The River is Life Tour, a first in independent filmmaking history, will be movie makers Ryan Jeanes’ and Phillip Hullquist’s second trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River. The creative pair is “taking their show on the road” showing their epic documentary The River is Life – a fun-filled feature of their real-life adventure down the Mighty Mississippi – to audiences north and south along America’s Great River.
Jeanes and Hullquist departed in two inflatable Sea Eagle kayaks from Lake Itasca, Minnesota (the source of the Mississippi) in June of 2009 and filmed their exploits – staying in people’s homes, camping along the riverbanks, and contending with wind-swollen lakes, barge traffic, and massive boat wakes – for the entertainment of adventure lovers and seekers everywhere.
Their ninety-minute film is full of surprises. “A lot of people were amazed at how many people we met,” Jeanes says. “We couldn’t go a week without someone calling us over for a beer or for dinner or (with luck) a warm bed.”
“You’ll meet quite a funny cast of characters in this movie,” Hullquist adds, “from an over-size Kentuckian sporting his duck call to a racy Minnesota woman threatening to kill us in our sleep. Boats and barges weren’t the only things we had to defend against,” he laughs.
Jeanes and Hullquist plan to bring the same sense of fun and adventure they relished on the river to their 42-stop movie tour, where they will present their film in many of the same cities and towns they stayed in almost a year ago. “The shows will also be outdoors!” Jeanes explains. “This is a first for independent movies. We want to give people a real-life Mississippi experience, so we’ve arranged to show the movie in parks all along the banks of the Mississippi! It’s going to be a festival-like atmosphere where, if we do our jobs right, the whole family will have the time of their lives!”
The movie will debut in Minnesota where the duo started their journey. Over the course of three months they will make their way to New Orleans entreating audiences to “share in the adventure” and enjoy a heart-warming film not only about the majesty and wonder America’s most recognizable waterway but also the people that make this nation and this river so great. “It’s a family piece,” Hullquist says, “it really is. Without the people we met along the way, who shared their lives with us, this film would never have been possible. It promises to be an immensely enjoyable, immensely inspiring film.”
The River is Life Movie Tour begins August 4th and will end in New Orleans on Halloween night. To find out more information please visit theriverislife.com for a schedule and free venue kit.
In the movie Little Miss Sunshine the father, played by Greg Kinnear, is afraid of being a loser. You think, he thinks he wants to be a winner, but it’s not true. He is more fearful of being a loser than he is excited about being a winner.
You think, he thinks he wants Olive to be a winner; but, the way he goes about it is through the principle of resistance. “Just say no! Olive, to the ice cream! Resist! Look at it, but don’t touch it!” Any recovering Mormon can tell you how well that bit of wisdom works out.
Resistance is wanting. It is wanting NOT to be and not to be without. I wanted not to be without the swimming of the English Channel. Failure was not okay. I was hard driving myself and not having a good time. I was showing up to swim practice… exhausted. I was angry and surly and I just wanted this shit to be over.
I was not joyful, I was not present; I didn’t give a shit. Even if I had swum the English Chanel, even if I had stood atop the stone on Cap Gris Nez, would I have been happy? No. I would have been devastated – my worst nightmare would have come true – I would have gotten what I wanted. I would have opened a new door into the next thing I couldn’t stand to be without.
I know that doesn’t make a lot of sense to some people, but think about it: Ever hear the expression, “Be careful what you wish for; it just might come true?” How true! Had I finished the Channel, I would have gotten on the return boat to Dover; I would have felt like shit. “What’s this all for?” I would have asked myself. “Why?” “What does this mean? That I’m somehow a better person?” “What for? Why?”
There was no joy in what I was doing preparing for the Channel. It took me a long time to realize that; but, luckily I made this decision before I made it to England. At least I heeded my feelings before the big wedding day. There was no passion in the pursuit of this goal, and I didn’t realize I wasn’t going to throw in the towel until I was halfway down the Mississippi River. I knew I wanted to do the Mississippi. There was joy, there was passion. It was extremely hard, but I loved it. There was no hard-driving football coach telling me I had to succeed. I did it for me. I did it for the love. The Channel was not happening out of love; it was happening out of hate – the hate of not having, the hate of being a loser.
But can’t you swim the channel to become a winner?
No. You can’t. You can’t swim your way to success. You can’t overcome all your past failures through the swimming of a channel. I interviewed many who had swum the channel; they told me they swam it for similar reasons to my own: they were dealing with a divorce, dealing with getting older, dealing with failure of some kind. Though they were proud of their accomplishment, I could tell something was missing – they still felt like losers deep down. (Mind you! That wasn’t everyone; but you could tell on some… you could feel it.) Something still was missing. The Channel had changed a lot of things, but it didn’t change everything. And that was a problem.
“This was supposed to be my magic wand!”
“This was s’posed to be my ‘it!'”
“This was… it! The Channel was going to be my BIG accomplishment.”
Some reading this blog are Channel swimmers and they should comment appropriately. I think all of them will agree with me, however, that trying to accomplish something to prove that you don’t suck is not a very joyful way to go about life.
There will always more. What will you do next? Swim farther and farther until you can successfully fend off the loser feeling? You’ll never fend it off. You will “achieve” and achieve and achieve, and then what? Another thing will show up. Unless you are doing something for the love, your engergy can never be inexhastable. Love is the only inexhaustable energy. Something done out of love is done for its own sake.
But wasn’t the Channel a personal goal?
Greg Judge, who you will meet in The River is Life, said that paddling the Mississippi was reward enough. It was its own reward, and I couldn’t help but agree with him. Some force, some spiritual force was egging me on during the Mississippi – I had to do this even through the mosquitoes and fights and anger and pain and heat rash and sore muscles. I went on and on and on and I didn’t care because I was lovin’ it.
