>>> Bang for Your Buck
By staff writer David Nelson

June 4, 2006

Essential New Word of the Week: rapin' wheel (definition hint: deliverance)

Last week, Court asked the writing staff if we would put together a collaborative article about our ideal summers. At first we held out for a raise, but he bargained us down to a sandwich and a pair of PIC shoes each. I gave the topic a great deal of thought, and decided to write about The Cottage™, easily summer’s best feature for me.

I soon realized I had a problem. There was no way I could limit myself to just a few paragraphs on a topic I love more dearly than sex and gummi bears combined. Instead, I cobbled together some kind of demented Meatballs rip-off. So now I get to tell you all about the cottage experience, at length, as I know it.

Cottage. The mere word sends a shiver up my spine. Or that might just be the cerebral palsy. It’s a fine, solid noun, but it can also be used as a verb (“Let’s go cottaging!”) or even an adjective (“Pass the cottage cheese”). Say it slowly and it sounds like summer rain hitting a thatched roof. Say it quickly and it sounds like children laughing. At least, it does when you’re higher than a Himalayan weather balloon. Which, at the cottage, is par for the course.

“A great cottage game is 9/11 Jenga. As you can probably guess, it’s played with two side-by-side towers.”

It’s also the only word I know that rhymes with “frottage,” which is apparently the clinical term for dry humping or sexual rubbing. This means if I’m ever in a writing class where I have to compose a limerick about two of my favorite summer activities, it won’t be very difficult.

I’m not sure if the Ontarian concept of “cottage” will translate to the many PIC readers who live in the sunny South. A cottage means far more than just a summer home, or a log cabin; it’s kind of a way of life. All year, we have to contend with traffic, weather, deadlines, and other annoyances. It sucks all kinds of ass, no matter how much we’re told “it builds character” by stereotypical old cranks.

But when summer finally rolls around, there’s an escape at hand. We have to journey two to three hours to get to what we call “cottage country,” a vast expanse of pristine lakes, beautiful scenery, and friendly people. And liquor stores that sell crazy local brands of beer we can’t normally get our hands on. And roadside pie stands, and a whole bunch of other totally charming crap.

People build properties on the sides of the lakes, and stock that property with all kinds of food, drink, and things to do. Accordingly, the cottage is a place where cubicle drones can go to escape the frantic pace of city life, reconnect with nature, and drink enough booze to impress the weird Asian guys from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Over the years, there have been so many cottage stories that they’ve all kind of coalesced into a blur of campfires, drunken midnight swims, boat rides, jokes, and the kind of bonding you can’t get outside of a beer commercial.

In a best-case scenario, four of us will carpool and head up the first morning of a three-day weekend to meet six or so others already there. Waking up at 7:00 am isn’t easy for Canada’s laziest alcoholics, but our resolve is great. We’ll stop at a donut shop for coffee and a deep-fried, sugar-glazed kind of breakfast. There’s really no other option; in Toronto, there’s a donut shop every 10.6 meters, approximately. That might sound like a lot, but remember…that’s in metric.

The ride itself can be tedious, but I sort of take it upon myself to entertain my friends with jokes, games, and stories to pass the time. After about fifteen seconds of that, everyone will tell me to shut the hell up, and I become the official lookout for attractive women in nearby cars. My eyesight’s not great, but I can spot cleavage from 100 yards away, while doing 80 mph.

When we arrive, the first order of business, naturally, is drinking. Typically, we won’t even make it through the front door before cracking open the first beer of what promises to be a bender of Chris Farley proportions. We’ll unload our gear, and stake out a place to sleep, much like hobos, or contestants on Big Brother.

There are only a few rooms with beds, and they’re usually reserved for couples or known snorers. All in all, there’s plenty of room for everyone, provided you don’t mind sleeping on the floor, or on a cot that smells like decades-old mildew. It doesn’t really matter that much; everyone just kind of sleeps wherever, and whenever the liquor and drugs catch up with them.

