That picture is disturbing, I know. Rest assured, however, that a religious group is responsible for it, not us. This post highlights an important discussion we need to have, so please read it. This post is short and to the point, and I’m especially anxious to hear what our religious fans feel about the issue of scaring people into religion.
Remember Phillip and I were going to go the down-home, bring-your-kids-and-grandparents, family Bible Book Burning?
It’s not happening.
No fault of our own. Unfortunately Pastor Psycho McPsychopants (a.k.a. Marc Grizzard) closed the event to the public. Don’t ask me why. If you’re going to burn Bibles you, um, just MAY BEEEEE a few cubits short of a full ark; but, the North Carolina Fire Marshall pointed out that book burning was illegal in the state of NC. (Go NC!!) So my contention is that Pastor Marc Have-you-ever-eaten-a-turkey’s Grizzard does not want to be arrested.
We’re not. We are going to a Nashville Hell House!!!
C’mon now, what the hell is a Hell House???
That’s what I asked Phillip when he proposed we go to a hell house instead of an equally wholesome and inspiring Bible burning. Richard Dawkins (oh the howls I’m going to get from our believer fans for putting Dawkins on the site; howl one more time, good job, you sound just like a coyote!) interviews a pastor who puts on a yearly hell house on Halloween. Both voice their concerns in the video (so no howls!), and it’s worth a look.
What I find funny is that a. the guy playing the devil really does look like the devil and b. the guy playing the devil REALLY enjoys playing the devil… lol. “Pastor, will I be asked back for next year? I really like delving into this character!” LOL.
Frankly, y’all, I’m disturbed by the idea of a hell house. Scaring people into religion is bullshit. (Please comment if you disagree!) I learned a lot from my stay with the Adventists in La Crosse. Even they, who believe in heaven and hell, told me that negative coercion is not God’s way.
Sin destroys and Jesus saves… maybe. There is some truth to the positive energy represented by the intentions and actions of the man known as Jesus Christ being a “saving” force. And there is equal truth to the hell-like energy of “sin” being a destructive force.
But let me ask you a question: Is it a sin to put young kids through this? Would you let your kids see this kind of stuff? I sure as heaven wouldn’t. Hell House
Look at those kids’ faces. That, my friends, is a sin in my book. I don’t think you have to scare people into religion. If you think you do, please comment below: I’d love to hear your POV. And we’ll let you know how the hell house goes, and yes! there will be a travel piece about it and yes! there will be much discussion to be had. And, of course, the invitation to my own hell house is always open: You know, the one where you are locked in a round, padded room with Barry Mantilow’s “Mandy” on continuous play.
No, not like that, you sick bastard! 🙂 The business, Eleven Visions, is growing. That poses some new challenges.
Let’s see if you can identify with this feeling: You are in a jungle. Don’t worry; you’ve got a .22 rifle. You’re a good shot and can hold your own. You’ve got enough water for 4 days, a filtration system that can filter jungle water. “Do I have my iodine drops?” Yup, you got ’em. You have enough food in your pack as well – MRE’s, canned meat, vegetables, and a few sweets to keep your spirits up. Time to trek in further… you ready? Too late; you’re in it. Four days in it to be exact. Food’s still holding up. You’ve got (hold on, lemme check) enough, I suppose, water. Sweets are gone, but you’ve got the essentials. How do you feel?
Yeah, that’s about how I feel wading into the jungle of the online movie business. Do we have supplies? Yes. Have we done reasonably well for not knowing what the heck we’re doing? Sure. But supplies are getting low, and I have no idea where the hell they’re going to come from.
Now, mind you, I’m only using a metaphor here. Just like the hunter loves to shoot tigers (some of you gun enthusiasts are saying that a .22 won’t stop a tiger; grow up! it’s only a metaphor! :)) I love to shoot movies. I love to market them. I love to find ways to poach… crap, that’s a horrible word, um, market my movies to as many people as possible (cuz I believe in this product), but the question for an independent movie maker is: How the hell do you do it?
That’s where I feel I am. The jungle of the internet, the jungle of my own mind (yeah, you guys already knew I was in that one), the jungle of marketing, business-running, staying motivated, staying inspired, writing content people like, keeping an audience (don’t go anywhere!), living, learning, and paying the freaking rent.
You Ain’t the Only One, Brotha
I know that. I know I’m describing the dilemma all go through. If you’re a business owner, you’re in this jungle every day. If you have a family you’re in the “how do I pay for Johnny’s sneakers?” dilemma. I know that. I’m just… voicing out loud. I want you to come along on this journey now. It’s not the journey of hitchhiking across America or paddling down the Mighty Muddy. It’s the journey of us, the journey of Eleven Visions and how they become a viable force in the entertainment world. How’s it all going to go down? I don’t know. But we’re used to the unknown, aren’t we? We were used to it when we had never hitchhiked before, we were used to it when we had zero paddling experience and Minnesotan commenters predicted our demise, we were used to it when… well, dammit, we’re used to it.
No Less Difficult
The journey ahead will be no less difficult. The final goal isn’t Los Angeles or the Gulf of Mexico, but it is success (is there a difference between the three?). The journey now that I’m inviting you on is – How do we become viable filmmakers? Filmmakers who make money? Filmmakers who inspire, entertain and inform? How do we do that?
And how would you like to come along for the ride?
This post was no accident. It was not a shot at therapy (though it is therapeutic). It was an invitation. I promised you a few posts back that you, the fans, would get a sneak peek into everything we did, and I meant it. This is our journey now – editing, marketing, living and loving. This is a goal and a destination and a process just like the adventures we finished.
Could it be that marketing and becoming “big” can be, perhaps, BIGGER adventures than paddling down the Mississippi?
Maybe; I hope so.
Either Way, I’m Glad You’re Comin’ Along
So, shoot, let’s give it a try. Let’s let you in on a little secret: The secret of what’s been happening since we started editing our upcoming film The River is Life. You ready… for more stories?
Ryan’s First Attempt at Travel Writing from His Living Room
I am laughing to myself because I have no idea if this is going to work. I know, kinda, how to travel write when I’m on the Mississippi, but have absolutely no clue if applying the same story-telling techniques to everyday life will be interesting and readable or boring and Christ-let-me-click-on-something-else-able. No idea. One way to find out…
Travel Writing… without Going Anywhere
Whew! Here goes: Phillip connects the camera to the television. It is the first 20 hours of what will one day, with the help of Jesus, be The River is Life. A commenter on our Facebook page asked if we were “reliving the dream or the nightmare?” Funny thing about video, you only tend to turn it on when you’re happy. I remember Phil and I anxiously awaiting the coming of the Stump Lake footage… it never came. We never filmed it. “I thought we filmed something on that,” I said. “Nope,” he said. “We musta been too cold and hungry.”
“Not really. We don’t want to show too many crappy parts. People want a fun, happy movie.”
The footage rolls on. I remember making Phillip suffer through my endless bridge shots: “Hold the camera steady, dude, I want to make a bridge montage later.”
“This is the stupidest thing I’ve ever done.”
“Shut up. Just hold the camera. You’re not having to paddle, are you?”
“Stupid.” We both fumed in our insistence that the other was wrong. Phillip points out that only one of those bridge shots is usable.
“So the other bridge shots were a waste of time?”
“Really? And when we were filming those shots, how did we know which ones would be good and which ones crap?”
“Exactly. You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.” Phillip stays quiet at that one… we move on.
Beautiful! I mean absolutely exquisite nature shots! I was impressed, I really was. “We’re not going to be able to use all those eagle shots,” Phillip points out. I don’t care. I love the eagle shots; we may not make a dime off of them, but I have them for posterity and no amount of how-is-this-going-to-make-us-money? is going to take that away from me. I remind myself that Phillip is the more practical-minded, and that is just the way it is. It is not good, it is not bad. It just is. It took me nearly the entire Mississippi trip to make peace with that fact. “You’re right,” I tell Phillip, “but isn’t it beautiful?” Deep down inside that endless maze of a cerebral cortex, what scientists will one day call his ‘beauty appreciation center’ stirred. OH YES IT DID, PHILLIP! DON’T DENY IT! “No it didn’t, humph.”
The tape rolls on as the Mississippi rolls on. I am amazed at how narrow it was at the outset. I remember my cursing and swearing when the Sea Eagles got beached during the rocky portions in Lake Itasca State Park. I remember the deer flies – “Ha! There’s a deer fly buzzing around my head in that shot! Awesome!” Awesome sitting in my living room… at the time it was, “G– DAMN MOTHER SON OF BUTT——– ASS DAMMIT, GET AWAY FROM ME!!!!” To answer the Facebook commenter, I was reliving the nightmare, but it was much funnier.
Phillip says he’s tired; he can’t watch anymore. I agree. The Daily Show and Colbert Report are coming on. “Yeah,” I say, “let’s take a break.”
Before it was paddling, paddling, paddling for 4 hours before we said “needa break.” A short respite on a sandbar did well then. A stretch of the legs at an opportunely placed boat ramp, a listen to a Taylor Swift song on the solar radio (before it visited the ocean floor of Lake Pepin :))… used to be our “break.” Now life is different. No more muscular energy being spent, only mental. And mental energy spent needs a mental break. John Stewart is our food now, our mental food. Stephen Colbert is our beans and rice, our recharge.
Stephen Colbert makes his last crack. It’s a good one and makes Phil and I chuckle. He turns to me (no, not Stephen, dummy! ;)), “Hey you, um, wanna keep watching the footage?” That same tone he uses. The same one when we, at the beginning of the river, would nap for twenty minutes in the boats: “Wanna start paddling?” “Yes,” I say, but instead of grabbing an oar I grab the remote. PLAY. Another bridge. “LOOOLLLL!” “Actually that is a pretty good bridge shot,” Phil offers. I smile. Greg Judge, a Bemidj resident who had paddled the river himself in the eighties, told us that the goal of the river was not just to finish but to finish and still remain friends. Good on you, Greg, and thank you. I agree. It is amazing that after all this time, all this time in a BOAT! for crying out loud, Phil and I are still friends. Yes, we argue and disagree, but no one has been shot and we’ve never come to blows. That is something in this world. We, just like the Repubs and Dems, also want the same things but have different opinions about how to go about getting them… but… we’re still friends, and that is a very good thing.
