Thinking About Another Kayak

I’m thinking about getting another kayak. This, the holy grail of American made kayaks, a Seavivor Greenland Solo.  I’m very interested.  The kayak’s long at 17’4″, and reputedly fast.  It has no sponsons which, I think, is a bonus in terms of skin fit, weight, handling.  The Seavivor’s located a long way off, which is logistically maybe  a problem.  Also, it’ll be heavy compared to my Folbot Aleut, but I may still be strong enough to manage its weight.  Anyhow, I want to go far and go fast on the water.

A few things I’ve learned about myself and folding kayaks are:  I like to keep them put-together most of the time; my driveway and yard are lousy environments for storing a folding kayak assembled; I tend to dislike assembling at the put-in even when that makes better logistical and kayak-care sense.

My experience with the RZ96 has informed me that the squirrels in my neighborhood pose a hazard to any stationary thing softer than their teeth.  My experience with 450s has informed me, to my shame, that even covered, in the yard moisture will wreck wood parts.

The two kayaks I currently own are safely stored disassembled in their bags.  I have room for a third.  I DARE the local squirrels to take their teeth to my aluminum canoe, which does stay out in the yard.

Return to Asheville–Part Three

Hiatus

A little over one year ago, I returned to Asheville to meet Brian Rider and exchange my 1962 Pionier 450 S kayak for a small sum of money and a 1990’s mid-range lugged steel Mississippi-built Schwinn Traveler bicycle in celeste green with Suntour drivetrain.  A little higher end and more modern groupset than what I’ve got on my Miyata.  Swapped the bike to my friend, Bruce, in exchange for some metal-smithing, and he’s made it ride-able, but has yet to venture with it beyond his neighborhood.  Also, he’s scared of wearing Lycra.

Traveler-1Suntour-Alpha-5000

I got two blog-post installments written and published here, but before I could really begin the third, got what turned out to be a life-changing injury on a Friday afternoon in September, then found kittens on our front porch and had to teach them to feed and find homes for them, then had to deal with the ensuing flea-infestation after the cats had got homes, then hit the half-century mark, then embarked on a complete vocational rethink that involved considerable upheaval.  Difficult it is returning to something left off after this much time has elapsed.  I’d planned something more elaborate, but this post may end up as more of an image-dump than a cohesive narrative providing a meaningful end to the two posts preceding it here and here.  Click on any picture for a full-sized version.

The-Cat-That-Walked-By-Himself

The Cat That Walked By Himself

The Cat

Although I like to think of myself, and actually do often function, as independent of most people in many circumstances, that’s probably an adaptation I’ve made to a social awkwardness you’d have to be me to understand.  I’d been looking forward to a chance to visit with Eric, my best friend from seminary days.  Eric’s niece, a young woman who is a freelance writer as well a musician, also planned to meet us for supper and accompany us to a local music festival.

Monkeying Around

I got up pretty early Saturday morning and looked up local bike shops in order to engage in a little bicycle tourism.  I picked out three or four shops in the Asheville area and wrote out their addresses, took a shower, went downstairs for breakfast, finished getting ready and then headed out.

I remember my dad once telling me that, according to his then recently acquired religious orientation, it is considered unethical to enter a retail business having previously made up one’s mind not to buy anything.  He said that would produce a false hope in the mind of the shopkeeper, and that it’s plain wrong to intentionally disappoint another person, especially in regard to his or her livelihood.  My intent that morning?  I was shopping for bargains – maybe some heavily discounted Endura shorts or some chain-lube or an incredible deal on some new old stock bike that’d been gathering dust under a stairwell or had been demoed for a couple of years.  Also, Asheville’s a little cooler, weatherwise as well as in a social sense, than Stepford, and I’d forgotten to bring a windbreaker or sweatshirt, so I reckoned I needed one of those, too.

The first bike shop I went to was near a Walgreens on the city’s outskirts, but not far from the hotel, in a newer brick stripmall, but it was closed when I got there.  I did stop in at Walgreens and buy a good toothbrush, because I’d forgotten to pack one and the toothbrush supplied by the hotel as a courtesy was not fit for the purpose.

After that, I drove to the local R.E.I. which is situated in a sort of outdoor mall intended to resemble a groovy urban village public space and square.  Actually not horrible, and with adequate parking, families out for early strolls with their little ones in strollers, kind of upscale.  I got a gray, house brand water-resistant hooded, full-zip synthetic material sweatshirt on sale and some waxy chain-lube.  Then I drove on the freeway to the other side of town where there’s a large, upscale, full-service bike shop on the property of a large shopping mall of the sort that sprang up in many places about 20 years ago.

I test-rode or demoed a 2012 Raleigh cyclocross bike in carbon fiber all over the largely deserted parking lot and the adjacent huge new-car dealer’s lot.  What a great bike, but the price was still beyond what I could justify spending, even at a large discount.  One of the guys at the shop had previously lived at Stepford and worked at a bike shop in Stepford when the town had a bike shop, back in the 1990s.  He sent greetings to one of the founding members of the Stepford bike club, and I wrote down his name and eventually did pass along the greeting.

