I love the Ocean, and everything that comes with it. For me, there are few things as exhilirating as the scent of an onshore breeze. I love to watch pelicans glide and dip over the waves, framed by the silhouettes of fishing boat steaming for the horizon. I love the grumble and roar of a shorebreak, the shroud of early morning fog, the smell and texture of an old pier. Even though I have never lived close I think I have a spiritual connection with the ocean, and she never fails to bring me peace which might explain my constant state of restlessness, because I'm pretty fucking far away from it. The best I can do is the Guadalupe River.
Now I don't have anything against rivers. In fact, I prefer them to lakes (except for Lake Tahoe, which is a great lake, but not a Great Lake). They just ain't the Ocean, that's all. Take sunburns, for example. An Ocean sunburn makes you feel like you've been Out There. Even if you're out in the waves for an afternoon, you still feel like a sailor, or a whaler, or an old man of the sea, because you get burned and windchapped and sea-breezed, and if you eschew the towel-dry option in favor of sun drying, your skin gets the salty sheen and crusty texture of one of those expensive kettle potato chips that are cooked inside lighthouses near dunes in New England.
A river sunburn, however, is a lazy sunburn. You don't get the same feeling of detachment you get from having been at the mercy of a powerful elemental force. The sunburn you get from floating on a river is not far off from the sunburn you get from lying by the apartment complex pool. The only major difference is in the chemical participates on your skin. With an apartment complex pool sunburn, your skin is cured in excess chlorine and toddler pee. A river sunburn, by contrast, is coated with the residue left from a heady solution of mud, beer, aquatic-organism-detritus (dead fish, decaying plants, turtle poop, etc) and weekend-camper effluvia.
Anyway, I got a river sunburn last weekend because I floated down the river with a bunch of friends including Yackie, Wright Angles, Westicle, The Bitter Banker, The Metrosexual Biker, and a bunch of his friends, such as Pig and The Jerk, whose nicknames are used in real life as often as their real names (the nicknames of my friends are used in the fake life of my blog to protect their identities, but they are not used not very well).
We got lost on the way down there, which wasn't a big deal, other than the fact that everyone says I am terrible with directions, and I hate giving my critics more evidence in favor of their charges. The other crummy thing was that it was much more expensive than we had anticipated, and when you factor in the price of gas and also beer... well, now I get to split Yackie's credit card bill this month.
Once we got ass-humped by the campground (and the next day, we would get ass-humped by the $30 it cost to float the river), we went to this bar that looked like it was used in the movie Porky's. It was called the River Road Ice House, and everyone was there watching the Mavericks blow a huge lead and end their season. Frankly, I couldn't have cared less, as I am a Kings fan, and a casual one at that. While the Mav's were busy sucking on TV, this country-rock-blues band started sucking over in a corner of the bar. I fucking hate the blues in any form other than the form stolen and mutated into metal by Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. If there is one thing I hate about Texas (and there are many things I hate about Texas), it is Texas's obsession with the blues. It is nauseating. I hate it so much that I am willing to suffer a Halloween ass-kicking by cowtown morons just so I could walk around the Stockyards or Keys Lounge dressed as The Reanimated Corpse of Stevie Ray Vaughn. I hate his stupid hat, and his hot lixx, and his corny Indian necklace, and the way he ruined "Pipeline," and even his cheesy strat. The only blues guitarist I despise more than SRV is Eric Clapton. More like Eric Crapton, if you ask me (minions, you were supposed to guffaw and hi-five each other at that remark. Now you'll have to turtle wax my Trans-Am).
With the Mavs headed home, we headed back to the campsite. Westicle made the fire happen (he is a marine, after all, and well versed in setting things ablaze, as well as toppling dictators, statues of dictators, fixing trucks, and blowing shit up, though I have never asked for details. These are mostly things I assume he can do), and we spent the rest of the night slapping bugs, drinking beer and listening to '80s rock, which has long-since ceased to be a funny joke for me (I am awaiting for the death of irony and the return of the pun, because I am getting worn out on irony), but some people actually really like it. Pig whipped out the ol' acoustic, and Wright Angles whipped out the ol' melodica. If you don't know what that is, you're really missing out. It's basically what happened when the recorder and the key-tar made a baby. You blow in this hole on the end and play a keyboard, and it sounds like a toy harmonica. It's useful for playing .38 Special songs and the theme from Legend of Zelda, and probably "Smoke on the Water." Suffice to say, the melodica got passed around quite a bit, with minimal wipeage. My hepatitis test results will be ready on Tuesday. People started dropping off to bed, so Yackie and I passed out in her car, having taken special care to park it as far away from Wright Angles as possible. "Like a mother fucker" does not even begin to describe his snoring, nor does "like a chainsaw," nor does "like a jet plane launching and crashing over and over again." No, Wright Angles's snoring is more appropriately compared to the sound of the sky getting torn asunder by the hellish roars of a thousand ancient and evil gods. It is the sound of nuclear war. It is the sound of the Final Judgement, if Michael or Gabriel or Frank or whichever angel it is were to blow one of those Ricola alpine horns, amplified through a seven-story Marshall stack.