I wasn’t lovin’ the Channel. The more I trained the more it became apparent that it was not the right goal for me.
Shame. It would have made an awesome goal… it just wans’t my goal. And if it was, I wasn’t doing it for the love.
So what now?
On the Mississippi, Phil and I discussed the seedlings of what would grow into the Hell movie. It was exciting; it had a message I wanted to say, a story I wanted to tell. I was jazzed. I knew the road would be long and hard, but I didn’t care. It was okay. Love egged me on.
No love in the Channel. That took a while to admit. Part of me wanted to hang on, wanted to finish the goal because I said I would, but it would have cost me my sanity. I would have won the approval of some but not my own approval. Inside I still would have felt like crap, and no one would have understood. This goal, at least for now, is for someone else. Someone else out there has the dream to to swim the Channel, and they feel the same way about it as I did about the Mississippi.
Is it okay to bail on a goal?
Hell yes. Absolutely. Some will disagree but that’s okay – they have the perrogative and the right. I was listening to a radio show by Michael Neill, a success coach, who was talking about his most financially successful client. This client seemed to always have loads of money… always! Michael asked his client how he set goals. The term goal seemed foreign to the client. “Goals?” he asked. “I don’t really set them at all.”
“What?” Michael asked. “How!”
“Well, I guess I kinda do. I get together with my wife twice a year; we buy a bottle of wine and rent a really fancy hotel room and then we just daydream.”
“Yeah, I get together with my wife, and we daydream. We daydream about what we’d like our life to look like. And those dreams I guess could be called our goals. Oh, and if I realize after a while that that goal isn’t exciting for me anymore, I drop it.”
Michael was flabbergasted. “So, you change your goals?” This was completely antithetical to what he had been taught – Never! change your goals. Commit!
“Yeah,” the rich client continued, “your life is about falling deeper and deeper in love with who you are and what you’re doing. Why change that? Why persue something you don’t feel passionate about anymore?”
Amen, I thought. And amen, I affirmed to myself when I doubted whether I was doing the right thing making the decision to postpone? the Channel. Just so you know, I might do some smaller swims. The goal will be to fall in love with swimming, to swim for the right reasons. It has to be a swim where, gosh darnit, you love being out there in that water! No one to prove… anything to.
Choosing new and more passionate goals is the way, the truth and the light.
So next time you choose a goal, make sure it floats… or that it swims… to your heart.
Route 66 News (5/11/2009) – “the right balance of affability, earnestness and wit”
I already know about The Hitchhiking Movie, Ryan; just give me my tickets! (Scroll down below, enter your name and email and hit ‘Subscribe’ to get your tickets!)
That was for people who are in the know. If you ain’t in the know, keep reading:
The Hitchhiking Moviefollows the journey of Phillip Hullquist and Ryan Jeanes in their attempt to hitchhike across the entire continental U.S. (New York City to Los Angeles)… in under a week! Twenty-three strangers give the pair the only shot they’ve got of making it from coast to coast before the deadline.
A fun movie, a heart-warming movie, this is an adventure you won’t forget… and we’re giving you, fans new and old, a chance to watch it one time only for free!
This is a ticketed, one-time-only event with a limit of one hundred people, so you have to sign up fast! Scroll down to the bottom of this post, enter your name and email and hit ‘Subscribe’ to begin!
That’s Not All!
We are also offering free online chatting with the moviemakers, that is, US! (Phillip Hullquist and Ryan Jeanes) during the screening. You will be able to submit questions to both Phillip and me in real time while you chat with other moviegoers. How cool is that! A real life movie experience done over the internet! Like I said, grab your popcorn, but don’t get butter on the keyboard. 🙂
Hold on a Sec, We Want to Give You Even More Stuff!
How is that possible? Easy! When the screening ends, we’re going to offer you a special offer on The Hitchhiking Movie DVD. This is big. REAL BIG! We have an awesome deal for the DVD, so make sure you get your ticket now!
This event is going to be awesome, so don’t miss it. Tickets are available…… NOW! Sign up below to get your ticket.
One More BIIIIG Thing to Get You to Sign Up for This One-Time Event!
My buddy and pal Kelly Canull has promised that she will give a FREE ten-minute Soul Reading (click here to find out what a soul reading is) to the first 10 people who sign up for the screening. To put that in perspective, she charges a hundred bucks an hour to top-name clients for this service. People from all over the world seek her out to help them get in touch with their soul’s purpose and we’re going to give it to you FREE if you’re one of the first 10 people to sign up below.
Just put your name and email in the form below and you’re good to go. She has also promised a FREE mp3 (a $97 value) for EVERYONE who signs up below. What have you got to lose? How much more free stuff can you take?
Put in your name and email below to be a part of an amazing, one-time online event. This is our thank you to you.
Don’t forget to click Subscribe, and we’ll see you at the movies!
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.
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.
Nashville, TN — September 24, 2009 — Nashville based filmmakers Ryan Jeanes and Phillip Hullquist are premiering their first feature film The Hitchhiking Movie on October 9th at the Secret City Film Festival in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The movie follows the pair’s attempt to cross the entire continental United States in less than a week, using nothing more than their thumbs.
“After over a year of work on this project, we can finally see The Hitchhiking Movie play on the big screen,” said Hullquist, who also served as editor for the film, which is already receiving positive reviews and press. First time filmmakers often times get bogged down in the overwhelming amount of work involved in actually completing a movie, but as Jeanes explains, “The real work is done in the editing room. Successfully filming our hitchhiking adventure was an accomplishment, but I was more excited when we had the finished product. The positive reviews have just made the experience sweeter.”
“Before we left for the trip, people told us we’d be stabbed or murdered,” Jeanes says. “Very heartening.” The 101-minute feature film chronicles the filmmaking duo’s experiences as 23 complete strangers stop on the side of the road and take them from New York City towards Los Angeles. (You will have to watch the film to see if they actually make it.) “I had already bought two return tickets from L.A.” Jeanes continues. “We had to make it or we’d miss the flight back.”