After that, having spent the greater part of the morning out looking at bikes and driving around, I went back to the hotel.  Eric called up after a little while and arrived by about lunch time, I think.

Best-Parking

We drove to the downtown area where Eric managed to score the best parking place in Asheville – a prime slot with a municipal canvas bag padlocked over the space’s parking-meter.  Weather was amazingly pleasant – clear, blue skies, warm, sunny, cool mountain breeze – really beautiful day.  The sidewalks were crowded with walkers, buskers in evidence everywhere.  I listened to the Carolina Catskins at one corner and bought one of their homemade CDs (turns out they’re A LOT better live than recorded).  I snapped a photo of the band – the female playing the washboard looks irked at being photographed (indeed, I have taken her soul captive thereby – not really; what would I do with it?).  The woman with the dog was not, as I recall, a band member – she just looked like a spacey hippie and seemed to want to be a part of the picture.

Carolina-Catskins-College-St.

Monkeying Around

I don’t remember clearly, but I think Eric and I had both eaten something before we met at the hotel on Saturday.  We did, I think, get something to eat while out walking around.  I snapped a bunch of pictures – amazing sights in Asheville.  I liked the old buildings, odd retail establishments, and the crowded streets.  There was a even a pedal-powered pub, allowing patrons to legally drink and drive, after a fashion.  Saw a transvestite costumed as a nun riding around on a strange bicycle.  Saw some different bikes chained up; I guess bicycle theft is a problem at Asheville.  Here are a few photos:

Drag-Nun-&-SupplicantAmazing-Pubcycle-2Crazy-Wig-Store

Catholic-Church-BuildingTouristHookah-Hookup

Black-BikeDaily-PlanetBlue-and-WhiteRed-Brick-Blue

Fashionable-StatuaryPublic-Service-BuildingContrasting-BuildingsWedge-BuildingPatton-Ave.-Rabbit-ArchAsheville-Green-BikeAsheville-Skyline

OfficesReflective-SurfacesColorful-ArchOld-Men

Hearn’s Bicycle Shop

Hearns-Cycling-&-FitnessMilanetti-&-Clark

Hearn’s Cycling and Fitness, actually; they claim to be the oldest continually operating bike shop in the United States.  Eric and I stopped in there and looked around.  That’s Eric in the picture above and left in the blue shirt and tan hat.  Hearn’s has a bewildering array of used bikes, funky bikes, super old bike, really odd bikes hanging from the ceilings and in racks on the garage floor.  The building’s obviously a former garage, possibly auto dealer property.  The building looks as if it were built about the middle of the last century.

The fellow with whom Eric is exchanging speech in the image above is, if I recall correctly, named Clark, and he was an interesting and helpful fellow.  If I had to guess, I’d say his FSIQ falls in the well-above-average range of measured intelligence.   The bike he’s holding in both pictures is consists of a 58 or 59 cm (it’s bigger than you’d think if you judged it solely by the headtube) Milanetti lugged steel 1980s frame with full Campagnolo groupset, don’t recall wheels and hubs, and cage pedals.  The bike’s gears are indexed and shift at the brake levers – to me, totally space-age refinements of bicycle technology.  I liked the bike, but couldn’t justify expenditure of $500 that day in Asheville.  Since then, I’ve occasionally regretted not buying the bike.

Music

That August 2013 weekend I went back to Asheville was the last weekend of the mountain music festival called Shindig on the Green, and that turned out to be the reason I’d been unable to find inexpensive lodgings near downtown.

Eric-&-Megan

Megan Northcote, Eric’s niece, accompanied us to supper at a vegetarian restaurant the name of which I no longer recall, and then to the music festival, and then on a walk through the downtown area where we observed graffiti, street musicians and doorway singers.  When we met her at her apartment, she agreed to play the banjo for us – she is musically inclined and I asked her to play the song she liked best.  Below’s a still snapped while she was tuning the instrument, and then a short video Megan playing a song the name of which I noted at the time, but have forgotten.  Well, the short video if I can figure it out after posting this from Windows Live Writer.  She was unwilling to sing while she played, although I would guess she has as pleasant a singing voice as her speaking voice.

Megan-with-Banjo

We ate dessert at a red, double-decker bus that’s been permanently moored and converted for use as a coffee-shop/confectioner’s shop.  I took way too many pictures there because I thought it looked really cool and I liked the ceiling.

That-Bus-Is-ParkedDessert-Bus-CounterDessert-Bus-Fare

The festival musicians and singers ranged from traditional bluegrass or folk singing about spiritual strength and bearing up under the vicissitudes of a life sometimes harsh but worth living to dirty-living trash-culture singing about and taking perverse pride in booze and infidelity.  You may as well know I preferred the former.

Shindig-Family-GroupShindig-Venue-&-Crowd

Asheville appears to have a vibrant street-musician scene.  During my earlier walkabout with Eric, I noted an older man playing a zither near a hookah bar, as well as the Carolina Catskins, already mentioned.

