Monday, June 25, 2007

Type A vs Type B

This year has been remarkable in that the guests have been fairly on time. Almost everyone has showed up within 15 minutes of the hour and with their paperwork completed. This has saved a lot of time in the morning. It also shows that our constant "nagging" is working. No one wants to wait for anyone in 105 degree weather. The bus driver needs to keep on schedule. The guides want to get you on the water. The other guests don't want to wait when they were there on time and ready to go. So I think, our clients have been just wonderful this year. Almost everyone has been on time.

What's also been remarkable is the type of client coming on our rafting trips. They have been what we like to call type B personalities. Laid back... undemanding. Everything is cool as long as they get to go rafting on the river. Kind of a guide's perspective... if you know what I mean.

As a guide, all of us share the common stories of hardship in trying to get to a particular river trip. I'm sure you've read our stories on our website of crazy situations and traveling problems to the rivers. None of it ever matters, once you're on the river. The river soothes all things and smooths the sharp edges away. Nothing matters, but the river. And it seems that our guests feel the same way. They may have fought their way through awful driving conditions, ie, traffic, snowstorm? or getting the kids ready, to get to us, but they arrive with smiles on their faces and an infectious enthusiasm for something that is totally unknown to them. But, it's a river and the water connects us all.

A prime example was the other morning. The bus was not there at 9:00am as usual. The guests were all on time and ready to go at 9am. The driver was off schedule due to another group's late arrival, so the driver would not be there until 9:15am. The group was laid back and most just went to the edge of the river to wade in the water. They were laughing and talking and introducing themselves to each other.

One small group, a mom, dad and a couple of kids, stood off to the side. The kids were antsy as kids usually are, but the Dad was mad. "I got here on time and I don't want to wait... Jimmy stop splashing me..." and on and on. He was upset and we hadn't even started. The guy focused on the company and started in with one of the guides. "Why can't you get another bus here now," the dad demanded. The guide, patiently, explained that the driver would be there within minutes. As they spoke, the bus came down the hill and a collective cheer rose from the group. Everyone got on board quickly.

Everyone was ready to roll, but the Dad was still angry. He started yelling at his kids and then the mom got in the act. The entire bus listened to this guy berate his entire family while the onlookers tried not to stare. Suddenly, someone started laughing in the background as a joke was told. The laughter helped to break the uneasy situation. Maybe that's what made the Dad stop.

Perspective is the key. Did it kill him that the bus was a few minutes late? Didn't he bring his family rafting because he wanted to enjoy the company of his children and spouse on a wonderful river trip? Did he realize how he affected the others around him with his tirade?

Sometimes life is hard and difficult. The best laid plans go awry. Sometimes things just don't work out and we have to deal with that in the best possible way... or we go the easy route, and just give up. The people who I've met around rivers and paddling are not quitters. They are the best damn people I've ever met. They never quit, they don't complain and they find solutions for any obstacle in their way. It's kind of a paddlers creed, and it works in real life, too.

For those of you who are type A personalities... the river will soon change you... and you will feel the same way we do soon... just get on as many rafting trips as you can and you will find nirvana on the river... just chill; you'll enjoy yourself even more.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My Dad

The memories of dear old Dad seem so far away. I remember most, the rides on his shoulder as he hoisted me around our cherry tree. Picking those cherries is a memory that I hold dear. I remember the warm sun on my face and squinting skyward to see the cherries high in the branches. I would pick and eat cherries until my hands were dyed pink.

He was a big, burly guy who was 100% military trained. From his pressed creases in his pants to the tip of his hat, he stood like a soldier, even at home. We had a strict routine around our house during dinner time. No one came to the dinner table without a bath and fresh, clean clothes.
Dessert was always served on the TV trays while we watched Ed Sullivan shows.

I still remember those nights eating jell-o, chocolate pudding or ice-cream. My mom and dad would sometimes turn on the stereo (Dad was an early audiophile) and dance together while we kids jumped up and down laughing and clapping at the adult antics. Such fond silly memories...