After another hour of watching, Phil turns off the tape. We’re almost to the redneck 4th of July scene where an entire extended family participates in an ATV jousting competition. Cool-ass. “I can’t watch anymore.” It is time to camp for the night. I lay on the couch (yup, where I”m sleeping :)), and Phil retires to his bed. The lights are out, and I can’t hear crickets or cicadas but I can hear a wall clock and the drone of Phil’s laptop.
This is going to be a good movie, I think before falling asleep. The River is life, but this is life too. What’s next? Will people find this journey – the journey of actually making the movie now – as enjoyable as our previous ones? I don’t know. I don’t care; I’m tired of paddling, um, editing. It’s time to see what’s to come around the bend… even if that bend is 49 more hours of footage.
Glad you’re still with us. Ready for more?
CALL TO ACTION! Yes that was just a blog post, but I’m serious. I want to know if writing about our daily lives and the editing process is just as exciting as our paddle down the Mississippi. That was just a taste. Please offer your comments in the comment section below. The question is – Is travel writing (the style I employ) just for, well, traveling – Mississippi adventures, hitchhiking adventures, going to talk with the bible burner in North Carolina – or is it also for what we’re going through now – editing, getting the Hell movie made, going and buying groceries? YOU! yes, YOU, comment below please.
What is that thing you do that no one else can do?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I don’t know the answer…exactly.
What is “That Thing?”
Check out this email from a fan:
…I believe that your blog is successful because of your writing style/skills and that you have a knack for finding “that thing” about a situation or person that holds a readers’ interest. You are also able to write with humor about things that might not seem humorous on the surface.
You are on to something big by living life’s adventures and sharing them with those of us who (for the moment) might not be able to take that adventure. Sure, lot’s [sic] of people paddle the Mississippi, but you found “that thing” that made it unique; that made it sharable with and connected to your audience.
Thank YOU! Troy!
I don’t know how “successful” we are, but we did build up a sizable following during the Mississippi trip. I was proud of it. Troy’s words, “that thing,” stuck with me for a long time. What is “that thing?”
A Story from the Past
I was a comic writer. I never got paid for it but I wrote sketch comedy fairly regularly for my Second City class and for my sketch troop. People liked them; they were fun and irreverent and bizarre; sound familiar? I started thinking that it wasn’t enough for me to be “good” at writing without having gotten some training. I thought that I better take some comedy writing classes at Second City (the school in Chicago where Gilda Radnor, John Belushi, Bill Murray and pretty much everyone from the original cast of SNL cut their teeth). I wanted to be legit.
I remember the first sketch I wrote for Intro to Comic Writing. It was about Star Trek. Spock had gone rogue. Instead of “logical” and “fascinating” and “I do not have emotions, Captain,” he was “what’s up, bitches!” and “hey Uhuru, gimme some lovin'” and “big up y’self, Kirky, lemme take the Enterprise for some honnies and fo’ties.”
It had cussing and crassness, and everyone in the class laughed… except the teacher: “Good, good, um, very interesting. I noticed you didn’t really have a three-act structure. There’s no kicker at the end, and, um, the cussing… Um, really it’s unnecessary?. “Well,” I replied, “Spock doesn’t cuss.”
“I know, you don’t want to use cussing as a crutch.”
Crutch? What am I a polio victim?
“Just, try to give it more structure, cut out the cussing, and let’s make Spock a little more believable.”
This is f—ing sketch comedy for crying out loud!!! Believable??? “Okay, teach, I’ll try it again.”
I really thought the sketch was good as it was. The class was in stitches, but teachers (experts) know better, right? (“If he’s such a good comedy writer, why’s he teaching?” Wish I woulda asked myself that, really wish I woulda.)
I sanitized the sketch. Spock didn’t cuss. I threw the “crutch” out. I made it the way teach wanted it and reread next week. Silence. The sketch was nice and sanitary and up-to-spec for the all-knowing teacher… but no one laughed. It sucked. I was so angry.
Other sketches by other aspiring writers: hilarious! One was about C3P0, Chewbacca and R2D2 doing a DVD commentary on the first Star Wars. Another had the Tooth Fairy as a nasty, smelly 45-year-old from the Bronx. He was moving to adult teeth to meet quota, offering to knock them out with a baseball bat for cash. Funny. It was fresh and exciting and irreverent and WEIRD! It was special… until teach asked them to dumb the sketches down, make them fit “the format” (whatever TF that means).
Is There a Format?
No. There’s not. There’s only laughter, there’s only what works. If people are having a good time, then that’s “that thing.”
The reason the Spock sketch worked is because it came from my heart, and that was “that thing.”
The reason the belligerent Tooth Fairy worked was because it was unique.
Non-human characters conducting a DVD commentary… funny, from their heart, cannot be planned… does not fit a format.
I think “that thing” is nothing more than an inspired idea.
Steven Pressfield, author of The Legend of Bagger Vance and Gates of Fire, wrote a book called The War of Art. In it he talks about his 20-year failing as a writer. He had gotten a steady job as a screenwriter in Hollywood when he suddenly told his bosses that he was leaving to write a novel. They told him the logic: Novels don’t make money. Why would you leave a steady job? Good luck coming back.
Steven went for it. Something inside, “that thing,” told him to. He said he didn’t know why exactly; but, after 20 years of failings, his first book was a critical and mild commercial success. He thinks it was due to him following an inspired idea. Some “thing” told him to. He was inspired and he went for it.
So What is That Thing?
I still don’t know. My minister says that ideas are angels, higher aspects of consciousness infiltrating the earth plane. When you follow them it’s like God going, “Hey, dude, go this way! I know you’re scared but go for it!” I heard a quote once that said, “The joy of soaring is always accompanied by the fear of falling.” If ideas are indeed angels, you are certainly apt to fall you follow them. High-flying ideas like paddling the Mississippi, hitchhiking America, making a movie about religion… you can always fall, but what else is life about?
Troy, I think you’re right. I think we are on to something sharing life’s adventures, but I cannot take credit for the ideas that come. I cannot take credit for the Spock sketch, or The Hitchhiking Movie, the blog posts, the words I’m writing now. I’m not writing them. I don’t even know how it’s happening. All I know is that something about what we’re doing is striking a chord with people. Hopefully my writing is striking a chord with people. What is that chord? What is “that thing?” It’s got to be something from God, something higher, something more lofty.
It cannot be a by-the-book rendition. It cannot be something from the earthly plane. The world is too much with us…
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This poem came from God. Ideas come from God. It has to be something more. “That thing” is the inexplicable. It is… what we’re here for. To follow, to rise higher. “Go for it!” God says. “I’ve always wanted to do that,” our hosts say. Why? Because the desire is there, the desire to go, be, do and see.
I still don’t know what “that thing” is, and I don’t think I need to know. All I know is that the ideas are sent, and I can say yes or no. I hope, I pray to have the strength to follow… even when I’m scared.
Achtung! Phillip and I are sick and tired of the false versions of the Holy Bible being read by church-goers everywhere. We are likewise tired of reading the works of such heretics as the Pope, Billy Graham and Mother Teresa. Satanic-message-spewing servants of Beelzebub like the the Mother of Calcutta, who said she wished to care for “the hungry, the naked, the homeless, the crippled, the blind, the lepers, all those people who feel unwanted, unloved,” (I know, right? Give me a break!) need to have their collective works burned in a fiery bonfire and fast!
Off my rocker, you say? Take this cup bearer for the feast of Satan Billy Graham. I mean this guy has written, “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are stiffened.” Ha! Trying to get me more courageous, are you? Well, how’s this for courage: I’m heading to North Carolina to burn your and all you other heretics’ bibles, religious works, spiritual works, passionate bids for Love in the world and entreaties for Peace in a good, old-fashioned Halloween Book Burning where there will be barbeque, fried chicken, and I heard Sister Margaret is bringing her potato salad! My, she’s been looking well after the divorce. Maybe her and Billy Bob are better off separated. Too bad she’s going to hell for breaking the covenant of marriage, but damned if that potato salad won’t be good!
I’ve had it with the perversions of God’s word! And so has this guy: Pastor Marc Grizzard of the Amazing Grace Baptist Church is up to here with false versions of the Bible like the New International Version, Contemporary English Version, The Evidence, The Message, The Green. And goddammit I’m tired of it too!
The King James Version is the only TRUE! Bible. Everyone knows that God’s infallible word was translated from Hebrew to Greek to German to English in the 16th century (and if you’ve ever read Shakespeare you know certain subtleties are lost on modern English, but that’s not the point!). God ran those crazy Hebrew characters (vowels, people? Hello!!!!!) through the linguistic wringer over thousands of years for a reason! So His, um, Her? word would be loud and clear for you and me.
Thank God Pastor Grizzard is burning these heretic bibles on Halloween. And thank God Phillip and I are going there to cover it just so we can entertain you (um, save your souls) with the story. I’m hoping personally to get my hands on the original Dead Sea Scrolls (a perversion of the King James translation) so we can light those babies up like a Christmas tree.
Ryan, you can stop now. We get it.
Sorry, I was channeling Johnathan Swift there for a moment. Don’t worry: I won’t suggest we eat infants for protein, but if we could get those death panels up and running that’d be sweet… thaaaanks.
I’ve been trying to rack my brain trying to figure out why Mr. Grizzard wants these crazy bibles burned. (His website amazinggracebaptistchurchkjv.com is temporarily down – tons of traffic – but you can find the invitation he sent out here. Read the comments section too where one commenter points out that Pastor Grizzard is surely a heretic himself because everyone knows that TRUE BARBEQUE! comes only from pulled pork shoulder… lol.) I told my friend who’s semi-religious about this guy and she shuddered, “I, um, yeah, I read just my Student Bible, but that’s… oh my god… buring a Bi-ble?” While he’s not burning a pile of defenseless puppies, there is a certain sickening feeling one gets contemplating the notion, even if they were written by Satan. Shouldn’t Satan get a word processor? Who’s his publisher? Frikkin’ Simon and Schuster probably. They’re the ones who published my 4th grade Geography book. If there ever was a book written by Satan…
Honestly, I don’t know why he’s burning the Bibles. Yes, I understand his logic. Read his letter and it basically says any translation not based on the Textus Receptus is of the DEEEVIL! Why the hell didn’t the Devil just release The Holy Bible, New International Satanic Version! I think that would clear up a lot of confusion.