Zither-Guitar-Man

After the sun had set, Megan, Eric, and I walked around the downtown area where we watched and listened to various street performers and artists.  One of the singers, and I am annoyed with myself because I didn’t get her name, sang the ABSOLUTE best version of Funny Valentine I’ve ever heard.  That song’s a sort of benchmark by which I measure the talents of buskers wherever I find them.  This lady belted out a version that nearly stole my soul –  I mean, it was a moving, evocative rendition of that old song.  My stars, but I was an idiot not to have gotten her name.  If there’s going to be choir in heaven, and this lady’s numbered among the elect, she’ll be in it.  There she is, in the picture below

BEST-Singer

Nighttime-Crowded-CornerPoised-Artist

We also saw a man juggling tools including, if I recall rightly, chainsaws.  I feared for the safety of the children crowded around with their parents.  The guy had an array of household items and tools on the sidewalk, around where he stood, and he invited the children to choose things for him to juggle.  From what I could see, his performance was flawless, but I stood well enough back to avoid getting struck by anything if he missed.  Didn’t get a picture or a video – the Iphone’s limited as to shutter speed and low-light video.  A woman standing near the juggler sketched portraits and was remarkable for her graceful posture.  We also saw a bigger band, similar in composition to the Catskins, but with a different sound, playing and singing a song the chorus of which I recall went something like, “There’s soooooo muuuuuuuch bloood.”  The woman with the banjo, center, was the one singing, and she sang the words slow and with an audible awareness of the oddity of meaning that I was not expecting.

Unknown-Vampire-Band

Graffiti

The rest of these pictures are all out of sequence, but they’re snapshots I took of graffiti I saw while we were walking around Saturday.  Megan surprised me with a spontaneous and clever photobomb; I was really annoyed for a second until I realized what a cool thing she’d done.  But joking I did ask her what her parents would think.  The Charlie Brown artist’s work I saw two or three places around town, and I liked it best.  I probably have some more graffiti pictures, but I think the time has come to abandon composition and publish this post.

Dr.-Humor-GraffitoDog-Man

Fishglue-PhotobombNotes-From-Underground

Return to Asheville–Part Two

Making Plans

My friend, Eric, was out of the country engaged in ministry work in a South American country during part of August, and I can never remember other people’s itineraries well enough to mentally reference them for the making of my own.  So, because, for whatever reason, I don’t write this information down on a handy calendar, I have to individually consult with other parties to proposed activities, usually more than once, to plan a trip like this one.

He is not my Science Fiction Twin,” (I have none) but he is probably the friend who knows me best and, in emailed communication, he did mention that he has a niece in Asheville, a freelance writer/journalist named Megan, who might wish to accompany us as we monkeyed around in North Carolina’s mountain-high, miniature metropolis.

Booking a room at Asheville for the weekend agreed upon with Brian and Eric proved difficult.  The Four Points, where I’d stayed previously, had no rooms available for my dates, and the rooms of other hostelries in or close to downtown were likewise sold out for the weekend or were priced out of my budget for the trip.  The price of the kayak only offset, a bit, the costs of travel, but the point of the trip was the trip, itself, and to ensure the Pionier found a paddler able and willing to look after it.  I wound up staying at a Holiday Inn Express that, as it happened, is located not far from where Brian and I had agreed to meet.

How to Get from Stepford to Asheville in a Volvo

I took a Friday off work, packed up the kayak (which I’d previously disassembled and photographed), packed up my own travel kit Thursday evening, and planned an early start next morning.  I wound up not leaving the house until about nine due to the should-have-been-foreseen exigencies of school day morning routine. 

Pionier-Packed-&-Ready

Because I’d got such a late start, I drove straight through to Asheville without stopping and arrived there in early afternoon, Eastern Time.  My green ‘98 Volvo Cross Country handled the drive admirably and was a lot of fun to drive on the curving mountain roads.  I erred in bringing with me no water to drink on the way, although I’d made and packed two chicken sandwiches, two bags of trail mix, two apples.  When I got close to Asheville, I telephoned to Brian who gave me directions to a lakeside park in his subdivision, a neighborhood next which my own Burnt Down Plantation Estates near the country club at Stepford pales in comparison.  While waiting for Brian, I got out, stretched my legs, and ate a handful of trailmix.

The Exchange

A tall youngish man of athletic stature, Brian Rider appears about forty years of age.  He arrived in a late-model pickup truck, possibly of Japanese manufacture – the sort that has an extended cab and smaller doors behind the driver and passenger doors.  We unloaded the Pionier from the station-wagon’s cargo area – with back passenger seats folded down, the whole thing fit neatly therein.  I’m afraid I wasn’t articulate enough to answer very well Brian’s many good questions about the kayak and its provenance.  He expressed happy surprise at the hull’s condition and said he didn’t think the delaminated seatback would be very much trouble to replace.

Brian-w.-Pionier-450-S

We talked mostly about vocation – calling, not in a religious sense, per se, but about finding and doing the work that in some measure defines the meaning of one’s life.  By the outward indications observable to me at the time of our meeting, Brian is a very successful sales professional.  He said his dream is “to work with my hands” crafting things useful and beautiful from wood (it was wood that we talked about, anyway).  Somehow, from vocation, we began talking about regrets, or, maybe we started with regrets and moved on to vocation.  In my nutritionally deprived and dehydrated state, my recollection is clear only that we discussed both, but the sequence is not so clear to me. 