Dad died a few years ago, leaving me and the rest of the family to contemplate life without him. With Father's Day coming, the little tug at my heart is a constant reminder of how much I miss him. Even though he is gone, I still celebrate Dad's Day by making my family a great dinner and toasting his memories with a glass of wine.

This year, the kids and teens are gathering for a
group rafting trip on Sunday to celebrate their own father in the outdoors. Most of my friend's still have their dad's in their lives, but as for me, he is still with me every time I eat a handful of cherries.

Monday, June 11, 2007

White Water Rafting with Car Keys?

Ahhh Technology!

Mogli lost his Prius keys yesterday... $250. (if it had been an "07 model... $375.)

Two weeks ago, a rafting client thought it would be safer to put their Mercedes CLS keys in their zippered shorts... $650... due to a swim and a failed zipper.

Last month, a client took their '06 Camry keys down the river, got the keys wet and fried the chip... $300.

Lesson: stash your keys in your car, get a hide-a-key, and do NOT take keys to your modern vehicle down the river outdoors. And if you do, make sure it's just a key... with no chip.

Back in the pre-historic days of W.E.T. River Trips, we had a '64 Dodge truck that started with an alligator clip and a toggle switch... oh, how we have progressed!

When the radiation storm shrouds our planet and every modern electronic device fails, I wish we still had that Dodge truck without electronic ignition, carburetor and no key. (don't get me wrong... something like the vice-grip window cranks, and the bungee cord holding the hood latch, I don't miss).

What's missing is the simplicity of our old vehicles... we could fix them. The good news is that the new vehicles rarely need fixing... but sometimes they do.

When a 2006 van failed to move forward while in drive after leaving the Middle Fork American put-in at the Oxbow Reservoir, we went through the motions: opened the hood, checked the fluid and let the engine cool down. The transmission is "electronic" and without a USB connected diagnostic CPU, we didn't have a chance.

Luckily, we switched the van out for another one with help from Bird and Mogli as well as cell phone technology. I had a two-hour drive in a tow truck from Mosquito Ridge Road back to home base. Our paddling clients were not delayed or ever placed at a disadvantage, and the replacement van was even the signature "white" of W.E.T. River Trips.

I still miss the ol' Dodge... until I grab the cell phone, crank up the A/C, plug in the i-Pod, adjust the electronic mirrors, and roll up the windows with a single button push.

Hey Big Poppa, none of us miss the ol' Dodge truck... we love the new vans with the killer stereo!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Day Two, Boredom?

The kids have been out of school for only 2 days now... and already they are bored to tears. Yes, we have the family vacation coming up in a few weeks, the baseball camp, the trip to see grandma, but how do we keep them occupied and out of the mall for the next couple of weeks?

When I was young, my mom would not let us be bored. There were always chores to do. We didn't dare say we were bored because she would assign some awful task such as cleaning the garage or the yard. So we learned early to occupy our free time with neighborhood basketball, bicycling around the neighborhood, or just hanging out at the neighborhood school. The community pool was always open in the summer where we would just waste hours playing in the water. TV? Who stayed home and watched tv during the summer... not us. Mom would have kicked us out of the house before she let us waste our time like that.

Parents now are so worried about the real bogey-man that may be lurking. So most of us keep our kids close by or in organized activities. It's a real shame. I'm always reluctant to just say, "Go outside. Go ride your bike..." since, I'm not too sure if it is really safe to do that. So we organize stuff for them to do. This year, some of us have organized a rafting trip for our teens.

The kids will go on a whitewater rafting trip on the South Fork American just for a one day trip. Just enough to wet their whistle on an adventure that they've never experienced. My daughter is dragging a few of her friends while another family's son is bringing along his buddies. The kids are actually excited about this family get together. Can you imagine? They want to go with us!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Birthdays on the River

Kind of cloudy today and a bit cooler. Mom says that I was born on a day like today. Birthdays are a funny thing. A celebration of a monumental event called birth. Of course, the special event is celebrated early in life mostly by parents and surrounding relatives.

