The mysteries of men, solved

Hey, who farted? Ok, who DIDN'T fart? I hear (at supper clubs and couples' bunko) that men are simple animals. But search "understanding men" on, and it returns 15,991 hits. Wouldn't you have expected maybe five or 10 books on the topic?

Meanwhile, "understanding women" produces 18,571 book suggestions - a lot, but only 16 percent more than men's books. Are women actually only 16 percent more complicated than men?

The answer, obviously, is no. Women are WAY more complicated. But there aren't more books about women because men wouldn't buy them.

It's like flying. I could read a book explaining how to fly, and at the end I still wouldn't be able to fly, and I would have missed a day of fishing. What's the point?

As for understanding men, the best approach isn't book learning, it's cultural immersion, such as in a guys' weekend.

Unfortunately, the experiment's results are influenced by the presence of the observer, a phenomenon known variously as the "Observer's Paradox" (social sciences), the "Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle" (quantum physics) and "Hey, Who Brought the Chick?" (men's studies).

So for those women not busy firing off a letter to the editor, here is a peek into a bona fide guys' weekend.

Every few years I attend the annual Susquehanna Safari, a guys-only weekend river float. On these weekends, I've learned many ways to become "one with the river," including: expounding on life and politics while floating on the river, falling into the river, making fun of guys who fall into the river, sitting between the river and a fire big enough to roast a whale, etc.

Here the Susquehanna winds through lush folds of green Pennsylvania mountains, dotted with boulders and stretches of rocky, riffled water. The only sounds: torrents of water whooshing inexorably toward the Chesapeake, bodily noises from 40 men in canoes and kayaks and, echoing faintly across the hills, the unmistakable theme to "Deliverance."

Banter is sharp. I took hits climbing onto a big, slippery rock, falling repeatedly onto my ample stomach. The instant feedback: I am an elephant seal.

Darryl erred by testing out a new inflatable pontoon rowboat on the trip. It wasn't that the boat was different; it was that it was different and didn't work. Result: 10 hours of mockery while being towed to camp.

At camp there is no bathroom, just an outhouse - not that I'd use it anyway, for two reasons. First, the guys sometimes fire a potato gun at the outhouse when someone's using it. Second, the outhouse is gross. But mostly it's that first reason.

Then there's the fire around which we tell stories and mock each other. Then the rookies line up as a military vet delivers a welcome worthy of Louis Gossett Jr. One rookie blundered by stating he doesn't follow sports - the crowd erupted like the witch-burning mob in "Monty Python and the Holy Grail." Which we quoted incessantly. It's a guy thing.

In fact, it's all a guy thing. I'm sure sociologists could explain our behavior, citing "Alpha Males" and "Dominance Hierarchy" and "Less Filling, Tastes Great." But it's fun - which might be all you need to know.