Regarding dreams, Brian mentioned that he works with his hands with wood, and wishes he could do more of it.  At the time he and I spoke, I’d put my vocational dreams on hold, trying to develop competence in a new job conveniently located near my home.  I’d recently quit a job I’d defined for the past seven or so years by the manner in which I’d performed it, and the transition to the new job in an agency itself in transition was proving difficult.  I recall I wasn’t much willing then to closely regard my calling and instead sought occasional escape from its circumstance through cycling, watching reruns of television shows on Netflix, and generally wasting time that would have been better spent productively. 

Regarding vocation, I do wish to refer any reader interested enough to C.S. Lewis’ address to, it is reported, to a group at King’s College, London, in 1944 – The Inner Ring.  I can be found here.

My regrets, however, have little enough to do with vocation, which may surprise some, considering my education and work history.  Since I began to experience life as a conscious, rational, and moral being, I’ve tried to live in a way that makes ethical sense to me.  Having already experienced enough of the irrationality and immorality of others, that last part of the previous sentence became primary.  As such, the truth of my regrets is that now, at middle age, those of my failures that I regret are the many times I have been intentionally unkind to others.  I recall and sorrow at the memory of having picked on and bullied probably the only child weaker than myself at the parochial school I first attended when my family returned from its European sojourn.  As a father today, I am haunted by the fact that as a child, I had literally no empathy whatsoever for other people, especially other children.  I wish I could make that right, today, but cannot much alter my past by just wishing parts of it away.

Brian mentioned that he had heard an address, a convocation speech, given by one George Saunders this year at the University of Syracuse.  I don’t remember the speaker’s name or the name of the university by virtue of having conversed about it – Brian was kind enough to send it to me via email, later.  Saunders is kind of your average socialist, and I think some of his statements are mistakes based on his political/philosophical bent, but he also has attained genuine insight.  Here’s a completely unauthorized verbatim reprint of Saunders’ speech:

Down through the ages, a traditional form has evolved for this type of speech, which is: Some old fart, his best years behind him, who, over the course of his life, has made a series of dreadful mistakes (that would be me), gives heartfelt advice to a group of shining, energetic young people, with all of their best years ahead of them (that would be you).

And I intend to respect that tradition.

Now, one useful thing you can do with an old person, in addition to borrowing money from them, or asking them to do one of their old-time “dances,” so you can watch, while laughing, is ask: “Looking back, what do you regret?”  And they’ll tell you.  Sometimes, as you know, they’ll tell you even if you haven’t asked.  Sometimes, even when you’ve specifically requested they not tell you, they’ll tell you.

So: What do I regret?  Being poor from time to time?  Not really.  Working terrible jobs, like “knuckle-puller in a slaughterhouse?”  (And don’t even ASK what that entails.)  No.  I don’t regret that.  Skinny-dipping in a river in Sumatra, a little buzzed, and looking up and seeing like 300 monkeys sitting on a pipeline, pooping down into the river, the river in which I was swimming, with my mouth open, naked?  And getting deathly ill afterwards, and staying sick for the next seven months?  Not so much.  Do I regret the occasional humiliation?  Like once, playing hockey in front of a big crowd, including this girl I really liked, I somehow managed, while falling and emitting this weird whooping noise, to score on my own goalie, while also sending my stick flying into the crowd, nearly hitting that girl?  No.  I don’t even regret that.

But here’s something I do regret:

In seventh grade, this new kid joined our class.  In the interest of confidentiality, her Convocation Speech name will be “ELLEN.”  ELLEN was small, shy.  She wore these blue cat’s-eye glasses that, at the time, only old ladies wore.  When nervous, which was pretty much always, she had a habit of taking a strand of hair into her mouth and chewing on it.

So she came to our school and our neighborhood, and was mostly ignored, occasionally teased (“Your hair taste good?” – that sort of thing).  I could see this hurt her.  I still remember the way she’d look after such an insult: eyes cast down, a little gut-kicked, as if, having just been reminded of her place in things, she was trying, as much as possible, to disappear.  After awhile she’d drift away, hair-strand still in her mouth.  At home, I imagined, after school, her mother would say, you know: “How was your day, sweetie?” and she’d say, “Oh, fine.”  And her mother would say, “Making any friends?” and she’d go, “Sure, lots.”

Sometimes I’d see her hanging around alone in her front yard, as if afraid to leave it.

And then – they moved.  That was it.  No tragedy, no big final hazing.

One day she was there, next day she wasn’t.

End of story.

Now, why do I regret that?  Why, forty-two years later, am I still thinking about it?  Relative to most of the other kids, I was actually pretty nice to her.  I never said an unkind word to her.  In fact, I sometimes even (mildly) defended her.

But still.  It bothers me.
So here’s something I know to be true, although it’s a little corny, and I don’t quite know what to do with it:

What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness. 

Those moments when another human being was there, in front of me, suffering, and I responded…sensibly.  Reservedly.  Mildly.

Or, to look at it from the other end of the telescope:  Who, in your life, do you remember most fondly, with the most undeniable feelings of warmth?

Those who were kindest to you, I bet.

