Monday, September 7, 2009
big water Beat down & Babyface
We live in a handful of cabins on the banks of the Ottawa river, it's a full moon, and so far school has been mellow. Only seven kids so far. We'll get one more in a few days. On the staff it's me and three men, one plays the fiddle, on plays the guitar, on was an Abercrombie model, one's got a beard, one has sideburns. They drink strong coffee all the live-long day. I had a cup and spent the rest of the evening hiding from light, hiding from sound, even the light of tepid light of a glow stick erupted throbs of pain in my temple. I have had a migraine since landing on the Ottawa, which I pray will abate as the moon gets smaller and less obtrusive in the sky.
There are six boys and one tiny girl who clips her hair to the side with huge hair bows.
Paddle just a minute or two across the flat water over to a natural playground of rapids and waves: the daunting McCoy's rapid with a line that snakes between Phil's hole and Sattler's hole, both massive. In the middle of the rapid is Corner Wave, directly adjacent to an eddy, and below that is the u-shaped Horshoe hole that stretches across the whole river, with one tiny little tongue greening out through the middle. Below horshoe is babyface, the kind little wave, perfect to learn on, that leads only into a friendly little wave train and then a lake.
Each Thursday is "big-water beat-down day" where the kids plunge happily head first into the meat of Phil's hole and get punched in the face a bunch by the wave before surfing out or being spit out. The point is to gain confidence in big thrashy spots. The only thing it does for me is make me want to blarg all over the rocks. I would describe this as one of my worst nightmares. For the kids, it's just another Thursday.
After much coaxing by Stephen, I consented to follow him down the tongue of McCoy's, a line that kissed the edge of both holes but avoided the worst. "It's a big tongue, just a little bump, and then you're out." Was how he described it. Turned out, it was a big drop into a giant pile of foam. I braced, hit it, got flipped, rolled up, was flipped again, and, while upside down, came to grips with the idea that I was most certainly going to die, in front of everyone, in the gnashing teeth of Phil. I felt oddly calm about this.
Then I rolled up, turned around and realized I had threaded the needle and avoided the worse. Stephen was grinning. "Uhm...I was going into that hole, and I realized, woah that's a lot bigger than I remembered it....it's usually a lot easier at higher levels....sorry about that." Stephen and I travelled to Chile last semester, he taught me a lot about kayaking, he was in my creative writing class. He was enthusiastic, talkative, friendly, and eager to patiently lead me on the river. Once, during a post-Ottawa City wave workout at a burger restaurant called "the Works" he talked non-stop for 2 1/2 hours straight. I don't know how he managed to eat his burger and drink his mocha-oreo shake. It's one of my best memories from 4th quarter, which is good, because that quarter was, for me, totally shit. Stephen is also the moodiest student I've ever had. On a bad day, he can sever off your head with just one searing glance.
Well as usual, I can't go on, because there is never enough time here, and always too much to write about. I feel like I'm just lightly glossing over everything, not really explaining anything the way it ought to be explained. But right now, I have to read aloud from The Last American men to three young American boys, because somehow even after all my emailing and bitching and threatening, we still manage to have only ONE copy of the book between the FOUR of us. And so, read aloud it is. Today during class as I read aloud, Alex fell asleep on the couch and Matt hit him so hard his entire body jerked and lifted off the couch cushion. It was....entertaining.