Friday, April 27, 2007

Bush Boogie

Watching Bush dance at the Malaria Awareness Event with the West African dancers made me wince. You could tell he felt a bit awkward at first as he started to "get down" with the music. Then , he cut loose. The man's got rhythm! I was a little embarrassed; much like a teen would be watching his parents trying to be cool. Sigh... he seems like such a nice guy. I'd love to party with the man, you know. His past background is riddled with rumors of drunken frat parties and more. You just know that he'd be the life of a party if only he wasn't the President of the United States of America.

It makes you wonder. Is he the typical trust fund baby who was coddled by his wealthy parents? Was he pushed into a college because his father was in a position of power? Is that why Dubya had poor grades and a reputation for being a party animal in school? He was like a lot of wealthy kids. Just occupying space because he was suppose to graduate from a prestigious school.

From his parent's power base, he became our president. The awkwardness of his position is evident each time he has to "wing it." He resorts to cliche phrases and canned responses. He's been groomed to this position even though I think deep down, most of us feel that he is definitely in over his head.

The real power lies in the old guard. They are the ones who have been in power these last few years, not Dubya. The fiasco of Iraq, the excruciating slow response to Katrina, the lack of leadership on health care, the seemingly naive attitude about our economy and our recent public image to the world has been overwhelming.

I grew up in a honorable military family. Where I lived, we were required to pledge our allegiance to our country every single morning. And during the day, when the alarmed was sounded, we stopped where ever we were, and we faced the flag with our hand on our heart until it ended. I grew up respecting the military and my country. I was told countless times that freedom, liberty, free speech and religious freedom were the cornerstones of this great nation.

What has happened in the last few years is frightening. Our country has lost part of its soul. Instead of condemning torture, our leaders make excuses. Instead of regulating our food, our drugs, our leaders allow these companies to operate without the past regulations that kept us safe. Instead of allowing environmental scientists the ability to research and publish their findings, this administration has deliberately hampered science's efforts in conservation or in anything that goes against the giants of industry. What is going on?

And as far as Dubya? I'll party with him anytime. I just don't want him to be our president anymore.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Southern Gentleman's Sweet Words

I haven't written for this blog in a while... concentrating mostly on the business end of the company. Big Poppa and the rest of the crew have been sending lots of new posts with the perspective of being on the river trips during these past few months. Starting in February, when the guides went up north to do the Smith, filling in their acclimation time on the American River, and then last month, spending time up on the Cal Salmon, they've been blogging. Their posts are funny and filled with lots of new pictures. It was a pleasure to read them and see the images of the river and the crew.

The past week's posts have been cloaked with the sorrow of Virginia Tech, as all of us were affected by the tragedies of young life ending so abruptly. Those students were the same age as many of our river guides. It also triggered for me the sorrow of a friend who died just a week before from leukemia. Lots of sadness, lots of time to think of my own mortality.

The weather reflected all the tears, too, as winter seemed to come back with rain and snow on the summit this week. The client paddlers came out anyway, regardless of the weather. Some even called to make sure we weren't canceling. I love them all. They seem to know, at least by my interpretation, that life is nothing without a bit of hardship. With the bad, comes the realization of how good life really is. My family, my dear friends and this rafting company, who I've had a pleasure to be associated with for many years, have all given me unconditional love.

He called yesterday, a gentleman who recently moved to California. His voice lilting with the echoes of a Southern origin. His demeanor and candor was so refreshing. He was a river rafting junkie. He called me sweetheart, which usually, I would bristle, coming from a feminist attitude. But it was the way he said it. He spoke to me as if I was his daughter. It came from a sweetness and love that I hadn't heard in such a long time.

It seems that our world just keeps getting meaner. There is no other explanation. We can go on and on about society's failures, but it just boils down to plain ol' mean people. They're the ones who scream at us on the phone or flip us off at the stoplight. Being mean takes a toll on everyone. It kills the soul. The best and grandest reminder of heaven on earth is when I'm on the river, the ocean, the outdoors. It's God's gift to be able to enjoy being on the water; a soulful connection with the earth and a greater being than oneself.

Sun's out today in all its spectacular glory! And that Southern gentleman? He'll never know how he lifted me and wiped away the tears.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Father's Perspective

When W.B. Yeats looked at a darkened, cloudy sky he described his vision as a "sky filled with fists of filthy, dark, congealed fat."

