. I threw on the outfit that paralleled the last-scene in Van Wilder - the tiki-party themed scene. The night commenced with the entire councilor staff being divided into 4 teams - each with it's own team-costumes. I was on the 'Dorm Life' team while the other teams consisted of 'Campus Cults', 'Freshman-15', and 'Walk-of-Shame'. Our team got together and started brainstorming on chants and our song portion of the night. They do this every Saturday night - teams, songs, chants, and drinking. It was outrageous in relationship to my current lifestyle.

Each team is judged by a group of councilors that are rotated each week. Ben happened to be on the judges panel this week where he was an organizer, planner, facilitator, and judge. These councilors have to collect the money, the alcohol, plan the activities, monitor the drinking activities, and judge the song and chant.

We killed it in our song and chant. We prepared for an hour or so in a room and got to perform it upstairs on the third floor of Cedar. The rest of the activities are all held upstairs on the third floor after the group-singing competition. Lots of handles of alcohol are passed around and then the clothes start to come off. It basically turns into a giant flesh-drinking party for a solid hour or two.

After this, the party get displaced into various bedrooms throughout the first and second floor. The last thing I remember was playing some flip-cup in a downstairs room and then going to bed. The next thing I remember after that is throwing up for at least 10 minutes in Ben's bathroom. The next thing I remember is waking up with the feeling of mediocre hangover and the smell of regurgitation. I went to the bathroom to clean up my mess at 8am and then took a nap until 10am. The time dad called to ask how we were doing and if I was ready to meet up.