Monday, June 4, 2007

Long After the Thrill

Hello again, everyone. Apologies for not blogging sooner, but we've been out of service. We're coming to you live, finally, from the Treo. We're in Little Falls, MN, sharing a campsite with a guy who lives on the river during the summer, and we have cell phone service. Danny is writing raps to an Atmosphere beat, and Kevin is studying the maps. The guy who lives here has a huge American flag and a big fire going. Danny put up his flag to share in the patriotism, but it keeps falling off the flagpole. Damn duct tape is all I can say.

As made clear by all your wonderful comments, I turned 21 a few days ago. That night, we stopped in Aitkin, MN, and the local high school was holding its graduation. We ate dinner at an Italian restaurant, checked our email at an internet cafe, and decided we'd attend. At 8:00 P.M., the gymnasium was packed. Just look!

We sat in the bleachers and watched as the graduates walked down the center aisle, and as the Fists of Fury Handbell Choir played Sherman's "Fantasy No. 2 in C Minor," best known for accompanying a long-running car commercial. The Aitkin High School Band played "Music of James Bond," and received the biggest applause of the night. And it was announced that Steve Wilkowski, the Principal, was retiring after twenty years. In honor of his service, the graduating class gave him a picture.

The Valedictorian's name was Natalia Berhow, and speaking softly into the microphone, she urged the Class of 2007 on. "Graduates, you have exactly the same potential as the person sitting next to you," she said. "The only question is whether you believe it." I sat in the bleachers, just turned 21, and thought of all my classmates from high school, and all the angst and unhappiness they'd been through since then, and of the people they'd become, and of what they all must be up to now. And I thought of all my friends who were 21, and of all their 21st birthdays, and of all the binge drinking they'd done. What the hell is my generation doing, I thought, and stared down at the Aitkin High School graduating Class of 2007, and wondered at who they'd all turn out to be.

After the presentation of diplomas, and after the pastor had asked God to bless these graduates in the name of Jesus our Lord and Savior, and noted that graduation can only come from Above, we walked over to the bar to catch the Twins game and take a shot for my 21st. But when we got there, a seventy-year-old woman was singing accapella to an empty room. We watched for a second and left. Walking back to the river, we passed the newly-minted graduates, across the street from their old high school. They stood gathered around pick-up trucks, trying to figure out whose house could host a party. They listened to music and drank beer, waiting for their whole lives to begin.

Two days later, we stopped in Brainerd, MN, and took in an independent league baseball game between the Brainerd Blue Thunder and the Rochester Honkers. The owners of the team, a couple from California named Pam and Skip, let us watch the game for free! And not only that, but they gave us free bratwursts and nachos and beer, and let us pitch our tent in the stadium! When we explained to them what we were doing, Pam couldn't stop chuckling. "This is funny," she said.

Before the game, Miss Brainerd Lakes 2006 threw out the first pitch while the Miss Brainerd Lakes 2007 candidates stood by and watched. Miss Brainerd Lakes 2005 sang the National Anthem, and people faced center field and placed their hats over their hearts. All the girls had straightened hair. John "Cougar" Mellencamp came on the P.A. System as the Blue Thunder took the field. "Oh," he sang, "Life goes oooonnn, long after the thrill, of living is gone."

In the third inning, they interviewed us over the P.A. System about our trip. In the fifth inning, Kevin and I ran the Dizzy Bat race and Kevin fell down, hard. We'll post the video tomorrow. Because I won, I got a lucky golf ball! And we both got ten dollar gift certificates to the Brainerd Burger King! In the bottom of the ninth, the Blue Thunder scored two runs to tie it, and then went on to win in the tenth. We made friends with some kids sitting next to us in the Fun Deck along the third base line. "The Mississippi," said one who couldn't be over 21, and shook his head. "I'd do something like that, but I've gotta take care of the baby girl." I went to the bar with him later.

