Monday, August 30, 2004

So, Sean and I Took Turns Paddling Each Other for Three Hours Straight

It was a hot, muggy afternoon--the asphalt melting down the rubber on the soles of my shoes, sticking to me with gummy determination. I trudged up the stairs, still achingly sore from hauling Forrest's stuff down 38 flights of stairs (at least, it felt that way...). Now he's off to broil his snake and cat somewhere in the desert of the American West, and I'm the new owner of many of his canned goods. Frijoles Negros, anyone?

Sean shifted the items he was carrying around and reached for my hand. I closed my hand around his two middle fingers, the way we always "hold hands", and picked up my pace to keep in step with his brisk stride. "Do you think that that one's ours?", I asked, looking dubiously at an immense, sleek, white vessel that curved under gracefully like a reverse Cheshire Cat.

Sean laughed. "I don't think so. God, that thing's huge!"

I nodded agreement. "It looks like something from a Charlie Brown cartoon."

We picked our way down what appeared to be the path, watching as workers in Tevas and splattered t-shirts cleaned up for the night. "Here. You need to sign a release form.", I stated, handing one to Sean. The legal eqivalent of I will not sue you if I die. Love, Sean

It took some time before all the takers were assembled, then a brief introduction to the art of paddling was given for those who had never paddled before. Sean and I are both experienced paddlers to some degree, although we hadn't yet paddled each other. We spent the time the unneeded introduction provided us with discussing who would be behind who. Even though I personally like it in the back, I conceded that since Sean was larger and heavier than I (not to mention Strong Like Bull), he should be the one in the rear.

That decided, we lined up and readied ourselves for an intense bout of paddling. I had a few butterflies in my stomach, but they were the sweetly nervous kind, not the Holy Fucking Shit Nervous kind. (Much preferable.)

Finally, they called us over, and we quickly readied ourselves for what was to be an enlightening excursion. Our canoe was a red one, so it matched my life jacket.

The Moonlight Canoe Tour was to take about 3 hours (Yes, a "Three Hour Tour". That already occurred to me, thank you.) and go at a leisurely pace down the Charles from Newton to Waltham and back again. "Leisurely pace", I will have you know, is a fairly relative term.

My nerves were already frazzled before we had pulled too far from the dock. The canoe was leaning, quite obviously, to the right. I was convinced that this was a sign that one of three things were true:
1. Sean Has Really Bad Posture and Leans to the Right;
2. I Am Too Damn Fat to be In a Canoe; or
3. Sean Has Really Bad Posture and Leans to the Right and I Am Too Damn Fat to be In a Canoe.

I wasn't really sure which one of those was preferable, probably #1 because, truth be known, I would rather be pitched screaming into the polluted Charles and forced to have a tetanus shot after being half-consumed by leeches than have someone tell me I was Too Fat to be In a Canoe. In fact, there are very few things I would not prefer to the Too Fat scenario.

Luckily, I stayed in the canoe. For all that Sean tried to pitch me out by not only leaning obsessively to the right, but also repeatedly standing up and sitting down with almost enough force to send me to the very moon we were supposed to be enjoying during our trip, I stayed in the canoe. Sean's Gatorade did not, but that is another story entirely.

Gatorade bottles float, by the way. Even if they are full of blue Gatorade. In case you ever need to know that.

We saw numerous birds, from your standard mallards to pairs of swans to different kinds of herons and cranes. Several small annoying dogs yapped at us from houses on the shore that we will never be able to afford, even though we are more deserving of them than the current owners simply by virtue of not being the kind of people who would keep annoying yappy dogs.

The moon rose, a splendid vivid orange gumdrop in the sky, when we were first beginning our excursion. With the reduced light, the water shown an oily, inky black (although in retrospect, perhaps it was both oily and inky), rippling like a thousand garter snakes when I dipped my paddle into it.

The highlight of the trip was being rammed by the Asian Canoers from Hell from anywhere between 10-56 times. Each time included the same series of events:
1. ACFH's canoe is heading straight for ours!
2. Redpanda dips paddle into river and tries to slow canoe.
3. After slowing canoe, Redpanda begins paddling away from ACFH's canoe.
4. ACFH's canoe continues heading right for ours, even though ours has changed direction.
5. ACFH's inhabitants seem to be paddling canoe directly at us.
6. Redpanda says "Look out!"
7. ACFH canoe rams our canoe.
8. ACFH's inhabitants smile glibly and say "Sorry!" in an amusing, heavily-accented way.
9. Redpanda laughs and thinks about how much fun she and Sean will have making fun of them later.
10. Redpanda runs into another canoe.

It should be noted that the running into other canoes was mostly the fault of Sean, the All-Time Worst Canoe Steer-er Ever in the History of the World. His steering was so bad, in fact, that I was forced to think that perhaps he was the captain of both the Titanic and the Edmund Fitzgerald in previous lives. Compounding his Monumentally Terrible Steering was the fact that he is a proponent of "Frequent Breaks". This is a good thing when one is a cubicle monkey like me or Sean, spending endless hours pressing stupid little keyboard keys while hunched over a crappy monitor. However, when canoeing, this can be translated into Does not do much of the actual paddling. Sean, god love him, kept saying "Take a break, honey! Take a break!". Unfortunately, for all his thoughtfulness and concern for my well-being, Sean did not seem to realize that someone needs to be paddling the canoe at all times, or the canoe will not go. I came to realize this was an issue when the canoe kept coming to a tentative halt, wavelets slapping merrily against her hull as she rested against a lily pad we would not have been anywhere near if the canoe was being properly steered. A look over my shoulder would reveal that yes, indeed, Sean was taking a Frequent Break. "Take a Break, honey!" he would insist, as I dug my paddle into the river with a degree of determination only one who is afraid of being left behind on the Charles can muster.

We did the circuit, easily 6 miles of calm warm river, without event (save for the loss of the blue Gatorade). I'm comfortably sore today, well-exerted but still able to move. And yes, I'd love to do it again. And no, next time I won't be steering, because I recognize that doing so may lead to a new nomination for All-Time Worst Canoe Steer-er in the History of the World. And we can't have that.

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