Morning comes, and everyone staggers back into consciousness. Whoever is least fucked-up is in charge of making coffee. Sometimes it’s me, but not if I can help it. I think I might actually be clinically retarded when it comes to making coffee. No matter what I do, it comes out tasting like French-roasted smegma.

We fuel up with a breakfast that consists of no less than five different varieties of pork, I endure a litany of kosher jokes, and we head out for some serious fun on the lake. Depending on the cottage, this can mean a number of activities. Historically, there’s been skiing, fishing, and canoeing, but by far the most popular is lounging. It’s an activity that requires only some kind of inflatable device, and a place to wedge your beer so that it won’t get lake water in it.

If you don’t have something inflatable to lounge on, you have to improvise. For example, life jackets worn as diapers make excellent flotation devices, not to mention hilarious sight gags. Failing that, there’s often a raft permanently anchored in the lake, but we have to be careful. One guy I know has made it his life’s sole purpose to hide under the raft in order to scare people. Seriously, he’ll stay underwater for hours at a time, like a Vietcong prisoner, to make it happen. Seasoned cottagers know to be weary of this raft monster.

When it gets too cold or dark to swim, out come the games. One of my favorites is dog bocce. It’s played just like bocce ball, except the owner’s dog is 100% in play, and will frequently move the shots around to effect different outcomes. Another great cottage game is 9/11 Jenga. As you can probably guess, it’s played with two side-by-side towers. What can I say? All that fresh air can really bring out one’s morbid side.

As night falls, we’ll usually build a huge bonfire, around which we’ll continue to pollute our bodies well into the wee hours. Often, we’ll take a midnight swim, at which point I begin to wish I had some kind of Predator-like night-vision, because a) finding the lake when you’re drunk isn’t as easy as you might think, and b) the women up at a cottage at any given time are super-hot. Don’t know why, that’s just the way it is.

Some cottages are really modern and that’s great, but I also enjoy the challenge of having no electricity/running water. Since this will be the closest I ever come to appearing on Survivor, I like to go the whole nine yards and try to deprive myself of as much as possible while there. I’ve even gone so far as to try spear fishing, but the only thing I caught were the suspicious glances of elderly neighbors.

Cottages have their own house rules and traditions as well. “If it’s brown, flush it down, if it’s yellow, be mellow” is a common refrain during times of water conservation. And speaking of colors, one cottage tradition is the group consumption of a bottle of Moody Blue, a local Ontario “wine-beverage” that looks and tastes like it was made by fermenting Smurf corpses. On the plus side, if you drink it, your bowel movements will become more artistic for about a week.

As much fun as it is, though, the cottage scene can be very exclusive. They’re expensive pieces of property, and relatively few people have one. It’s important to maintain friendships with the right people to get invited. I actually know girls who refer to themselves as “cottage whores,”
without a trace of irony.

This doesn’t mean they act like whores while at cottages (even though they probably do), only that they’re available for any and all kinds of favors throughout the year if it will secure them that coveted invitation. I’m not making judgments; this article surely makes me a cottage whore too. On that note, I’d like to say hello to my dear friends Jon, Chris, and Rob, all cottage-owners and gods among men.

Essential New Word of the Week:

rapin’ wheel (‘reph in wil) n: There is a tree at one cottage I visit with some kind of wooden wheel permanently affixed to it. It’s kind of creepy, and it has no ostensible purpose. Accordingly, it has been christened “The rapin’ wheel.” When asked what it’s for, those in the know will reply, as simply and briefly as possible – rapin’. Trust me, this is yet another hilarious way to fuck with the heads of first-time cottage guests. But in terms of new word creation, rapin’ wheel spawned a whole new kind construction.

For example:

“Oh that? That’s my sittin’ chair.”

“What’s it for?”


Thus far, I’ve seen people lay claim to a shootin’ car, a burnin’ pile, and various other backwoods, cottage-y things. And it’s all thanks to the rapin’ wheel.