One Craptastic Day on the Ole River

“If this was the first day we spent on the river practicing I wouldn’t be going on this canoe trip.”

“What is that buzzing?”
“Its the high voltage power lines you’re standing next to.”

“Oh look, there is a lazy boy washed up on shore.”

Canoe 6-6-09 016The other Saturday Mahsa and I went out in the Flora Burn to do some practicing for our big canoe trip. We chose to do a river we had yet to travel upon, the Neponset River. The canoe launch was about 30 minutes from my house in Norwood. The place we put in was none too scenic. But then most of our put-in spots are rather drab as we usually find ourselves starting off in inhabited places and paddling away.

The river was moving along at a quick pace. But it wasn’t very deep at all. The muck on the shore was about knee deep in places and almost claimed one of my boots. As we made to set off Mahsa observed that there was a lazy boy recliner perched in the shrubbery along the banks of the river. By the looks of it the chair had traveled down-stream a bit before getting caught in the brambles.

Canoe 6-6-09 005We didn’t get far after pushing off from the shore. Just around the first bend when we encountered some light rapids or riffles if you will we had to get out of the canoe and line her through the water as it was too shallow to continue. Lining a canoe is when one person ties a rope or line to the bow and the other person ties a line to the stern. Together you wade through the water guiding the canoe. This is done when the water is too shallow or when you need to avoid obstacles. As we waded along I wondered at the intense buzzing overhead. Mahsa made her second astute observation of the day by noting that we were indeed standing under some gigantic high voltage powerCanoe 6-6-09 002 lines. This didn’t take long and before we knew it we were back in the canoe…that is until we ran a-ground on a sand bar…and then another…and then another. The river bed was horribly uneven. To make matters worse the river was also full of trash. We are talking serious trash here too: lawn furniture, sporting equipment, fire extinguishers, construction signs, lumber, a children’s plastic play fort, tires (lots of those!), shopping carts and just plane Canoe 6-6-09 006garbage. The trash had built up against fallen brush making a maze of obstacles. Sure we got to practice some fancy maneuvering…but it was a nasty sight. The uneven river bed didn’t always correspond with the direction we had to go to avoid an obstical eitehr. We would find ourselves bottoming out Canoe 6-6-09 015gowing around a blockage quite often. More then once we had to pass under or quite close to fallen branches caked in filth. We grew rather jumpy, constintly feeling like we were covered in creepy crawlers.

Canoe 6-6-09 018With the current moving pretty quickly, navigation wasn’t too hard. Slowly we left the buzzing power lines behind…only to be replaced by low flying aircraft as the river does pass by a private air field. To drown out the bothersome buzzing of little planes we cranked up our hand crank radio and took in a little of WGBH’s Celtic Music Hour. Really it just meant listening to staticey Celtic music intermingled with the buzz of aircraft.

Canoe 6-6-09 022Eventually the garbage mounds do give way to more scenic fare. After passing under the freeway the Neponset enters the Blue Hills Reservation. Here the banks became lined with tall grasses and deepened considerably. The low flying aircraft were still present. But the general mood of the trip improved vastly. We even found a nice shady spot along the bank to have lunch and walk around a bit.

Canoe 6-6-09 009Well, whatever beauty and loveliness we may have encountered on later part of the trip was eviscerated by the return journey. At our turn around point we had about 4 miles to paddle up river. This translates to roughly twice as long as coming down river. Determined not to take 7 hours getting back to the car we doubled our efforts paddling as quickly as we could. We made good time but our muscles were sore and our hands raw. All fun was gone. After crossing under the freeway we were back in the garbage wonderland. If paddling downriver threw the maze of trash bothersome then the paddling upstream was down right terrible. Not only did we have to contend with the barriers of trash and uneven river bead but we also had to do it all against a current that kept wanting to turn us around.

Canoe 6-6-09 013Our pace slowed considerably. At one point we stopped talking even. We both just sat in our respective seats brooding over the unpleasantness of our experience on the Neoponset. At one point we had to cross over the river channel from one deep spot to another. This required paddling through that was in fact to shallow to paddle in. The result was us sitting in our canoe paddles flailing against the river bottom feebly trying to move us against the current. We weren’t even moving. Anger gave way to the hilarity of the situation. We just ended up polling with our paddles over to the deeper water but even that took more effort then seemed worth it.

