Wednesday, August 17, 2011

floatapalooza dos: bye bye aaaaaaaah!

“Oh. Johnny wishes he was famous.
Spends his time alone in the basement.
With Lennon and Cobain and
A guitar and a stereo.

Well he wishes he could escape this,
But it all seems so contagious.
Not to be yourself and faceless,
In a song that has no soul.

I remember feeling low,
And I remember losing hope,
And I remember all the feelings and
The day they stopped.

We are.
We are all innocent.
We are all innocent.
We are. We are.

We are.
We are all innocent.
We are all innocent.
We are. We are …”

-- “Innocent” by Our Lady Peace, my favorite song of all time. You cannot even imagine how shocked I was, given how few people have ever heard this song, when it popped up on the iPod on the way down, and DJ was singing along to every freaking word. I gotta give him this: “The Kid” NEVER fails to impress me …


Floatapalooza Dos. Hmmm. This might be the most conflicted post of the summer.

On the one hand, it was a great time had by all. Anytime "The Family" can get away for a weekend, it's gonna be a good time. On the other hand, that was without question the single worst float I've ever been on in my life, a complete waste of time, money, and yet another pair of expensive sunglasses*. So, I guess I'll just zig-zag between the positive and negative as it went down, and figure it all out at the end.

(*: I have one more floater this summer, over Labor Day weekend. You can bet your ass I'm buying my pair of shades for that thing at the dollar store. Prescription sunglasses lost on Uno, my Oakleys lost on Dos. I feel "El Cheapo" brand shades going under in three weeks.)

So, here we go.

* Departed about 5:15pm on Friday. "Boys in front, girls in the rear". The Nitro was loaded -- two coolers, blankets and pillows for four people, an air mattress, but unlike most floaters, no tents. Why, you ask? Because in the first nominee for Miller Lite Good Call of the Weekend, DJ had reserved us a cabin. Considering it rained all day Friday, this was a pretty smart decision. And yes, it scares the p*ss out of me that I'm five paragraphs in, and the words "good decision" have been used to describe a Dusty idea. Told you this was one f*cking crazy weekend.

* Get onto the freeway, and immediately hit the Friday slowdown heading east. No shocker to those of us who drive it every day. Dusty decides he'll find us another way to get to 71, to avoid traffic in the Triangle. About 68 wrong turns later, we somehow wind up in Peculiar and manage to link in with the freeway again. There's an hour of my life I won't be getting back.

* About 30 minutes later, I get my first look at Clinton, Missouri, and the beautiful Golden Valley medical complex.

* Somehow, the only person who realizes highway 7 turns left when it does, is Dusty. I'd hate to see where we'd have wound up had we gone straight.

* The drive down on 7 takes you through the bustling metropolis of Tightwad, Missouri. Yes, this inspired about 20 minutes of stupid "tightwad" jokes that are funny at the time, and when you sit down to recap them five days later, you think "Jesus, that's not even remotely funny". Kinda like naming every bird you can think of driving through the Wildcats*.

(*: three true stories from bowling league last night, which thankfully was the last week of this awful summer league. First, I bowled a 200. Yes, me, the worst male bowler in any league I am in, bowled a 200. Not only did I bowl a 200, I reeled off six straight strikes to close out my game. And finally, the lady we were bowling, was wearing a "The Bird is the Word" t-shirt. You're damned right that inspired line after line from the best episode of "Family Guy" ever, the "I Dream of Jesus" episode.)

* We reach Warsaw around 7pm. We had decided to stop for food and booze in Warsaw because we figured everyone else headed down would be stopping in Clinton (a correct assumption, by the way. Christ, that's three rock solid Dusty decisions, and we aren't even two complete pages into this thing. The world truly is going ape sh*t crazy.) Of course, in order to stop in Warsaw, we had to find a place to stop. We turn south onto 65 looking for a grocery store, and I spot the Country Mart right after we pass the exit. After turning around and doubling back, it's time to hit the Country Mart!

* More specifically, it's time for me to hit the bathroom. I had to pee like a racehorse. After wandering the store for 10 minutes, not a bathroom in sight. Finally I flag down a stock boy, who notes "oh, well really, it's not for public use, but it's back in the stock area ..." I just ignore him and sprint for the stock room door. Worst case, I'm getting kicked out of a Country Mart in Warsaw for peeing in a toilet. That would be a story to tell the grandkids.

* We load up on sausages to grill, on sausage biscuits for breakfast, frozen pizzas for snacks, and beer. Lots of beer. As in three cases of Miller Lite and one case of Budweiser. I get the "really, Budweiser?" stares from everyone. Yes, really. Budweiser. I'm not a Miller Lite fan. That, and I couldn't find a decent bottle of vodka to throw in the cart.