But, I mean, c’mon, seriously. This guy is a little wacko, AAAAAAND he’s perfect for our new film: Go to Hell? Go to Hell? explores the concepts of heaven and hell in the world today. It is a hands-on adventure just like our other adventures. We will go and physically talk to all these heretics, holy ones, crazy ones, and ones ones in order to answer the question: Will I go to hell? That’s the basic premise: Is hell real and will I go there? And we’ll need some information fast, because I’m looking around and noticing that the physical body doesn’t seem to last too long on this earthly plane. Did I just feel an earthquake?
We believe Marc Grizzard might have some answers for us. If not, we’ll at least get some of the participants of this down-home family book burning to talk about heaven and hell and what I will need to do to get to/avoid either place. I think a smoky bonfire fueled by those pesky faux translations will make great B-roll footage even if Phil and I just make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in front of it.
To answer your question: YES! We will be bringing sticks and marshmallows. Oh, and the Amazing Grace Baptist True One-and-Only Holy Baptist (sigh) Church, is going to be burning country music too!! Mary Chapin Carpenter CD, you’re on my list!
Let’s get some comments going guys! Question:
Will I go to hell?
Will you go to hell?
What do we need to do to avoid it?
Is it real?
Is it a state of mind / physical place?
Comment, comment, please discuss!
For an excellent debate held on ABC’s Nightline titled Does Satan Exist? click here. I’ve got the first video in the series below. I like how the Prostitute Preacher still looks kinda like a prostitute… you go, hunny! Also you’ll be treated to an uncharacteristically angry Depak Chopra – fun! And finally, I must say that of that whole panel, I have the most respect for Bishop Carlton Pearson. He literally stood up to his entire congregation to say that hell does not exist and that their poor family members who had sinned here and there were not burning in the fiery flames. I mean, for a man to take a stand like that… That, my friends; that, Billy Graham, is courage. I looked around, MSNBC did the best coverage of the story: click here.
Thanks, and anyone who knows how I can get an interview with Bishop Pearson, let me know. And also if you’ve got any good preachers/priests/imams/rabbis/Jedis/ministers of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster we can talk to, let me know.
Thank you and for real, GOD BLESS YOU and EVERYONE ELSE!
The Hitchhiking Movie, the Mississippi Paddle Adventure, and 11 Visions itself are all a joint venture between Ryan Jeanes and Phillip Hullquist. Therefore, I give to you 11 Visions’ first ever JOINT POST! No we’re not smoking joints while writing – we’re collaborating on a single post. This is a tad experimental so if it blows up in your face just send us the cleaning bill.
It was about 3pm when Ryan and I arrived in Oak Ridge, Tennessee for the Secret City Film Festival. So much to do today: find the theater location, get posters made, update the website, meet festival organizers, find a secluded campsite–what? Yes, we’re still camping! In order to save money on unnecessary conveniences motels provide like running water and electricity, we paddled across the river and setup a tent instead. I think it’s actually better as it’s reducing the withdrawal I might otherwise be experiencing from leaving The River. This is my first film festival, my first “big-screen” premiere, and my first chance to get a real life audience reaction to the film. It’s all very exciting, but I also have no idea what to expect. –Phillip
“Arrived” in Oak Ridge, TN, he says. More like rolled in on one wheel and a prayer. Phil and I had just orchestrated an 11th hour comeback to get from New Orleans to Nashville in the first place. Making the film festival AT ALL was a Mail Mary pass.
2 days before film festival – New Orleans, LA:
Phil: “OK, I’ve got it. Since AMTRAK doesn’t go to Nashville, we buy tickets to Memphis and hope someone can give us a ride to the Music City.”
Me: “Ummmmm, so like do you have anyone who’ll come get us?”
Me: “Great plan; I love it.” That’s not sarcasm; this does sound like a Phil/Ryan plan. “What about Wes?” Wes, you will recall from this post, is the guy whom it took four hours to coordinate a ride from Gold Dust, TN to his parents’ home in Memphis. This is an abbreviated version, but that phone conversation on the riverbank between Phillip and his former roommate (who splits his time between the Music City and the Blues City) went something like this:
5:12pm – Gold Dust, TN – It’s dark; to my understanding Wes said he would have a truck waiting for us at the boat launch. Unless I’m blind, there is no truck.
Phil: “Wes, hey, we’re here, um, didn’t you say you could arrange a ride for us?”
Wes: “Oh, dude, like I totally forgot. Um, like, let me call my mom and see if I can get y’all a ride.” Hangs up.
Phil: “Guess what?”
Me: “Wes forgot.”
5:38 – Riiiiiiiiiing. P: “Hello?”
W: Hey dude like I just talked to my mom.
W: So like yeah she says that she’s making tuna casserole for dinner tonight.
P: What the hell does that have to do with us being picked up?
W: Nothing, oh yeah, so like I forgot to ask about the ride.
W: No dude. (Hangs up.) I’ll get on it.
6:15 – Riiiiiiiiiing.
W: Dude, I just watched this youtube video… Oh yeah, I forgot.
7:13 – Ring.
W: My brother says he might be able to do it. Do y’all need a truck or will my compact work?
W: Where are y’all again?
8:45 -I consider eating my brain.
Wes: “Yeah so like my brother might be able to do it…”
Phil: That’s what you said an hour ago!
W: Dude, don’t get testy, um, yeah, let me, dude you got to see the new clue book from Warhammer!
12:45am (this is not an exaggeration) – Wes’s brother arrives with a truck (thank god) and a frustrated tale of how it took his brother 4 hours just to communicate to him that he needed to come pick us up.
“Why didn’t Wes just give us your number?” I asked Reilly, his brother.
“That’s a really good question; this woulda gone a lot faster.”
Phil and I Reach Memphis (By Train This Time, Not Boat and Not Wes)
Amtrak is speedy and effective. A nice lady saw me downing Mini Moos and eating sugar packets, and bought me lunch. People on the train were friendly and cordial and nice and, um, friendly. I tried to cross cars without shoes and not only the conductor but the passengers implored me to “go put some shoes on, you’s gonna get yo’ feet stuck ‘tween them caws!” Nice people concerned for my safety. An old black man was jovial sipping his Budweiser tallboy. “I likes to talk to sum youn’ people,” he says. “Main, my daddy always tol’ me, you gotta talk to youn’ people, hang out withem. Dat way you stay young!” He smiled ear to ear and had four teeth. It was one of the most enjoyable conversations I’ve ever had. My lunch was bought by a coupla old-timers seeing America via train, playing Gim Rummy and eating peanuts. The energy on the train was through the roof. Glorious, wondrous, I loved it.
Greyhound is NOT Amtrak
Nashville, TN is one of the few major American cities without passenger rail service. Why? Global warming; I don’t exactly know why. I know the Carter Administration forced some Amtrak cuts in the late 70s (f—ing Carter), but presumably for lack of potential ridership (yeah, I know, no one would be interested in commuting quickly and easily between the Capitol and the state’s largest city) the track between Memphis and Nashville was never to be. This means that if you don’t have a car, and you’ve got a crapload of stuff, and you don’t want to fly, and you don’t want to call Wes Herndon to pick you up because you might as well jump of a bridge and hope the wind currents blow you and your seven 50-lb luggage items to Nashville, because you have a better shot at that than Phillip’s well-meaning (but mentally vacant) roommate finding the power of focus necessary to come to his hometown (Memphis) and take us back to his worktown (Nashville) in exchange for money or stories or sex (your job, Phillip) or effusive thank-yous. Wes, I love you to death… Wes! Pay attention! Right here! Yeah, right here (makes eye-to-eye hand gesture with fingers). Wes, I love you to death but making a PB and J sandwich for you is an all-night operation. (For those of you thinking I’m being too hard on Wes, just know that I love him and want to have his babies :). Eat your heart out, Jessica.)
Greyhound is not Amtrak, but that is what Phil and I have settled on. The festival is in in less than 24 hours and none of Phil’s leads are coming through. Phil turns to me exhausted: “It’s gonna cost an arm n’ a leg, man.” Greyhound wants 35 bucks per extra bag. F that! Some of you who’ve been reading this blog know I’m into some New Age stuff, the Secret and all that. In my experience it works great sometimes and it works for shite other times. One thing I have noticed: When I need it to work and I’m really intentional about it working, it does. First I form in my imagination the outcome I want. OK, brain, here we go. I’m imagining the manager talking to me and I’m saying to him that I want him to charge me no more than 10 bucks an extra bag, and we get our tickets and everything for less than a hundred bucks. Mind you, I’m doing this right after Phil came to me and said he was just shot down by the clerk for asking the same thing to which she replied, “Um, no, sirrrr, duh policy is very clear. Whatchu wan’ me to do? Change duh policy? It don’t work like that. Y’all gonna hav’ tuh pay $185. Look at all dem extruh ba-ugs! I shude be chargin’ y’all mo’!” Calm, brain, calm. We can do this. I go up directly to the evil clerk (buahahahahahahaha!). “Howdy, ma’am!” I say Texan. (I always do this when I want to be more jovial and cordial, because Texans – especially Charles Whitman 🙁 and the guys who ran Enron – are cordial and nice. “Would you be able to check all these bags on this cart and give us our tickets for a hundred bucks?” I’m smiling at her. I’m staying present. I’m asking as if I expect a direct and honest and positive yes. I know she can say know; perhaps I know she will say no, but that’s okay. I ask. I expect my response. I’m using the Secret; I hope to God this works. “Um,” she ponders (better than the response Phil got), “I just, uh, you need to talk to duh managah about dat!” I go up to the manager. Stay present, stay real, this can happen, this will happen, by god I hope this happens. Shhh. “Hi [insert manager’s name on name tag], I would like to travel to Nashville with all those bags for 100 dollars.” He looked almost flabbergasted. I don’t know if anyone had so boldly asked him that before. He starts rummaging through my bags and talking speedily. I almost don’t know what’s happening. Phillip is asking me what’s happening, and I say, “I dunno, but let’s not spoil it; I think this guy’s going to do something; I just don’t know what. Let’s just go with it.” He gets half our bags on via the baggage handlers and then says the other half I’ll have to put on myself. I don’t know why we’re going through this weird process, but…. F it! It’s working! I go back to nasty clerk: “Soooo, how much I owe ya?”
