January 29, 2018

Alchemizing Creek into Sea (in just a few hard steps)

I was born next to a creek.  Well, I was born in a hospital in the city but shortly thereafter spent my formative years exploring a creek about twenty yards from our backyard. It alternated wet and dry with the rainfall.

It never fails to amaze me (call me easily amazed) that with nothing more than a raft I could sail that nameless creek to the Great Miami river and from there make the Ohio and from there the Mississippi, and from there hit the Gulf of Mexico and, like, collect seashells and stuff, drink from coconuts, play in the surf, enjoy sublime weather.  Heaven.

That that tiny creek could take me to the ocean reminded me of how I was always convinced of that if I could just dig a deep enough hole in the backyard, I'd hit China.

So I was taken aback by the story of this guy - like me a Cincy native who lives now in Columbus area - and how he audaciously decided to enact what my brother and I had dreamed of when we were in grade school.

I found a map of his journey, and he ended up spending 4 days on the Scioto, 26 days on the Ohio, and 36 on mighty Mississippi till he reached Gulf.  The purpose was to raise money for drug and alcohol rehab.

There's a journal here:

Day 1 in Columbus:
Well this is it.  Here we go.  What I have been waiting on for years.  After shaving my 7 month beard and repacking my gear for the 100th time I was ready to go.  My brother and dog dropped me off along the Scioto River on the steps of the COSI (Center of Science and Industry) building with the backdrop of the skyline of Columbus.  After 3 tries to christen my boat with a red bull I was finally successful.   A few more pictures, and I was off.  My mind was racing as I paddled out of the skyscrapers that I have called home for the past 9 years.  The river flowed out of downtown two miles till I encountered a dam that I had to portage (fancy boating word for carrying my boat) around.  The route was about 20 feet up a bank, then a quarter mile down the bike path past the Fire Station to the river.  I stopped in the Fire Station to fill my water bags and got talking to one of the firefighters about what I was doing and their thoughts on the drug overdosing problem in the area.  He said that the fire/paramedics respond to calls all the time and it’s getting worse.  I would like to say that I am surprised but that would be a bold face lie. 
I continued on down the river leaving the 15th largest city in the country behind.  As I got outside of the outer belt loop it started getting more remote.  So remote that as I was paddling I caught something out of the corner of my eye falling down and splashing 5 feet from my boat.  It was a dead snake.  Not just a dead snake, a mangled eaten snake dropped by a hawk.  Other than almost getting smacked with raining snakes, it was a great paddle through central Ohio.  As the sun was setting I found an island to camp on.  When I got closer I saw it was already occupied.  By 3 deer.  They spotted me and took off splashing and swimming across the river.  I posted up on the island and settled into my new home for the next several months, and couldn’t be happier.
Later in Cincy: 
The prodigal son has returned to his birth city. It was an amazing experience getting to paddle through downtown Cincinnati.  I got an early start to try and beat the boat traffic. It seemed to work through downtown. Then I realized the whole downtown is a no wake zone. After I got out of downtown it was a whole different story. I was getting beat up pretty bad. After a while I saw a coast guard sub station and decided to stop. Sub station doesn't mean submarine if that's what you were thinking. I started talking to one of the guardsmen. I asked if they had drug or alcohol problems along the river. He could only speak for the people on the river not on the shore but he said not really drugs, but alcohol boating and alcohol go together. I couldn't agree more. One of my favorite things in the world is to be drinking on a boat. It doesn't matter what kind of boat as long as I was on the water with a drink in my hand I was happy. Sorry I got excited there thinking about drinking and boating. 
I continued on getting beaten up by the sun and wake.  It got to the point that I was mentally drained. I saw a riverside restaurant up on the hill on the Indiana side. I was close to the Kentucky side. I sat there for a good 15 minutes deciding if it was worth it to paddle across the river. I decided it was and got moving.  It was worth it. 
I finally found a place to camp. Right across from a riverboat casino. It was a really cool forest area. I did some exploring and saw 2 deer and a baby. I tried to get pictures but they ran off. As I was getting ready to get into my tent I heard a 4th deer. He crashed through the woods and started snorting at me. I yelled and threw sticks into the woods. The snorting went on for a good 15 minutes. I decided to use one of my ultimate deer defender devices before I went to bed. I lit a m-80 and covered my ears. It worked. I didn't even hear crickets for a good hour.

Over the weekend I was listening to Jonah Goldberg's The Remnant podcast and he had Charles Murray on. Jonah said the problem of our time turned out to not be the fascism of Orwell’s dystopia as the soma of Huxley’s (such as increasingly potent virtual reality, video games, drugs and alcohol). Goldberg mentions that many students come up to him and ask, “If everyone’s happy, what’s so wrong with Brave New World?”.  Murray answered “because you have an immortal soul” and Goldberg said “because you are needed.”

Jonah’s take was that it’s when you don’t feel needed that the soma seems attractive because you can “zone out”, live in your parent’s basement and otherwise inhabit an alternative reality. To the extent you make yourself needful to someone else, be it through marriage or parenthood or a job or voluteering, you experience the value or necessity in engaging in this world. Seems the views of Jonah and Murray are related - we have an immortal soul that requires the care and feeding of the care and feeding others.

Murray says the problem with the government doing things for you and on your behalf is then you aren't needed and you slide.

And today I came across this excerpt from the kayak river journal linked above that says basically the same thing:
We got to talking and I asked her why she thought the drug problem was so bad around here [Portsmouth]. She said it had to do with the government. I didn't know where she was going but she went on to explain and it made sense. She said that it's easier to be on government assistance then it is to have a job. Her friend was making about $8 an hour and got a .25 raise and lost their insurance. She went on to say you can get hundreds in food, stamps, discounted utilities, and other assistance that it makes it worth it. And when you are getting free money all you have to do is sit there and watch TV. And you get bored and look for some thing more. Then you need something more once you start. This made a lot of sense to me. She apologized for the long answer but I could see the passion that she meant what she was saying. And that is part of the reason I am out here is to find out what people think about addiction. It was a great conversation and gave me lots to think about.

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