One of my favorite Presidents once said that when you're in a horrible place inside, and everything around you's gone !@#$ over !@#$ in a boiling sea of !@#$, the best thing to do is grab some young folks, go out into the wilderness, and show them its wonders for a time.
That was Teddy Roosevelt, of course. He told me that not long after he'd killed two shape-shifting aliens masquerading as lions, and was still deciding whether to wash off their chartreuse blood or wear it back to camp like it was woad.
(He didn't know they weren't lions when he jumped them, armed with nothing but a bowie knife, a rock, and his teeth, but that's another story.)
So I guess that it was a stroke of cosmic luck that, after being unceremoniously relieved of my direct oversight of former supernazi territory by executive order, it just happened to be time for the annual SPYGOD SCOUT SATURNALIA.
(And look! I already had my bags backed and everything. Why thank you, Mr. President. Thank you so very !@#$ much.)
SPYGOD SCOUT SATURNALIA, I hear you asking? Surely you've heard of it. If the hills are alive with the sound of exploding insect repellent cans, badly drunk teenagers, and fast cars, then it can only mean that the Boy Scouts have been let loose, and you should lock up your girls.
If, on the other hand, you can't hear anything it all, that means we're in town.
All over the country, for a full week in July, thousands of bright-minded, young men and women converge on a spot picked less than 24 hours before (security purposes). After the requisite body scans, they enter the portal, and are allowed entry to the tesseract confines of B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P.3, where a week's worth of adventure, education, and fun await.
B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P.3 is a portable pocket dimension that's kept aboard The Flier most of the year. It roughly corresponds to the dimensions and environment of Earth, but seems to have no signs of habitation or previous civilization. It's essentially what the world would have been like if the dinosaurs had not died out, and the apes hadn't been around to evolve into us, which makes it both humbling and perfect for our needs.
(And, no, I'm not going to tell you what happened to B.A.S.E.C.A.M.P.s 1 and 2, son. That's well above your pay grade.)
What happens at the Saturnalia? Everything your parents warned you about, of course.
Hiking through unspoiled territory and building huge, lashed-together forts across its landscape for protection against cunning, prehistoric predators. Flying on the backs of tamed pterodactyls, dropping bombs on herds of ground creatures, and gliding down to the ground in bat suits.
Rafting and canoeing through dinosaur-infested waters, and shooting the living !@#$ out of anything that dares break the surface. Then bringing the fight to the underwater critters with snorkeling gear and harpoon guns, and feasting on the kill.
Learning to clean, dress, and cook things that haven't walked the Earth in millions of years. Discovering how to live off the land, even in extreme conditions.
Making your own still out of basic materials that can be found on any college campus or hardware supply store. Drug recipes that will get you safely and legally high on the cheap, or get others killed or bombed into submission.
The sharing of deadly martial arts, weapons, and pharmacological know-how that'll keep anyone in good stead for the rest of their lives, no matter what career they may need to go into. Linguistic martial arts that can be applied to everyday conversation, business rooms, political structures, or entire societies.
And above all, pride. Pride in country and patriotism. Pride in personal accomplishment. Pride in the team, the group, the whole.
Pride in one's self, and all the things that self encompasses.
I started SPYGOD SCOUTS in the early 80's, when it became shockingly clear to me that most organizations for America's youth were either communist-inspired attempts to mine their enthusiasm and energy for cheap labor, or paramilitary outfits that, in spite of their many good qualities, had no time or patience for the weird, the outcast, the socially maladjusted, or the gay.
It didn't take a clairvoyant to see what direction America's youth was headed at the time (though I do have a few on the payroll). Alienation and rage, coupled with stifling conformity, a failed education system that looked at collegiate ends rather than means and its overall mission, a medical industry all too eager to over-medicate the odd and different, and overreaching, paternalistic attitudes that would have made Ayn Rand !@#$ herself.
What does all that equal? Take any school shooting, any teen suicide, any gang banger, dropout, O.D., or youthful misfit turned self-destructive that doesn't make it in music or showbiz, and then you tell me.
Those kids could have been saved.
Someone could have taken them by the hand and told them that they were special. Told them that their lives meant something. Insisted that, regardless of what the jerks in Troop 200 told them late at night, when the adults were out smoking and playing poker, they had something to contribute other than being the designated stress relief or punching bag.
They could have been out there kicking ass in any number of professions, fixing the country's problems, defending its borders, or serving the common good. Instead they're on death row, or already past it.
So I got some strings pulled and made this organization, and still keep an eye on its running. Every year, at saturnalia, I am there to lead, but also to step back and let them step forward, singly or in groups. And I only intervene when things get out of hand.
(Like that one time that one kid made a gods-!@#$ tyrannosaurus rex stampede happen. Clever little !@#$. He makes six figures working for us on animal control projects, now. Live your dreams, kids.)
Of course, not everyone out there gets it. I get beefs from parents groups and religious organizations all the !@#$ time.
They complain about the alcohol? I tell them these kids are growing up understanding what it is, how to use it socially and responsibly, and will therefore be less likely to turn into lushes when they get to college.
Can they say the same? No.
They complain about the co-ed showers? I tell them these kids are growing up without as many body issues or unhealthy attitudes towards sex, and will therefore be less likely to make complete !@#$ fools of themselves when it comes to handling such matters.
Can they say the same? !@#$ no.
They complain about the guns, blood, and guts? I tell them that America was founded on the understanding that, when reason fails and the other guy is not going to listen to you, it's time to beat their face in with a big !@#$ rock. It's just that our rocks fire caseless ammunition at ludicrous speeds and pulp a mature stegosaurus in less than three seconds.
Can they say the same? You guessed it. !@#$ !@#$ the !@#$ no.
But I think the best sign that we're doing something good and right here is the most obvious one. Whenever someone high and mighty gets caught doing something down and dirty, and they're facing either the court of public opinion or the real thing (maybe both) the first thing out of anyone's mouth is one of two things. Either they say "oh, but he was a choirboy!" or "oh, but he was an Eagle Scout!"
Have you ever heard anyone say "Oh, but s/he was a SPYGOD SCOUT!"? No you have not. And that means that either we're doing the better job of creating America's future leaders, or we're teaching them how not to get caught.
Around the end of the week, as I watched team after team of suntanned, scraped, and amazingly happy young men and women tromp up with their accomplishments, and cheer all rivals on with genuine pride and enthusiasm, I thought about all the crazy, backbiting !@#$ I've had to put up with over the last couple years (some of which I started, admittedly) and realized that none of it means a !@#$ thing. Not in the face of this one, perfect week that always comes too slowly and ends too soon.
Unlike the dinosaur hooch, which leaves you with one !@#$ of a hangover but never fails to make you feel like a real human being.
GORGON might be the death of me yet, somehow. But standing there, trying not to cry like a little wuss when they all marched out into the real world, ready to bite its throat out with their teeth, I knew that it's all worth it. Every !@#$ bit.
(Kicking Robert Baden-Powell in the junk might have been a bit over the top, of course. But the bastard had it coming.)
(SPYGOD is listening to Sound of Sunday (Joonas Hahmo) and nursing a massive dinosaur hooch hangover. Bring Aspirin)