Thank you, Secret. -Ryan
Oak Ridge, TN
They call it the Secret City. Ryan asks me why it is named such seeing reference to this nickname nearly everywhere. He thinks I know more about the city than I actually do because I told him that Knoxville people make nuclear jokes about the town. Only a day later we would learn much of the city’s unique history while watching Keith McDaniel’s (the Secret City Film Festival creator) excellent documentary about his hometown.
For the showing of The Hitchhiking Movie on Friday afternoon, I sat near the front inside the expansive Playhouse Theater. Ryan chose a seat near the back…apparently to spend time observing the audience response instead of being immersed within it. Everything is larger on the big screen; the opening titles almost look over-sized to me, each shake and small movement of the camera translates into a larger movement when projected 16 feet tall. But it’s great–glorious even. Our audience is laughing throughout, feeling the pain of the journey, and applauding the successes along with us. A film critic from Knoxville described the movie as a “crowd-pleaser.” Many people have traveled from all over to visit this festival, but we PADDLED every day for a month to make it there in the nick of time. The reactions were perfect.
Then this story: on Saturday morning a woman named Meghan working at the festival found the need to describe a dream she experienced as a result of seeing The Hitchhiking Movie. As I recall from her account, she also got picked up by “Sammy” and later on met her husband-to-be. So now we’re not just inspiring people, we’re giving people nightmares! If anyone else can confirm that our movie induces strange dreams, please report in the comments below. If you haven’t seen The Hitchhiking Movie yet, you can order a copy at IndieFlix. –Phillip
Yes, Meghan, um, that was a little weird; and, as you know, we’re a coupla straight-laced guys so quit freaking us out like that. 🙂 Thank you, Meghan, also for buying a copy of the movie; hope you enjoyed it.
Keith McDaniel has really jazzed up the festival this year (so I’m told): He’s got corporate sponsors, he’s got big-name talent (Elaine Hendrix – Knoxville native and star of Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion – “I invented Post-its!” – is there as well as Mitch Rouse – director of Employee of the Month, probably one of the most kick-ass movies I’ve seen in a while).
My Date with Elaine
This is a rather bizarre experience. Betsy Pickle, the Knoxville movie critic Phillip mentions above and author of ze photo abuv yor head, calls me over to speak with someone after the screening of Mitch’s Employee of the Month. Holy crap, I think, that’s a goddamn movie star standing there! I wouldn’t say I became tongue-tied but I did become awful shy when Betsy introduced me to Elaine Hendrix.
“Hi,” I said.
“Um, so like I dug Romy and Michelle.”
“Oh, good.” She’s probably done like a thousand things since then, but that’s the only thing I can think of right now. So, Elaine, if I came off like a douche, sorry, but I really did like your role in that movie. Oh, an’ kudos on your short mocumentary The Cloggers(don’t really know how y’all can see this one yet – wait till it’s out of the festivals – but just imagine Spinal Tap pared down to 7 minutes and about cloggers instead of rockers. Good job, Elaine; very funny.
I really didn’t know what to say to this girl. She certainly isn’t model hot, but she is hot with steely black eyebrows under beautiful, bleached blonde bangs, a beautiful smile… I was smitten. Betsy, bless her heart, saves me and starts pitching The Hitchhiking Movie to her. “Oh really?” she replies. A goddamn movie star is interested in me! Don’t F this up, you slimy bastard.
“Uh, yeah,” I say and totally drop the ball. She looks at her watch, and I want to jump out a window. “Pull up, goddammit, puuulll up!!!!” All right, brain, we’re gonna pull this one out of the gutter and land it safely on the runway. I push my shoulders back and puff out my chest. Ahem, I can do this, movie star or no!: “Hey, Elaine,” I say suddenly confident-ized, “you’re mockumentary was very good, I gave it a 5/5; I know you said during the Q and A you liked documentaries, so I have one for you. I know people have been pushing their stuff on you all night so I wont push anything on you. This [Phillip shows up with a DVD] is for you to enjoy.” She says thank you, and it is genuine. Betsy tries to explain to her that she wants her in a short she’s going to direct in Knoxville to which Elaine demurs. She’s been ghermed all night (ha! thanks, Jim, for the term; told ya I’d use it all the time!) and wants to go home. By fate or god or failing to pay the electricity bill the lights go dim, and Elaine makes a break for the door. Good cue. “Phil,” I said later, “do you think she’ll watch it?”
“I dunno, probably.”
“Probably will.” And if not, F it. Just as the Doors said, “We did the Ed Sullivan Show, man!” I can say, “I talked to the co-star of The Parent Trap, man, I frikkin’ talked to the co-star of The Parent Trap!”
I met Mitch Rouse outside the theater and asked him to tell me a little bit about being on the Second City Stage in Chicago with Stephen Colbert and Nia Vardalos, which he did. Very unasuming, kick-ass fellow. Thank you, Mitch. Like I said, Employee of the Month was a good movie. OOOOOOO I want to spoil the ending for you so bad… so I won’t.
Conclusion (That’s Spanish for Conclusion)
We had a great time. People were coming up to us, as Phil stated, asking us if we “really” were sleeping in a tent. Hotels cost 50 bucks! What would be the point. You ain’t talkin’ to a rich man! Many people loved the Hitchhiking Movie. Though we cringed through the intro which took too long and the music issues and the sound issues and the issues issues, it was great. The premise itself was compelling enough. My on-camera-ness seemed to be compelling enough. We did a good enough job of editing for it to be enough.
The people told us so.
And I believe them.
Thank you to Keith, Dana, and Natalie of the SC Film Festival.
It was great.
Thank you to all who’ve chosen to follow us after the Mississippi Journey. Told ya there’d be more cool stuff happenin’!
And thank you to Elaine and Mitch. I think you taught me that I stand on two feet just like you do, and if I work (even though I’m 6’4″) I might one day get to be as tall as you.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. This was special. This was a dialogue. This was us entertaining you, and I think that’s special. I think there might not be a more holy union than two people, whether it be Phil writing to you or me writing to you, sharing in a common experience. The experience you just shared in was called The Mississippi River Adventure. The movie will be called The River is Life, and the whole experience was great. On the river, there were gay couples, there were barges and spirit canoes, fights between me and Phil, media coverage, F-words, Z-words (you know, words that start with Z), there were nice people in Natchez, mean people in Greenville – there was this entire river full of people and life. We hope we brought the River to life for you.
Second… The Please
Please, if you enjoyed this blog, if you enjoyed this journey, I’m asking you to give. Reflect on the value you have gotten from this journey: Did you have a good time? Did you see what you wouldn’t have seen, hear what you wouldn’t have heard, go where you couldn’t have gone any other way but though reading this blog? Did we entertain you! Where did we take you? Where were you able to go because two crazy guys grabbed a couple of paddles and went down the greatest river in America bringing it to life in a fun and entertaining way? What feelings did you feel? The spirit canoe – were you touched? The Adventist adventure – did it make you think? The shotgun in my face in Prairie du Chien – were you scared? I was! Did you go on… an adventure? I hope so; in my heart, I know so. Now I’m asking you to make a contribution, whatever your heart dictates, for the value you have received.
Phil and I are going to keep doing this – entertaining you through the power of adventure. As I’ve stated in the two previous posts, we’re not done: The Go to Hell? movie is coming up, the Mexico City Street Children movie is coming up (we’ll be actually living in the Mexico City sewers with the orphaned children). This blog and the movies we produce will continue to provide a plethora of entertainment, education, and chance for reflection. So I’m asking you to give. I’m asking you to give as we have given to you. Whatever this journey has been worth to you, please donate here.
We’re Going to Sweeten the Pot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We want to give to you some more!!! As a special thank you to those who donate $50 or more, Phil and I will give you a signed copy of The Hitchhiking Movie, our first feature film. If you know nothing about this film, this is what some have said about it:
Route 66 News (5/11/2009) – “the right balance of affability, earnestness and wit”
And we’re going to give it to you FREE! (a $17.95 value) with your donation of $50 or more. But, Ryyyyannnnn, I don’t have fifty bucks!!!! Das okay, baby! I understand. Please give what you can. Ask yourself if you were entertained, and then give what you can. For everyone who donates any amount, I will send a personal thank-you email. In fact, thank you now! Isn’t this is fun!
That’s Not All!
We’re not done! If you contribute $75 or more to help keep the great entertainment on this site going, we want to give you something else! Phil and I will give you an autographed and personally dedicated picture of our finish at the Gulf of Mexico! That’s us right there! Those are the actual Louisiana marshlands behind us! This picture is a symbol of adventure; it encapsulates the excitement of not just a paddle down the Mississippi but the joy of adventuring everywhere. Just send us instructions for your dedication with your Pay Pal order, and own a part of the adventure today!
Donate anything at all – You get a personal thanks from us to you via email.
Donate $50 or more – You get an autographed copy of our DVD The Hitchhiking Movie, which includes bonus scenes, special directors’ commentary, and the beloved DRUNK COMMENTARY! (Parents, make sure the kiddies are out of the room for that one :).
Donate $75 or more – You get the DVD and the photo commemorating the realization of a dream – to paddle down the entire length of the Mississippi River. We hope to give you part of this adventure and make it as much yours as it was ours.
Own the adventure: Please donate today!
