The first thing, I guess, is to explain the title.
Here in Canada, we have a long weekend because Monday is Victoria Day (after the queen). It always falls one week before the American Memorial Day weekend. And, though it rarely lands on the specific day, we (at least in Eastern Canada) sometimes refer to it as the “May 24th Long Weekend” which then got bastardized into the “May Two-Four”.
What’s significant about that? Well, the weekend is really the first long weekend of summer and it tends to involve a lot of drinking.
A case of beer has 24 bottles. It’s sometimes referred to as a “two-four”. The May long weekend falls around May 24th…”May Two-Four”…get it?
So I thought it highly appropriate that it’s been exactly 24 (two-four) years since I went off with a bunch of college friends on a misguided and highly underexplained May Two-Four Weekend.
At the time, I was working for the Brewer’s Retail (now known as The Beer Store)–interesting choice of jobs, by the way, for someone who doesn’t drink, but that’s another blog–when one of the guys I went to college with came in to buy a couple of cases of beer. I sold them to him, asked what his plans for the Two-Four were and he mentioned he and some of the other guys from class were going camping. “Wanna come?” he asked. I had no plans, and I had the weekend off, so I thought, what the hell? I agreed.
I’ve since learned to ask a LOT more questions, but I was younger and slightly more stupid than I am today. Slightly.
Anyway, Friday came, I packed my tent and my sleeping bag and some food and clothing. I was good to go. The group of four guys picked me up and off we went. “So where exactly are we camping?” I asked. I was told it was in Tweed. Fair enough. No idea where it is…
Turns out it’s kinda far away, but that’s okay. We have a great time, as five guys in their twenties can have in a car. Then we find the actual camping area we’re heading to. This is the first time I realize I should have asked questions. We end up in a line up to get into Trudeau Park that’s got to be a hundred cars long. “Guys?” I ask, a little worry creeping into my voice. “What kind of camping is this, exactly?”
I get the “didn’t we tell you?” looks and they explain. This is a massive event. There’s bands, there’s motocross, there’s bikers…this is not heading into the bush and “livin’ off the fatta da land”…this is getting intimate with several thousand other campers of all interests. Oh God, this isn’t the camping I did with Mom a decade prior.
While we sit in line, we turn on the radio. More worry slides into me when I hear a radio ad. You know the type. Some guy with a reasonably deep, manly voice, having been given far too much coffee comes on and says something like, “TROOOOOOOO-Do PAAAARK! (insert first explosion sound effect here) We’re turning TWEEEEEEEEEEEED into a MUUUUUUUUUD PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT! (Insert second explosion sound effect here, followed by grumbling motorcycle sounds).”
Then they mention some sort of exorbitant entrance fee. I think between the five of us we may not make the fee for one person, let alone five. I resign myself to a long return trip and relax knowing my weekend will be a little less ridiculous than what’s facing me a mile down the road.
Until, somehow, we get in free.
I’m still unclear on the details, but basically, there was a point where a bunch of cars just…somehow…managed to get into the park without getting hit up for the entrance fee and the obligatory wristbands. I liken it to the Woodstock effect where they kind of gave up and started letting everyone in for free and, in this case, would kick you out later based on wristband ownership. Whatever. We’re in, we didn’t pay. Yay me.
The next challenge is to find an unoccupied spot in the dark and set up our stuff. It takes some wiggling, but we manage to carve out a patch of ground to call home for the next three days. Once set up, I decided to take a walk to see exactly what I’m in for. Worry goes to a low-level DEFCON setting.
Imagine a very large “O” shaped area…like four football fields put together. Now, turn them into a MUUUUUUUUUD PIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT! Okay, that’s the central area where only the brave and foolish go. Around the outside of this area, imagine a couple of thousand people camping. Winnibagos, campers, tent trailers, vans, tents, sleeping bags, or right down to “fall down and sleep where I lay” conditions exist here.
Okay, I can work with this. Hell, I have no choice.
