6-7-2004 RiverFest 2004

You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream -- the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order -- or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.--Ronald Reagan -October 27, 1964

True, Reagan was a man of the right. But, while adhering to his convictions, with which one could agree or disagree, he was not dogmatic; he was looking for negotiations and cooperation.--Mikhail Gorbachev

We all know Reagan's legacy, from the Iran-Contra affair to the funding of the Nicaraguan military in which over 200,000 people died. The groundwork for the move steadily to the right happened with the Reagan administration. People want to elevate him to some mythic level; they have their own reason for doing that.--Danny Glover, actor, speaking at an anti-war rally in Los Angeles

He couldn't even wait for rigor mortis to set in before pissing on the guy's grave. Very, very uncouth. But not unexpected when one considers the source.

As I somehow grew up during the late sixties, the Vietnam war and the turbulent aftermath; I was always aware of who the president was at any given time, but not one of those presidents ever inspired me to care about anything more than the latest creature comfort I was chasing.

As a kindergartner, I watched the horses carry JFK to his final resting place while my mom wailed in front of our 13-inch black-and-white television. And I spent the next decade watching the nightly body count reports just back from Vietnam and LBJ's and later Tricky Dick's nonstop wrangling in front of the cameras. And there were those non-producers protesting the war here, there and everywhere. While all of that was going on, I was interested and paid fairly close attention, but I was constantly distracted by more important things such as Lost in Space, Maureen McCormick and trying like hell to form some of those screwey chords the Beatles so often threw at me.

During the seventies, the national movers and shakers were barely on my radar screen. Current events were, but the mostly motley crew that drove them during that decade interested me even less than disco. Now that's saying something. Then in 1979, our embassy in Tehran was overrun and for the first time in my life, my blood boiled just a tad. And thanks to that putz peanut farmer that somebody voted for, my blood boiled for 444 days. And to this day, I still own a 'Nuke Iran' button. For the first time, I started to pay close attention to what these boobs in Washington were saying and doing, and I wasn't very impressed. And then Reagan was elected.

Sorry kiddies, but I loved that guy. He was an eloquent speaker who was this country's cheerleader-in-chief for eight years. His unbridled optimism was always apparent, as was his belief in a higher power. He had an unbelieveable sense of humor and thanks to him I scored another first. With the advent of CNN coupled with his ascendancy to the throne, watching politico press conferences was now in vogue as far as I was concerned. Here was this well-aged, two-bit B movie actor and I loved him. I now understand why, but if you had asked me why during the very early eighties, I might have been hard-pressed to explain my affection for this old dude. No matter what, this old dude was an American first and foremost, and an inhabitant of Earth coming in a distant second. He was a modern day patriot who never once paid any attention to the hamstrings that political correctness becomes for those national whores pandering for votes. He had his vision, he ignored his numerous detractors and he stuck to his friggin' guns. Rather than seeking out some ill-advised, namby-pamby consensus, he provided us with bold leadership.

Does he remind you of anyone?

RiverFest 2004

Another two day weekend. I could get used to this. If I had a different job. Freakin' weather!!! Why can't every day be a perfect day much like shopping at Walgreen's? It's decent all week long, but when we venture out onto the river the skies open up? Muck!

I watched the weather reports Friday evening and I sent my daughters out into the night in search of some weather gear for Gage Andrew since he would be joining us on our 17 mile adventure on the Susquehanna. Around 10 PM, they arrived back here at the adobe and claimed they couldn't find any. Wonderful.

So we got up early Saturday morning to find things relatively dry. We threw our gear into the car and headed for West Nanticoke to catch the bus to the launch point in West Pittston. We weren't even out of the lot when it started to rain. And it never really stopped. We arrived at the park and climbed aboard the school bus. Waiting aboard was the aquatically obsessed Kayak Dude. Gage was energized. He grinned from ear-to-ear all the way from West Nanticoke to the friendly confines of the upper valley. Why? 'Cause he was on a school bus! Tell me this kid won't do extremely well when he finally attends a school.

