Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Infinite Points Between Two Points

Hello everyone from Trail of Tears State Park in Missouri! It's great to check in with you all again! As always, thanks for all the comments, and Tuyo, please call Mrs. Fishman - she needs your address so we can get back our security deposit.

Leaving St. Louis, we passed through the St. Louis Port, and it seemed that all the naysayers who had warned of industry and pollution on the lower river were right. Huge barges stacked six wide and long powered up and down, with wake ten feet high blowing off their back. Towboats motored this way and that, dropping off shipping containers and picking up new ones, rows of unattached containers lying anchored midstream, the water bouncing off them. Empty soda cans and rubber scrap floated alongside the canoes. We ducked and dodged them all, looking over our shoulders anxiously, riding through waves six feet over our heads.

That night, we camped at a boat club in Crystal City, MO. I walked up to talk to some old men working along the shore, and one came over and bellowed, "Where ya comin' from?" "Minnesota," I said. "Not a bad place to be comin' from!" His name was Bob somethingsomething (somewhat incoherent), and when I asked about restaurants he told me to take his truck into town. "The keys are in there," he said. "Don't you need it back by a certain time?" I asked. "What are you, going to go pick up some girls?" he bellowed. "I tell ya, you can borrow the truck, but I don't want any spots on the seats!"

Later that night, he comes down with another guy and pronounces Missouri Missourah and sits and talks with us about the other folks who have passed through making the trip, and how the boat club was once the site of the largest pane glass company in the world, and about where we are planning to stop further down along the river. "Whatever you do, don't go to Cairo," Bob says. "It's about ninety percent colored," says his friend, "And the whole thing has gone kaplatt."

But outside of the St. Louis Port, the naysayers have been wrong. The river here is beautiful, poplar and maple and oak trees bending in from the banks, and huge sandbars jutting out from where it bends. Since the port, we have hardly seen a soul outside of towns, and the solitude is enchanting. Ryan and I paddle and concoct a wild scheme to caravan across America in a schoolbus before the 2008 elections, causing scenes on college campuses and registering people to vote. We talk about the sad state of our generation, and note that it is both the most connected and most apathetic generation in the history of this country. "If only you could mobilize that," I say, "If only people would get excited and do something important with their lives." We talk about how great it is to paddle the Mississippi, to create a goal and live by setting out to accomplish it, and in doing so, create time for yourself. "Really," Ryan says, "How many people do you know who take the time to just sit!
and thin
k? It's a dead pastime." We paddle for a long time in silence, and water pools to the surface as if thoughts forming in the current, spinning, crashing into other thoughts and raging at the edges, downstream and then gone, swallowed again by the river, part again of the whole.

We've taken to paddling through the morning and then floating for long periods of the afternoon in the now substantial current. Doing this yesterday, Danny takes a nap while the rest of us read and space out. When we want to go again, Danny is still sleeping, and I tell Kevin and Ryan to go on ahead and we'll meet them at camp about eight miles down, where there are towns on both sides of the river. "Just pick which side is better," I tell them, and off they go. The way Danny is sleeping, I cannot see him, and soon the other canoe is out of sight. It is so peaceful, alone on the river! I paddle slowly in the back of the canoe, forcing nothing, letting the current carry me down. This is wonderful, I think to myself, and wonder at how in the hell I ever got to be here, where everyone said it would be hot and industrial and awful and instead it is quiet and beautiful, and me just slowly paddling the Mississippi River, reveling in the simplicity and the solitude.

