On Labor Day weekend, K, the girls and I were invited to a friend’s cabin in Big Sur for what turned out to be a fantastic weekend of hiking, beaches, campfires, and general unplugged-ness. From the cabin we could see the ocean, the mountains, a small creek that was fed by the property’s spring and an amazing menagerie of animals that wandered through the wilderness. Unfortunately, sometime during the weekend, I “got” poison oak.
It wasn’t like we weren’t warned. We were warned repeatedly to be careful, to mind the kids, mind the animals, not to venture into the wilderness without wearing long pants, not to pick wild, waxy-looking flowers. Luckily, of the 6 adults, 6 kids and 1 dog that were on the trip, I was only person who touched it. Well, luckily for everyone else, I guess.
Of course, I didn’t know that I had been exposed to it. In some super-creepy-that-it-still-gives-me-the-willies way, I didn’t know until 4 days after I got back that sometime during the weekend I had a fling with an bush with a venereal disease. It started with a rash on my ankle, which initially didn’t seem like much.
- Oh, looks like I have poison oak…
A few days later, the rash started to grow red and blisterly. Then it spread.
- Uh, is poison oak supposed to do this?
Of course, I did what any normal person would do. I googled “poison oak rash” and subjected myself to color photos of disfigured people with giant full body rashes and the warning that rashes could last as long as 6 weeks.
A few days later, K walked into the bathroom while was brushing my teeth.
- Why do you have a paper towel wrapped around your ankle?
- The blisters are breaking on my leg and the rash is beginning to ooze. I’m trying to keep it off the floor.
- Ok, that’s just gross.
Then the oozing grew worse, which resorted to me wrapping my leg before going to work each morning. That turned out to be a mistake, as the rash grew infected and the “oozing rash” to become an “oozing, fiery red mass” covering my leg from heel to mid-calf. It’s not to say that all this didn’t have an upside. The girls would insist on showing off my leg to friends as if I was a leprosy victim at a carnival exhibit.
- Dad, Dad, Dad! Can you show Ellie your leg?
- Why not?
- It’ll give her nightmares.
- Ah, come on, she came all the way over to see it.
- Okay, fine.
- ….um …EEEEEWWWWW!
At night, under a haze of Advil and antihistamines and as I felt the warm festering of my leg as it lay on top of a pile of towels, I would try to remember where during our Big Sur trip I had gotten my gift of poison oak. Maybe it was when I had climbed from the path on a hillside to get a pine cone for K. Or it could have been the surfers who pushed past us on the narrow trail on the way down to the beach. Or was it that walk along the bluff near where are friends had gotten married? I didn’t remember it, but obviously during that weekend I had been dragged into a dark alley and mugged by a plant.
NEXT WEEK – POISON OAK 2 – LIFE ON STEROIDS