Who knows how much time passed….days maybe! But eventually we made it back to the buzzing power lines and the canoe launch and most gratefully our car. It was in near silence that we loaded the canoe and set off towards home. I think we felt dejected. Each day on the river up until then was full of fun. We always left the water wanting more. This trip was over in our minds just as it started and left us never wanting to canoe again. Or at least a little less eager to canoe again soon.

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Guest Column: Never can say goodbye by soodsaurus rex

Note: I am now accepting guest posts! If you are interested in writing something…pretty much open to anything you can dream up…let me know!

Never can say goodbye by soodsaurus rex

My family moved to this country when I was about five years old. Some of the few things we learned about America were: Cheez Doodles were not fish sticks, Gumby was a great resource for learning English and Michael Jackson was the dopest mofo on the block. MJ was huge in the Tamil community in Queens (and obvs, everywhere in the world). I chalk it up to his easy persona, gentle voice and general lack of drama (at least in the pre-pedophilia days). My parents used to make me do the Moonwalk in front of their friends and would beam with pride when they would clap and say, “Oh your daughter does it JUST LIKE HIM!” We converged around the telly when the videos for “Black or White,” “Remember the Time” and “Keep it in the Closet” premiered. My mom still hates that last one cuz it was too scandaloso for her tender Hindu eyes. Secretly listening to the “Dangerous” track where he said “damn” was a huge act of childhood rebellion on my part. He was an undeniably huge part of our immigrant upbringing and assimilation into American culture. So his death hit me hard, harder than I thought it would…it almost felt like a part of that childhood was drifting away into Neverland with him.

I will never be one to say he was perfect or deify him. Yeah he fucked up in a big way, especially with the molestation charges and shit. He dangled his baby over a balcony just for his fans. He was post-race, post-gender but not in a good way. But the older I get, the more I realize that not everything’s black or white, (ha! no pun intended)/good or evil. Humans don’t exist in binaries; we live in that grey area, much of which is shaped by the environment around us. Michael Jackson had one of the most traumatic upbringings and it exhibited itself so clearly in his erratic behavior that dominated his public (and private) life for the past decade and a half. He was a tragic figure, a hero and an anti-hero kind of like V from Alan Moore’s “V for Vendetta.” When those child molestation charges were being dropped against him, I didn’t know what to think or believe of the man-child who had moonwalked his way into my heart. I still watch that movie about his life, “The Jacksons,” on VH1 whenever I am at my parents’ home with nothing to do and it never stops being super depressing…can anyone imagine a childhood like that with a father like Joe Jackson?

Maya Angelou once wrote, “I know why the caged bird sings.” I think of Michael when I hear that. He was that caged bird with the sweetest and most sorrowful song ever. Music should have been his outlet but instead, it became another prison for him. He had a life of fame and stardom only to never truly know what love and friendship and trust mean- is this the price one must pay for being so tremendously talented? I feel like we are to blame for his death. Our endless obsession with celebrity, which seems so harmless, but really fuels a multi-billion dollar industry that is incredibly invasive and malicious, led to his downfall. I truly believe he was a tender soul- who else could write songs like “Man in the Mirror” (which sowed the seeds for my social justice work) and “Will You Be There”? But somewhere along the line, he deteriorated into something beyond recognition, mostly because of our society and its value system. Maybe I’m making too many excuses for him and being too much of a fan girl but I’m still not sure how to feel about a lot of things. I can’t bring myself to hate the man who said to me, “In my heart, I feel you are all my brothers.” Knowing everything about his life and his fucked up issues, I’ll still cry if I hear one of his songs or watch his videos. I’ve loved him as a performer, as a vital component of my upbringing and as a visionary teacher since I was five and I can’t help it…his tragedy of a life puts things in a different light for me.

I’m sorry your life sucked, Michael, I’m sorry everyone watched while you were burning in hell, I’m sorry we asked the world of you and when you couldn’t do it, we watched you collapse, and I hope you are in a better place now. Rest in peace.

Holy Mother of God I am Never Flying Again!

No joke folks. I will never again fly in an airplane. On the back of a dragon? Yes. On a nice puffy white cloud? Yes. On the wings of a Pegasus? Yes. On a plane? HELL NO!