Third… The Promise
We promise to continue entertaining you to the best of our ability. We promise to continue capturing the spirit of adventure in everything we do. We promise to brighten your day by sharing ourselves, our heart, our travel with you. Many people wrote me and said, “Thank you for taking me along with you.” That’s our job; that’s what we strive to do – to take people where they’d love to go if they had the time; that’s what 11 Visions is all about. The fun does not stop. I have more to tell you about our adventures at our first film festival in Oak Ridge, TN. You will get sneak peeks of the dailies from the river. You’ll receive new blog posts from our train-hopping adventure coming soon. More, and more, and even more. We want to give you more. That’s our job.
Ryan, How Can You Make Good on That Promise Right Now?
Good question. By entertaining you right now, of course! Ready for the Final Chapter in our Mississippi River Adventure????
Me too. Let’s get to the Gulf.
When we left off, a scabby, nasty old hag pinned her homemade PADDLERS BEWARE! sign to the window. Jeff Johnson told me later that that same lockmaster had given him trouble as well. Jeff works as a fishing guide and had 6 boats worth of clients trying to lock through into the bay. Our lady in question denied them access citing that it was nepotism to let larger party groups through and that they would have to wait 2 hours for a series of single dinghies to go first. Jeff was incensed. He makes his living off showing clients a good time. “Did you confront the old hag?” I asked him. “Naw,” he said, “what’d be the point?” Too true. When someone’s Middle Eastern name is MUSTAVA STIKUPUR AZ, there isn’t much you can do.
Old Crabapples opened the gate and, though she was nasty, she wasn’t lying. The conditions were absolutely awful. Easily 3-foot whitecaps. Phil and I gleefully paddled out into the middle of the channel. It was fun… for a while. Like being on whitewater. After twenty minutes he turned to me: “I’m tired.”
“Um, buddy, we got 39 miles to go.”
“Yeah, we’re not gonna make it like this; these waves and wind are killing me.”
“Shore paddle? That’s such a beginner thing to do.”
“Any other ideas?”
The Mississippi was forcing us to go back to our roots – paddle along the shore just like we did when we were infant paddlers scared of the center channel. The shoreline did offer relief from the waves but not the wind. That was as strong as ever. Sometimes God did bless us with a jutting point that would shield us (partially) from the gales. But for the most part, it was a fight to the finish. Mano y manos – the Miss’sippi versus us.
“I’ve just about had it with this rudder!” I screamed. The night before, we consolidated all we would need into one boat. It was ceremonial. We dusted off the 11Visions Boat (the boat that had our logo on it) and washed it down. Phil took out the inflatable floor and scrubbed it with care as he would an infant. I tried to repair the torn decal that bore our website. We were betting it all on black, taking one boat instead of two (the other would stay at Jeff’s cabin). We were betting that with less weight and less drag we could paddle the 40 miles to the gulf in one day. The River and the Wind laughed at us: “You may make it; but it ain’t gonna be easy.”
“What’s wrong with the rudder?” Phil responded.
“You don’t feel it cuz you’re not steering the boat, but this f—ing thing is pulling hard right CONSTANTLY.”
“I don’t feel it.”
“That’s what I just frikkin’ said!” I was mad. I had forgotten to secure the rudder with an extra pair of washers the night before. Dammit! I thought. Little things can make or break a journey; I know this, I should know this by now; why’d I forget! There was no why; I just had. “Let’s pull into this little cove,” I said to Phil.
The Cove and the Dump
We pulled into a bay-like indentation 4 miles south of the crabby lady’s lock. There a middle-aged man with a sinewy build exited his car. “Oh my god, well,” he said dropping a stack of papers into the wind. “Well,” he said, “I, uh, um, yeah, what’re y’all… what’s this now?” He’d forgotten his papers; they were blowing everywhere. I ignored the papers and said, “Paddling…”
“…the Rivuh, no shit.”
LOL. What the hell?
“Look,” he continued, “um, I um, yeah, I know this guy at the pay-puh [not a Cajun accent per se, but definitely Florida-Parish] I know um an’ y’all need to talk to um. I’m gonna snap some photos foist.” He got out a digital camera and started snapping pictures and asking questions. “Now, uh, now, I also know, well now she’s my girlfriend, this uh psychiatrist, an’ y’all should talk to uh given that y’all’s crazy enough to be out in dis weathuh!” Phil and I laughed at the jibe. “Right now,” I said, “all I need is an outhouse or a protected space without sawgrass or burrs.” “Ooooo raght,” he said, “If you need tuh take a dump, jus’ go raght ovuh they-uh.” Ha ha ha! Who says ‘take a dump’ to a stranger? Ha!
When I finished, ahem, Phil was talking to both Take-a-Dump (that’s a good a name as any) and a new guy. The new guy was older, wiser and more present; not the scatterbrain Take-a was. “Name’s Yonke,” he said to me and offered his hand. “Better not shake,” I said. “Oooooh,” he said and laughed. Yonke (his nickname) regarded our paddling in these types of conditions as more or less normal and wished us well. Take-a was still all over the place: “Um, yeah, um, y’all need tuh be in the pay-puh heah an’ also in the Times-Picayune [the big, scary paper of New Orleans].”
“I tried the Picayune, but they didn’t respond; guess this story’s not to their liking.”
“No, uh, no, y’all needa person on duh inside.”
Who? You? I mean I wish you could have been there, but this guy was absolutely laughable. I really didn’t believe that A. he knew the people he said he knew and B. he would do what he said he would do if he did. I wrote it off and said thank you.
Ryan, You Ain’t Always Right
After Phil and I finished the River, the Times Picayune called! Holy crap! I’m wrong! Thank god I am. Though neither Phil nor I have been able to locate the story online, I was there as Phillip interviewed with the reporter over the phone. NOLA residents, if you saw the story in print, let us know! Take-a, you came through. Thank you.
Phil and I left watching Take-a drop more stuff and Yonke stand stoicly on the bank. “Y’all be careful,” Yonke said grandfatherly but smiling.
“We will!” As I think back on this, I can still see his face. He looks like a chiseled sculpture. The wind blew that old face, but he was happy. I hoped he was happy to see two young men taking on real challenge. I hoped he was happy with me. I don’t know if you’ll see this, Yonke, but your sternness gave me strength. Take-a dropped his I-pod.
During our escapade with the two gentlemen at the bay, I had forgotten all about the rudder!! Dammit! “Phil, I know you hate stopping, but we’ve got to; my right arm is on fire; my left arm nothing.” Phil sighed but acquiesced. We stopped in front of the old Fort. Phil went to take pictures while I did my best to use two pop tops from 1980s Bud Light cans dredged up by the river (Did Katrina do it?) as washers. It was useless. I nearly dropped the bolt needed to fasten the rudder on. I turned to Phil: “I’m taking that as a sign from God.”
“What does the sign say?”
“It says ‘tough shit, you’re gonna have to paddle only on your right side today.'”
“I coulda told you that.”
Phil was right. The rudder repair would be a bust.
Right side! Right side! Paddle, paddle! I’m still angry over the broken rudder, but there’s nothing I can do. I convince myself that the river is paddling on the left side for me: Yeah, that’s it! I’m not having to fight to stay straight; I’m just doing half the work! Though I know it’s bullshit, it does keep me from going insane. I check the Navigation Charts. “We need to make a decision here, Phil. Which pass do we take to the gulf?”
The night before, Phil and I pondered over exactly how we were going to get to the Gulf of Mexico. There are several options. Our hero, Buck Nelson, took the longest pass possible. He should change his name from Buck to Badass. We, however, had a film festival to get to. We were going to take the shortest pass. “Let me see those charts again,” I told Phil.
Our best bet, in order to make things easier on our host Jeff, was going to be taking the Red Pass. “It’s a fisherman’s pass,” Jeff told us. “But y’all’d make things a helluva lot easier on me if yuh went that way.” Phil and I got to Venice and discussed it. “It’s gonna have to be the Red Pass,” I said. “Yeah, I’d like to take Buck’s route past the Head of Passes into the long channel, but that’s not what we came here to do. Most guys stop their Mississippi River journey at New Orleans, if they even make it that far. We’re doing something greater, we’re going into the sea. At this point, we got a guy who’s giving us a ride back. I don’t know how the hell else we’ll coordinate getting someone else to pick us up. So… let’s just do it. Let’s call Jeff and tell him we’re taking Red Pass.”
Phil pondered it. “Yeah,” he said. “Let’s do it. The point all along was the gulf. So it’s eight miles shorter – I don’t care. I think it’s fate we ran into Jeff. I think we’re supposed to meet up with him at sunset.”
“Screw the Head of Passes. Let’s just get to the sea. That was the point…”
“…the whole time.”
Phil and I recognized what we were about to accomplish. With cell reception, albeit extremely crappy, in Venice, we called Jeff to tell him we’d meet him at the end of Red Pass. “Oh, thank y’all,” he said. This was good, this was fate.
It is certainly a maze of passes if you do not know where you’re going. Phil and I made a few wrong turns and actually ended up paddling three more miles out of our way. “Told ya I wasn’t going to make this easy,” the Mississippi said. I know, I replied, but you know you won’t beat us today… you know that now, don’t you?“Yes,” the Mighty Muddy chuckled, “I know now you’re determined. You were determined when your brother suggested you quit at Davenport. You were determined when I threw rain at you, wind at you; I blew that little inflatable around like a leaf. I knew you were crazy, but I also knew I wouldn’t beat you.”
So why’d you make it so damn tough?
“Ha ha ha.” I got nothing from the River after that. No communication, nothing. Only silence. As Phil and I paddled into the last four miles on Red Pass, I couldn’t hear the River’s voice anymore. I would, at times, think I heard Him laughing or smiling or saying any number of things. I heard Him laugh when my boat flipped on Lake Pepin. I heard Him smile when the hot sun drove away the fog in Guttenberg, IA. I heard him howl when Southern Illinois rain pelted us like mad, and screech when a nighttime barge almost hit us. I’ve heard Him alot. But now that the Gulf of Mexico was in sight, I could hear Him no more. I could only see sea. It was as if a new voice was beckoning, and it was large and ominous and… engulfing.
“There it is! Oh my god! That’s the gulf!”