The pair created the website11visions.com which not only sells their DVD but also highlights their current adventures which include a kayaking trip down the entire length of the Mississippi River. Adventure travel seems to be their mainstay, but as Jeanes explains, “I think many people have the desire to leave their current existence and do something crazy. Where most people stop at that impulse, we actually go do it and get it on film.”
The Hitchhiking Movie is funny, insightful and full of unexpected surprises. Hullquist explains, “I was a one-man crew with no script, so it was challenging to set up the shots we needed to make the film. We wanted to capture the realism of being like any other hitchhiker on the road, so our camera gear was kept to a minimum.”
What about the danger? “That’s what we wanted to dispel,” Hullquist says. “This is a realistic portrayal of hitchhiking unlike what you see in your average horror movie.” ”There’s no blood and guts,” Jeanes adds. “The only real fear was whether we could make it before the deadline.”
Entertaining scenarios abound in this documentary: A hysterical yet attractive young woman offers to drive them all the way from New Jersey to Los Angeles, a Seminole Indian entreats them to smoke his prayer pipe, a rowdy, one-eyed construction worker instructs on the basics of train hopping, and the pair finds themselves desperate in Denver with over 1000 miles to travel and less than 48 hours in which to do it. If a real life adventure is your thing, this film is for you.
“A lot of people probably aren’t going to finish watching the movie and then go stick their thumbs out on the side of the road,” Jeanes points out. “The beauty is that The Hitchhiking Movie is for both the armchair and active adventurer. You can share in the fun without ever leaving your house.”
But Jeanes and Hullquist aren’t stopping there. Just two months after the DVD release of The Hitchhiking Movie, photography for their next film began in Minnesota. Their new film is titled The River is Life, and it tells the story of people they meet while paddling down the entire Mississippi River. A third documentary, a lighthearted exploration of heaven, hell and the idiosyncrasies of religion, is also in the works.
Tickets for The Hitchhiking Movie as well as more information about the festival are available at www.secretcityfilms.com. To purchase a DVD for home viewing go to www.hitchhikingmovie.com, or visit the parent website www.11visions.com. The film is available in streaming video and DVD which includes bonus scenes, an audio commentary from the crew as well as a special “drunk commentary.”
OK, so this kayaker walks into a bar and comes out with 67 bucks, a foot massage, Neosporin, a captain’s hat and 789 pounds of goodwill and wellwishes. Waiting for the punchline? There isn’t one. This isn’t a joke; this actually happened. After the debacle on Lake Pepin (How many lake debacles can we have! Should 11 Visions make sure they avoid lakes altogether??? We report, the wind decides.) I pulled into Slippery’s, a riverside bar in Wabasha, MN. (Slippery’s is mentioned in the movie Grumpy Old Men; check out Scene 27.) My bow is barely 10 feet from the dock when a guy walks up. “Welcome to Wabasha!” he bellows. Before I know it he has my front rope tied to a hitch, my back rope tied to a hitch, has read War and Peace, and found the cure for death.
No, this guy was a whirlwind. He came out of nowhere. “Uhhh, do you greet everyone who comes into Wabasha?” I ask.
“I do my besht [sic].”
“Wow! What service!” I assumed this guy just worked at Slippery’s. Not so.
“Well, my name is David Schmidt; I’m the shity [sic] manager.”
“Ooooooooohh, you can’t be that bad,” I reply. He looks at me cockeyed.
“Well thersh bathroomsh over there; you can camp in that plashe over there. Aaaaand if the copsh give you any trouble just tell them David Schmidt, the shity manager shaid it wash OK.” Crap, mother freaking A, this guy has a cleft palate! I’m a moron.
“Oh, great, David, thank you,” I say feeling like a tool for the “you can’t be that bad” comment. I really thought he was the manager of Slippery’s and that he had joked by saying, “I’m the shitty manager.” He said, “I’m the city manager!” Ryan’s first act in the city of Wabasha: Accidentally insult the mayor.
A Soldier’s Story
I thanked David and looked at my surroundings. My things were still wet from the boat dumping. I didn’t have time to check them out fully at the marina, but now it was apparent that the situation was worse than I had anticipated. I opened my clothing bag. Sopping!!!! I mean they were soaked to the bone, er, thread. My big, green Gregory pack was sopped. My food bag was fully infiltrated by H2O molecules. And my tent looked like a wet canole. Unnnnncoooool, I thought. To be honest, however, I was still in a great mood. I mean just to be on the Mississippi, to have to have dealt with a situation like your boat tipping over was… new. I never had to deal with something like that before. It was exhilirating. Draping your feet over the dock and taking stock of your supplies – gains, losses, salvageables, unsalvageables… it made me feel like a great explorer! I was king of the world, in control of my destiny. I had survived a boat capsizing. I was head of the expedition: “What decision shall we make, gents! Tally hoooooooo!” Exhilirating.
And yet the cold hard reality of just what I was going to do with all this wet stuff was, uh, not so exhilirating. This, my friends (heh, channeled McCain for a second), is the flip side of traveling, of adventuring: It’s not all tea and biscuits. There is a lot, a lot of work to do to make your dream come true. Right now, getting my stuff dry and figuring out if I would have power (My marine battery was completely submerged.) was paramount.
“Whatcha doin’?” a lady asked me. I looked around. I guess I was kinda causing a scene. The entire row of outside tables perpendicular to the dock was watching me. (Wasn’t really anything else to watch!)
“I’m running for president. Ma’am, are you satisfied with health care in this country?”
“Ha ha ha, funny. Really!”
“What, a man can’t paddle from town to town running for president?”
“Not if the side of his boat says MINNESOTA TO LOUISIANA ON THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER.”
