Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 55: What are you going to do about... your head?

There was no wind so I made straight for the dam, using a mixture of J and C strokes to maintain a constant direction without changing sides. I hoped my wake, a perfect "V", would impress Svein and Maryanne, who kindly saw me off with a cup of coffee and helpful gifts: pens, a knife, and a tiny multitool.

There were five people standing on the dam's pathway as I approached, a man with his two sisters and two sisters-in-law. I briefly explained what I was doing, and one of the women asked me if I at least had a hat and sunscreen.

She wanted to see me try to shoot the dam, if I thought I could. They offered to help me portage otherwise. With this group of people waiting and willing to help, the risks of the dam were multiplied. The two foot drop looked like four, the healthy, voluminous flowof water looked like a deadly whirlpool ready to swallow me in. I only understood that later; sitting alone in the water past the dam I would see that it was easier than the one I shot in Fort Qu'Appelle. But now I deemed the dam too "scary" to run and accepted the extended family's offer to portage, so they came down to my canoe.

"That's no hat, that's a pith helmet!"

Oh no. That brings us to the continuing saga of the hats.

I am a forgetful person, so it is necessary that I put this down despite the heartbreaking effects it may have on some readers. In a year I will remember just the names and certain features of some rivers. In two years, a vague recollection of some kind of kayak or perhaps canoe trip I took. In three years, if anyone asks me about making this trip I will respond with disbelief about the entire thing.

My friend Calvin has used this to his advantage in the past. He has said that to convince me of anything it is only necessary to claim that I once said that very thing in the past. I know he has done this several times to make me believe things that seemed quite doubtful at the time, which I have now forgotten. But I know that I can become easily excited about some concept, discuss it at length, and forget it by the next day when I taste the next piece of mind candy.

That diversion is necessary because I will criticize Calvin further down, but he may forgive me if I mock myself first. Only time will reveal who will have the last hurrah in this story which I am now finally going to tell.

Two nights before my departure Dave and Sarah, father and daughter, asked me if I had a hat yet. I said no, so they decided to pick me up in the morning and we would go hat shopping together.

Calvin could not believe it when they pulled up. It was not mere skepticism, it was a frontal assault on everything he believed, as though someone had just produced evidence to him showing up is down or the world is a simulation.

"What? They wouldn't drive up here just to get you a hat. Tell me the real reason!"

Calvin had, sometime before, considered offering me his grandfather's helmet, used in some important conflict which totally escapes me. He may even have used fairly certain language about giving me this hat. I cannot know, because I am skeptical about Calvin's predictions of future events, even those within his control.

This has gotten me in some trouble at least twice.

My friend Karen came up to Calgary one week, and one evening we called "Music Night", inviting people to come over with instruments and we made strange sounds, had some laughs, and maybe even got some music out of it. Calvin was excited about doing this again while Karne and her violin were still there, and talked about having another one Friday afternoon.

I knew, because I knew Calvin, that this was the type of thing he would talk about but would never actually happen. Karen did not, and when Friday afternoon drew near she tried to impress upon me the importance of returning home, that I was insulting my friends by running late. Now, I remember giving a lengthy explanation that the event was impossible, no phone calls had been made, no emails sent, that this was all Calvin's fancy. She remembers this explanation as a shrug and a sigh, and was upset with me for some time later, even though the house was entirely abandoned when we arrived.

Calvin did get me once, because the correspondance was in email. Calvin, Clement, and I had talked for awhile about making a trip to Vancouver to see sights and friends. Calvin seemed quite excited about it, talking at length about how the real way to go was to take the bus because it was such a beautiful drive. As the dates approached, I was trying to get firm information from Calvin about booking the bus tickets, but his attitude had suddenly shifted. He didn't want to go all of a sudden, and why take the bus when you can just fly? I was pretty shocked. Maybe I missed the tone in the email, the underlying belief that this just wasn't going to happen. Clement had already booked flights. I managed to get the same plane out with him, and a later one back. Sometime during the week Calvin had even said that maybe he would still meet us out there, but I don't think Clement or I took that possibility very seriously.

That is all to say that while Calvin may have a firmer grip on the past than I, I was not going to believe he would lend me the hat until I had it in hand.

Dave, Sarah, and I drove all around Calgary looking for Tilley hats. This is a Canadian brand designed for marine use, and Dave is quite fond of his. We went to the store that used to sell him, and the proprietor suggested three places. The first one didn't exist, and he had the second one confused with a gay cruise line. After driving all over the city in humor and confusion I finally had my two hats: the Tilley and the pith helmet.

I said I might wear the hats on alternate days, but early on in the trip I found the Tilley too comfortable to give up. Moreover, it had a chin strap that held it firmly in place those very windy days. The strap on the helmet was too long, and it wasn't adjustable, so it didn't feel as secure.

But I think we made a strategic mistake when purchasing that hat. I have a preference for growing my curly hair out long and wild, but my trip began soon after my sister's wedding. My hair was shorn to show respect for that day, and still near its nadir on that silly day we bought the hat.

After nearly two months on the river, my hair was inching towards its more natural state. I do admit to using an off-brand shampoo on those few occasions when a shower has been available. This shampoo promises it is ideal for "Richness and Volume" or "R&V" by the label. This claim is highly doubtful, but certainly unnecessary for my hair which is naturally resplendent in "V". The Tilley hat was becoming too small for my head.

So I had just switched to using the pith helmet. It did fly off the first day in the wind, but I recovered it. I have worn it since then but gone hatless when the wind threatens to tear it off or strangle me with the chin strap.

Calvin, you have won a minor victory after your initial setback, but do not think the saga has ended.

It has only just begun.

Day 55 ended: 50*32.413N, 102*32.317W


PsySal said...

Heyy well I should comment! You're quite right, sometimes I get enthusiastic, I think it's a character flaw. There is this chinese proverb that says the first one to volunteer or the most enthusiastic is the first one to quit, which I think applies to me a lot. ;(

I felt bad about the Vancouver trip; the reason for my plans changing had to do with $$$, I think, as somewhere in there Michelle and I made plans to go to LA; just kind of bumped the Van trip =(

However, I don't even remember the supposed Friday music night... which Karen if you are reading this, I apologize. I do however have a violin sonata written, the first movement of which is notated but without dynamics.

As for the helmet! Don't worry about it, really =) I'm glad it's fitting well, though...

Kevin Saff said...