So, how do I ensure I don’t get turfed? Because, unless the others I’m with get turfed too, I have no way to get home again. Luck intervenes when two drunken dudes decide for whatever reason they don’t like each other and start to fight each other. It’s one of those sloppy drunk pawing at each other debacles that are quite entertaining to watch. So, I do. And when one of them sort of tears the wristband from the other and it goes flying, all eyes stay on the two drunken combatants. I follow the trajectory of the wristband and pick it up. I can always claim it got caught on something and broke, but I’ve got my golden ticket now.
Mission accomplished, I pack it in for the night.
The next morning comes bright and sunny and warm. What to do today? After breakfast, I take another walk around the mud pit. It’s on this tour that I find an area to the north of the pit that seems to be biker alley. It’s all Harleys and leather and headbands and facial hair. I have none of that and steer clear. I have nothing against bikers, hell, one of my employees old man was a biker and not only was he a great guy, but he did a lot of fundraising for various charities. But I still have a healthy respect for differences in our lifestyles and I know at times they don’t mesh all that well. No biggie. My mud pit is your mud pit.
I continue my exploratory tour and get a solid lay of the land. I even manage to grab a very cold shower.
I eventually hook up with my buddies who have joined forces with a greater group of their buddies. Introductions all around. Beers are offered. Jokes are told. At one point we settle into a comfortable chill out session. Three or four of the greater group take up position sitting on the edge of a van roof, watching the people walking the path of the circle around the pit. It’s a constant thoroughfare. I shoot the shit with some of the guys for a bit, then head around to the shaded area of the van. As I do so, I happen to hear one of the guys on the roof say quite loudly, “Dudes! Check that out? Which one’s the dog?”
Then I see the object of the comment. A woman, tattoos darkening both arms, headband in place, as is the leather vest over the Harley T and cut off denim shorts walking a large breed of ugly dog. And I think, did you just insult a biker chick?
I decide now may be a good time to head back toward my campsite a few yards away.
A few minutes later, I hear a commotion. I come back out and watch along with everyone else. The woman is back sans dog, but with her significant other. And when I say significant, I’m serious. This guy is significantly large, significantly tattooed, sports a significantly ZZ Top-ish beard and is signficantly fearsome to behold. They’ve stopped in front of the same van with the social commenters.
“Which one?” says the significant one, in a voice that rumbles with distant thunder.
With no hesitation, the woman points, “That one.”
Before any retreat can occur–though really, you’re on top of a van, where you gonna go? –the biker reaches out, grabs the offending dude by the ankle, and pulls. It should be noted the van guy is wearing only shorts. It should also be noted this is an older style van with a fairly prominent rain gutter running the length of the roof (that little lip that stops water for pouring all over you when you open your doors).
When Significant Biker pulls Offending Dude down, his entire back scrapes along that gutter, from hips to neck. He lands with a thud, flat on his back on the dusty ground. Biker stands over him, then squats over him, then leans far down into his face. “You wanna do some more comparing of my ol’ lady to my dog now?”
Dude can’t seem to catch the wind that was knocked out of him. He shakes his head no, his face red and pained.
“How about me? You wanna compare me to anything?”
Again, shaking of the head. Vigorous shaking.
“You ever…EVER say anything about my ol’ lady, my dog or anyone ELSE I know, I’ll come back and I’ll kill you,” he says.
At this point, I think I hear the collective gulp of about a hundred throats swallowing all at the same time. This guy could give Stallone or Schwarzenegger a run for their money.
“Got it?” he says.
Dude is so used to shaking his head no, he starts to do that, realizes what he’s doing, changes direction and nods like his life depends on it. Probably does.
“Now, say you’re sorry.”
Dude says it.
“Not to me, asshole. To my ol’ lady.”
Dude looks at her and gives the most heartfelt apology I’ve ever heard.
Biker looks down at him. He pats his cheek. “Atta boy,” he says. “I think we all learned something today.” He smiles, rises, walks over to his wife, reaches for her hand in a surprisingly gentle way, and they head off down that dusty trail.
Dude stays on the ground for a few, then realizing he’s basically ground dirt and dust into his scraped up back, heads off to the showers. He avoids all looks.
And so ends the first part of the May Two-Four Weekend. What have we learned so far?
Two-Four can be a case of beer or a holiday.
Ask more questions.
Sometimes fights have positive outcomes.
Don’t insult biker chicks. Or their dogs.
More learnings to follow!!
Part Two starts here.