Sunday, June 22, 2008
A stay at home weekend
Spending a weekend in the city is not a practice I'm known for. People seem to be at a loss when they ask what I'm up to for the weekend and I tell them I'm staying put. Actually No1 son drove up from Madison, WI on Friday and 2ndLtO flies in from Brooklyn after two weeks at Ft Drum, playing with the 10th Mountain Division. He will no doubt, as my friend TheWoodenOne wrote me after finishing an army helicopter training course out east, "be ready for a damn good blowout". The blowout will be this afternoon at the wedding reception of a friend that both guys played with in the sandbox before any of them could form a cogent sentence. Many good friends will be crawling out of the woodwork for this one.
But before that No1 son and I had a day and a half to fill. I attended an abortive professional event Friday night that was supposed to feature lawn bowling at a joint called Brits Pub in downtown Minnneapolis. Its a wonderful venue with a rooftop lawn bowling pitch. Unfortunately, its a difficult place to patronize and I was forced to relocate a work event that I hosted there to a much more congenial and competent pub called The Local, when Brits seemed completely unable to perform that most simple and necessary function for a successful bar business: keeping the customers drinks filled. A thunderstorm soaked the pitch and they were completely incapable of jockeying the reservations around so everyone would have a chance to bowl. The main problem was what you see in the photo; no one bowling. Don't ask me why. No1 son rolled in around 10pm and we adjourned to a place that excels at keeping ones pint glass filled, Barley Johns Brewpub.
The next morning featured a long bike ride and the kind of breakfast where you can actually feel your arteries clogging up as you dine. Minneapolis is becoming more and more bicycle friendly which pleases No1 son, who is both in the bike business and practices what he preaches on bicycle commuting. We then loaded up the boats to head for the lakes with a quick stop to check on my paddling cronies who were teaching the SKOAC Coastal Kayak Basics course. Then it was off to the city lakes for a Saturday urban paddle.
My Wednesday night paddles in no way prepared me for the chaos that is the city lakes chain on a perfect summer Saturday. Not only were the 5 beaches, bike paths, and picnic areas packed but the lakes were jammed with every type of people powered watercraft you could think of. Its a damn good thing motors are banned on the chain. Unfortunately, only about 70% of those on the water had any idea of how to maneuver their craft. As we paddled though the lakes we were nearly hit by 1) a sailboat, 2) a paddleboat, and 3) several 8' rec kayaks, sans flotation of course. We were hit by a canoe. Two women were paddling through the channel between Isles and Cedar lakes and it reminded me of my buddy the Worm about 3 decades ago. The Worm had been negligently overserved and was attempting to get down the long hall to his bedroom, both hands out to stabilize himself as he tacked and zig zagged from one wall to the next. Unfortunately someone had not quite closed the basement door and.....well, we won't go into gory details. Suffice to say these two ladies had steering issues and as they remorselessly headed for the side of my boat the one in front refused to make eye contact and had that rigid 'I want to disappear' look. I gently grabbed their bow and steered them back into the channel as the stern paddler apologized profusely. I did a quick explanation of a stern rudder and left them to their devices. On the way back we saw a sailboat turtled and wondered if it was the couple who missed us on our way out.
The contrast between the folks up on Snail lake devoting their Saturday to improving their skills and the great unwashed happily flailing away on Lake Calhoun was notable. The folks on Snail were conscious incompetents as the matrix suggests. That is to say they recognized that they needed to improve their skills and were acting on that realization. The folks down on the city lakes were unconscious incompetents. No idea that there could be skills to learn or dangers to avoid and happily splashing around. Granted the main danger yesterday was getting wet but we watched a number of folks who had rented boats remove the 'hot and bulky' life jackets to better enjoy the day. And most of them had brought a cooler along. In most cases the cooler was not filled with lemonade and iced tea. Nor was ours. Just two weeks ago a man drowned in the area after capsizing a paddle boat and attempting to swim to shore in the opposite direction of his buddy. It was midnight and they had been drinking.
As usual I have no great revelation on how to get people to behave more responsibly. Nor do I advocate (in fact I fear) new rules and regulations to protect us from ourselves. As I've said before, in a variation of the 'think globally, act locally' axiom, try to instruct and educate people one peron at a time and hope it spreads geometrically. It would be nice if the rental vendors on the lakes embraced this idea but I don't see that coming any time soon. Meanwhile, we need to paddle safe, paddle smart, and gently teach the unconscious incompetents.