When a cosmic-cowboy poet looked at a similar sky, he wrote: "the sky was like the colors of sparrows: a thousands different colors of gray."

They were both right and they were both wrong

Immanuel Kant explained our perception of truth as "Phenomena" or an "impossible truth" with reality filtered through our respective and unique vision compounded by how we feel.

It is "real" and it is an illusion simultaneously and reliably understood without prediction or even reason.

I wrote the set of lines below 30 years ago and I've never kept a copy; however, I've re-written the pile of words at least four times for a variety of reasons and the words are always different and the same, and how I remember, but I really don't. The words are just words. The thoughts are a chant, a drone, an echo, and a sound like a whoosh, a scream, a whisper...

Death and senseless violence make our world shudder and spin and that same violence casts a vague light that reflects and changes and hurts to look at.

Infinite Regress……….
The boys are standing
They are facing a wall.
The boys are standing and facing a wall.
The boys are wearing pink bow ties…

The boys in pink bowties are standing and staring at a wall.
They are staring at a wall full of boys in pink bow ties that are staring at a wall.
They are staring at a wall full of boys in pink bow ties.

The boys in pink bow ties are laughing as they stare at a wall full of boys in pink bow ties…

They smile as they stare at a wall filled with boys in pink bow ties
staring at a wall filled with boys
smiling at a wall
filled with boys
at a wall
filled with boys
as their mouths are torn and bloodied by their own snarling teeth and gnashing gums that are forcing hideous smiles to ripple their blood stained chins as the drips of dark thick blood fall on their bow ties that are tied tightly beneath their chins and around their choking necks as they stare with dry eyes…

at a wall
full of boys
in pink bow ties
that are staring at a wall full
of boys
in pink bow ties
that silently scream and smile and gasp for air as the bricks fall and the sky becomes light and dark as clouds speed to somewhere where those same boys are laughing and staring at a wall filled with boys with pink bow ties laughing at a wall filled with your face, your mirror, your light, your soul, your compassion, your face.

There is a delivery: it is a box filled with pink bow ties.
Someone will need to hand them out and tie them tightly with love and care.

Big Poppa wrote this post after the VT massacre. He is about to send his first-born off to college...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech Horror

The pain is indescribable. My heart is so full of ache. All those young students. A day of student life broken in chards, never to be whole again. It didn't matter who you were when you heard the news. It couldn't be real. The numbers were insane. How do you wrap your mind around this horror?

Imagine. Just imagine. Sitting at your desk in the dry droll of a German class. Your mind is wandering and thinking of the next test that you didn't study for during spring break. Summer is coming soon and you have big plans. Travel to Europe. Internship at your big wish company. The normal and mundane thoughts are suddenly interrupted by a surreal dadaist nightmare.

One Virginia Tech student was interviewed and commented on the horror of watching people dying around him. My thoughts went immediately to the young soldiers in Iraq. Their ages the same and their horror as grim. All these young people in the beginnings of their adult lives...

The pundits came out immediately. Gun control. Legislation. Computer games. Hollywood violence. Everyone wants to find the reason, where to apply the blame. All of mankind's history has been riddled by violence. Violence of wars, violence against each other. This era is no more violent than the past. What's changed?

I was struck by the throw away comment by one talking head about the shooter. It seems that the shooter was being treated for "depression." And that usually means, pharmaceuticals. Isn't there a pattern here? Hasn't many of the crazy crimes that we read about involve some kind of medication administered to the lunatic. Those husbands who kill their families, the guy in the community that goes bonkers and runs over a group of sidewalk innocents, the high school shooter killing his classmates; all on medication.

As we vilify another mass shooter that will surely go down in history, the chemical crap that passes for medication that might have warped his mind, is basically a side note. It seems that no one is paying attention to the medicines we give to our most vulnerable.

I pray for all the families suffering from this agony including the parents of the shooter. Their terrible burden will surely destroy them in ways that none of us will ever understand.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Spring Break IS OVER

And I'm so thankful to be home. I was back in my home town of Sacramento for the week, and while it was lovely to have a break and socialize with family and friends I feel so much more content and at ease now that I'm back into my studies.

Am I the super nerd? Should I start a sorority branch of Lambda Lambda Lambda?

Perhaps not, but in the meantime I still wear the praise of UC life on my face and on my lapel.