When Danny wakes up, we paddle the rest of the way into camp. We pull up on the Illinois side because it seems more populated, but realize once there that Kevin and Ryan have pulled up on the Missouri side of the river. After an extended yet uneventful interlude where an old couple drives us into town and we buy groceries, learning along the way that Chester, Illinois is the home of Popeye, I call Kevin and tell him to come over to our side of the river. He tells us to come over there. Suddenly, it is a standoff. "We've got beer," I tell him. "We've got beer too," he says. "You were supposed to follow us!" he says. "You were supposed to pick the better side!" I say, "There's a town over here!" We argue and argue, but neither side is willing to pack up their things and paddle over. More than that, neither side is willing to lose. It starts to get dark, and Danny and I try to negotiate. "We're willing to come over," we tell them, "If you cook dinner and do the dishes." They ha!
ve alread
y started drinking, and they shoot us down incredulously. "We're not your bitches!," they cry. "The bars stay open till three (!) in Illinois," I say. Ryan gets on the phone and launches into a long tirade about why we are being ridiculous, how the plan was to follow them. "But you picked the wrong side!" I say, and when I can think of nothing else, I hand the phone to Danny, telling Ryan to "talk to my associate." "We have the stove," Danny says. "How the hell are you going to cook dinner?" "We'll get hot dogs at the convenience store." "Fine, well we're going to camp here and walk around our sweet town." "There's no way in hell we're crossing that river right now." "Well fine, stay on your crap side." "Fine." "Fine." "Fine."

Alone now, Danny and I wander up to town to eat and flirt with a cute bartender because neither one of us has the energy to cook a meal. I go up a second time to use the restroom, strike out with the bartender, and walking back down toward the shore, begin to be followed by a tiny kitten. I just keep walking and it won't go away. When I get back to camp, we try to figure out whether it is a boy or girl and give it some water. "Let's keep it," Danny says, and I say sure, because it is absurd and now we have a trip mascot. "I guess this definitely proves our side is better," I say. We name it Parmenides, after the philosopher who theorized an infinite amount of points between any two other points before going insane and saying nothing for years besides 'It is,' because it jives well with Danny's background in philosophy and my interest in Buddhism. "Parmippides for short," Danny says. In the morning, Kevin and Ryan paddle over, but Parmenides won't stay in the box we give him.!
"He'll j
ump out of the canoe. Or he'll suffocate in the box," Kevin says, and talks to a guy in his car who says he can take him to City Hall. We're all tore up, thinking we're going to have to give away old Parm after just one night, and begin speculating that they won't in fact take him in but instead will kill him, little kitten with no one to take him home, but in the 11th hour we convince the car guy to drive us to Walmart to pick up a cage. Danny comes back triumphant with a collar, leash, cat food, play toys and traveling cage, and we load Parmippides in. "Meow," it says. And we're off.


Drizzle said...

a kitten? now you've got me interested!

Jane said...

The youth is becoming less disinterested!
I'm sorry I didn't answer the phone last night. I have been working very hard and I'm also sick as a dog, so all my free time has been devoted to sleep.
Try again, though! I miss you two very much. I worry constantly. And I'm very jealous you have a kitten.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I recently added a news widget from to my blog. It shows the latest news, and just took a copy and paste to implement. Might interest you too.

famille stoa said...

Greetings from Wyoming.....
Ryan,did you get a lifejacket??????
Is it as hot in Missouri as here???? (We saw 105 degrees in the Badlands a few days ago.) On to Yellowstone today.

Who will keep Parmy at the end of the trip???
Keep having a good time!

Angela said...

Hahaah. .
Your fight was incredibly amusing.
Probably kinda sucked at the time. .
But the way you set it up to be told . . It's fucking comical as hell.
The kitten . . Aww!
I'm glad you didn't let the poor thing get killed.
I don't know how you guys could live without cleaning yourselves for days at a time; I just got back from a camping trip that lastly merely three days out of your two months. . . And I was so nasty and gross I was in a bitchy mood,(not to mention allergies are/were kicking the shit out of me during the trip . . which disappointed me greatly).
And . . All I have to say on that topic of being "Nature Fresh" . . I wonder how you guys do with bugs on the river. . MoQ's and bees attack me constantly . . Dunno why. Guess I taste good.
[no pun intended]
Anyways. .
Whoot Whoot!!
*does some cheer leader moves . . bounces. . yells. . jumps. . etc. .*
Goooooo TMP!!
*throws pom poms in the air*

Jamie-Lee said...

dude, my cat is obsessed with your blog now.

Jessica said...

I love the school bus plan!


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wanda1234 said...

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