Phil and I paddled as if in a dream. We were happy, but where was Jeff?
One mile more. Happy, but where’s Jeff?
One more, happy, Jeff?
With no more than a mile to go I heard the rumble of a motor, and Jeff was in sight. It was perfect, almost meant to be. Had we taken the shipping lane after the Head of Passes, the footage would have been sotted with ships and industry, channel markers and fights for your life to stay clear. It would not have been the poetry that Phil and I experienced when Jeff held the camera, steered his boat, egged us on to the final, shot the reeds swaying in the wind, shot the sunset, egged us on some more, and finally… shot us paddling, fatigued and elated, into the Gulf of Mexico.
I can’t describe to you (well) what I felt. It was like a wave of joy flowed over my heart. I couldn’t believe it was really over. I implored Phillip to stand up in the boat. “What do you want to do that for?” he laughed. He was overjoyed too. “I want to get a picture of us standing,” I said. Six-foot swells were rolling off the gulf. “We can’t…” he started but acquiesced. I tried to stabilize Phil as we stood but to no avail. As soon as a roller went under us he went in the water. “Ha ha haaaaa!” I howled. Jeff was laughing his ass off. As soon as Phil got back in the boat I said, “This one’s for you!” and jumped into the water, where the dolphins were hunting freshwater fish off the coast. Phillip answered by paddling the boat away. “You bastard!” We were overjoyed!
“Congratulations, guys,” Jeff said. “Now come get your celebratory beer!” Jeff had Miller Light for us (I’m a Bud man but who gives a scheisse). Phil and I toasted and watched the setting sun beat its colors into the clouds. Content – that’s how I felt – so very, very content. It was done. We had done it.
I thought for a long time, long in my mind. I reflected and wondered if “just making it” was enough. I have credit card payments, I thought. I’m not famous. I don’t know if anyone cares. I looked across the sky into industrial Venice as Jeff drove us back in his high-powered cigarette boat. An oil refinery was burning gas in a torch of light. “Hey, Phil, Olympics come to Venice.” “Ha ha,” he responded but was mostly silent. I was mostly silent. There wasn’t much to say. We’d done it. It was done. Back at Jeff’s cabin, we had fried fish and sweet potato casserole. I chatted with some of Jeff’s clients. One told me I needed to read the book Blue Highways, which strangely I was already reading. Another told Phillip that his vegetarianism reminded him of his wife, a Seventh-day Adventist. “I am Adventist,” Phil said. All was quiet then.
The silence. I had said in Part II that I was afraid of it. Or, at least, I was aware that the silence would need to be filled. And what if I didn’t know what to fill it with? But what to fill it with was not here yet. I sat. This is what I was afraid of, I thought. This… is nothing to be afraid of. Cicadas chirped outside, and Jeff’s over-sized fan drowned out the excess noise. I could only hear muffled rumblings of voices, Jeff’s clients, talking about this fish and that fish and this market and that market and when they’d be back in Texas. I was alone. I was silent. I was in it. It was okay.
I would say I drank it in, but there was nothing to to drink. The silence was simply present; there was nothing to do. It was almost like being underwater but even more peaceful. All I could do was sit, sit and watch and wait. When would the silence fade? It didn’t matter. I was done with the Mississippi; and, I know now, the silence was my reward.
Jeff’s wife, Gabriela, offered us more food, but I was in another world. I was one of the few who had completed the Mighty Mississippi. I looked at Phil and only nodded. I think he knew what it meant. It meant that the silence was good. That we were good; and, for a brief moment, we were creators of our own destiny.
Where are we now? Library in the Secret City, Oak Ridge, TN. The film festival is done. We did not get an award, but several people came up to us and told us The Hitchhiking Movie was kick-ass. Phil and I cringed through scenes that we would have changed – the intro was too long, oh my god that joke did not go over well, my god what the hell were we thinking putting that scene there, the music needs some help – but it did not matter. There were loud guffaws during the screening. People were fascinated with the journey. They bought DVDs afterward. In fact, over 1/4 of the people who saw it bought a DVD with comments such as, “I loved this; this was great,” and, “I’m gonna get this for my daughter,” and of course the, “I wish I could have done something like that.”
I Wish I Coulda Done Something Like That
That phrase seems to be our mainstay. I am in the audience, I am watching the man who took top honors for the festival. He made a film called That Evening Sunwith Hal Holbrook. Oh my god, I mean, may I drop dead here Hal Holbrook is the greatest actor who has ever lived. Go to the website and then get your ass to a screening of that movie. It is, holy shit, I mean I am nearly crying thinking about it. If you ever saw Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino, with his portrayal of a grumpy old man dealing with approaching death, all I can tell you is imagine that performance amped up four hundred thousand fold, smoothed over with a beautiful sunrise and a down pillow, hardened by the fires of hell and smelted by the cruel cool winds of real life. It blew Clint’s performance into the Adriatic Sea. Then it set its remains on fire, and those remains sank to the bottom where they were fed upon by fish and sharks and horrible squids. Then those fauna shat the remnants of Clint’s digested performance out, and the droppings were obliterated by an underwater fire bomb. I don’t know how the fire bomb got underwater either; just… Holbrook’s performance was that good, it really was. Go see That Evening Sun (it’ll be in select cities in November) whichever way you can. Best performance… ever.
I continue watching the executive producer take top honors with his Audience Favorite Award and his Judges Choice Award and his Best Southern Film Award and Best Feature Film, Best, Best, Best… The Hitchhiking Movie wins nothing; only people coming up to us telling us they enjoyed it and would like to buy it. And then, of course, the phrase: “I wish I coulda done something like that.” And then I relax. We did not win top accolades but we know we are tapping into something. The people who read this blog love life and know that The Hitchhiking Movie and The River is Life blog are… life. People come back to this site because they want a slice of that life amped up and lived out. We know we choose interesting and provocative ideas – paddle down the Mississippi River, hitchhike across the U.S., find out how not to go to hell, have religious experiences on Ayahuasca in South America, go and live with the street children of Mexico City for a month, cross the U.S./Mexico border with a real life illegal immigrant family… These are some of the ideas we are kicking around; this is what we want to bring to you. This is our contribution to you.
More on the film festival later. Y’all ready to end this Mississippi River Trip!!!! Me too. This is the end! Here’s how we got from New Orleans to the Gulf:
The End Game – Part II
“This is the end, my friend.” – Jim Morrison
New Orleans. Phil snaps a photo of me with the city skyline in the background. I look sullen and angry.
I don’t know why I know but I know I have to keep my emotions in check. I know I can’t get too excited this close to the finish line. I know this is where missions are failed – celebrating too early (George Bush, anyone?). I remember the Obama Campaign gave this video
to its campaign workers one week before the election. I did not want to be that guy on the bike, I did not want to get complacent. It was possible – great ventures have caved in in the final minutes. We had to focus.
The West Bank
A reporter calls. She asks if we’re camping on the West Bank, and I laugh. Yes, and there is sporadic gunfire from the Palestinians! Come quick! She wants to interview us but we’ll have to wait for her till tomorrow. Great ventures are lost in the…, goes off in my head. This is a delay, I decide. I tell Phil what the reporter wants to do.
“What do you think?” he asks.
“I think it’s a trap. I think we go. I think we don’t worry.”
The wind is a bitch, flat out. Phil (different Phil) and Rich of Huckleberryfinn09 knock our inflatables (who hasn’t?). “I mean,” he says, “that’s like paddling a feather out there. You’ll be blown around.” We already have been, my friend, we already have been. We don’t have the right boat but we’re pressing on. Reporters will not stop us now, wrong boat will not stop us. We will make the Gulf.
The waves get horrible in the last few days. They are whitecapping. Phil and I fight over middle of channel (more current) or paddle along the bank (less waves). We compromise and follow the bank with short trips into the waves. My forearms are jelly. The Miss’sippi is throwing everything at us these final days. “You want it?” She whispers. “You really want it? You gonna have to get it… the hard way.” The next day the wind picks up more. There are no more barge captains offering us beer and Gatorade, congratulations and macaroni and cheese. Past New Orleans, barge captains have no reason for being. Only ships, giant ships, who have nothing better to do than barrel down the channel at 45 mph. We are a blip on their radar. We are a blip on their bow if we are not careful. We have nothing to do… but make the Gulf. The wind blows harder.
The Threat of Silence
A trip such as this thrives on noise. Cool things happen and I can write about it. Noise. We call the radio, TV and newspaper stations and we are noisy – “We’re doing a trip, we’re doing a trip, we’re doing a trip!” The threat of silence (What will we do when the trip, the noise, is over?) is looming. I remember a high-school friend who dropped out with one month of class to go. Why? The threat of silence. What would he do when high school was over? What, I mean, what! He didn’t know. He’d have to take a trip into the silence. That was scary. For three months I’ve been living in a tent, living in strangers’ homes, paddling, paddling, paddling. The Gulf would mean the end. That was scary. There would be silence. We would have to move into the silence. Will people still read our blog if there are no more waves and fights and barges? What will happen to us? What is in the silence?
I gotta keep goin’, I think to myself. For better or worse, the silence will not beat me. I will join you, Silence; you will not beat me. We will become one at the Gulf. Throw wind and waves and ships all you want; I will join Death (and if I’m lucky, Rebirth) on the other side.
Phil Takes a Chance
“I’m gonna get Pizza,” Phil says in Empire, LA (thirty miles from the Gulf), and I don’t like it. I don’t know why I don’t, but I don’t. The Silence scares me, the fear of getting too complacent scares me. “I don’t…” I start and then stop. Becoming too much of a hardass can be a barrier to your mission too. “That’s cool, Phil,” I say. “Go for it. I’ll set up the tent.” Phil leaves happy; he’s not as concerned as I am of the demons that can kill you at the end. Maybe I should follow his example. I examine the tent poles. I’m not going to put up the tent, I think and have no idea why. Logic has failed me. I think that I must go join Phil in the bar he has gone too. I think I must leave the tents packed. I feel I must go……now… there. And I do. The gear is lonesome in its package. When we come back to camp tonight, we’ll have to unpack in the dark, but I don’t care. Somehow it’s all gonna be okay. I don’t know how, but it will.
