¿Que Pasa, M.I.A.?

Against my better judgment and sense of comfort and convenience, I went camping. Into the woods. Into the night. With fire. And "Beware of Bears" signs. Bears that want to open my sleeping bag and eat me like a pastelito de carne.

A group of friends invited me to Wekiwa Springs State Park in Central Florida. They promised I'd have a relaxing time. I really needed a weekend away from photographers and nightclubs full of ladies who try to steal my clothes and men who want to be in my clothes. I wondered if I could handle a weekend away from Miami and Cuban coffee, but my friends also promised to bring a cafetera.

The first step in camping, I learned, is to pack for warmth and safety. I brought some special shoes called "moccasins" made by the American Indians. Instead of my glitter-coated normal clothes, I brought "jeans." Jeans are pants that don't shine and don't have sequins or jewels. To keep insects away from me, I brought a mosquitero and a fly swatter. I also brought night-vision goggles to see scary creatures in the dark.

The next step in camping is to get into a car and listen to music. I made a Campfire of Love mix CD, but the driver couldn't understand why I put "Lookout Weekend" on it six times in a row. Instead she took control of the stereo and made us listen to Sublime, Shania Twain, and Jack Johnson. I was roughing it, and not liking it.

The next step in camping is to go to a grocery store near the campsite to buy food. I wanted to purchase a platter of sandwiches, but we had to buy ingredients separately and make sandwiches by hand.

We made a campfire. The fire looked so beautiful. I just wanted to hug it and absorb its flaming warmth. My friends held me back and fed me a camping snack called "s'mores." Later I shared a sleeping bag with a special lady (for warmth and to protect her from wildlife). We wore six pairs of socks, four pairs of pants, and 12 sweaters.

The next day, we walked through the woods and saw mosquitoes make tiny love. Also that day, the park ranger invited us to see a musical showcase of indigenous people in flannel clothes. The opening act was a serious lady who sang about her pinkie and Slinkies. The headliner was supposed to be the Holden Boys, but I think bears ate some of them, so we saw only one Holden Boy and he was a man. The rest of the night was filled with scary animal noises and frightening screams. We stopped when the park ranger approached our tent with an Army surplus flashlight.

The last day, I learned that the most important and final part of camping is to eat at Cracker Barrel on the way home. It is an authentic American eatery with eggs, meat, and maple syrup. Still, I felt proud knowing what the cavemen felt like in the woods, as they spread Dijonaise on their honey wheat bread.

José El Rey's weekly column "¿Que Pasa, M.I.A.?" appears every Thursday morning on CrossFade, New Times' music blog. Visit blogs.miaminewtimes.com/crossfade to catch up on what you might have missed.

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José El Rey