“Excellent point, madam. I am… paddling from Minnesota to Louisiana on the Mississippi River.”
She laughed again. I gave her a business card.
“Whatcha doin’?” another woman asked. More banter. My stock response usually goes something like this: “I’m making a documentary as I paddle the Mississippi River meeting interesting people and having amazing experiences.” Then I turn the camera on and see if they’re camera shy.
A third man walks up. If you ask me what I’m doin’, I’m throwin’ you in the lake! “Whatcha doin’?” Uhhhhh, this guy could kick my ass; nevermind.
“I’m raping goats…” (Okay, you know that’s not what I said. :))
“Reeeally!” This guy was excited. I could see it in his face. He had a steely reserve, however, that contained it all. I couldn’t quite place it. He was… held together by something, some sort of disciplined use of his face that didn’t let emotions come out full force. I took a shot in the dark:
“You in the military?”
“Yeah! How’d you know?” Because I’m an important person; didn’t you read my 2nd to last post!!!
“Yeah, I’m deploying for Iraq in two days.” Woah. Holy crap. You know that feeling you get when someone farts in the room? The room goes silent. There is this pause. Something has happened. And everyone is still trying to figure out just how to react to it – like when someone screams at the top of their lungs in the kitchen. We think our reactions happen instantaneously, but they don’t. You feel a dud, the slightest drum beat, and then you react. This was a long drum beat. “I’m going to Iraq in two days.” The room was silent. I fell silent and felt a thump in my chest. I felt so, so alone. I think I felt… what he was going to feel… over there. “Yes,” he continued, “my wife is here and I’m on a leave of absense. It’s neat that I ran into you here. We’re going back home today, and I haven’t seen much of anything interesting in Wabasha. This is interesting!” I’m interesting??? Me??? What I’m doing???What the… I felt like a fraud. Here I am, I dunno, going down a river, and this guy is deploying to Iraq. This guy is putting his life on the line for me. I didn’t know what to feel. Whether or not you agreed (agree) with the war is another story; but, this guy was going… in two days! My heart stopped.
“I don’t know what to say, my friend,” I said. I didn’t. All I could do was try to conjure up as much honesty as I could. “But I want you to know that I’ll be praying for you.” Hold on…. I just prayed. I implore each and every one of you reading this to pray for our comrade. Please. If you don’t know how, a silent thought of safety will do. Dear sir, may you be well. Amen. We talked for a bit. He was still being reserved. I thought, I don’t know, but I thought it was fear I saw behind all that controlled facial movement. His wife came up, and then, I knew the source of the fear – wife, kids, babies. “Hello,” I offered. “Hello,” she said. She was reserved. Not like her husband. Her reservation was one of disinterest. Our soldier’s reservation was controlled emotion. He really was excited about what I was doing, but had trained (had been trained?) not to show it. Maybe his wife knew she wouldn’t see her husband in a while, maybe she had disconnected completely from this reality; but, she seemed none too happy to see me or see her husband happy to see me. Maybe she knew this would remind him of what he would miss – good times, going down the river, adventure, the life you and I get to experience each day. He was walking into hell, and maybe she didn’t want him to think about what he would be missing… over there.
He had been serving in the Army Reserves in Wisconsin. I don’t know if he ever thought he’d be called up. But he was; and, as I type he’s probably in the Middle East right now. Fear, heart stops, I feel, alone. Dear sir, I pray for you again.
With the wife there, the conversation turned more businesslike. I thought about my brother, Jeff, when he deployed to Afghanistan. My father (one of two) was sitting at the dinner table and told us the news. “Jeff is being sent to Afghanistan,” he said and started to cry. I started to cry but held it back. I tried, much as this man was doing, to keep it in the box. “I just,” my stepfather continued, “want him to be safe… and…” He didn’t finish the sentence. How could one? There’s nothing to say. There is only sadness to feel: sadness over war, sadness over the situation. And that is what I felt for this man. I didn’t want him to go, but go he was. His wife, I concluded, handled this by remaining stoic: “Oh well, you know, these things happen. He’ll be back. Well I mean, hes’ got to; he’s got a lot of stuff to fix around the house. C’mon honey. This River Guy is boring.”
I wished that the interaction could have gone on all night. I wished that by some sort of connective power I could make this guy stay so he wouldn’t have to go off to fight. Again, I don’t know which way your political wind blows, but I think we can all agree that this man has a family; and, if there is going to be a war, it had better be for a good reason. I know my brother has one… a family.
He left. I was filming him. It’s odd being a camera man. You’re being so much, feeling so much, and yet you want others to know what the experience was like, so you film them. You try to capture their pain, their fear while trying not to intrude. It’s a balancing act. I hope I did the right thing. I hope he knows he’s doing the right thing. I don’t know where you are, sir, but please come back alive. We all want you here. I don’t know you, and the people reading this blog dont’ know you; but, I can say with certainty that we all want you here. Please return.
Footrubs and a Wad of Cash
More and more people were coming up to me: “Can I ask what you’re doing? Can I ask what you’re doing?” I was happy to tell them. It was great. It just got monotonous in terms of saying the same thing over and over; but, that’s the price of fame :). Another woman walked over. She was portly and had a jovial smile. Have you ever met these people that have this… radiance??? I mean it’s amazing. I could tell this woman was healthy and strong. Her eyes were deep blue, and they focused intently and relaxedly at the same time. “You have some things you need to release,” she said. Oooooohhh no, another success guru! For those of you who don’t know, I have been through every self-help course on the market. I’ve done Avatar, Field Center, read so many self-help books you could light them all on fire and sometime next spring THEY’D STILL BE BURNING!… I mean I’ve had it with releasing, discreating, forgiving, yadda-yadda-yadda-if-you-only-had-this-one-technique-you’d-solve-all-your-problems-ing. But she was different. She was present with me. She didn’t have an agenda. “I’m a reflexologist,” she said. “I’m going to give you a foot rub. Give me the right one,” she ordered. F-in’ cool. I just had my boat turn completely over in front of my eyes. I think I deserve a hot super model feeding me grapes, but a foot rub will do too. It was awesome – best footrub of my life! “How much do you usually charge for this?” I asked.