* Although, proof you really were in a special part of the country: they actually had a full on display case, next to the frozen meat section (aka "we suggest you buy this to go with dinner" location), they had a display case full ... of Boone's Farm. As the great Joey Lawrence would note, "WHOA!" I've never seen so many varieties of Boone's Farm available in one location.

* Conservative craziness: I booed the "Listen to Glenn Beck!" billboard, and I just shook my head in rage at the absolutely treasonous billboards on 65 denouncing President Obama. You may not like him personally, you may oppose his agenda, but for f*ck's sake, don't call him the antichrist, like this piece of crap billboard did. I'm pretty sure that when (ok, if) there is this "antichrist" unleashed upon the unsuspecting masses, that Satan will recruit someone far more competent and universally liked than Barack Obama. Come on.

* Random DJ question of the drive down: "why is there a gas station on each corner?" as we hit a random country intersection. The answer to the obvious random question is "yes". Also, I like the word "random".

* Also, if you had five in the "how many drinks in will Stevo be when they arrive at the campsite", congratulations, you'd have pushed.

* Funniest sight as we arrived at the campsite: when you got to the store / check-in office, there were about six college kids standing there, drinking beer, shirtless, hitting on any chick that walked by. Or me fifteen years ago. And like me fifteen years ago, they all struck out. But at least they had a nice buzz going.

* This was the first float I'd ever been on where you didn't get a wristband at check-in. I gotta admit, I was a little disappointed. I always wear the "man whore" bracelet on floaters, and I never fail to love seeing people's responses when they have to put a wristband on next to it. (Oh, and like three paragraphs ago, the answer to the obvious question is "yes".)

* We did get one thing to attach to the body: a bracelet thingy that worked as bug repellant. I mention this for two reasons. First, because the damned thing actually worked. Second, because it would figure prominently into the funniest sequence from Saturday. The thingy looked like one of those keychain ropes you get at the casino to attach your players card to, except bracelet-shaped instead of a long string. Uum, not that I would know what a casino player's card chain would look like.

* We drive up to the cabin, and when they described it as "cozy", well, they definitely nailed that description. But, there was plenty of room for four people. When you walked into the place, you had a fold down futon leather couch on the right, and a twin bed on the left, with the kitchen and bathroom ahead of you. I actually was impressed. I had visions of a roach-invaded shack; instead, this was actually pretty sweet.

We unload the Nitro, put the beer and food in the fridge and freezer, drag the laptop and the iPod over by the window, and go sit on the porch, where we'd spend the next 3 some odd hours enjoying the beer, the fresh country air, and anything else that happened to be enjoyed.

* We also met our camping neighbors to the right of us for the weekend, Tom and Vince. Really nice couple. Easy to get along with. They also had a 13 year old dog that was fun to have around. I cannot for the life of me remember the dog's name though. I keep wanting to call it Shelby, but I know that's wrong. But it's something close to Shelby? (rage against the machine voice) f*ck it, cut the cord! Before I go insane from trying to think of a random dog's name.

I do remember though, that the first time I saw said dog, I thought I was really drunk, high, or both, because I had to take a step back. One eye was dark, the other was completely white. I was like "whoa, I am really tanked!" Turns out ... the dog really did have two completely different colored eyes.

* One of the selling points DJ used to justify paying for a cabin was "it'll have air conditioning". Uum, yes. Yes it did. To say it was freaking freezing in that cabin is a grouse understatement. I got maybe two hours of sleep Friday night. I literally was sleeping with my legs crossed Indian style, my whole body tucked inside my blanket like a newborn baby, trying to stay warm, and I was failing miserably.

Finally about 7am, I was like "screw it, I'm up", and decided to head off in search of an ATM machine and some batteries for the iPod speakers. And son of a b*tch, the store wasn't open yet. So I start walking back up the hill, and for some reason, Dusty's driving the Nitro towards me. Turns out he had the same idea, only he was smart enough to get in the car first. So, I hop in, and we head a couple miles down the road to another campsite where the store is open that early.

* About 9:30, everyone is finally up and moving, and we head down to the dock to get a raft. (julie chen voice) But First! We needed ice for the coolers. I offer to go get some, walk into the store ... and there's a group of 26 checking in ahead of me. Go figure, they were all paying separately. Twenty minutes later, Kellie comes in in a "what the f*ck is taking this moron so long to get a bag of ice?" mood, right as I reach the counter. Anyways, we get the ice, head down to the dock, and it's floating time!