Ok, here is how it went down. I took off early in the morning out of San Francisco. I was nervous. Flying and me are like trying to wear black and blue together – doesn’t work you just end up looking like a big old bruise. So I was prepared for the next torturous six hours of flying. I knew for a week that it was coming. I wasn’t happy, nor was I feeling relaxed. I wanted to strangle the perky little flight attendant who kept smiling and saying “good morning. Welcome aboard!”

I was again on the flying night club known as Virgin America. This time though I was less impressed with the decor as I was thinking more about the flight. The charm and extravagance of the interior had worn off and I was once again struck with the stark reality: I was inside a aluminum tube pumped full of rocket fuel, preparing to launch into the air. All around me were flammable objects. Plus, I don’t care what anyone says; that little life vest under my seat ain’t going to do shit when our plane hits the water going 500 miles per hour.  Fact of life! Not all pilots are what’s his name how landed in the Hudson River or Frank from Lost.

Well so the flight was a little rocky across the country. I was, of course, a bundle of nerves. I watched a terrible movie to kill a hour and forty-five minutes, listened to my MP3 player and tried to read my book. Slowly, ever so slowly the hours went by. The little plane on my screen was inching its way across the country.

Finally Boston was in sight. I could see the Prudential Center off in the distance. I was almost home. Then it happened.

dondondondon!

The plane began to shimmy and shake, sway and rattle, drop and wobble. Outside the clouds were thick with rain and the wind was high. It was a terrible thing. I was fairly sure I was going to vomit. The crazy lady next to me thought is was the most exciting thing ever. I wanted to scream at her “we’re not at six flags lady! This isn’t a roller coaster!” She urged me to lift my window cover so she could look out the window. I very reluctantly opened the window shade and looked out over downtown Boston. The shaking got worse and then the unbelievable….with a flash of light and a thud and the sound of mettle being hit the wing outside of my window was hit by lightening! No fooling! MY PLANE WAS HIT BY LIGHTENING! I bust into tears. A women screamed and then everyone got quiet.

All the nervous chatter that had sprung up during the turbulence as people suddenly got to know the people next to them (no one wants to die next to a stranger) petered out. The plane continued toward the airport and then past the airport. We made our way 30 miles out to sea. This is what I’m saying in my head “oh my god. We’re going down. Our plane is failing. The air traffic controllers have sent us out to sea so we don’t crash in downtown Boston.” Really, we were just getting out of the storm so we could approach the airport. At about 3000 feet our plane dropped about 500 feet in 2 seconds and then rose up again in a second. Luckily I had only ate a giant Rice Crispy Treat that day so I didn’t think I would really throw up.

As we slowly approached the runway I just tried to breath. Just before touch down some one yelled “we’re almost there! This is it!” TOUCH DOWN! Everyone applauds. Holy crap!

As I got off the plane I wanted to yell at the people waiting to get on my plane as it headed back to San Francisco “don’t do it! That plane just got hit by lightening!” I had images of me being dragged out of the airport by TSA kicking and screaming about lightening.

So….it turns out that lightening hits planes all the time. Apparently it is no big deal. Well its a big enough deal to make me never want to get in a plane again!

Choo Choo train, Choo Choo train, I’m going to ride a choo choo train.

California Detox

After landing safely in San Francisco I took BART to Richmond and then the train to Davis where my brother and sister-in-law picked me up. All told it IMG_5272took five trains, one plane and two cars to get to my family. I was relieved to finally arrive. As we arrived the whole family came out into the lane to greet us. It felt so good to fall into the arms of my family, to see the old house all lit-up with twinkling strands of lights. The tall poplar trees were catching the wind and with the sun setting over the field and chicken coup it was the perfect way to end a traveling day.

IMG_5225My family was converging to mark the one year anniversary of my dad’s death. Walking into the house on the day that one year ago was my dad’s last day was surreal. There is still so much of my dad in the house, not just his possessions but his presence and energy too. All I could do was take a deep breath. While it felt hard to come home, it was also a joy. I live so far away from my family and all I have of my dad here in Boston are the trinkets I took with me when was out there this summer and old photographs. To be in his home surrounded by his life and the places of my memories of my dad was unexpectedly comforting. There is the kitchen where he did a little song and dance number one day when he got up at 4am to cook me some fried eggs IMG_5201before seeing me off at the airport. And there is the table where we played hours of Sorry. There is the couch were we watch movies and the patio where we ate dinner and talked away the hours. Instead of being traumatic it was healing. I could live in the memories without the longing feeling of wanting to be home again. We ate a nice super and just as the sun was setting and the hour of my dad’s passing near we all went to the Cemetery down the road where he was laid to rest. As we walked to his grave a little cat came out to walk with us. It rolled around on the warm grass by his grave for a bit. I IMG_5199brought my dad’s traveling bear Valentine (who now lives with me) and held him close. We remembered those who could not be there with us in the moment: my aunt Deborah who was gallivanting her way around Europe with a band, and our uncle Dave. Just as we were about to say our brother Brendan a car pulled out and who should arrive but Brendan. Fresh from the plane he walked with luggage and all towards us. It was a perfect moment. It made the moment perfect to have him arrive just then. I have missed him so much over the past year. We stayed until it was dark, telling stories and sharing memories. We cried and laughed and stood in silence.