And on top of the fact that I get to read great literature, study current events, see performances and have all of it count as work I also get the opportunity to interact with people in the most ridiculous of ways. So... speaking of Sororities:

Today, for instance, I was on my way to Kroebber Hall for my English class when I was approached by a dashing young man named Corey Jackson. Currently, Cal is getting ready to hold elections for the student action committee. The meat market near south gate was transformed into a sea of signs and slippery flyers advertising attractive young people to lead the Greeks.

Anyway, back to Mr. Jackson. I was walking over to say greetings to a couple of classmates when he was suddenly in my path with a flyer in his hand.

"Who are you voting for in the elections?" He asked me.
"Nobody." I answered simply.
"Is there a reason, or do you not care?"
"Haven't investigated anyone yet."
"Well, I'm running and I have a flyer here..."
"What would you give me for a vote?"
"Give you?"
"Would you give me money?"
"Are you part of a student group?"
"Then I'm afraid not. I will be giving money to student groups should I be--"
"Would you be willing to give me anything else?"

He laughed and my new friend Rose jumped in and offered to help hand out flyers if he gave her money (The Fund Rosie Foundation). I had abandoned the notion of getting any cash out of him (and I wasn't serious to begin with) and had simply gone for trying to make him laugh and blush a little. He was admittedly adorable. I took his flyer and he went on his merry way. I've since looked him up. What's hilarious is that he's actually worth my vote.

I love Cal so much. The folk here react well to my special brand of humor.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Horseshoes, Class 5 and Runaway Trailers...

Somehow our spring training is guided by a singular concept: run the Cal Salmon. The concept is then guided by a simplistic goal: don't waste an opportunity to be on the river....

With those over-arching concepts in place it all began Saturday at Camp Lotus two thirds of a way through a 3-day American River Combo trip and at the front end of a Middle Fork one day and a South Fork Full River trip. Our Guide School overlapped all of this and we finalized plans to drive to the Salmon with the expectation that we would arrive at Nordheimer (the Cal Salmon put-in) at no earlier than 1 am. Saul rolled up in style after flying up from Newport Beach and getting a limo ('85 Volvo Wagon) ride to Lotus by our teen correspondent Liz.

Heffe, Wolf, Greg, Country Mike, Andrew, and Mogli joined Saul to watch over our newbies: Cool J, Bootay, Dax, and Marie. (it should be noted that Andrew decided to join the Salmon trip 45 minutes before we left... well done Andrew!). We planned to leave as early as possible after the day's trips came in.

Saturday went well. The South Fork American came through for us with great flows of over 2,000 CFS and we were the only rafting trip on the Middle Fork (that will be another story...). After smiles, hugs, and high fives we finally got the van, trailer, and the Kawasaki KLR 650 (our shuttle vehicle) loaded at 6pm and started off on the seven hour north up I-5, west on Hwy 299, and east on Hwy 96 to the Salmon River Hwy. And finally... up the Salmon River to Nordheimer just down river from the Forks of Salmon. It was 2:22 am when we unloaded and set up our under a full moon in a deserted campground.

Sunday morning, I got up and made breakfast. Soon, the smell of coffee, a campfire and breakfast burritos brought everyone out of the tents and in the case of Cool J, Bootay, and Heffe.... their bags (they had simply rolled out of the van and slept on the ground). We rallied, became coherent, and started what would become a 2-day horseshoe tournament.
It was illuminated... by Andrew... that he had been undefeated throughout a 21-day trip down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon last fall. Long story: Andrew lost while playing doubles and Saul and I won the tournament. Saul eventually won individual title and Mogli became most-improved...

Then we scouted the river to find that Freight Train had changed with a large slab of rock choking up the normal run to the right side of the main hole... all of us agreed to play it safe on the first day and run the lower section twice by putting in at Butler Ledge (Class IV) and run to Brannan Bar. We would still have two class V drops and several class IV rapids as well... plus we would make the run twice. Both runs went well with the exception of Heffe dropping into Double Hole and putting together a full crew swim and a five minute surf. (Wolf was the last paddler to eject... he got tired of surfing and just bailed out). After the second take-out, we headed to the store at Somes Bar where additional liquid supplies and ice cream bars were purchased. I left the crew and headed back to camp on the KLR.

