It's getting to the point
Where I'm no fun anymore.
I am sorry.
~ "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," CSN and maybe Y (too lazy to look it up)
On one of the nighttime float trips down the Illinois/Mississippi Rivers, I remarked to a woman that I had considered sharing a canoe with a guy who was looking for a partner, "but he was probably looking for someone young and cute." She laughed and said, "He was looking for someone FUN!" Well, I thought gratefully, at least I can meet THAT criterion.
But you know, I'm not so sure about that. It turns out a lot of that float trip consisted of people drinking too much and making lots of noise with rude jokes and challenges. I was happier in my solo kayak, looking up at the stars and keeping my own counsel.
Conclusion: Maybe I'm NOT fun. <shrug>
So it came as a surprise that some of the most "fun" I had last year was a drinking party aboard a boat at the confluence of the Illinios and Mississippi Rivers. Yes, I attended a party hosted by someone I'd never met, aboard a boat (and I'm terrified of boats), in the company of her family and friends. I totally did not belong there! But I had a blast.
Alex. <shakes head in wonderment> I know her brother, and because he links to this blog, Alex began to read it. That doesn't mean I felt safe meeting her in public: I've heard about his sisters! <laughs>
But the occasion was the fulfillment of a dream: a sacred quest, in my book. Alex and her husband, in their early '40s I believe, were retiring from the mad rush and going to live aboard their boat, Jenny. They had been saving, planning and preparing for this* for years, and now they were embarking on this marvelous adventure. They were coming down the Mississippi from Minnesota, dropping off stuff with family in St. Louis, and anchored above the Alton locks for some farewell parties.
*Three things I suck at: saving, planning and preparing.
So this was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event. I was honored to be invited to wish them bon voyage, and also more than a little perplexed. "I don't belong there!" I insisted. But she was adamant. So I went. I admired Jenny. I really admired the thought and craftsmanship that had gone into every detail of the stowage, and I tried to imagine taking off to live on a boat, a pair of vagabonds setting their own course. I was jealous of the vagabond part and scared of the boat part. But the best part was the family and friends!
Besides a handful of siblings and their mom, Alex had invited some high school friends who knew the family quite well. (Did I mention I didn't belong there?) The banter and reminiscences were more than worth the price of admission: I brought a bottle of bourbon I had bought for a recipe, figuring they'd never notice it was missing a couple of tablespoons.
When I arrived, the high school friends were teasing the brothers about a huge sofa and ... ottoman, I think. This gigantic footstool piece opened for storage, and apparently the elder siblings used to stuff the younger ones into it and close it up on them. There were many hilarious stories about what happened while someone was hiding in this piece of furniture.
Then, somewhere along the line, Mom came under fire. She grew up on a farm, and they had farm cats, but when there were surplus kittens, Mom would strangle/drown them. She was very matter-of-fact about this, along with wringing chickens' necks and so forth, but the next generation was appalled. Mom was chastised for both the act itself and the unrepentant attitude. <Mom: shrug> Finally someone decided that stuffing the younger siblings in the ottoman was an act of mercy, to keep Mom from trying to drown the surplus!
I laughed a lot, and developed a crush on one of the high school friends, and had a wonderful time. It made me feel a little better about the times my own family has bored outsiders with our legendary family anecdotes. It wasn't boring at all. I was delighted to be the audience!
So there I was, on a boat on the Mississippi, with a bunch of noisy, drinking revelers. The difference is: this wasn't a wilderness experience. Jenny was moored (or is docked a better term?) at the Alton Marina, and was serving as living/hospitality space. There wasn't a safety issue - we weren't moving out on the water. Even my husband, much as he liked to drink, respected the water too much to try piloting a boat while impaired. Anyway, this was nothing at all like kayaking at night, when all I wanted was the hush of water lapping at the hull and the music of the stars.
Maybe I can be fun in the right context.
I have been following Alex's adventures periodically, when she posts online updates. Like Shreve Stockton, who left everything she knew to live in Wyoming because its beauty called to her; and like the cyclists who camped in my yard overnight on their coast-to-coast journey, I admire Alex and Dick for turning their dream into reality. I wish them many rich and strange sea changes.
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change,
into something rich and strange.
~ Ariel in "The Tempest"