Friday, July 30, 2010

Deadliest Catch

Short post before I head out for a(nother) weekend of paddling, this time at the Lower Youghigany River.

I will have a more detailed post about this later, but I want to get the secondary stuff out of the way now. Especially because this deserves more than one post.

What is that, you ask?

Deadliest Catch.

Now, I don’t watch TV. In fact, the only show I watch is Deadliest Catch. But this season and more specifically these last few episodes deserve some mention, because they have been incredibly touching/moving/heartbreaking/brilliant.

For those who don’t know, one of the main characters, Captain Phil Harris of the fishing boat Cornelia Marie, died this February of a pulmonary embolism. He had had one a few years earlier, and then suffered a massive stroke a week before his death. What was especially heartbreaking, however, was that it had looked to all involved in the days leading up to his death that Captain Phil would survive, and possibly recover.

I just want to write that the show did an amazing job of dealing with this sensitive and taboo subject. Never before had a television character actually died on screen. Sure we had the sitcom characters die, and sometime, when an actor passed, the on screen death of his character could be very emotional. And sometimes a real person would die in the middle of a production, forcing the show to deal with that person’s passing.

But never before had someone so real, so like us, died in front of all of us. And that was difficult to watch. Also difficult was how the older son, Josh, dealt with his father’s death, his younger brother’s drug addiction, and the completion of the fishing season. Maybe it’s because I’m an older brother that I felt so connected to Josh.

Anyways, this isn’t some stupid recrap, and the next post, which deals with something I noticed in the show won’t be so superficial. There’s a reason I’m bringing up the show, and its more meaningful, unique, etc. But I have to go paddle, so those thoughts will have to wait.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

California Thoughts

I'm sitting in a hotel room somewhere in Fullerton, California. The evening breeze is blowing in the sounds of young kids playing at the pool, and the distant hum of a generator coming across the street from the Cal State campus. Tomorrow will mark the end of the second week that I've been in California, and my last day here.

Somebody back home asked me what I thought of Cali. At first I thought I was too harsh, but I decided to really look into it. I figure my opinion is biased, but so is every opinion in some way. I'm biased because I'm on business, which is a double-bladed sword. I have no needs or wants at the present, because the ludicrous nature of a business trip means I don't have to worry about anything. Somebody does, but not me. Instead I have to worry about my business, which I do, constantly.

The other edge of that sword is that I spend nearly every waking moment working. I have logged 70+ hours the past two weeks. But on my day off, I went to LA, to get a feel for Southern California.

What I saw was a portion of this country to wrapped up in itself, too detached from the normality of the rest of the world. Or maybe that's my East Coast coming out.

For one thing, it is totally normal to sit in traffic for hours at a time. Traffic delays of two hours are common. Four hours happens probably once or twice a month. And this is an accepted cost of living here.

The living conditions here can be deplorable. Los Angeles has a high number of homeless people, but makes no effort to hide them by setting up shelters or keeping them in the barrios. Unlike New York, where the homeless are shuffled away from the more ascendant classes, everyone mingles together. So on a train coming back from Hollywood, you'll have a homeless guy, a crippled woman wrapped in a blanket on a crappy power scooter, a marketing copy writer (me) some construction guys, a lawyer, and a Hollywood executive. It's a decent cross section of society, all together, all heading the same way but going in completely different directions.

No one gave a shit. That homeless guy could have been a veteran, a firefighter. The crippled woman was somebody's daughter, maybe at one point somebody's mother. But who knows, because no one stopped to give a shit. Including myself. In LA, we are all too absorbed in the minuscule bullshit that makes up our daily life to care about anything or anyone that is beyond our immediate scope.

And that's why I'm bumming on LA. I'm not some detached moron who doesn't realize that scenes like this play themselves out in every corner of the world every day. And I'm not too impractical to realize that there wasn't much anyone on that train could do. Yeah, we could have pitched in and given that guy a meal and a shower, maybe really pitched in and gotten him a home and a job. But what about all the other homeless people in LA? California? The world?

This isn't a rant against homelessness in America. Nor is it a bash against the entire West Coast, as my love for Oregon, Washington, and B.C. is still very strong. This is more a picture. This is my attempt to render a scene of life in LA, and then try to determine why it bothers me. At the end of the day, this is simply a protest against the way we live our lives. We punch in, we punch out, but we are too wrapped up in the trivial distractions to focus on making the most of the very little time we have. The only difference is, in LA, they don't even try to hide it.

And one other thing. I said everyone on that train was going to the same place, but I didn't just mean Union Station. As human beings, we are guaranteed one thing. We are not guaranteed love, or kindness, or happiness, or warmth, or clarity. We are only guaranteed death. From the moment we are born, we are never younger, and death is never further away then it is at this instance in time. We might live 100 years. Or 100 days. So, my question for you is, with this one guarantee, this one certainty, what are you going to do?

Me? I'm going to canoe.

"Life's journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to slide in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, 'Holy shit, what a ride!' " Nolan Whitesell

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Video from Deerfield

As promised...

Monday, July 5, 2010


Just got back from the Deerfield River. We ran the Fife Brook section, which they call a Class II but was for all intents and purposes a solid I+. However, Zoar Gap at the end of the run, is Class III+. That didn't stop a bunch of rec boaters from trying to shoot it, most of whom got absolutely trashed.

I ran the Gap three times over two days. The first time was my best run. I chose the left line, hit an eddy, blasted over the pourover rock on river left, and managed to sneak in between the rock and the hole on river left.

The second run, well, was not so good. I got too far to the left, and when I compensated, my bow came out too far to the right, got caught by the hole, and I rolled into a rock. Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how you view it) I had the bow cam going. (Note: The video is a little large, so I'll have a Youtube link or something similar in its place shortly)

I was a little pissed that I had blown what was to be the last rapid of the trip, and knew I was going to be miserable if I had to drive from Massachusetts to Allentown to New Jersey that night, thinking about my little mistake. So I threw the boat on the car, drove to the top of the gap, and ran the damn thing again.

This time, I ran the line better. I got stuck in the hydraulic kicked up by the pourover rock, and did have a good deal of water in the boat, but I was able to punch out and grab the line. Video courtesy of Sarah:

All in all it was a great trip, and I felt that I was paddling at a notch above my previous level. Who knows, in a few weeks, I might give the Yough a try.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Planning for the Deerfield

I'm sitting in my apartment in New Jersey, killing time until I can go to sleep. Tomorrow I work, and then I drive.

I'm headed to the Deerfield River in western Massachusetts for some whitewater with a friend. I'm very excited to head out, see a new river, face new challenges, etc.

I have a list of stuff I need to take in my head, and I keep going back over it, scrutinizing each choice of gear. I've read NPMB and Cboats so much I'm afraid I'm going to get fired.

This is nothing abnormal. In preparation for any new trip, be it a day or a month, I read everything I can get my hands on about the location. I get excited thinking about what I might see, and trying to figure out the minute details, like how to get there, what to eat, and so on. That excitement helps get me through the week of anticipation, of wanting to be there now.

And in 24 hours, I will be.

More to come...