It’s a little facile, maybe, and certainly hard to implement, but I’d say, as a goal in life, you could do worse than: Try to be kinder.

Now, the million-dollar question:  What’s our problem?  Why aren’t we kinder?

Here’s what I think:

Each of us is born with a series of built-in confusions that are probably somehow Darwinian.  These are: (1) we’re central to the universe (that is, our personal story is the main and most interesting story, the only story, really); (2) we’re separate from the universe (there’s US and then, out there, all that other junk – dogs and swing-sets, and the State of Nebraska and low-hanging clouds and, you know, other people), and (3) we’re permanent (death is real, o.k., sure – for you, but not for me).

Now, we don’t really believe these things – intellectually we know better – but we believe them viscerally, and live by them, and they cause us to prioritize our own needs over the needs of others, even though what we really want, in our hearts, is to be less selfish, more aware of what’s actually happening in the present moment, more open, and more loving.

So, the second million-dollar question:  How might we DO this?  How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this.  There are ways.  You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter.  Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend;  establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Because kindness, it turns out, is hard – it starts out all rainbows and puppy dogs, and expands to include…well, everything.

One thing in our favor:  some of this “becoming kinder” happens naturally, with age.  It might be a simple matter of attrition:  as we get older, we come to see how useless it is to be selfish – how illogical, really.  We come to love other people and are thereby counter-instructed in our own centrality.  We get our butts kicked by real life, and people come to our defense, and help us, and we learn that we’re not separate, and don’t want to be.  We see people near and dear to us dropping away, and are gradually convinced that maybe we too will drop away (someday, a long time from now).  Most people, as they age, become less selfish and more loving.  I think this is true.  The great Syracuse poet, Hayden Carruth, said, in a poem written near the end of his life, that he was “mostly Love, now.”

And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love.  YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE.   If you have kids, that will be a huge moment in your process of self-diminishment.  You really won’t care what happens to YOU, as long as they benefit.  That’s one reason your parents are so proud and happy today.  One of their fondest dreams has come true: you have accomplished something difficult and tangible that has enlarged you as a person and will make your life better, from here on in, forever.

Congratulations, by the way.

When young, we’re anxious – understandably – to find out if we’ve got what it takes.  Can we succeed?  Can we build a viable life for ourselves?  But you – in particular you, of this generation – may have noticed a certain cyclical quality to ambition.  You do well in high-school, in hopes of getting into a good college, so you can do well in the good college, in the hopes of getting a good job, so you can do well in the good job so you can….

And this is actually O.K.  If we’re going to become kinder, that process has to include taking ourselves seriously – as doers, as accomplishers, as dreamers.  We have to do that, to be our best selves.

Still, accomplishment is unreliable.  “Succeeding,” whatever that might mean to you, is hard, and the need to do so constantly renews itself (success is like a mountain that keeps growing ahead of you as you hike it), and there’s the very real danger that “succeeding” will take up your whole life, while the big questions go untended.

So, quick, end-of-speech advice: Since, according to me, your life is going to be a gradual process of becoming kinder and more loving: Hurry up.  Speed it along.  Start right now.  There’s a confusion in each of us, a sickness, really: selfishness.  But there’s also a cure.  So be a good and proactive and even somewhat desperate patient on your own behalf – seek out the most efficacious anti-selfishness medicines, energetically, for the rest of your life.

Do all the other things, the ambitious things – travel, get rich, get famous, innovate, lead, fall in love, make and lose fortunes, swim naked in wild jungle rivers (after first having it tested for monkey poop) – but as you do, to the extent that you can, err in the direction of kindness.  Do those things that incline you toward the big questions, and avoid the things that would reduce you and make you trivial.  That luminous part of you that exists beyond personality – your soul, if you will – is as bright and shining as any that has ever been.  Bright as Shakespeare’s, bright as Gandhi’s, bright as Mother Teresa’s.  Clear away everything that keeps you separate from this secret luminous place.  Believe it exists, come to know it better, nurture it, share its fruits tirelessly.

And someday, in 80 years, when you’re 100, and I’m 134, and we’re both so kind and loving we’re nearly unbearable, drop me a line, let me know how your life has been.  I hope you will say: It has been so wonderful.

Congratulations, Class of 2013.

I wish you great happiness, all the luck in the world, and a beautiful summer.


A week or so later, I think, Brian emailed me three photos of the Pionier 450-S, reassembled and put to good use.  Honestly, I am grateful to him for taking this kayak and keeping it up, paddling it, seeing to it that it does not gather cobwebs and dust in my Stepford garage.

450-S-Rule-of-3450-S-Underway450-S-Water-Level

The Cat Who Walks By Himself

I had some other things to write about my first day back in Asheville, but since that was August 2013 and this is February 2014, I’ve lost track of them.  Most of this writing was, I think, done before I was injured last September.  I do recall mentioning to Brian something about the Kipling’s Cat, and I did find an interesting representation of a cat on a wall in Asheville the following day.  My Asheville photos will complete this extremely untimely troika of blog posts, and I expect to complete that sometime in the next two weeks.

