Chris, Hugh and Malcolm went on a guy junket over the weekend, travelling to meet another dad and two sons for a camping trip in the Virginia mountains.

For three days, I, alone, was in charge of the TV.  Nobody shanghaied the remote to check game scores or cue up something raunchy on the DVR.  It was fun to watch two past episodes of Boardwalk Empire on Sunday morning by myself, still wearing PJs at 11 AM.

To backtrack a bit:  last week, Malcolm and I watched Grizzly Man together – the story of a misguided misfit who decides to commune with grizzly bears in Alaska.  He sets up cameras and films his interactions, cooing to the giant beasts about how much he loves them.   Seemingly indifferent, the bears go about their business with Grizzly Man standing right nearby.  The human stayed too long, into pre-hibernation time.  And then….the cameras recorded the sounds, but not the video, of his eventual death at the claws of a grizzly.

Fast forward to my girl’s weekend at home.  I chose to watch Into the Wild, which happened to be sitting on the counter in its red Netflix envelope.  Here was the true tale of a young, idealistic college graduate who chose to go to Alaska in the early 1990s and live off the fat of the land, all alone, because he was sick of society and felt that humanity was composed of corrupt hypocrites.  The kid sets up camp in an abandoned bus, reads books, writes in his journal, shoots and cooks animals, and eventually – by accident – eats a poisonous plant that kills him.

Later, on the phone, I was telling my brother Jim how odd it was that I had seen these two particular movies back-to-back.  “It’s really weird that in one movie,” I improvised, ” the guy is done in by bears, and in the other, he’s done in by berries.”  After determining that yes, I had just made that up, Jim chuckled.

All black humor aside,  the movies have stayed with me.  It is freaky that the plots were so similar, and that in both cases, these societal outcasts were outwitted not by the other humans they deplored, but by nature  – the very force each idealized as so welcoming and nurturing.

And so today, Election Day, I feel it is well worth remembering that actually, Sarah Palin is not the scariest life form in Alaska.

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