Wednesday, July 11, 2007

***note: this was supposed to post two days ago, but apparently did not. Apologies for the long delay, but we'll make it up to you with...back to back posts! That's right! Two posts for the price of one! And now without further ado...

We're back, America, coming to you live from the middle of a lightning storm, on the deck of the Memphis Yacht Club in Memphis, TN! We hope you've somehow managed in our absence, but we're again here to be your emotional crutch in our country's time of need. Let's catch you up! Let's catch you up:

We woke up early the morning of July 4th, intending to paddle quite a ways, 47 miles, in order to make it to Osceola, Arkansas for that evening's festivities. But after pounding out thirty miles, we decided to stop (just for a moment) to enjoy the holiday and drink a beer. Once we finished the first, we thought what the hell, we'll have a second, and after that we may or may not have had a third. This is great, we thought. We're drunk Americans, floating down the Mississippi River. What could possibly be better? While reveling in such basic freedoms, two guys in a pontoon boat pulled up and asked us if we wanted a cold beer. We shook our cans at them and told them we wanted a tow. "Well come on then," they said, and we paddled over.

They introduced themselves as Ray Webb and Bill something (can't remember; sorta drunk), and hauled us a couple miles downriver before pulling up next to several other motorboats, beached along the sand. Ray grabbed us beers while we mingled with the forty-odd people there from Ripley, TN, telling them as always about our journey and receiving more of the same exclamatory responses. "We're trying to make it to Osceola tonight," we told them. "Why the hell you trying to do that?" they said. "There's nothing there." Ray thought it was such a bad idea that he offered to drive us back to his house, 15 miles off the river, and let us sleep in his backyard. "We'll have a barbeque and everything," he said, "And you can meet the whole town." We thanked him for the offer and told him it sounded nice, but we really had to make the miles. "We'd love a tow though," we said.

Fifteen minutes later, we had our canoes tied up behind the pontoon again, this time with Ryan and I sitting in the canoes to steer and Danny and Kevin relaxing in the boat. Ray sat up at the steering wheel with his tobacco pipe and a younger guy named Ben, clamoring about this and that and generally bearing a striking resemblance to Robert Duval in "Apocalypse Now." "You ready?" he shouted, and off we go.

Oh for a second it's just great, riding behind that pontoon! We're going so fast, and sort of surfing on the boat's wake, and I open myself up a beer, not so much because I want it, but because I can. Mippi sits in her cage meowing viciously at me from the speed, but I toast to her and tell her to calm down. What great time we are making(!), and what a beautiful day(!), and God what a great country, America(!), where you can paddle down its biggest river in canoes and get rides from drunk pleasure boaters blowing tobacco smoke out the back. I take a sip of beer and smile foolishly. And the boat takes too sharp a turn and my entire canoe flips over.

"Damn, my beer!" is my first thought. It's floating upside down in the river. But just as fast there are packs everywhere, loose gear floating off, the canoe on its side filling with water, the dry bag with all my valuables caught upstream in the eddy, and Mippi's cage, submerged completely in water. I grab the cage and pull it up to the surface. She is crying out and frantically clawing at the front grate, trying to get out. I hold the cage out but it keeps going under, up and down, as I tread water and try to grab as many things as I can. Ryan throws a lifejacket toward me. It catches in the current and floats away. Danny jumps in the river and starts swimming after things, the pontoon slowly turning around, Kevin jumping into the other canoe with Ryan and shoving off, paddling furiously, reaching me finally and grabbing the cage, water pouring out everywhere and Mippi meowing lividly, completely drenched and shivering, eight more lives to go.

While we right the canoe, Ray and Ben fish our things out of the river. The casualties are Danny's lifejacket, my sandals, our cook kit, half our spice kit, our coffee maker, fry pans, tupperware, and about two-thirds of our food. "Damn eddy," Ray keeps saying, and offers me another beer. They tow us a couple miles further down, and drop us off on the bank. "Don't forget us now," says Ben, "Ray Webb and Ben Wilder. You better write that down."

The day, however, was not over. We finished up the paddle to Osceola, and paddled up a narrow inlet, where we threw our things down quickly on a sandbar across the channel from town. We decided to forget the whole ordeal over a good holiday dinner in town, but to get there, we had to ferry across the channel. We'll all just load into one canoe, we said, which was an extremely stupid idea with all the gear still in it, because we made it fifteen feet out and the canoe tipped over again.

