"There’s a bubble on the ground."
"Oh,you killed it."
"I killed half of it."
So there I was in the south american lounge enjoying 2 for 4 mojitos with my suicidal speed freak,buxom artillery shell,and my personal and profesional political advisor. I was having a hard time coping with his revised interest in the R word and domestic economics,so I tried to focus on my weekend ahead where I’d get the chance to let it soak in.
The trip was to be an environmental, fundamental trip back to true northwoods living. Rafting and beer,meat and fire.
The drive went as planned,which was good. We aquired the necessary explosives. Upon arrival,we ate,drank heavily. But then we moved to The Bar.
The Bar was the standard raunchy cheap beer and dizzy debauchery. The continuous drone of Black Sabbath into AC/DC into Black Sabbath rattled every failing synapse. My already-dead eyes couldn’t do much but catch the sight of the moonshine-struck bartender; Reclucifer couldn’t help but explore the selection of the burned out hag slash disc jockey. This all didn’t last too long,and we retreated back to the cabin for a bit of rest before the rafting tomorrow.
Preparations the next day were also cheap standard. Our autographs were required for complete absolution of legal guilt and liability; go put on your death blue helmet and lifejacket. Amidst all this,our group has caught another eye. An older husband who seems more interested in our females than his (his family). After cracking a few oddball uncomfortable jokes, we successfully avoid further interaction…
The water was 4 inches below normal; that meant instead of 6 person rafts,we were administered personal "fun-yaks",inflatable rafts that struck me initially as wholly ineffectual as a water-fairing device. However,even in these limited-weight fun-yaks,we were all hung up on rocks every 3 to 4 seconds for a good 300 yards down the Peshtigo. Or,as Reclucifer and I determined,was more like fighting down the Mekong into Cambodia,a reference that would haunt him in several hours’ time. Just like war. Our first drop was about 1′ down into a 4′ funnel of righteousness slamming to the left. Unfortunately for me and my complete misadjustment of my center of gravity,I entered into this frenzy unaware that in the next tick of the universe I was looking into the green-white haze of whitewash and plunging towards the bottom.
I kept two things in mind: There’s a $22 charge for lost paddles. Half of my shocked mind was concentrated fully on my right hand’s grip on that. The second was my glasses floating away from my face in the turmoil in front of me. The other half of my mind was concentrated in angling my left hand just in time to form a tenuous grasp on them. Somehow or other,I surfaced briefly to hear someone repeating our 2 minute crash course in rafting: "Keep your feet downstream." Of course,100% of my mind’s locus was on my hands. I’m half-amazed I heard anything in the roar of the river. Once I came back up the second time,I became more aware of my surroundings,and found my Fun-Yak. It sunk into my mind then that I’d half to try that again.
Onward down the river was a bit better; the rocks had dispersed to a good 30-50 second field,and I understood at a fundamental,spiritual level the remaining drops and waterflows. Needless to say,it was terrific experience and I’ll definitely do it again. Exhausting though…
We recouperate,and prepare. I head to town for supplies – fresh beer,whiskey,and two wood-handled hatchets.
Then,it begins. We imbibe food,drink,etc. The environment closes in on us fast and hard,shifting the entire landscape squarely into the land as twisted as David Lynch. Approximately at sundown,with the black forest outlines looming in on a bluescreen film backdrop and campfire distorting into the wild,the Rules of Engagement are addressed. The park policy of absolutely no fireworks erupts into chaos as every campsite in the park lights off mortar and rocket. The girls decide the policy is terminated – with my blessing. The ensuing sparkler bombardment continues for several hours,on and off. To my horror,the entire valley is filled with a subtle glow of sulfer smoke in the moonlight. The Bar rages forth bellowing the same Black Sabbath and AC/DC songs from the previous night,along with the arrival of a new selection – the little known 30 minute extended version of Footloose. Paranoia grips us all. "I think they’re on to us,with our bubbles and long hair." (not my quote). I wonder how fast we might be able to flee once the natives find us.
Then the fear & loathing truly begins. A Nexus of Spiritual Doom.
Possibly the same man from earlier comes over and informs us of the long-forgotten and decimated policy on fireworks. We oblige,as we’ve run ourselves out of sparklers, and with my second bottle rocket attempt I’ve already nearly killed one of our own. As a side note,bottle rocket wars must only be waged by professionals,with complete removal of innocents. But,this draws out further conversation from that tried soul in cabin #3:
"I had lesions on my brain. I nearly died,and I was sent to the hospital where they performed open-brain surgery. I couldn’t feel anything though. They pulled slices of my brain. 100 pins in my legs. I couldn’t remember anything… I had mind excercises that I used to regain my memory… remember my kids’ names,my wife… you just have to train your mind, and your body follows."
There’s a moment of something between absolute horror and reflex of sad laughter crossing that inability to fully handle reality. As you meet that line,you either slip and fall away or dive in; and both make you corrupt and evil. I try to ignore the cascading mindfuck into moral and spiritual oblivion and focus on the first thing that comes to mind.
"I bet you had to pay the bill. Insurance didn’t cover,no national health care,that sort of thing?" Politics,of course.
"Nope,I have a $117,000 bill for all that."
"Well, I guess there’s a price tag on human life after all,not just a philisophical one. A real one bought and sold by creditors and financial institutions."
It comes to me afterwards if any of that existed in reality,or if he was some sort of internal reflection of us all, lost in the sulpher soaked woods with The Bar cuing up the next round of Ozzy Ozbourne. Brain lesions and naproxen and a ghost of the present. I hear some distant band clumsily cranking through the woods. Shouting, yelling,screaming,laughing. The girls have gone off down the trail into blackness – west or south or some other direction parallel to this one. Yellows and blues and reds flash into the night skyward. Paraniod rules and delusional behaviour come in waves. Drink more,smoke,adapt, whatever it takes. Not many can be asked to handle reality. You need all the tools you can get.
We go after the girls into that darkness. At this point,Reclucifer falls prey to a blinding and cripling case of some dysentery variant,brought on by excess and possibly my chicken, or perhaps the crucial fear of the realization of that ghost from earlier. I continue on,passed the feral/tribal half-naked frat party blasting terrifying mix of The Band and sophomoric trite… The silent group chanting around a camper… Finally to the electric bash of that distant band and the frenzy of instrumental metal noise. I talk with a drunken promotor who informs me that the band will be famous indeed. They’re on a makeshift stage made from a half-sized trailer and a gas generator,and a handful of par cans 50 yards away from a small tribe of natives. They apparently cannot see me for some reason…
We head back after a slow wandering in the dark. Introspection sets in deep when there’s nothing surrounding you. We pass the windows into those other realities on the path. Each the same as before. Finally,we come back to our cabin – our own little window in hell – with The Bar still going strong,serving screaming drunken women and cheap empty thrills some 200 yards off long into the night,long after exhaustion finally overcomes me,and I drift off into the darkness quietly watching the dancing lights of the final few sparklers on the cabin wall.
Check out,of course,is at 10:00 am,and we have a cabin full of destruction and dirt. Reclucifer woke from his long night doing battle with his internal organs and threatens to kill me in my sleep.
Just like war.