* And with that last sentence ... things go downhill in a hurry. For starters, the current was so strong that taking your sweet time (aka "maximize the day") was impossible. Also, all the rain that had dumped over the last few days left the river freezing cold.

How did I know it was “freezing cold”? Because not even twenty f*cking minutes into the float, the biggest ass on the river feels the need to knock me in. And no, I did not censor “ass”, because that’s what he is when he gets on a raft: a mother f*cking ass. Somehow I manage to get back on board after drifting along for a while. I’m shocked I still had feeling in my lower extremities, it was that cold in there.

* We reach what we were told was the halfway point, the NRO beach-out point, in barely two hours. In two hours on the Elk River a couple weeks ago, we could still see where we’d gotten into the river, we were going so slow. Now? We’ve gone at least 3 miles in record time. This is not good for those of us who were planning to enjoy the day.

* Then again, how could I enjoy the day when the "biggest mother f*cking ass on the river" kept knocking me into said river. Oh yeah, he struck again, right after the halfway point. Three other people on the raft found it hysterical. Needless to say, I was not one of those three people.

* At least the iPod worked well most of the way. It overheated a little bit near the midpoint, but other than that, it was (linda richman voice) like buddah. Like a big stick a buddah.

* Unfortunately, one side effect of the iPod working perfectly … meant that eventually, the one song I can effectively dance to came on. And no, I don’t mean “Party in the USA”, although I think I do a damned good dance to the chorus, thank you very much.

Nope, I’m talking about the song I consider to be one of the five biggest songs of the 2000s. Oh yeah. It ain’t no lie. “Bye Bye Bye” by NSYNC.

So, as the song starts up, go figure, we reach one of the deepest points of the river. As always, I stand to start my dancing (11 years later, and I still have the whole god d*mned chorus down to a T!), and the biggest ass on the river … shockingly, does nothing. Instead, his designated co-hort Katie tosses me in just as I finish the chomping motion on the last “bye”.

This one got laughs from every raft, canoe, and floating person around us, as well it should have. It was perfectly timed, perfectly done.

I finally manage to get back in, and then someone yells “hey, you left your bug band in the river!” You know, those yellow bracelet thingies DJ had bought on Friday. Mine had slid off while I was attempting to hang on to the raft. I look at Katie, and she has a “you’re going back in” look in her eyes, and I have a “god d*mn it, I can’t stop this” look in mine. Yup, right back in.

And yeah, you’re damned right I saved that bug wrist band thingy.

* By this point, I was exhausted. I’d been frozen in the water four times now. I was a solid eight, nine beers in. I was gone-zo. I crawl into the middle of the raft, prop myself up against the cooler, make sure I’m submerged into said raft so that I cannot be easily tipped back in … and pass out.

And what seemed like 45 seconds later, I hear DJ screaming “Stevo! Wake up! We’re done!” I’m like “huh?”, in a haze of intoxication and … we’ll just go with intoxicated, in case my mom reads this, “intoxicated”. She’ll be ok with that*. God knows she’s used to it.

(*: before Floatapalooza Uno, my mom called me up, and after shooting the sh*t for a few minutes, gets into what she wanted to say:

(stevo’s mom) so who all’s going on this trip with you?
(stevo) Katie and Cassie.
(stevo’s mom) so you’re going with two girls?
(stevo) yup. Betcha didn’t think I could ever pull that off, did you?
(stevo’s mom) (ignores the one liner)
(stevo’s mom) well, now, just promise me you’ll make wise choices.
(stevo) oh don’t worry, I don’t plan on sleeping with either of them.
(stevo’s mom) well, please, just promise me you’ll make wise choices.
(stevo) (worn out from this conversation) yes mom, I promise. I will make wise choices.
(stevo’s mom) good. Because I don’t have the energy to watch a fourth grandkid every week. Especially if it’s yours.
(stevo) what does that mean?
(stevo’s mom) (pauses) uuh, nothing. Just make wise choices.

The point of recapping that call? Other than the fact that I love that my mom refers to safe sex as “making wise choices”**? It’s this: I think it’s great that after 34 years, 8 months, and 14 some odd days of drawing breath on this planet, we’ve finally reached a point in our relationship where she doesn’t give a f*ck what I do, just so long as I don’t make her have to clean up the mess. Holy crap, have I reached … (gulp) … adulthood? Responsibleville? Nah, no way. I refuse. At least until I’m 42.)

