My friend Mark is getting married next month (it's all the rage these days--all the cool kids are doing it), and I attended his bachelor party this past weekend. Mark is a guy's guy in all of the good ways and none of the bad ones--he's a craftsman, knows how to use tools; he's resourceful, a little bit crazy, and full of love. His bachelor party consisted driving out to central Washington, near Leavenworth, and spending the weekend camping out on a plot of undeveloped land owned by one of his friends.
We left Seattle about 8:00 pm on Friday night, and made it out to the site about 11, where the main activity of the weekend--preparing, roasting, and eating a whole pig--was already well underway. The pig was stuffed, sewn up, and placed on a smoker that had been fashioned out of an oil drum, and the bachelor-celebrants stayed up in shifts during the night tending the fire. In the meantime I pitched a tent out in the middle of the property and slept for a few hours under stars that, being that we were hours from any major metropolitan area, you could actually see.
I'm an ostensible pescitarian--I cut beef out of my diet after, in college, a friend convinced me that it was the devil in meat form. I later decided the same thing about chicken, and eventually cut out all land-roving animals. I'm not grossed out by meat and I don't object to killing animals for food--yet another cursory observation of nature seems to reveal that eating other animals is about as natural a thing as there is. At this point I don't eat the land rovers because I think we're too far removed from the fact that we're eating another living thing. The animals we're fed are penned up and slaughtered out of our view, pre-processed and packaged and delivered to us in a box with nice pictures on the front. All of the viscera and ugliness of nature, red in tooth and claw, is neatly disposed of. I've kept fish in my diet on the reasoning that I've actually, in my life, caught, killed, and eaten them. In general I believe that if you are farming or hunting your own meat, you're eating a diet that's a lot more moral than mine. All of that is a round about introduction to the fact that my objections to eating meat didn't really apply to the pig we roasted this weekend--one of Mark's friends bought it from a small farm, and they cooked and ate it whole. But I still couldn't bring myself to eat it--I don't quite know why. I brought some salmon and veggie burgers with me and grilled them while my compatriots, after roasting it for 16 straight hours, ate what was apparently the best pork in the history of time.
So anyway, I hung out in a field with a bunch of bachelors whom, apart from Mark, I really didn't know. And they all, without exception, turned out to be the best kind of guy's guys--handy with tools and full of love. Over the weekend, we cleared some brush and dug out some stumps, threw the football around, went swimming in a river, and sat in the shade drinking beer and collectively working on the cryptic crossword in the back of Harper's Magazine (and really, what's more manly than that?). Driving home on Sunday evening it struck me that it had been a really honest kind of weekend. I guess the purpose of a bachelor party is to enjoy the freedom you had as a single man, and this gathering was about that only in so far as it wasn't about that at all--we'll probably be back out to camp some more in October. I don't know that we broke any new ground on what it means to be a man and to be okay with the fact that hegemony works in your favor. Instead we all spent two and a half days without indoor plumbing, or indoor anything, and we were okay with that. And we had a really good time doing it.