“‘Bout 90 bucks.”
“An hour. Of course. And how much, Missssssss…”
“…Miss Jody, will I be charged?” I smiled.
“Naaathing.” She laughed. “Ryan,” she said. “You need a spiritual guide. I want to be that for you. I am here to be here for you. This was not an accident – you ending up on this beach. This whole interaction is divine. This is quite amazing, don’t you think?”
“Yes,” I replied. I stared deep into her eyes. Oooooh, that’s a tender spot, I thought.
“This spot?” she asked.
What the… How the hell did she hear…
“Look this part of the foot is the spleen – you hold anger there… You need to release it; you really do.”
She stayed and chatted with me a while, telling me what I should do when my shoulders start hurting. “You can’t always rub your back,” she said, “but you can rub the part of your hand corresponding to the back.” I don’t know if this mumbo jumbo works, but I can tell you when she finished I felt phenomenal. Thank you, Jody. I’ll call you soon. We all need guides, not just on the river.
About 17 more people came up to me during my time on Slippery’s dock. Slippery Dippery Dock! I was getting annoyed. Dude! I thought, I got to get out of here! I was about to push off when one of the hottest women I’ve seen in my life came up to me. She was burnt-toast tan in a white bikini. In the words of Ali G, “Me had a semi lub on.”
“Whatreyoudoing!” she asked.
“I’m paddling down the Mississippi making a documentary,” I replied.
“That’s so cool!”
“You’re cool!” I touched her shoulder. She responded positively and took my hand.
“You’ve got to meet my husband!” Crrrrrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaappppppppp!
Her husband was a meathead. That’s all I’m going to say. She jumped onto a super expensive boat that her friend and his girlfriend were piloting. She sprang back to the dock with something in her hand and grabbed my hand for stability. F-ing meathead. “Put this on!” she shouted.
What the hell is this? It was a captain’s hat. A cheap immitation with a plastic adjustible back but still a captain’s hat. I was flattered. She boarded the boat once again with Captain Meat for Meat. “Duuuuh, me have hot wife; me rub two sticks together to make pennies fall from skyyyy, duuuuuuhhhh.” As they pulled away from the dock, I put the captain’s hat on, and they all cheered. This, cheering, was a bad idea: they took their eyes off the water and ran into a sandbar. I thought it was funny. I’m keeping the damn hat, Meathead… humph.
It looked finally like I was going to pull away from Slippery’s. All of a sudden, the wind picked up. Like by 10 miles an hour! Crap, I thought, I need to bust the sail out! So I did. I got it all set up. When it was time, however, to bungee the mast (my 2nd oar) in place, I decided to use the new bungee cord Justin gave me. I wrapped it around the mast twice and let it loose. The mast bent down all the way level with the dock. This isn’t good. Now people were watching. I had a damn reputation to keep in tact. The whole bar by now knew me as River Guy Going down Mississippi. I was a damn expert. I couldn’t look like a tool, or it would shatter the illusion. I tried wrapping the bungee cord around the mast a third time. This just made the mast bend the other way. Fuuuuuuudge balls. I really am looking stupid. I don’t know if you’ve ever played golf, but I have. When I go to the driving range, I swear to Holy Jesus I can drive that ball straight up the middle 260 yards with no problem. Any club I choose, my ball is going 90 per cent of the time straight down the fairway. When I play on an actual course though???? It’s another story. The eyes are on you. What if I eff this up? There are obstacles on an actual course!: a sandbar there, a lake over there; now you’ve got to hit it straight!And when you have to do something, you experience what is known as pressure. And boy was the pressure on tonight! My mast was not sticking up straight. I tried 7 different combinations – nothing. I tried tightening the sail to the grommets in different combinations. Nothing. I tried to remain calm. Even great explorers had to troubleshoot, I thought. So I did my best to treat this problem like a great explorer would – I kept my cool and looked for different solutions. I could feel the eyes on me. Is he going to F this up? they were thinking. Oh my god, this guy has no clue! another thought. Does he even know how to sail?Oh my god, that guy looks like Tom Hanks! This last one is a strong possibility though not provable.
Finally I grabbed a shorter (but damaged) bungee. I really didn’t want to use this one, but we’ve got to get out of here while I still have some shred of dignity, I thought. The shorter bungee did the trick, and the sail stayed upright. I sat down in the boat. A man who had helped me locate a needle to get a splinter out of my heel came up to me (Hey Cap. Bob!). “What! You ready?” he asked. “Hell, I hope so,” I replied. I turned the boat around. More and more people ran up asking for business cards. “Hell, this guy might actually get out of here,” they thought. The wind was blowing the sail into my face. I still looked stupid. I’m going to show these MFers though, I thought. I made a hard right turn digging my left oar over and over into the river, aaaaaaaand FLAP!! The wind popped that sail out full bellow! It popped it so hard the metal clip I was using to furl the sail was flung into the river. With the 11 Visions Viking Sail in full force, the crowd started to cheer. He did it, they thought. He really did it. I can’t believe it. “Shit, I just lost fifty bucks… double or nothing, Jerry??”