Reverie at the bar in Empire, Louisiana.
Phil has struck up a conversation with some boat captains. One drives personnel out to the oil platforms in the Gulf, another pilots a barge, another is an oyster fisherman who slings stories of what he has or hasn’t done between drunken ramblings and puffs on a doobie that the bar staff seems all too willing to permit in the broad moonlight. It is a party. Phil has bought me and himself pizza, and it is good. The captains all want to know what we’re doing, want to buy us beer, want to offer us showers. It is all gonna be okay, I think again. John is well-spoken. Does he belong here? Wes is a conglomeration of gumbo and almost unintelligible Lafayette Cajun screaming and hollering: “Ooooooo boy,” he say, “y’all cain’t leve dis herah plase wifout eatin’ some crayfish – we callum mudbugs – I’m gon’ make y’all some gumbo too ‘for you leave, ooooooooo.” Phil and I are laughing because Wes has the thickest Cajun accent we’ve heard so far. He’s almost like a cartoon character. Buddy Love, the doobie smoker, is telling Phil he loves him pressing his forehead to his, and I nearly fall out of my chair. Saints Fan is old and pruny and smiling like mad when we tell him stories from our adventure. Wes offers even more places to shower (though we don’t need them) and more Cajun cookout possibilities (though one would be enough), and John offers us a ride back to New Orleans after (which we will need, desperately). Phil was right not to worry. Worry is a demon as well; it can kill a venture too. I’m glad I came here.
More, Even More
A man walks in with his Mexican wife. Jeff Johnson, who I wrote briefly about in this post. He tells us, “Damn guys, that’s amazing, I wanna put y’all up in my cabin. And I’ll even help you get your shots of the Gulf and the sunset. Shoot, guys, that’s amazing.” His wife is silent, but I hope she approves.
Good thing I didn’t unpack the tent, I think. Jeff brings his big pickup and helps us pack all of our stuff in it. His wife – silent. He takes us back to his cabin which is amazing, gives us keys to his truck so we can drive ourselves to the marina (which is amazing), tells us we’ll have showers and fried fish when we get back… amazing.
Phil and I take hot showers and air our gear out and rejoice. Damn I’m glad I listened to you, Phil. Only one more demon to slay and his name is Tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Phillip says that we should take one boat. Risk it all. “We might as well make this our last day.” “That means we’ll HAVE to make it to the Gulf today,” I respond.
“Yes, I know.”
“Shit,” I say spitting into the dirt, “let’s do it.” One more demon, just one.
The Last Day
We leave early. Leave nothing to chance. Driving to the nearby marina gains us seven miles but we will still have to paddle 40 miles today to make it to the gulf. Our best in this type of wind, with these types of conditions, has been 28. Shit, I think spitting into the water, bring it on.
There is a small lock we’ll have to go through to get back out onto the Mississippi. I remember the 20 or so locks I’ve gone through on the Upper River. This one is about 1/100 the size. That don’t mean, however, dat duh lady who operates the mom-n’-pop lock don’t have a Upper-Miss’sippi-Lock-sized ego. She does!
Phil and I lock through the first set of doors; their height is about 7 feet. I hear a rapping from somewhere. “Do you hear that?”
“Yeah, look up.”
It’s an old, fat, craggly woman in glasses rapping on the pane glass of the observation deck. “Yes?” I mouth. She starts making wild hand gestures that end in a pronounced clap that I can only take to mean something or someone is getting smushed. I give her the international, palms-in-the-air “I have no idea what the hell that means,” symbol which sets her off into a frenzy. Papers go flying behind her. It’s like watching a Glen Beck meltdown. Yes, you want to do something; yes, you want to help; but, can you? I mouth, “What do you want me to do?”
“Stop!” she barks. I swear I saw drool.
Normally to be able to stop, there are ropes on the sides of the locks. Not so here. I paddle to the side and use my oar to scrape the side and slow us down. That “stops” us more or less. Phil and I hang tight under the watchful eye of Mordor. We thought that was the end of it until… The rapping! Oh shit, it’s back. Crazy lockmaster lady’s bangs are bouncing with even more fervor. She slams a homemade sign on the window which reads…
CONDITIONS ROUGH: LARGE WAVES, WIND, DANGEROUS!
“I know,” I mouth and turn away. “We know,” Phillip says and keeps looking at her. “What’s she doing?” I ask Phil.
“She’s dropped the sign and is pacing back and forth. I can’t say for certain but I’m pretty sure I saw an S, F, and an I-word.”
“Well, we may be, but ain’t no demon (lockmaster wannabe or otherwise) gonna slay me today.” The double doors open and the Mississippi is as promised – windy, terrible, dangerous.
“Forty miles, brother,” I say.
“Yup,” Phillip says curtly.
He’s not worried, and neither should I be.We’re gonna finish this thing. We’re gonna go into the silence.
How does one end something? For me it was paddling like mad to the finish, no pain, no glory, just paddling. My muscles were like something possessed; I felt like I had to finish. Phil kept it up with quicker and quicker strokes; he could see the end, he could feel it. Go go, and go go go go go go go. It kept building – there’s the gulf there’s the gulf there’s the gulf. And we did; we finished in six foot swells on the setting sun.
It was wondrous: dolphins dancing in the sand, feeding on freshwater fish the Mighty Miss’sippi had brought them. Jeff Johnson, the man who agreed to put us up for a few days, was in his boat deftly handling the camera and steering wheel at the same time. A strange elation, a strange joy – first in my solar plexus, then whole body… wondrous.
How Does One End Something?
First there must be a pre-end. Something came before the end. What came before? I think to myself. How did we go from there to here?
Ah, yes, Baton Rouge… I had forgotten. I had forgotten the news crews competing for our attention – awesome! I had forgotten the Cajuns holding up catfish desperate for life, my inkling suspicion that, as I get older, I will become more vegetarian – poor fish. Forgotten the railings against Phil in the night where the ‘which way?’s got on his nerves and his lack of communication – the silence, the bloody silence, maybe I can’t stand it – got on mine. I had forgotten this:
Ships, giant mother-of-god ships. “Holy shit!” I have gone through this process before. The first time I encountered a barge in my life was on the Cumberland River preparing for this trip. We said to ourselves, “If we can paddle the Cumberland, we can paddle the Miss’sippi.” We were wrong, and right, in part. The Cumberland throws you a barge, a single container. She is big, yes, but only one container long and wide; sometimes two are pushed… but no more. Two containers pushed by a lonely tug. “Oh my god,” I first thought, “there’s not a way in hell we can handle these; they’re massive.” Life disagreed, the River disagreed and threw us more.
My first encounter with barges on the Mississippi: three containers wide, five deep. “Holy shit!” x 15. I was out of my mind with despair in Prescott, WI. “There is no way I can handle these,” I thought, but then I got over it and got past the locks and dams. I’m in St. Louis now. There are no restrictions: “I am a barge captain, I can stack my containers as wide and deep as I like… I have no locks to push them through. If I feel skilled I could pack them with only an inch on either side of the channel to spare; I can also pack them as deep as I want – 7, 8, 9, more. I can do this. I am a captain.”
Forty-two barges on a single load we counted. Many thirty-sixes, several twenties… no fifteens. Fifteens are babies now. “I can handle anything you throw at me, Miss’sippi,” I said aloud. “You will keep getting bigger until I stop getting scared. I am no longer scared. Throw what you will at me.”
Barges can get wider, they can get deeper. They cannot get taller. Ships can. They can get much taller. “Ten stories – that’s one-hundred feet,” Phillip said the first time we saw one of these behemoths. The Cajuns south of Baton Rouge held their catfish sucking air and shouted and whooped and said we’d be swamped (in jest, I think). We pushed on. What else were we to do? Stop? No. The Gulf. Ever the Gulf, taunting.
“Which way do you want to go?” Phil asked in response to the fear of the ship.
“I don’t know, which way do you want to go!”
“I don’t know, I’ve never handled these ships before.”
“Me neither – I don’t know what to do.”
“I don’t know what to do.”
We were arguing over who knew what to do least.
Phil and I worked out a system: hide. Go to where that ship cannot. “Do you see that anchor point over there?”
“Go to it, paddle behind it. If he wants to run us down he’ll have to skip over that concrete slab.”
“I don’t think he’ll do that.”
“No, I know!”
Now we argued over who knew the most. I was comfortable with this argument; even if I lost, I won.
Deftly, Ever Deftly
We were able to dodge ships now. (Barges were babies; forty-twos were nothing.) We felt immense. They would come barreling down the channel at 45 mph, and I would feel no sense of worry. Very liberating. Phil would implore me to move closer to shore, and he was probably right most of the time. Though I wouldn’t have died, he did save me from close calls. Thank you, Phil.
Deftly, ever deftly, we were able to shield ourselves from headwinds; navigate between that barge, that USACE unit, that ship and that dock; glide past the big corporate chemical conglomerates’ docks: Monsanto, adios; Chevron, good-bye; and Bunge, see ya later. We were men now. In the thick of industry, we were men in inflatable boats.
Where Were the People?
The people were finding us. Barges waved us over with arms and lights and fog horns. Doctor Peppers were given along with macaroni and cheese and pork and beans and Gatorade. ‘Good job!’s were given along with ‘how long you think till the gulf?’s and ‘man, I been a barge captain for 25 years and gotta give y’all credit’s. We were feeling good and riding high. We knew how to do this: you just… go.
We were hooking up to McDonalds’ outlets with our laptops and GPSs and cell phones. We were writing posts with creative flare. We were buying economic pizzas and cooking beans and instant potatoes. No day was easy, but we knew how to do it now. The Mississippi had reared us from single barge to ocean-going ship. It had reared us from stuff falling off the side of the supply boat to impeccable packing and strapping. “Nothing has fallen off the side of the boat since Lake Pepin,” I told Phil. “Humph,” he responded but knew I was right. Impeccable. The River was trying to rear us, bear us, and we were born. Hard love it was, but rear us it did.
