Saturday, June 19, 2010

Saturday Night at Hilltop Campground

I knew Hilltop was going to be a great spot the minute I turned in the driveway. Children were playing on a grassy hill and the pool was filled to capacity. It’s the first official weekend of summer here in “Down East” Maine. (I am unclear about the “down” part of the designation for this region, since you can’t get any more “up” than this and still be in the US.) All along the Maine coast summer's kickoff is celebrated with free days at museums, the beginning of seasonal ferries, the first sail of whale and lighthouse watching cruises. And it is a glorious first weekend, sunny skies, long warm days, cool and breezy nights. The natives are giddy, and so am I.

The Hilltop Campground celebrated with games all day and Bingo and Karaoke in the evening. And Bingo on a Saturday night at the Hilltop Campground, just south of the border to New Brunswick, ranks a close second to the shuttle liftoff on this summer’s RV trip. It started as a “why not, I’m just waiting for the laundry to dry anyway” and built to a fevered gambling experience. I bet against grandmothers, families, children and Canadians who paid for their bingo cards with loonies. There was no age limit for gambling at the Hilltop Campground.
I learned new things about Bingo, which has changed somewhat since my childhood days of sliding covers on permanent cards. Now the cards are disposable and there’s a see-through inker to cover the number. I watched the more savvy eleven year olds and got some tips. The first thing they did was mark the pattern of the game being called. “Small picture frame” meant fill in a square around the free box in the middle. “Plus sign” was more obvious and even I knew “blackout”. My personal favorite was “H”, because the numbers started rolling my way. When my H was missing two numbers, my heart started beating faster. The next number called was fifty five, pronounced "fitty five" by the caller and repeated “fitty five” by the crowd. I didn’t have it. But Granny playing six cards all taped together marked off "fitty five" several times. My tummy tightened. We’d been playing a long time. Someone was due to Bingo at any minute.

I heard a man on TV just the day before explaining that we could actualize our wishes through focusing. It was PBS and there was science to back his claim, so I focused. The caller said “G 46”. I had it! Now all I needed was B 10. I looked at the caller. He looked at me. He picked up the ball. “B…..” he paused, gathering dramatic effect. I nodded. I motioned come on. I focused on him. He focused back. “10!” “Whoop” I yelled. Folks turned and stared. I still needed to say the magic word. “Bingo!” Their faces sank; I celebrated in the end zone.
“What happens now?” I asked the lady who came to check my card. “They bring you the money.” Two fives American, two fives Canadian, two toonies and a Canadian quarter. I had played five rounds of Bingo, washed a load of clothes and was up about $18.00.

Later in the evening, I returned to the Pavillion with Daisy for Karaoke night at the Hilltop Campground. Once again there was no age limit, and also no talent minimum. Camper after camper struggled to read the words on the prompter and carry a tune. The crowd was there for the duration, no matter how much their ears hurt. Daisy howled and howled. Another camper turned to her and said, “My sentiments exactly.” I too agreed. It was a night to howl.

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