I waved back to everyone. I really did feel embarassed. I mean I did look like a dufus with that mast hemming and hawing all over the place. But I did keep my cool and I did hold out for the sweet revenge on the non-believers. “Oh ye of little knowlege of jerry-rigged sails!” I let the sail out full. I’m not supposed to do this because it obstructs my vision, but I couldn’t help it. I felt so good. During my stay at Slippery’s, I made 67 bucks! No, not that way! Get a sense of humor! I made it by people giving it to me. They kept giving it to me over and over. I couldn’t believe it when I counted it, but sure as the day is long – 67 dollars cash. What were they giving it to me for? I wasn’t asking for it. They just sort of heard about my plan and felt inspired. I’m inspiring people, I thought. People are seeing in me what they would like to be doing. Money was their way of saying, “Go get ’em tiger. Dont’ just win it for you; win it for us; win it for the me I would like to be too.” That made me feel good. I have felt, and still feel, that this journey, if successfully completed, is not just my success; it is everyone’s who has helped me success as well. It is your who are reading this blog success as well. We’re all in this together. Thanks for coming along. Now if you have any caaaashhhh you want to send my way…
I’m going to share a funny story that took place over the first couple weeks of our paddling trip. After you finish reading it, please take a moment to vote for us at the link below. We will love you forever!
Before leaving on our Mississippi River trip, Ryan bought a warm weather “sleep sack” to use while we camped nightly along the river. After all, it was summertime and the daytime temperature was in the 70s and 80s.
I was smarter and brought a quality 15 degree sleeping. So here’s how it went down: It turns out that Minnesota (where the Mississippi River begins) is really cold at night–even during the summertime! While Ryan froze in the night air which often dropped into the low 40s, I was toasty warm and sometimes even hot. I often bragged about this fact to poor Ryan while he shivered around the morning fire.
See, Ryan is a city boy from Texas and he doesn’t know the first thing about cold weather. I’m a country boy from New York state where we regularly see winter temperatures well below zero. I think it would be absolutely hilarious for Ryan and myself to blog from the coldest place on earth. Of course, I’ll remind him to buy a better sleeping bag first!
So basically how it works is that if we get the most votes, we’ll get a free trip to Antarctica! Please vote for me and I’ll force Ryan to come along and discover how really cold weather feels. Don’t worry…he’ll love it!!!
“Lake Winnie is a bitch today,” Phillip says. He shouldn’t say this; no one should. But everyone does. Everyone uses swear words, and the people that don’t use them use euphemisms. Phillip told me that at a Seventh-day Adventist university he attended, the students would not say “oh shit.” They would say “oh dip!”
“Dip?” I asked.
“Yes,” Phillip responded. “Oh dip!”
“Well…” I scratched my forehead. “Aren’t you thinking ‘shit?'”
“Yes, of course. But you don’t say that. You say ‘dip.'”
There is now a hole in my forehead from the scratching. “Okay okay okay okay. So you are thinking ‘shit.’ Your intention is really to say ‘shit.’ But you somehow force that word through a series of indoctrinated tubes in your brain until it comes out a nice, neat and sterile ‘dip?'”
“Yes. What part of ‘final answer’ do you not understand?”
“No. I understand. It’s just that… I don’t understand.”
I was trained in Method acting. Method acting, among other things, aims to take those same tubes that forced Phillip to say ‘dip,’ and rip them out. “Rip them out!” my Method teacher would say. “You don’t need them! To be an actor, you need to be less trained, less thinking, less filter, less worrrry, less everything. No filter! No restraint! Let it out!” If you think I cuss too much in these posts, you should have sat in on one of the many Method classes I attended. Not only I but all members would be engaging in a sort of ritualistic bliss of non-repression: blasphemies against God, blasphemies against our parents, every single person who’d ever done you wrong got an earful (though you were really just imagining them and talking to the wall), people shouting, screaming, makeouts, pillows thrown; one dude even punched a wall (though that is an extreme no no; you’re supposed to show some restraint). When you see an actor and they are breaking down crying in front of the camera and you say to yourself, “Gee, that seems so believable. How does he do that? I mean it really looks like he’s crying over his dead mother!” Well, how do you think he does it??? It’s hard. It’s hard to train your body to get to the point where it can respond like that to a script. When Robert DeNiro is cyring over Joe Pesci getting shot in Good Fellas, he’s probably not crying over Joe Pesci. He’s crying over someone else in his life who he loves and who he imagines has died, or gotten in a horrible accident, or been deformed or whatever makes him cry. It takes some training. It takes some removal of filters. Most of us walk around in life with our filters firmly in place. The movie where Rin Tin Tin dies makes the child in us cry, but we have a filter in place now. We have some blockage. We remember perhaps our father who didn’t like watching little boys cry. “Don’t cry!” he shouted because his father did the same to him. Emotions were a bad thing. Hell, it could hearken back to the days where we had to hunt animals to survive. If you were tracking a deer through the brush and stepped on a sharp stick with your bare feet, you couldn’t cry; you couldn’t show any pain, or the animal would hear you and escape. This male-fabricated non-showing of emotions had its place in one context, but has now survived in the modern era without a true place. My food will not escape if I cry, but Dad will certainly get mad. There is a consequence to crying and being a boy at the same time. We’ve got it. We’ve placed the tube in our brains. The filter is formed. The blockage is formed: I don’t let out what I think and feel. Society is content – I am more manageable this way.
My training in lack of restraint is added to the fact that the Sedams (my mom’s side of the family) are crazy and have no problem letting all their emotions and neroses out all over their dinner plates. Then my mom married a guy who was even more emotional than her. Holy crap! I mean, I had an extra helping of non-filter and lack of social restraint heaped all over my salad. I was a kid, I was hungry, I ate it up!
Contrast this, of course, with Phillip who grew up in a nice, neat Adventist household. “Dip!” was punishible by death. “Only college kids say words like that, Phillip,” his mom told him. Scold, scold, scold. The two extremes. The two upbringings have come to a head.
So here we have my social programming: More, more, more! Say more, don’t hold back! Say f— if you mean f—! (See, I showed some restraint there; getting better, am I?) And we have Phillip’s programming: Swear to Holy Jesus this is a true story: His parents would edit his children’s books with a black Sharpie. They deleted an entire scene one time where the child said he was angry at his parents. Like I said, extremes!