That was last night. In the morning, we packed up our things and hung out in the visitor's dugout while the groundskeepers watered the field. "You guys spend the night in here?" one asked as we made our way out toward the highway. We nodded. "Alright!" he said, and carried his load inside. Now we're in Little Falls, and every town is bigger than the last. You can see the metropolitan build-up of the Twin Cities a hundred miles away. As we enter civilization, the posting should be more frequent, so stay tuned! We'll be in Sauk Rapids tomorrow night, and in the Twin Cities on the 8th. Come out to the bridges and wave hello! Drop us love letters. Bring us flowers. We're easy and lovable! And we haven't showered in two weeks! So bring the whole family out, Emily! You only live once, and that potential can be so fleeting, after all.


markie said...

you guys are getting quite the receptions. danny...keep on rapp'in, i have faith in you. i'm waiting to hear about reptile job in toronto. so many reptiles......

Chris said...

There's you. And then there's a bunch of people who, until now, I've almost thought were you. But they were all posers. They were all fuckin' posers. Are you going to be back in the Bay sometime soon?

-Chris S.

garrett said...

what a fantastic journey...beautiful writing and so timely. i love that you guys, in a time of chaos and uncertainty, have decided to float down a big river.
danny--i'm proud that you're doing this. i always knew you had something like this in you. all i ask is that maybe you reflect on the people in your life that have allowed this to happen--all the minor and major players in your life...happy floating...

chewey said...

hey guys ....matt and deb here from brainerd......bad storms coming in tomorrow so keep your eyes open for cover........i also dropped a line to one of the news crews in the cities for you talk to you later

chewey said...

Hey guys Matt and Deb here from brainerd(the baseball game) you know the spinning bat contest.. oh by the way did you get the stain out of the we just wanted to let you know bad storms are expected tomorrow(wed) keep your eyes open for cover. its fun watching your progress and we,ll keep in touch

chewey said...

ok so we are just getting this stuff figured out.. i guess the right hand doesnt know what the left hand is doing. sorry about the somewhat double post

Jamie-Lee said...

Gabe, you've got a story in The Summer Pennsylvanian.

You've really made it, buddy.

Jennie said...

Today is my first day reading your blog so, forgive me if my comment isn't directly related to your most recent adventure. But, I feel the need to share my thoughts on your post about Costco.

How dare you compare the employees of Costco to Amsterdam prostitutes? That is someone's grandmother who is out there, with her white hair and curved spine, trying to sell you a Swiffer. I'm sure she would love to be retired, as you suggest she should, if only she could afford it. Not everyone has the opportunity to take an entire summer off from employment to float down a river.

Your lack of sensitivity is astounding and your thinly veiled mockery and ridicule of small town America is insulting.

In the future, perhaps you could consider a less offensive tone.

D said...

Jennie, our post concerning the elderly employees of Costco was intended to be read more as commentary on the imprisoning social forces at work in the marketplace (similar to the ones faced by Amsterdam's prostitutes) rather than a spoiled kid's ignorant assualt on the lives of Midwesterners, as you suggest.

Furthermore, our blog is intented to be an account of our experiences on this trip, in order to accurately convey these experiences to the reader, some personal opinion, however thinly veiled, is needed. I am sorry that you have chosen to take offence to our observations, but I honestly appreciate you voicing your opinion. Rest assured that we are not usieng this blog as an unfair means to mock middle America. Rather, I hope for this blog to become an open minded community in which people feel free to communicate their thoughts about the various adventures we have.

Hoping you continue to read the blog,

markie said...

D: well put...your kindly stated yet solid defense of that posting's intended meaning. The differentiation is important, even if subtle.

Angela said...

Wonderful blog, really. I just tuned in, and I will catch up soon. It's late in Montana, and I need sleep, so I'll do so later.

You write extremely well. I give you an innumerable amount of kudos for it.

I have to say what you are doing is spontaneous, but awesome nonetheless. I would love to do something like that. For you are only aware of one life, which is the one you are in presently . . So as far as you know you only live once. Might as well shake up a few things . . Have fun . . Move along with no regrets . . Canoe up the Mississippi . . You know. . The usual =]

Ah, and tell Danny that Angela says hello. I hope all of you are doing fine.

I must comment on the high school graduation before I leave. . You receive your diploma, and it's a wonderful thrill of being condemned to freedom. You attempt college . . Thinking, "What in the fuck am I going to do with my life?"

Yes, man is condemned to being free.

Wishes of success of whatever is trying to be attempted in your journey,


kathleen said...

We were cheering for you in the bat race -yeh! Our daughter Allison Lordbock, Miss Brainerd Lakes 2005, sang the National Anthem for the Blue Thunder game.

wanda1234 said...

thanks for sharing....

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