Return to Asheville–Update

Note:

Apologies for the time-gap between this post and Return to Asheville – Part One.  As I noted earlier in this space, I have been catching up around the house and at work.  Also, late last Friday afternoon, 6 September, I was injured in a fall when I stepped into a hidden drainage ditch or trough alongside a commercial building to which I was walking to make a purchase.  I spent the evening seeking and obtaining treatment.  Saturday morning, early, I had already committed to assist with a century ride event’s registration, then spent the rest of the day trying to adjust to my sudden loss of easy mobility.  Plantar fasciitis does not hold a candle to this injury.

Kittens

I want my sunroom back.

In addition to all that, on Friday 30 August, I found two young kittens on my front porch when I came home for lunch.  They were there in the evening, still, and my wife and I had to teach them to eat and drink.  We have yet to find a home for them.  I have an almost debilitating allergy to cats, especially, and to most other animals.  They’ve got to go, so getting rid of the kittens is a top priority.  If you want them, let me know; I’d probably drive fifty miles to give them away.

Another Note:

I’m still processing the photographs I took while at Asheville; they fall into five or six rough categories:  kayak; downtown buildings/architecture; downtown graffiti; bicycle tourism; people with whom I visited.  May get them done this evening.

Update:  Got more of them done, not finished.  9/11/13

Return to Asheville–Part One

Resolving a Contradiction

Many of the problems I have faced in life are attributable to some contradiction.  Resolving the problem involves

a) recognizing the contradiction;

b) applying one’s mind to determine the contradiction’s elements;

c) determining a solution that removes some elements and leaves others which

d) results in a diminution of perceived internal tension or stress, said diminution being an approximation of peace.

A Contradiction

A few weeks ago, I found myself looking at my Pionier 450 S in the driveway.  A couple of months previously, I’d put it there, taking it out of the garage, in order to repair some hull abrasions and get out on the water again.  Instead, I continued to neglect the kayak in the driveway as I had while it was in the garage.  Looking at the hull abrasions and recalling that new abrasions appeared each time I’d strapped the kayak to my car’s racks, I knew that the only real solution was a new hullskin.

There’s a German guy who makes unreal good hullskins for out-of-production folding kayaks.  There’s a Polish company that also manufactures skins for folding kayaks, as well as manufacturing a few models that appear to be Klepper knock-offs.  For what I’d wind up paying the German guy, I could probably buy a new Folbot or get close to the purchase price of a new Seavivor (which is what I’d really like to have).  Although fabulously wealthy in ways most people cannot imagine or begin to measure, I and my wife take pleasure in spending less money than we make.  I feel the need to justify every expense.

In the matter of a new hullskin for the 450 S, I simply could not justify the expense.  The reality is that I have not gone paddling since June 2012.  That is in part due to the fact that I haven’t wanted to completely wreck the Pionier’s skin.  But that is also due in part to other circumstances, among them that I am less willing to spend an entire weekend day away from my wife and son, that for a number of weeks during the spring and early summer my son played T-Ball games on the weekends, that I’ve been learning a new job and have been doing some weekend work, etc.

A Solution

For what it’s worth, and remember, you’re paying nothing for it so make your own assessment, I tend to approach or experience life, happenstance, providence, circumstance as manifestations of a created order that, although vast, is personal even though that personal element – the Creator’s mind and intent – while aware of and interested in me, does not necessarily always reckon my preferences, comfort, and convenience as that upon which the universe pivots.  Still, when I wanted to find a name for Pouch E-68 I bought from Ralph Hoehn, I asked the Almighty for a vision, and while paddling on Woods Reservoir, near the causeway that crosses the lake by the VFW, I saw some campsis radicans, commonly known as trumpet creeper, in bloom and of a color that matched exactly my stout kayak’s faded deck.  Pretty clear, if you’re me.

Close to the last week in July of this year, 2013, I found that I earnestly wished I knew of someone who wanted to buy the Pionier.  Whether I approached the Almighty with this request or not, I cannot recall.  What I do know is that within a week my blog received a comment from Brian Rider of North Carolina to a blog post wherein I presented a few photographs of the Pionier’s frame.

Christov,
In the event that you would ever be willing to let your Pionier go I would like to introduce myself. My name is Brian and I own a c. 1960′s Pionier 520-Z that I have paddled since about 1985 after it was given to my family by a good friend. The reliable old boat finally fell victim to many years of use and I had to put it up permanently around 1999. I really never thought that I would get the boat back on the water. But recently I sourced a new skin and spray deck (I never had an original spray deck) from Wayland, replaced and restored various frame members that had failed and my work is nearly complete. The boat is currently back on the water for gentle use as I have some details to complete. I am on foldingkayak.org and have read your story about how you came to own the 450-S. What a find! The condition of your boat is amazing in my opinion as I personally know what a similar boat can look like after forty years of use in South Carolina. Let my boat be stand as an example to how well built the Pionier kayaks are, you have a fine boat. Anyway, as a result of the research that I have done trying to find information about old folders I have gotten the bug to collect and I’m eyeballing your boat. I say that with a smile. Would love to share stories some time.

Pretty clear, if you’re me, that this represented a potentially very good solution to my problem and was likely a providential arrangement made by God.  I haven’t been active on FKO since becoming a father, to the best of my recollection, so this came out of the blue, as it were.