The next day, we got up and waited for some other people to drive down from Austin and meet us, which meant that I started drinking beer around 10:45 in the morning. I haven't done that in about seven or eight years, but what else are you going to do while waiting to get in a rubber boat and drink beer? Not drink beer? Before I got too involved in drinking, however, I remembered to put on sunscreen. I used Coppertone Sport SPF 15, because it comes in a spray bottle and that allows me to avoid one of the most awkward situations you can ever face, which is having to ask another dude to rub sunscreen lotion on your back. First of all, you have to ask him. You can immediately see the discomfort on his face as he weighs the option of having to touch your body in a manner that does not involve punching, tackling, pantsing or any other type of buffoonery, against the option of protecting his friend (you) against melanoma, coupled with the fact that his back will require the same treatment. He always agrees, because, hey, you're buds, right? But because of the whole unpleasantness of the situation, what you get in terms of sunscreen coverage is two handprints on your lats and ten finger-width streaks down towards the middle lumbar region sporadically transversed by streaks around the bottom of your shoulder blades. You can get better protection if there are girls around and you haven't sufficiently creeped them out beforehand, but even then, your front and torso are up to you, and they might be in trouble, especially if they are covered in hair. You might think that chest and shoulder hair protects you from the prolonged stares of UV rays the same way it protects you from the prolonged stares of supermodels, but it doesn't. As for spray on sunscreen, all you need to know how well it works is that the blisters on my shoulders are almost gone now, and my back has mostly returned to its normal spackle-colored tone, as opposed to the angry, irradiated color it sported for most of the week.
After we handed over our inheritances to rent the rafts, we hauled all our gear down to the river's edge, and piled it into the rafts. By gear, I mean beer, and the outfitters had to give us an extra raft because there wasn't room for all twelve of us to ride and still keep the six ice chests and four or five separate 18-packs of Miller Lite and Keystone. We pulled the rafts into the current, and of course there were abortive attempts to coordinate a launch, as well as the hassle of on-the-water cooler switching. We also witnessed the tragi-comedy of a fat lady in a purple swimsuit attempting to get into her tube while in the grip of an eddy. It was sort of like watching a plum try to climb on top of a chocolate donut in a draining sink. We finally got our dorky armada assembled and pushed off into the flow. Then came the major Bad Idea of the Day.
Our raft was crewed by myself, Yackie, Wright Angles and Westicle. We were carrying a large cooler full of fifty or sixty beers, plus two 18 packs of Miller Lite and the rest of a 12-pack of Keystone that didn't fit in the cooler. When the loose attempts to keep all the rafts together with proximity and good intentions failed, we lashed ours with a buckled life jacket to another raft that had drifted from the flotilla. Tying the rafts together was a great idea for floating down calm parts of the river, but not so much for floating over rapids. Naturally, we had to float over some rapids. They were pretty minor, but minor rapids are still rapids. They were bracketed on the left by the river bank and the right by a big rock; our conjoined rafts, of course, were too far to the right of the rapids, and we drifted toward the big rock. The fore-most raft (not ours) bumped into the rock, and meandered into the flow of the rapids, while ours hit it starboard amidships. The life jacket's buckles snapped, and the other boat floated safely over the flow, while our boat tilted up and over, spilling myself, Yackie and Wright Angles into the river. As the boat bumped into the rock, these were my thoughts:
Aw crap! We're going to hit the rock. Oops--there goes the life jacket. Wait, how is--THE RAFT GOING VERTICALLLLLLL--SHIT!!!!!
which was immediately followed by:
GAAAAAAAAHHH!!!! THE RAFTS ON TOP OF ME!!
Great panicking, bonehead. How funny will it be when the only person who drowns is the one who has swam all his life and who used to be a lifeguard?
Great. There go my sunglasses.
Wright Angles ended up near the boat with everything--his hat, sunglasses and koozie--in his possession. Yackie and I got dragged over some rocks, and she lost her hat, sunglasses and koozie. Inexplicably, Westicle never fell out of the boat, and neither did the cooler nor any of the other beers, though they were more or less freed when the water dissolved their cardboard containers. I did find my koozie in the boat, amid the thirty-odd beers bobbing comically in the water we had taken on.
The rest of the afternoon was relatively uneventful. Wright Angles and The Metrosexual Biker drew a bit of attention by wearing speedos, while The Jerk drew a lot of attention by sporting a thong. Wright Angles splashed people with a paddle. A friend of The Metrosexual Biker who was on the boat that made it over the rapids nearly killed himself not once but twice on a rope swing when he let go as it swung back to the riverbank and its pointy, half-submerged tree spikes, rather than disengaging at the apex of the arc like you are supposed to. We drank almost all of the beer. We played baseball at a shallow part with crushed empties and the oars. Our boat lost an oar. I think we floated past a wedding. When we were all done, we went back to campsite and headed to a barbeque joint that should be renowned for its lousy service. The only other thing that happened worth remarking on is that there are people who live in the area who think that driving by the campsite honking and yelling when people are presumably asleep is the funniest thing in the universe. The joke was on them, though, because I never went to sleep, as I lay down in the back of Yackie's car with my head on a negative slope so that all my blood dumped into my head. It took me all night to figure out that I could move the pillow to the opposite end and sleep without that problem.
All in all, I had a great time. I wouldn't say that it was a completely crazy weekend, which was nice in and of itself. The buffoonery level wasn't really any higher than on our tour last year, and I'm sure I've had weekends when I've drank that much beer. But the river is pretty good. It doesn't have the rhythmic lull of the Pacific, but if I am ever reincarnated as a carp or a discarded Cheeto bag, I don't think I'll mind the river at all.