The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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River Rafting and Other Diversions

English slang is much more graphic than its American counterpart. Fortunately, it’s beginning to creep into the vernacular here in the States due to the Irish, Scots, and Welsh who are settling in various cities in the United States. For example, if I call someone a wanker, there is a fighting chance he’ll know I’m insulting him (in a friendly male sort of way, of course), especially if he’s a soccer player. But if I call him a tosser, there’s a chance he’ll think I’m referring to his drinking habits. And if I call him a sod, he’ll assume I’m comparing him to a sod farmer. Not that it matters much. It’s how the insult is delivered that makes the difference, something I learned from George Bernard Shaw in Poison, Passion, and Petrifaction.

This is all by way of introducing the term charley horse, which my dictionary thinks was derived from the name for old lame horses kept for family use. How this became associated with extreme cramping of the quadriceps muscle (or whether this is only an association I make myself) is unclear, but I do sometimes feel like an old lame horse when my quad cramps during deep sleep and I wake up screaming, and then start hopping around the bedroom like an insane, one-legged rooster. Last night the pain was so excruciating that in clenching my teeth between bouts of swearing, I managed to chip one of my incisors. My agony increased when I realized I needed to do a BM. Imagine, if you can, a one-legged rooster braying on the toilet while he takes a dump. Oh life, why do you make me do such ridiculous things?

We went rafting this morning on the Colorado River. It was a rather tame adventure, so to spice it up, I started playing around with our guide, who was being overly friendly. When he asked where I got the tattoo around my ankle, I told him that the Little Wienie Tattoo shop did it. After a few more of these exchanges, he realized I was making fun of him and told his buddy what he thought of me as he prepared the raft. As fate would have it, he didn’t see me sitting on a rock within earshot. It’s always interesting to know what someone really thinks of you.

The high point of the rafting adventure wasn’t going down the rapids, but in swimming beside the rubber raft with my life vest. It was so cold at first I couldn’t breathe. Then my arms and legs froze. Floating between the tall walls of the canyon was unforgettable, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Near the end of our river trip, the guide and I started to recognize similar qualities in the other. It turned out he was a hippie himself, but more of the modern variety. He hadn’t yet been introduced to the older type, like myself, whose function in life is to pull everything inside-out and stand it on its head. By the way, does anyone know what happened to Ken Kesey and Abby Hoffman? Nothing was sacred to those guys.

To complete the day, we took the La Sal Mountain Loop road that goes through Castle Valley, the Manti-La Sal National Forest, and then just below the La Sal Mountains before returning through the south side of Moab. It’s a wonderful hour-and-a-half drive with constantly changing vistas until you reach the Moab Valley, where there are miles of rusted trailer homes, feed lots for horses, rusted cars, and the kind of junk that accumulates at the edge of unzoned, unregulated American cities. What’s funny is that these folks see themselves as quintessentially American.

It’s how it is in the United States. Great natural beauty adjacent to the lowest forms of human ugliness.

1 comment

1 Visit Moab Utah { 06.15.09 at 2:40 pm }

Hi, I too was on the Colorado River recently, June 13, up on the Westwater Canyon stretch nearer the Colorado – Utah border. It was stupendous. I posted a funky SmileBox photo album about it on http://www.VisitMoabUtah.wordpress.com. You might enjoy it too. I adore your image of Castleton Tower from way up high on the La Sal Loop Road.