I slept well that night after many sleepless nights tossing and turning in anticipation of this trip. That night as I slept in a house full of my family, we all passed through that last night with my dad. We were all there with him.

I passed my time in Nevada City doing nothing in particular. I saw many friends, ate too much food and read a lot of books. It was the usual visit home.IMG_5269

IMG_5258We hosted potluck for friends one night. There was lots of music playing and story telling. We went to the river too and watched the raging spring run-off IMG_5250tumble through the canyon. We ate at Ikes Café were we always loved to eat. We watched movies and drank Pero and simply enjoyed each others company. I can’t imagine needing more then that really.

California 004One evening we even replicated the Boston tradition California 002of Taco night. It was a huge hit. I learned a new term the sums up the goal of taco night quite well – “Tacomma”. Ahhh, the beauty of taco induced comma.

I flew out of San Francisco early in the morning. So my step-mom and my brother Brendan and I drove to the City a day early to spend some time onCalifornia 042 the beach and eating some good sea food. We stayed in the very same hotel that my step-mom and older brother Duncan stayed in while my dad was in the hospital for a month. We ate at the same restaurant they ate at almost every night. It was an eerie way to end the trip. It brought home some tough stuff I’ve been wadding through over the past months. I often think to myself that I should have come out sooner to be with my dad while he was in the hospital and to support my family. But I did what I did in the moment. Keeping some California 041distance from my dad’s failing health was a coping response I suppose. None-the-less the answers don’t come quickly and the edge of the wilderness I’ve been wandering through since he died is not in sight. The journey continues.

California 070California 046California 041

Is it a bird? Is it a Plane? Eh…is it a Night Club?

A319+Virgin+America+N524VAI had the distinct pleasure…er uh…I mean horror of flying back and forth across the country this May. Flying in airplanes (as opposed to say on the back of a dragon) is the singularly most frightening thing for me to do. First I deny that I have to fly and push off buying my ticket for as long as possible. Once my ticket is purchased my anxiety will slowly build between purchase and the day I have to fly. I usually start having waves of nervous nausea a couple weeks to a month before I leave. Then about a week out I start having terrible dreams. This all leads up being a total wreck the day of the flight.

Read on for some serious fun!

The Impending Hatching of a Baby Snuffleupagus

vasudhas visit 015Oh boy! I bet you didn’t know that Boston is the the only place on earth where snuffleupagus’ are born. Its true and I have chosen the best time to move to Boston too. This year I will be able to witness a once in 50 year event: the hatching of the snuffleupagus’

The big day should be arriving soon. I would guess by the size of the snuffleupagus pods hanging in the trees that it’ll be a matter of weeks.

Of similar curiosity is the recent development that has the trees in the park ozzing small  plastic containers. I have yet to figure that one out. But my prevailing theory is that the trees are trying to appeal to young people by looking more hip.

Check out the snuffleupagus pods!

Tales from Inside the U.S. Gitmo: New Article from Daniel McGowan

DanielA new article from our friend Daniel McGowan, currently at the Communications Management Unit at USP Marion in Illinois.

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As of May 2009, I have been at USP Marion’s “Communication Management Unit,” or CMU, for roughly nine months and now is a good time to address the misconceptions (and the silence) regarding this unit. I want to offer a snapshot of my day-to-day life here as weldaniel_01l as some analysis of what the existence of CMUs in the federal prison system implies. It is my hope that this article will partially fill the void of information that exists concerning the CMU, will help dispel rumors, and will inspire you to support those of us on the inside fighting the existence of these isolation units — in the courts and in the realm of public opinion.

Read more dag nabit!