After I wrote the Thy Bounty post, Phillip called me. “It’s a little much,” he said. “What do you mean?” I replied.
“Well, I don’t know about you, but postulating what it would be like to throw an old woman off the roof of her house might be a little much for our readers.”
“Well, I wasn’t really going to throw her off the roof. That’s just how mad she had made me. Everyone has gotten so mad they’ve wanted to kill someone. They just don’t do it. I go on and on about not having a filter, but I have one obviously. I mean, c’mon, people can identify.”
“Yes, but not everyone is as comfortable as you with these types of thoughts. Some people think those thoughts are… wrong.”
“Dude, I didn’t put the thoughts there! God did! Someone did! I don’t know, Harry Potter did for all I know. I just think it’s funny that I was so mad at her antics.”
“It is funny.”
“Well, I find it funny, but some of our readers aren’t comfortable with finding it funny.”
“But it is funny!”
“I know, but it shouldn’t be.”
“But it is!”
“Just… can you please not say fuck more than 67 times in a single post.”
Despite Phillip’s filters, he cursed loud and clear that late June day, the day we tried to cross Lake Winnibigoshish. “Winni is a bitch today,” he says mid-paddle stroke. OOOOOOOOHHHH, you dun cursed, you goin’ straight to hailllllll! I think this but I have no time to respond. I have no time to be funny, to cut up or sound off. I am in mid-paddle stroke myself, and I am in pain. Yesterday was a blast. After our brush with death at the dam on Cass Lake, the next day held nothing but sunlight and warmth and beautiful tailwinds from our Lord Jesus Christ, Buddha, Vishnu, or whoever was in charge of the wind that day. I personally am praying to whichever one serves up the best weather as I depart from Prescott, Wisconsin tomorrow! and head towards the Iowa border. (Guys, for real, if this offends you, lighten up, please. I attend church regularly; simultaneously, I believe it is important to maintain a spirit of levity even with issues such as religion. I think if we all lightened up a little bit, we’d get more done, get along better, and have a much better time in life.
Life is too important to be taken seriously. – Oscar Wilde
I guess the only problem with quoting Oscar Wilde was that he was a dirty sodomite who is, unfortunately for him and other gays, burning in the fiery pits of hell. See, I’ve offended the gays now, so we’re all square! Seriously, this blog, this life and this adventure is about fun. I hope you’re having a good time and please believe that all this stuff, ALL THIS STUFF is to be taken with a grain of salt… or cocaine.)
Jeez, okay, back to the story and stuff: The weather between our Cass Lake ordeal and our Lake Winnie ordeal was amazing – 20 mph tailwind, beautiful sun that dried our clothes; me thinks I did hear the god Zeus laugh upon us from on high!
It was glorious. That day Phillip turned to me and was all smiles: “I have exerted little to no effort this day.” “Me neither,” I said. We toasted paddles and drank our fill of goodness. This day was definitely, definitely good.
The Next Day Was Definitely, Definitely Bad
Still on the good day, Phil studied the map and listened carefully to the weather report. “K, I’ve got it,” he said. “We are going to have a north wind from hell tomorrow. If we can paddle as far as we can up along the western Winnie coast, we should have an easier time tomorrow. The wind may blow us pretty far south, but if we fanagle it right, we should be able to ride the wind, in part at least, to our waypoint.” “Sounds good to me!” I said. Phil’s plan was solid. Despite what happened tomorrow, I can’t think of any other way a responsible person would have planned it. His reasoning was sound, his plan was sound, I agreed with him; Mother Nature had other plans.
We had paddled that night just south of Sugar Lake, a smaller but goodly sized sub-lake of Winnibigosh. If a scriptwriter had wished to give our upcoming ordeal a fantastical brush of foreboding, she could not have chosen a better conceit than the one Mother Nature was able to provide: f—ing, dashing, bad-word-ing MUSKEETOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Holy crap; we found the Eden of mosquitoes! I mean this was the birthplace; this is where Mosquito Adam and Mosquito Eve birthed their first evil offspring. This was it! This was Valhalla! This was the multinational mosquito mega-factory for all of planet Earth. The great, giant Mother Mosquito ordered her minions to bring her wine and cheese as she cranked millions of blood-sucking babies out of her unholy… okay, Mom, okay… I’m trying here, I really am… 🙂
The point is there were a lot of these egg suckers, and they didn’t want eggs; they wanted an espresso shot of my DNA (and they really liked Phillip flavor too) and they wanted it now. I walked on shore. The sun was going down. Phillip looked over our possible campsite. It was littered with shells mussel shells. Strange nets were set up 10 feet from shore in the water. I had no idea what they were for but assumed they were for channeling mussels to shore where fisherman ripped their soft bodies out of their protective chassis and sold the meat to the highest bidder. Right now I was the meat, and godless, sanguinity-craving bugs with their godless, sanguinity-craving muzzles were looking for ripe, hairless flesh. “This is good,” Phillip says. “It’s full of skeeters,” I reply.
“Yes but, the next spot would be across Sugar Lake, and it’s getting dark. This place is flat, there’s plenty of firewood…” He slaps himself. There is a small cloud descending around him, and it’s not mist. (Slap!) I look up. There is a big cloud not 10 feet above us, and it’s not smog. Smog I would welcome. Give me good ‘ol Houston, L.A. or even Mexico City smog at this moment (1985 with a touch of gasahol, mmmmmmmmmm); but do not give me these. The cloud is grey, and you can make out the fading color of blue arcing up into the firmament. They are buzzing, they are many, they are legion. “Uhhhhhhhhhhh,” I say, “remember the bug highway we say at Lake Itasca?” “Yeah,” Phil responds.