After filing out of the bus, we got in line and waited our turn to register. Oh, and cough up a well spent twenty bucks a person. There were boats lined up all over the place and plenty of folks sporting all sorts of interesting looking kayaking clothing milling about. Me? I was wearing a T-shirt. Although, it was an official RiverFest 2002 T-shirt. Some of those river rats in attendance might have actually believed that I belonged there. Before this event, thanks entirely to Kayak Dude, I have paddled approximately 47 miles on our river, so maybe I do belong at these events at this point. I don't know. Maybe after a few more miles I'll get a patch or something. Although, both Gage and I did get an official RiverFest 2004 water safety whistle, so I guess they'll have to keep us. Or save us when we start blowing away on them.

We had to listen to the near half-hour safety instructions, which we do every time out, and Gage started to get a bit antsy. At 2 years, 342 days old, Gage would be the youngest non-paddler to ever partake of one of the RiverFest voyages. The only reason being was that the organizers trusted Kayay Dude's mad skills enough to allow a toddler to participate. He was one of the orange-shirted safety captains armed with a two-way radio and our boat would lead the way down the river. No one was allowed to pass the lead boat, or slip behind the boat bringing up the rear. Safety first. Heyna? Finally, after we learned exactly how many toots on our whistles meant what, it was time to climb aboard and shove off. For the very first time in Kayak Dude's boat, I would man the rear seat so that I could babysit Gage who would be sitting in the middle seat. During previous trips, I sat in the front seat and merely had to paddle all day long. During this trip in the rear seat, I learned a helluva lot about navigating this decommissioned battleship. Other than two near collisions in the middle of the river, I thought I did okay.

I saw a member of our fire department as well as a few folks from our Chamber of Commerce. Other than those brave paddlers, the remaining folks were mostly strangers to me. Oh, yeah, there were those two chicks from the Chamber that thought umbrellas would power their canoe. They should be arriving at Nesbitt Park anytime now. It's funny, while I firmly believe that our future as a city is finally in capable hands, when I ran across one of our supreme executive Chamber honchos; I quickly reminded him that the now questionable future of my beloved downtown canopy was still on my mind. No cream pie was delivered to his nostrils on this wet afternoon, but it may still be necessary at a later date.

I really enjoy being on the Susquehanna. I enjoy the varied sights, sounds and even some of the smells. I also love the work-out it provides to my upper body. The bicycle does wonders for the lower half and I could do with a bit more of this paddling stuff. But what I enjoy the most is listening to some of these river veterans spewing the details of their most recent adventures. They ramble on and on about how many miles they recently paddled and on which island or ledge they slept on. They can tell you about their lone scrape with a strainer that damn near killed them. Or how the rebar left over from some long gone dam just about tore the bottom out of somebody's boat. A couple of them look and dress as if they capably served next to George Washington, and a few others look as if they couldn't survive a single game of full court basketball. But on a river, they forgot more than we'll ever know and they display a stamina that you'd never expect from them. Don't underestimate the older dudes you may pass on the street. You never know, that harmless-looking gray-haired dude just might be a kayaking veteran.

And while they obviously love being on the river, they understand it's omnipresent power. The river can provide hours upon hours of recreation, but it can also kill you just as easily. They are drawn to it, they frolic to-and-fro upon it, but at the same time...they completely respect it.

River Rat

Let's cover the quote of the day. Uncle Paul Kanjorski wants to dam this river. All of the folks that own a paddle or two will tell you he's clueless, but that never stopped any politico before. The river has all sorts of nasty stuff flowing into it right now, so why in the heck would we want to pool that mostly awful stuff? If we listen to Uncle Paul tell it once again, he'll tell us that pooling pollutants will attract tens of thousands of visitors each and every year. He also told us that the $9 million in federal pork he funneled to his relatives would result in NEPA becoming the water-jet capital of the world. So much for his tomfoolery.

Anyway, would a dam on the Susquehanna at Wilkes-Barre cause Rehobeth Beach to close up and file for bankruptcy anytime soon? While we were making our way past the site of the Knox Mine disaster, we paddled close to Dave, one of the organizers of this event and he and Kayak Dude launched into some of their water type back-and-forth. At some point thereabouts, Kayak Dude proceeded to ask Gage what he thought of the river rushing past him. The little guy panned his head about the scene and quickly replied with, "It's chocolate water."