I think I emailed him that evening after one of my son’s activities, and over a couple of weeks we worked out the details which included a trip to Asheville that involved another exchange involving an old, lugged steel bicycle and a folding kayak.  The terms of the exchange didn’t nearly cover the costs of the trip, but since it was a trip I wanted to make, the offset sufficed.  The purchase of an old folding kayak, in my admittedly limited experience, seems something more like adoption than pecuniary transaction.

Since I hadn’t seen my friend, Eric, for probably over a year, I checked to see if he was available to visit at Asheville.

Miscellany

Fall-Colors

Stepford Fall colors brighten the day.

Fall again here at Stepford and I am catching up on work at the office, trying to get enough exercise not to get fat, experimenting with a new camera, and managed to paddle last weekend even though that involved playing hookie from worship service Sunday morning.  I shot some video with the new Pentax Optio W30 while driving earlier this week, and I’ll try to get that posted later this week, but I’ve got some deadline work I must complete by the weekend.  Moses Santiago suggested on a social networking site that I am in need of a lifeline. 

Another Duck River Expedition Above Normandy Lake

Lunch Stop

This is the place I stopped for lunch upstream the first bridge above the Fire Lake boat ramp. At 9:37 am, I was already hungry.

Pionier 450 s Bow

Already out of the boat, it occurred to me this was a convenient place to take some photos of the Pionier on the water. I had just walked the boat up past that branch across the stream in the background.

Pionier-450s-Front-Left

Front left three-quarter view Pionier 450 S

Pionier-450s-Right-Rear

Pionier 450 S right rear three quarter view

Pionier-450s-Stern

Pionier 450 S seen from astern

Pionier-450s-Logo

Photo of the Pionier's back deck with logo. After I took this picture, I pushed the boat in to deeper water and practiced cowboy re-entry. Worked okay, but deck rigging would be nice for holding the paddle.

Pool-Above-Cat-Creek

Here's what that pool looked like where I took the boat pictures. At far right frame you can see where I walked the boat up through and over that fallen wood.

Pool-Above-Cat-Creek

Paddling up past that first pool. A lot of fish up there visible under the clear green water. They didn't take much notice of me in the kayak. My guess is, the area's not been fished much.

Got-About-This-Far

Here I'm standing upstream that discarded tire and looking back. This is as far as I got because the water for the next stretch was only about ankle deep. I didn't see much point in dragging the kayak a quarter mile over slimy rocky bottom. Walking the boat back down to where I could again paddle, I slipped and fell in a couple of times.

Paddling-Back-1

Paddling back to the pool pictured earlier.

Paddling-Back-2

Here I am paddling back just below that pool where I took all those boat pictures. At left is the gravely bank holding the pool in. Ahead is the fallen tree I had to paddle under on my way upstream. The only passage is at far right.

Under-This

I'd never before seen that flaky-looking bark on the fallen tree. A little farther right was enough space to paddle under and enough water to paddle over the fallen tree's trunk and branches.

Duck-River-Stairs-1

This stretch I referred to in 2008 as Duck River Stairs. I was not able to paddle up this far, and photographed the rock upon which I sat to eat my lunch on that drizzly June day.

Pushing-Water

It was easy to see at the time, but it doesn't show up well here - I was trying to photograph what looked like a pile of water I was pushing downstream ahead of me.

Feathers

At this point, too far upstream and too shallow for any bassboaters or jet-skiers, the still water was marked with a lot of white feathers.

Second-Lunch-Stop

I stopped here at an isthmus not far from the boat ramp in mid-afternoon because I badly needed to stretch my back. Here's where I ate what was left of my lunch - trail mix, a few pretzl sticks, and drank some water and way-past-expiration-date Gatorade. This could have been a cool photo, but I spoiled it by leaving my hat on the foredeck.

Back in June of 2008, on a drizzly day, I put in at Fire Lake boat ramp on Normandy Lake and paddled as far upstream the Duck as I could get.  I made it to point where Cat Creek joins the Duck, but beyond that, the river extended uphill in a sort of shallow spillway like a set of broad steps curving away to my right.  I dragged Campsis Radicans, my Pouch E68, up to a flat rock large enough to serve as bench and lunch table.  That post is here.

In this post, I am experimenting with use of a table to organize my photos.  Seems to be working okay.

On Sunday 8/8/10, I skipped worship service and went paddling.  A hot day with a heat index of about a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, I paddled about 14 miles in Ga-Gong or Gongol (my son’s word for “water”) my 1962 Pionier 450-S.  Great boat.  However, its aging hullskin is not as abrasion resistant as it perhaps once was.  The keelstrip I affixed has helped some, but I’m going to have to refrain from taking this boat on any more shallow, rocky expeditions.

That’s it for today.

Isthmus-Camp

Also at the isthmus was this day camp. Instead of being inhabited by sireens, it was the work of a couple of fishermen who reminded me slightly of a pair of assassins from an old James Bond film, but were pleasant enough to talk to.

