Thursday, April 22, 2010

Adventures with Jay Lake

My old friend Jay Lake discusses a dream in a recent blog post and refers to a series of real-life incidents, specifically:

“...a baby puke yellow Ford LTD wagon was in my life for a while back in the 1990s — that’s the car I flooded with raw sewage while driving it, if you’ve ever heard me tell that story; also the car I took over the river in Mexico on a canoe ferry. Also the car I was driving the night I nearly wound up in a shallow grave but for the luck of fools and the forbearance of some very puzzled, heavily armed men.”

Some of those events he’s referred to before, especially the crossing of the river on a ferry made from two canoes with wooden planks laid between them. For anyone inclined to doubt Jay, even by degree, I’d just like to step-up and say: forget it. Jay’s life specializes in weird, and I was there for all of the events he mentions above. What’s more, he left-out a number of other events relating to that same vehicle, like running aground in the beach-of-mosquitoes (all the other mosquitoes I have encountered in my entire life do not begin to equal the number that were attacking me at any given moment on that beach); the awkward joy with which we later sat in the thick smoke of burning cow dung and drank beers with the people who freed us; the 100% concrete (beds included), completely empty motel-of-the-damned that we stumbled upon in the middle of the night hoping for a place to sleep; the long, dead-slow descent of a rain drenched, fog bound, boulder strewn, cliff-side mountain road in the middle of the night, with one of us using a hand-held, million candle-power Q-beam light to make the edge of the road just barely visible for about six feet in front of us (the holder of the Q-beam was probably sitting out on the hood of the car to do that, but I can’t remember for sure). And there were other such events, I’m confident; some merely temporarily forgotten, others mercifully hidden away by subtle mental defense mechanisms.

One fascinating thing about the river crossing on the canoes: Early in the crossing the people responsible for the ferry decided that our fully-loaded station wagon was positioned too far forward for what we may laughingly call “safety.” So they told us to put it into reverse and back-up a little. Interesting physics experiment, that. As the fully-loaded station wagon had a far greater mass than the canoes and all the people who were riding that makeshift ferry with us, when the station wagon reversed it didn't move an inch, instead it flung the ferry forward. Fortunately, whoever was driving (it wasn’t me, but may have been Jay) didn’t panic, and stopped in time to prevent us from flinging the ferry out from under us. With a less competent driver, we’d have a story to tell of being caught in the middle of rural Mexico with our car and all of our possession at the bottom of a river ... and that’s a story I’m very glad I can’t tell.

Egads, I wish I had been into photography back then.

And that was followed by Jay’s trip to Ulan Bator … but that expedition I declined. Others will have to tell those stories.

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