"It's chocolate water."

He's barely three freaking years-old, but he can clearly see what our out-of-touch Congressman wishes to ignore. Who the hell is going to be attracted to our "chocolate water" other than the dedicated river diehards Mr. Congressman? Appropriate some serious federal pork to clean the river already and then we'll talk about your ridiculous deflatable dam proposal after the sewage is removed from the floating equation.

At about the time we passed under the railroad bridge at this city's edge, the rain starting coming quite a bit steadier. Gage was fine at that point, or so I thought, and I figured he'd be good to go the rest of the way after a lengthy lunch break at Nesbitt Park. I know this drill. As we approached the launch at Nesbitt, Kayak Dude took over the steering of our boat and I just paddled like all hell. We were headed for the muddly banks at ramming speed. We were looking to 'beach' this boat. And beach it we did.

Kayak Dude dragged us up the bank a bit and then Gage and I filed past the TV cameras and headed for the giant tent with the tables and chairs lined up directly under it. After I stripped off his life preserver and his new desert style cap, I was surprised to learn just how soaked the rain had made him. And he began to shiver. And then shiver some more. Some really nice lady provided me with a towel, so I dried and combed his hair. He continued to shiver. And the rain came harder. Then that same lady offered me a knitted sweater with a hood. I threw that over the boy and wrapped the towel around his legs as best I could. He was shivering even worse than before. And the rains came even harder. And then it happened. He said to me, "I wanna go to Gramma's." I knew. At that point I knew that RiverFest 2004 was going to amount to a half a RiverFest for this troubled Bush Youth. And then he repeated himself with "I wanna go to Gramma's." And he started to repeat it over and over. And the rains came even steadier. And if I'm not mistaken, the temperature was dropping, not rising as we had expected. I was otherwise fine, but my fingers were numb and not responding to my constant rubbing of them.

There was a festival sprouting up all around us and Kayak Dude's brother-in-law was jammin' some Skynnard on an acoustic guitar. Still, while Gage was eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I had prepared for him, he was shaking like a leaf and still babbling endlessly about Gramma. It was pouring near cats and dogs when Kayak Dude returned from a walkabout and asked me "Is he going to be okay?" I think he knew and if I had answered in the affirmative, he probably would have lost some respect that he still held in reserve for me. My reply was, "No." The little guy would have been good to go all the way to West Nanticoke and then enjoy that festival that I had him pumped about-But nobody told him he would have to shiver all the way down there.

I'm not sorry that we included Gage in this mix as I want him to experience as much as he can, as fast as he can. I have extremely high hopes for him. But it nearly killed me to tell the guy who invited me on this yearly adventure that I had to go home at the half-way point. Kayak Dude was very gracious and I headed over to Tony Thomas' stand to grab a hoddog for the little guy. He freaked after I walked away and K.D. was forced to deliver him to me on line at the food stand. It was there that I again ran into one of those Chamber types who would provide the little guy and I with a ride to the adobe. Remember, the car was in West Nanticoke and all of my kids were at work. We were rudderless, even while standing on solid ground.

So, we bid Kayak Dude adieu and made our way home in a car without a child's seat. If we wrecked, the Chamber would be hiring the very next day and an urban planner would be working on sprucing up his cell block with my less than capable help.

So Kayak Dude faced the second leg of the trip, the longest leg, all by his lonesome and I'm not happy about that fact. The only reason I ever even ventured out onto his river was becuase he invited me. And he's already taught me a helluva lot of interesting stuff that I would have never known. How could I have otherwise? Another good argument for building yourself a web site and seeing where it leads you. And if you build one and it leads you out onto the Susquehanna; you'll quickly learn that it was well worth it. If you want to know a river, it's nooks, and eddys, and crannies, your Congressman is not the person to consult with in those hallowed halls well-removed from the river.

Seek out the Nathans, the Daves, the Hollys, and the Dons. The dudes and dudesses with the kayaks.

Shiver Boy