Normandy Lake 7/18/10

Josh H. and I, after church and after lunch Sunday, loaded the E68 and 450S and drove out first to Ovoca Lake to see if that would be at all interesting to paddle (it was not, it is a largish pond of probably no more than 10 acres covered in sludgy-looking lily plants).  We drove on, then, to Normandy Lake and put in at Barton Springs boat ramp.  Crowded parking lot filled with trucks that’d trailered in pontoon-boat party barges, jet-skiis, run-down bass boats, and every variety of lesser motorized waterborne conveyance.  The drivers and passengers of these small craft seemed a little boozed-up and under-dressed for the occasion.  Because we got to the water fairly late in the afternoon, we didn’t spend long on the water – paddled out to the bridge, then crossed to Negro Hill and around to the other side of the public camping area there, and then back.  Way better than no time on the water.  I tried out round-tipped canoe paddle with the Pionier, and it worked pretty well.  It was easy to stash in the cockpit and may reasonably be expected to serve in the event of some emergency.

Stuff I’ve Been Thinking About

Blog Posts

My blog posts, in grammar, content, and style, tend to have the character of telephone pad doodles or the things one writes in the margins while taking notes during a meeting, lecture, or while reading a book.  Mistaken is the person who expects this or any blog to conform to scholastic ideals of “penmanship” or rigid notions of propriety.

Stodgy Canoe Guy

One of the things I like about paddling is the woodsy ambiance or vibe associated with paddling.  It’s especially evident in the preoccupation with things like sandpaper, tung oil, needle-and-thread, preparedness, self-reliance and mutual aid.  And the clothes.  At least the clothes I wear – floppy hat, old permanent press work shirt, long baggy shorts, etc.  For the most part cheap, plain-looking clothes that dry quickly.  I’ll leave the bright colors to the guys zipping around on jet-skiis.

Other Drivers on the Road

Something is wrong with the people who drive their cars, outer elbow (because this is probably true in England as well as America) on the window ledge and forearm hanging down against the outside of the car-door, palm backward, resembling to me a large, usually fat, white-bellied dead fish.  It’s like the driver lacks the energy or some other quality of life that separates the living from zombie-like necessary to so much as control all of his or her limbs, in addition to operating a motor vehicle.  Usually, this type of motorist drives too slowly and seems to take pleasure in aggravating the drivers behind them who, for some reason, cannot yet pass them.  Also, and this is similarly galling, this sort of driver seems to be saying, “I AM TOO BIG, THIS CAR CANNOT CONTAIN ME, I AM BURSTING OUT OF THIS CAR!” which is, in itself, pretty offensive.

I think license plates on vehicles should bear some device or color-coded tag that allows other motorists to determine at a glance the vehicle owner’s Performance Intelligence Quotient (or PREFERABLY some entirely new measure of intelligence specific to motor vehicle operation).  Maybe something that could be abbreviated DIQ.  Drivers are going to let you know all about theirs, anyway, but it would be nice to know at a glance in order to plan lane changes and passing before it becomes necessary to dodge some erratic manifestation of deficiency or impaired ability.  Drivers with seriously impaired DIQs could be required to drive vehicles like that Obama soap-bubble, the so-called “Smart Car” – that way when they crash their vehicles into other vehicles or buildings they will do less harm to other people.

The use of cellular telephones by anyone operating a motor vehicle should be prohibited; pull over to talk on the phone.

Feeling Rich

When I bought that canoe Ohio last week, then took it to the White River and paid the outfitter there a measly $13.00 for shuttle service, I felt rich.  A man who has his own canoe is a man of substance, and a man who can use his own strength and sense to propel it on the water’s surface is a man who feels rich, indeed.

I do not know why, having owned five folding kayaks, I never felt that way before about owning and paddling that type of boat.  Folding kayaks are uniquely beautiful.  They tend to be more expensive to purchase than canoes.  I think the difference is a sense of permanence.  A folding kayak is designed to be put away or packed for easy transportation to the location of its intended use, whereas an aluminum canoe is designed to retain its shape and withstand the elements through time.  True it is that folding kayaks are designed likewise to last through time.  The most recent of these that I have purchased was manufactured around 1962 and was watertight when I got it.  The Grumman canoe is 36 years old, the Pionier kayak is 47.

I felt a bitter sense of loss when it was time to put the canoe in to the barn loft at the farm last Friday.  The feeling is similar to what I experience every time I disassemble one of my kayaks.  The feeling roughly translates thus, “Have I used this boat for the last time?  Is this the last time I perform this task?”  What doesn’t translate neatly in to words is the knowledge that some or other that will be the case.  I will use my kayak or canoe for the last time, and I may not know the experience is my last with that boat until time provides a vantage point for perspective, or events translate me in to the past tense and my next phase of existence.

These unpleasant feelings that I wish to repress seem consistent with an unconscious fear of death, although I seem to be in fairly robust good health at present.  As a young drunkard 26 or 27 years ago, I sought but did not find death.  As a man in middle age I seem to be aware of other feelings pertaining to my mortality.  Although they are clearly as long-lasting as any hardshell paddlecraft, the folding kayak has an ephemeral quality – skin stretched over a frame operated by whatever it is that I consist of – that is similar to that of man and animal.