People came in the form of reporters and short interactions with barge captains and snide teenagers on the banks: “Does the coast guard give you a hard time for being out here?”
“This is still a recreational channel,” I told the young’n.
“Yeah, but nobody does it.”
“We do,” I said pointing to my head and Phillip’s.
“Yeah, but…” Teen was angry to be wrong and whooped a weird whoop to end the conversation. He made fun of me under his breath to his tanned girlfriend. I wanted to say, “Say it to my face,” but what would be the point? We were on the river, we were almost done. People expressed their incredulity with mocks, with disbelief, with “ooooohhh buddy, y’all got duh life, don’t ya?” They did it with surprise and with anger (Phillip got a door slammed in his face when he asked for water. Ha!). New Orleans was in view, and we were almost done.
Pre-New Orleans, the gap between Louisiana’s two biggest cities, was just a slide down the kiddie slide. It happened so quick. But there was one bump, a joyous one before the kicker into the sand – Donaldsonville. Phil and I walked in tired and angry and hot and hungry. “You go to the library,” I said. “I gotta fill my medication.” On the way to the pharmacy (the GPS says there’s one so there is), I see the painting of an austere Indian on a pane window. The lettering underneath says THE CHIEF. I have no idea why I do this when my brain chemistry is screaming for Cymbalta, but I walk into the local paper. “Oh my god, hi! I saw you on the news,” the secretary says. “Oh I’d like to do a story on you,” the editor says. “Y’all want some Po’ Boys?” the only reporter says because “you can’t leave Donalsonville without tryin’ a Po’ Boy.” “I’ll drive you to Wal Mart pharmacy,” the editor also says and “I’ll put you in touch with the Advocate [Baton Rouge’s paper].” Good things happen when you’re wandering, I think. Very good things.
Leaving Donaldsonville, a group of kids runs us down, their mother in tow. “Maaaaam, maaaam, dese ah duh guys! I saw ‘em on TV, and heah dey ah!” The mother has no idea who we are, and I always feel wary of parents’ concerns for their children when I, as I will continue to be as long as I do these adventures, am the stranger. “Howdy, ma’am,” I say Texan. “We’re paddling the river, and’ll be on our way now.”
“Maaaameeeeeee!” Little Boy says, “I tol’ you I’d go to the river every day till I saw deum, an’ I dee-uhd!”
Mom is happy but wary. (They’re always wary.) We walk off as if we don’t need them, but I do… need them. Jugs of water are punching through the cheap garbage bag I brought into town to fill up. “Weeeeeeeuhl help you carry the-um!” Kids are scrapping up jugs and trinkets and laptops. “Weeeee’ll carry them, weeee’ll carry them.” They accompany us to our boats (right past the old oil pipeline, it doesn’t work anymore). I keep walking, I cannot ask Mom for anything. I cannot turn around. They need to offer; I won’t ask. I won’t be a vagrant, asking, with my hand out, wanting, needing. You want me? You ask me.
Mom is coming around now. She sees the boats, she believes the children (“By god, they were on the news… maybe.”). We get in to leave and she stops us. She wants me now; now this is different. “Wait!” she says. “Don’t leave! You gotta tell me about this journey.” We give her the short version and get in to leave. “No!” she says and “hold on” and “um, can I give y’all something?” and “I wish… I just wish I could give y’all something for the… for the…”
“No, don’t worry about that, Janet.” I set my oar across the bow.
I like this, I like feeling wanted. To feel needy is hell.
I say thank you and your boys are great and look for us in The Chief. Then, off-hand, because I love them, I comment on her Fleur de Lis necklace. It’s stunning. Real diamonds, I hope. The beautiful, beautiful Fleur de Lis.
“Oh my god!” she says, “I love fleur de leeze! I’m gonna get y’all some! Hold on!” She runs home and comes back with fleur de lis ____________ and fleur de lis ____________, fleur de lis ___________ and ___________ and _____________. It was glorious.
“Thank you,” I say. “Thank you.”
Four days later Janet wrote us to say that she saw the article, that she wishes we would have stayed longer, that her kids miss us, and that she hopes we enjoy our fleurs de lis. I certainly do. I certainly do.
Part II coming in 48 hours! We are in Oak Ridge, TN where we’ve just seen The Hitchhiking Movie on the big screen!!!! We didn’t have huge DVD sales afterwards, but 1 out of 3 people who saw the movie bought the DVD – awesome! In the next post, New Orleans, New Beginnings, Katrina becomes important, destitution becomes important and the wiping out of things – beginnings. More ships will come… of course. Headwinds, difficulty and Jeff Johnson… of course. A rowdy romp at a barge captain bar. The end is near. Hang on till the ride is over. And to answer some of you fans, OF COURSE WE GOT MORE ADVENTURES COMING!
There is no more paddling to do and things are quieter. Weird. There are no more beans to make on the riverbank, no more news crews to notify, no more fights to be had over continuing down the curve or cutting to the next bank, no more clacking of paddles, no more singing of dirty songs whether Phillip likes them or not, no more dirty water and “oh my god there’s only three inches of visibility today, theres snakes in the brush, there’s a barge coming; paddle light so you don’t splash my camera, pass me the camera for a sunset shot, I’m tired of you, thank god for you, I don’t want this to be over, I want this to be over.” No more.
Now is a small town called Empire, Louisiana. Now is the fortunate running into a man, an ultra right-wing Republican (I attract them like flies) telling me he doesn’t want to pay for my health care, but I can stay in his house; he doesn’t want Socialism, but is glad to help us because “shoot, guys, you do a trip like that, I gotta give you credit cuz, shoot, I could never do something like that, and y’all can stay in my cabin, Number 33, cuz it’s unoccupied now, and, hell, we’ll even drive you to New Orleans if you want because, shoot, that’s what you deserve… but don’t expect no handouts.”
That’s our reality now that the Mississippi River is done.
Now will be film festivals (we’re on our way to Oak Ridge on Wednesday for the Secret City Film Festival for a big-screen showing of The Hitchhiking Movie), now will be editing, fighting over which scene goes where and why, figuring out where we will live in Nashville, how I will earn money, how I will appease my adventure addiction while living in the “real world,” how we will continue to write interesting blog posts about the Go to Hell movie, our next film, which Phil will be telling you about in the next few days, how we will do… everything… and I stop.
It will be no different than the Mississippi, I think to myself. The title of our film will beThe River is Life, and this is Life. Editing will be life. Going and talking to fire-and-brimstone preachers will be life. I also want to do a train-hopping adventure I want to write about; people will want to know about that; there’s tons of new material to come; tons of things to do with the website; people will want to know what we’re doing (as long as we’re doing something interesting) and I can do that – I can do interesting things… and I can share them with our fans…I can relax. Things will be okay. What’s next won’t be barges, or cookouts, or staying in strangers’ homes (actually, that’s the one thing I hope never goes away) or lifting 300 pounds of gear into trucks, out of trucks, down levees and up embankments – rocky, smooth, muddy, clay-y or otherwise. But in a way, that’s exactly what will continue.
Life will continue; life does not stop at the Gulf of Mexico. It can’t, and Eleven Visions won’t. The River will still be there;making movies, entertaining the hell out of people is our thing, and we have blog posts to share about that. The River… has not finished; it has just become… a much larger body of water.
So What Now?
Good question. I think… this is my calling. I think I am supposed to be an explorer and commenter of life. I think travel writing is my calling; I think people enjoy it – our interactions with people, emotions, things, objects… Life again. I think my partnership with Phil – making movies – is my calling; so, we will blog about that. I think Eleven Visions is a celebration of exploration; and people will want to know how we’re exploring next. None of it… will stop.
Some things to expect are the following:
We’re making a film called Go to Hell that hopes to answer the question “How exactly does one keep from going to hell?” Our biggest adventure yet! Whereas our old adventures were about going to a place, this will be about how NOT to get to a place. How do I, Ryan Jeanes, keep from going to hell? Who’s right? The Adventists? Mormons? Presbyterians, Russians, Socialists? That’s a good question, and EVERYONE has an answer… and damned if they’re the same answer!
More travel writing – I’m going on a train-hopping excursion that I will be more than happy to write about, share videos about, show pictures about.
More tales from the insides of the editing process – You’ll see footage we’ve decided to keep in the River is Life movie, footage we’ve decided to keep out; if you stick with us, you’ll get a sneak peek, you’ll be along for the ride; the tide does not stop where the Gulf of Mexico begins; this, my friends, is only the beginning. Eleven Visions is your home if you choose to stay, and we’d love to have you. Do you take coffee in the morning?
In short, what now is more adventure in this beautiful world, more dialogue about life and what it means, more entertainment from Eleven Visions coming your way in the form of videos, audios, photos and writing. We have more, much more, to share with you. Come with us… deeper.
In a few days, Phil will give you the lowdown on our upcoming projects. I will finish off the travel writing aspects of the Mississippi River journey. Remember, we left off in Baton Rouge. Um, yeah! a whole bunch of stuff happened between here and there. Wanna know about it? K, working on it. It’s comin’ your way.
We want you to stick with us. Eleven Visions does not die with the Mississippi. It flows on into the Gulf of Life. There is more, a whole ocean to explore; and, train-hopping, giving you a sneak peek into our latest footage on both The River is Life and Go to Hell movies, and more philosophical connections with you, dear reader, on the dimensions which make up this life… are just the beginning. A new beginning… for all of us.
We’re glad you’re here. Wait for Phil’s post on the Go to Hell movie. Wait for my “just what the hell am I going to do with the English Channel?” post. Wait for our New Orleans posts, paddle-to-the-Gulf posts, celebration posts. Wait and listen. Eleven Visions has more visions in store.
There is a feeling you get after battling 20 mph headwinds all morning, after eating nothing but trail mix all day in order to meet a deadline, after getting the first glimpse of the ocean far in the distance, after paddling together without missing a stroke for nearly 10 minutes during the final stretch, after hitting that first crashing wave rolling into the shore, and after setting your paddle down in victory.
But I will be unable to accurately describe that feeling to you because you will never know it until you paddle the Mississippi River.