“You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
Phil looks up. The look of fear and dread on his face was classic. Downturned jowls, the red of his eyes expanded, his nose flared and dropped… yeah, that’s dread all right. “Okay,” hey says, “lets get the fire going.”
“We’re staying here?”
“Yeah.” He grabs some alcohol from the stuff-pouch attached to his back seat. It’ll start the fire quicker.
“Well… I mean look at this place.”
“You got any better ideas?”
“We keep paddling.”
Phillip looked at the map. He showed me definitively that we were on the very edge of public land. Further north on Lake Winnie it was private. Private land could mean unhappy owners toting unhappy guns. Private owners could also mean happy showers and happy playing fetch with their dogs. Were we willing to risk it?
I’m being eaten alive. Phillip seems to have not even considered my dissent and goes about busily setting up the fire: small twigs, bigger twigs, small sticks, bigger sticks, and finally small logs to… you get the idea. He’s getting them formed in nice neat piles; I’m standing there looking like a lanky Alfalfa from The Little Rascals scratching my head in dismay; I have no idea what to do. Phil has already made his decision, and I don’t have any good arguments; I can’t guarantee, after all, that if we paddle farther north we’ll find a good campsite or that we’ll be welcomed with open arms by potentially angry private land owners. F—ing capitalism with your private land!!!
“Okay,” I say, “this is good.” I help him gather wood. Phil and I have divided into roles when it comes to building a fire. I’m the starter, he’s the gatherer. This happened organically. When we camped out in Arkansas in preparation for this trip, Phil took a stab at starting a fire all by his lonesome. He put the dry grass down – good. He put the small twigs over the grass – very good. This is the point where I would light the grass and add or remove smaller twigs as needed to maintain the flame. I’m very slow in getting the conflagration going but I’m precise. I take my time, and you will have a fire. In the end, it’s probably faster because I don’t skip steps and never move on to bigger logs until there’s enough energy in the present fire to burn them. Phil has decided to keep adding more. He piles on big logs now. “What are you doing?” I ask.
“Just let me do it my way.”
“Okay, but if you want my personal opinon…”
“Which I don’t.”
He glares. I go away and look busy. Long story short (I love this phrase): Phil has got that fire stacked nice and high. His theory was that if you light the grass, the whole rest of the wood pyramid will go up in tandem, kinda like a controlled demolition with each level of the building exploding in horizontal precision. He lights it. It’s kinda like Casey at the Bat:
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go, And now Phillip holds the match, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow. And now the mosquitoes’ hopes are shattered by the possibility of the fire’s glow
Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright; Oh, somewhere in this Redneck Utopia the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light, Robert Earl Keen is playing somewhere, and somewhere beer is turned upright,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout; And somewhere men (and hopefully women) are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville – mighty Casey has struck out. But there is no joy in Arkansas – mighty Phillip’s fire has blown out.
Phillip lit the match, and the grass did indeed burn. It licked the smaller twigs above it but was smothered by the larger ones a level higher. “This should go up like a Christmas tree,” he contested. “Should,” I said, “but didn’t.” I felt gleefully self-satisfied. Phillip and I take turns feeling self-satisfied at the other’s demise. His latest was probably my being wrong about him buying so much food in Bemidji before we departed. “You don’t need to buy that much food,” I contended. “We’re going to be back here in two days.”
“Yeah but the Wal Mart will be 3 miles from where we tie up the boats; you want to walk it?”
“Sheesh. I’ll walk it; I’m not a pussy like you.”
“K. I’m getting all this food. We don’t know when we’ll be back in Bemidji.”
Turns out he was right. Extremely right. We had one can of beans left by the time we got to Bemidji, and I was so tired I had no desire to walk one mile, let alone three miles to even a party of naked girls titled Ryan’s Intercourse Wonderland. Truth is Phillip is right about logistical matters such as these at least 60 per cent of the time. Not 100! He thinks he’s right all the time; but, he’s not. I’ll point out a few later. For now, it was probably the most hilarious think I have ever seen watching him light that brush expecting World War III and seeing his flicker be dashed into a whimpering coal of nothingness. “I don’t get it,” he scratched his head. “You wanna try?”
OOOOOOOOOhhhhhhh. I’d be glad to do something logistical and technical better than you. Then I can hold it over your head for the rest of eternity! I had the fire going quickly and we roasted marshmallows. I went to gather wood. I came back. “I can’t really find any wood,” I said. Phillip was snug in his fold out chair. “What do you mean,” he asked, ‘you can’t find any wood?”
“I dunno,” I stammered. “It’s just not there.” Phillip groaned and got up. He foraged in the blackness for five minutes and came back with piles of wood. “Not bad for no wood.” Bastard.
Because we could, we divided into roles when it comes to building the fire. He gathers, I start. When it’s started, I work on my gathering skills. Phil roasts more marshmallows. It was a great system, until Phil left. I will tell you, however, I am not the firewood gathering god that Phil is yet; but, after I camped on Cloquet Island, I did well, I tell you, well.
I’ll have to end the post here, because Allegra is taking me to Hastings, MN, and I am departing for the Iowa border todayyyyyy! Wish me luck, send me a text message: (512) 828-2471, and I’ll be on the river having to contend now with…
a wider, deeper river
more pleasure boaters not worried about NO WAKE signs
a different state!!!!! I will be paddling down the Wisconsin/Minnesota border
Yeah me! Yeah us! Yeah God! Yeah life! You ready for some more adventure? I’m ready to give it to ya. I’m ready for a brand new river. A newer river with…
5. locks and dams!!!! That’s right we’ve got locks to go through now! I’ll send pictures!
It’ll be a different adventure now as I pull out of Northern Minnesota. It’ll be amazing. I can’t wait. I have no idea what’s going to happen or what it’s going to be like, and neither do you… Let’s explore it together!