(**: yup, a subnote to the subnote! In the words of Dave Armstrong, “WOW!” And the subnote’s subnote is this: of all the people in this life likely to refer to a casual encounter as “making wise choices”, my mom would rank somewhere between Mother Teresa and Jesus Christ. I mean, this is like “The Voice of Reason”’s mom asking me for a cold one. It will NEVER happen. Not in a thousand lifetimes. And yet … she said it. “Just make wise choices”. The most religious person I will ever meet, signing off on doing whatever you want. Hang on, I need a cold one to continue, I am in a state of shock and awe here …)

* Where was I? Oh yeah, it’s 2:53pm, and the float is done. We’ve gone at least 6 miles in less than 5 hours. I’m thinking of two three letter words here that can be combined into one six letter word. One of those is “RIP”. The other is “OFF”.

I was irate. And I wasn’t the only one. How the hell does a floater only last 5 hours? This, in the words of the great Tony Bruno, is an “outrage”!

* So, we get bussed back to camp, head back up to the cabin, and move the table and chairs out into the sun, under the tried and true theory that “if we ain’t on the river getting a tan, at least let us get one in the front lawn”. This lasts about 20 minutes, until Katie and I realize at pretty much the same time “we’re done with beer today”. We head inside, ask DJ for the keys to the Nitro, and we’re off for the busting metropolis of Lebanon, to find a liquor store.

* Katie as we approach town: “if you see a liquor store, holler”. Not even two seconds later, we see a gigantic five foot tall sign that says “LIQUOR” on the left side of the road. Whew.

We get some champagne for Kellie, some margaritas for me, some rum and Diet Coke for Katie, and, as the late, great Burgess Meredith would note in “Grumpier Old Men”, “picked up a pack of Camel’s!” for DJ. We did not get the low-fat bacon, however. (rimshot!)

* Stop at a convenience store on the way back because we forgot to get ice. I also grabbed some firewood for later that night, assuming, you know, any of us were upright and ambulatory enough to light a fire once the sun went down.

* The running gag on the way back was “what do we do if neither of them is outside?” I honestly was kinda hoping DJ would hang a sock on the door or something, like the good old days in college. We make it back, pull into the front lawn, and sure as sh*t, nobody is outside. Katie’s like “well, what do we do now?”, wanting to be courteous and not disturb the freshly married couple. Me? Come on. He tossed my ass in the river twice. The least I can do is try to blue ball him.

So I grab the two bags of ice, walk up to the front porch, and chuck the things down with a loud “THUD!” sound. Would have woken someone up 20 campsites away, to say nothing of stopping any “wise choices” going on.

Of course, it was me trying to pull a punk ass move. Yup, nothing was going on. They both opened the door not even two seconds after I chucked the bags down, asking “what took you two so long”.

* The next seven some odd hours were spent sitting around outside, enjoying good times, good company, good booze, good food, and … uuh, good stuff. And oh yeah, enduring “The Steve”, which apparently is me pathetically attempting to dance to anything other than “Bye Bye Bye” or “Party in the USA”.

* At some point, the fun times wound down. We got Tom and Vince to take a “close the joint down” picture of us that didn’t really come in all that clearly, so I'll post the going away pic they took the next morning instead:

(steve rule number three: the family that drinks together, stays together! photo: our neighbor vince, via my snagg camera.)

* Go figure, I’m wide awake at 7ish on Sunday morning. I walk outside so as to let everyone else sleep. I also grab a bottle of champagne out of the fridge. DJ eventually joins me on the front porch, before deciding to go back in and sleep a little bit more. Finally, about 10am, everyone is up and moving, and by 10:30, we’re on our way home.

* Not much happened on the drive back. We missed the Highway 7 exit at Warsaw, but even that worked out, as I was able to get some lunch at McDonalds out of the deal.

* Make it back to KC about 1pm. Pretty solid driving to make it back that fast. Then again, I’d expect nothing less from “The Kid”.

* The rest of my Sunday was spent poolside at Joyce and Jerry’s, before finally heading home to crash. I did manage to get off a “always a good time, we should do this more often” text message to DJ before passing out … only to remember about 20 minutes later that he’d misplaced his phone, and said text was a total waste of bandwidth. So, I retyped it here. We need to do this more often, champ.

* Which I guess at the end of the day, makes this a successful roadie. The float itself sucked ass. Everything else, was pretty damned fun. I’d absolutely go back to Riverfront Camp and Canoe. I’d definitely go back with “The Kid” and “Boasheao” and “The Ex”*.

And I definitely would do it anytime they asked …

(*: I intend to have a post on nicknames on this site by Friday. I started it at work today. It’s going to be pretty sweet. Both people and events. Although there’s still a few regular readers and good friends I need a nickname for. Maybe I’ll wait until Monday to post, and see if Boozeapalooza Tres comes up with some solid suggestions for the stragglers …)

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