When you're really young, birthdays are a hazy memory of birthday cake and Aunt Margaret pinching your cheek. Balloons surround and silly hats sit on the heads of the family. I remember the candles and blowing them out.

Adolescence brings a sense of greed. Its all about the presents and hanging out with your friends. Usually, a parent or relative has arranged for a simple backyard gathering with a picnic and birthday cake. Or, an extravaganza at a local party place filled with activities and games. It didn't matter as long as there were presents for the birthday child. Those birthdays, I remember the most. Filled with family and friends and tearing open a bunch of presents. I remember the bowling ball I received when I was around 9 years old. I was so thrilled since my mom and I were on a daughter/mother bowling team. That ball was all swirly and creamy... that's all I remember.

In the teen years, birthdays were about money. Cold hard cash. Birthday money. I remember hoarding it once I received it from parents, grandparents, uncles and friends. I would save a bundle then head out to Tower Records and buy music and magazines. Shopping for makeup was more or less a stick of mascara and a tube of lipstick all purchased from the local drugstore. The money would burn a hole in my pocket and hand. I'd give it a month, before all the funds were gone.

Young adulthood enters in and you just can't wait until you're 21 years old. Ready to vote and ready to drink grown-up drinks. Once there was a surprise birthday party in my early 20's. That was the one with the singing gorilla that arrived unexpectedly and swept me away to a party at a local restaurant. After a few margaritas, I really don't remember much about the party except that I know I had a good time.

In your 30's & 40's, birthdays are spent with close friends and/or possibly a spouse. Usually a weekend getaway plays in the scenario while celebrating with a loved one. There was the time on a wilderness rafting trip that I spent with about 10 close paddling friends on our favorite river. I remember the birthday cake coming out of the dutch oven. We were plied with cheap booze, and I still remember spreading the icing on the cake and my fellow bakers.

Now, as age creeps up more quickly, birthdays are to be ignored. That day is no longer a celebration but a relief that I've made it that far. Celebrating the day includes going about the day as if nothing was special, nothing was remembered. I join just a few close friends and we spend our time at a nice lunch or maybe shopping in a cool place. This past birthday, I spent it rafting with 3 of my closest friends. We didn't do a wild class 4 run this time, though... just a great whitewater trip on the South Fork American... just enough to make me remember how wild I used to be. Now if only I can stop the birthday cards coming to keep reminding me that I'm a year older and hopefully a year wiser.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Finals Done, School's Out

So I finished out my first semester at Cal with three B's and an A. My best report card? No. But it was my first semester. I decided to take it somewhat easy. Adjust. Ease myself into the whirling tornado of post-secondary school.

Finals were a trip and a half. The first I had was on a Saturday. Modern Literature: English 45C. I had three hours to identify and explain ten quotes and write two essays. When I finished I had carpel tunnel syndrome in my right hand and an hour of time left. I walked out of there in a daze and caught the bus home.

My second final was for a theater class. Performance studies. It was a group performance final exploring the concerns of the various scholars we studied; Judith Butler, J.L. Austin. My group did an interpretive recitation of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. It was a blast and a half. I'm considering buying the DVD the GSI made.

The Final final took place in the beautiful hotel-esque Giannini Hall. It was for my Interdisciplinary Studies course "Representation of Self Deception in the Modern World." I rocked it. I was thrilled. I went home and my roommates made me a great dinner.

So what in the world am I doing now? Well, right now I'm enjoying Luc Besson's The Fifth Element and looking for a new apartment. I currently live in Emeryville and the commute has gotten thoroughly old.

So new apartment. New Job. Ugh. Retail? Most likely. I am somewhat hoping to get back into acting this summer. Recently took a new headshot. I am very excited. A summer production over selling accessories on 4th Street? I think so...

But for now... I will sit... and I will send out my resume. Oh the joys of being sort of a grownup...

Congrats! Steph's first semester at Cal was a success! Now let's go rafting...