When I rolled into camp the kitchen area was littered with plastic wrappers and hunks of cardboard. The wild horses that live at Nordheimer had eaten our dry goods: pasta, bread, oatmeal, etc. (after staying at Nordheimer for 26 years, we had never been attacked by the horses, they must have been very hungry). So... back on the KLR and a speed run back to Some's Bar. We were re-supplied and we were inevitably well-fed after contributing a little bit more to the local economy.

More horseshoes and with a full moon: more horseshoes.

At some point, as our wood supply was running low, Mogli attempted to slit wood with a rock and nearly severed his finger... no worries: some neosporin, gauze, and duct tape and Mogli went on to more horseshoes.

The next day we took a quick run down the Nordheimer section with clean runs at Bloomers, Airplane, Cascade, Achilles, and Whirling Dervish. We bailed on Freight Train and loaded up for the return trip... Saul had a 9:30 flight from Sacramento to Orange County. We were in great shape as we rolled out at 2pm after a lunch at Butler Ledge.

The ride from the Salmon to Weaverville is incredible at this time of the year; everything is bright green, the redbud is screaming magenta, and the rivers, creeks, and streams are running clear and strong. As we drove through the Six Rivers National Forest, we saw Salmon, Klamath, Trinity, and the New River.

About 35 miles from Weaverville, things got interesting and Country Mike blurted out one word: "Trailer!" I look in the rear view mirrors and saw our trailer flying down the 2-lane Hwy in the opposite lane at well over 50 mph as we skimmed the edge of a cliff 75 feet above the Trinity River. In slow motion, the trailer kept a straight path throwing a shower of sparks into the air as it began a slow arc toward our lane and the river cliff. With no other choices, I positioned the van in front of the trailer and slowed down enough to take a major impact from the speeding load. The KLR took the hit as it was mounted to a carrier that was in front of the former trailer hitch. It all worked well: the trailer slowed while the tongue dug into the dirt shoulder and the right rear wheel stopped less than twelve inches from the cliff... All told, a bent motorcycle carrier, a cracked taillight lens, and a broken turn signal on the KLR. The trailer loaded with two inflated rafts, river gear, camp equipment, and personal bags was intact. A stop at Napa Auto Parts in Weaverville for a new hitch pin, food in Redding, gas at Petro, and a replay of Micky Avalon... we dropped off Saul at the airport at 8:30 and finished back at Camp Lotus... 780 miles, 70 gallons of gas, three class 5 river runs, an epic story, and a nearly severed finger all in less than 52 hours... and we had a new horseshoe champion.

Andrew won't put up with this for too long....

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Unbearable Likeness for a New Guide

I didn't know what to expect on the trip up to the Northern California rivers. It was my first trip away from the American River rafting with the W.E.T. guides. I was ready for a full couple of days of river rafting new rivers, but I realized there is more to a road trip then rafting. The comraderie, traveling, rafting, and camping are all as much a reason to go on the road as any other reason.

After the day has ended, and dinner has gone and passed, it becomes time to settle around the camp fire. I recognize the camp fire as a place to discuss the days happenings, and also to discuss what to expect the next day rafting. The fire is a relaxing place to sit back and exchange river stories, and maybe to share a beverage or two.

As the night goes on, the stories become more and more elaborate. The tales are harder to comprehend whether or not these things really happened, or have, at least, a semblance to reality. The fire and the drinks allow you to, maybe, open up a little more then you would when the sun is up.

Being the young and newer guide, I hear a lot of life advice from the more seasoned crew members. Advice about how to deal with all possible situations... sometimes the advice comes not in verbal form, but in the actions of the other guides. The life lessons are not just for the world of rivers but come into use on a daily basis. I think after only a few more river fires, I will be ready for every situation imaginable. I will always remember these river trips and all the advice given.

Note: Heffe is a 2nd year guide for W.E.T. River Trips though he's had approximately 100+ trips training with our company. He is a great river guide and kayaker who is fast learning the ways and wiles of our more (ahem) "seasoned" crew members (the wise ol' farts). His youth and enthusiasm bring a breathe of fresh air to the more seasoned guides as his eyes look with wonderment at every nuance of the river. Aaaah, I remember my beginnings when I was a newbie on the river.

Heffe is helping with the guide training this year as he passes on his experience to the guide school students. Saul and Andrew, our senior staff members look to Heffe as the new generation coming up on the W.E.T. team. Look for him on the American River rafting this year!