We wade into shore and now everything is really soaked. My cell phone is broken, my wallet dripping, our pants and shoes covered in sopping muck. On top of that, it is getting dark, and the mosquitoes start coming out. "Fuck this, let's get out of here," we cry, and tear off in our canoes (two this time) for the other shore, thinking the absurdity cannot grow any bigger. It does though, because as Ryan and Danny near the opposite shore, huge fish start jumping out of the water in huge arcs, all around. They start jumping clear over the canoe, and smacking into Ryan's paddle. "Shit! Shit! Shit!" Danny is yelling, ducking and dodging with his head, and the two paddle as fast as they can into shore. Flying Asian carp. Who knew.

By now the whole thing is simply too ridiculous to really fathom and we're tired and hungover too and the mosquitoes are out and our things are wet, so Let's cash in our chips and get a motel, I say, and we start walking into town. On the way, we are lucky enough to hitch a ride, squeezing the four of us into the backseat of a car that is already carrying five, Kevin's feet sticking precariously out the back window. The car drops us off at the Judge Motel, where an old, first-generation Indian couple (how does an old, immigrant Indian couple come to own a rundown motel in Osceola, Arkansas?) gives us a $35 room with a leaking roof and blood stains on Ryan's mattress, men with prostitutes in the rooms next door, and July 4th, finally done.

Two days later, we pulled into Memphis and lit up the town. Alli flew in to spend the weekend with me, and the five of us roamed all over the place, reveling in our weekend of R&R. We watched the Memphis Redbirds play the Albuquerque Isotopes (baseball; triple-A). We drank Mint Juleps in the Peabody Hotel. We visited the National Civil Rights Museum and saw the Lorraine Hotel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot (dear god, this spot, right here), and spoke with the black woman outside holding huge signs that read "The National Civil Rights Museum Supports Gentrification and Ethnic Cleansing." We visited Graceland, drove past the Heartbreak Hotel, saw Elvis's planes (from the outside only; far too expensive to go into any of it- $30 - what the hell is wrong with this country), and learned that next year, 50,000 people from China and Japan alone were expected to visit Graceland, in addition to 100,000 Americans, in commemoration of Elvis's 30th anniversary (of his death). We!
ate at D
enny's, we saw "Transformers" (movie; bad), we walked along Beale Street, the night a swimming collage of tourists and blues bands and humidity, and did things better left unsaid (shoutout to Hope and Holly).

Now we are back to the river, canoes already like an exotic species, July 4th and Memphis there and then gone. It is the final stretch now, less than three weeks to go, and we can't thank you all enough for following us this far along. If you've been slacking lately, it's alright - so have we, but now it's time to ride this thing home. We hope you'll follow along, and tell your friends about us, and one day, hopefully, us about your friends. Looking forward to speaking with you all soon. Take care everyone, and goodnight.



markie said...

So glad you're back.

First and most sincere apology for that very parental comment on your "Notes from Iowa" posting. It was a nervous mother speaking who forgot you are grown-ups! Please forgive.

Second!! In reference to your carp question Gabe, "who knew?!" Well, I'm proud to take the credit, cuz... I knew! Check my comment under "My Mazerati Goes One-Eighty-Five".

famille stoa said...

After flying carp, you will have alligators.....
Careful out there...everybody has a life jacket now?
Do NOT trust drunk boaters....especially when YOU had some also!
Glad the cat made it..what a rescue! I am still curious who gets the cat at the end of the trip....
Have fun and take good care of yourselves!

Drizzle said...

um...transformers ruled.

Jane said...

I'm lame and called two phones two times each; I was worried. I'm glad you're all right. Are you ever going to be in the Bay Area?

Jamie-Lee said...

meant to warn you about the flyin' carp. the sad part is, i'm serious.

beetlebee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angela said...

Man, that whole ordeal sounds rough.
Good luck to TMP!

Norah said...

Happy Fourth!
Now that it is behind you, I hope that you look back and laugh as hard as I did when I read it!
And tie your stuff down. ALL THE TIME.

wanda1234 said...

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Entertainment at one stop

wanda1234 said...

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Entertainment at one stop

wanda1234 said...

thanks for sharing....

Entertainment at one stop