Tuesday, August 01, 2006

07-21-2006 – Outfall 239

“This one’s got some vengeance!”

My buddy yells over the nasty klank-klank-KLANK-KLANK crescendo of a fist-size rock tumbling at speed down the corrugated trough of the storm-drain outfall, and I look up from the pebbly shore of the North Saskatchewan just in time to dodge the missle as it hops over the stones and bloorps into the river.

“This one, too!”

Klank-klank-KLANK-KLANK-tik-tik-bloorp. This is a fun game, aiming rocks up the slope at the culvert and dodging them as they ricochet unpredictably back down. Really, what would I rather be doing on this glorious summer day, with the sun stooping through the iron web of the High Level bridge, than goofing around on the riverbank, hucking rocks and laughing?

We’re all so very proud of our river valley… but for me, fun times right down at water’s edge have been few and far between since I was a kid skipping rocks (or trying to skip rocks; I really do suck at it), head ringing with motherly forbiddings. The river, I was told, would suck me right under. I wonder if the waving couple out there this afternoon, holding hands and drifting by in their beer-laden innertubes, got that memo. Maybe the Demon Undertow only comes out when he’s got a roof of ice over his grisly head…

I know Mayor Mandel’s river-raising idea is old news, but I can’t help but think about it when I see the kayaker working out around the LRT bridge pilings, and these happy floaters spinning past in a silence that allows a speaking voice to reach the bank. It strikes me, now, that the water level’s plenty high to allow the only kind of boating we need… the quiet kind. Certainly the three dudes that came powerboating by earlier, standing ramrod behind the windscreen in their slacks and polo shirts, were having the kind of fun only appreciated by affluent shitheads and the pleb drones who envy them: the joy of making a deafening racket by igniting gallons of liquid cash.

Man, my arm’s gonna ache tomorrow. This rather dangerous game – only fool’s luck has kept rock and noggin vectors from intersecting; it’s mostly shins that’ve been taking the bullet – is just the latest of the stone-throwing events in today’s Hoser Olympics. Earlier hours were spent in the pursuit of hitting one largish tossed rock with a smaller rock, moving-target practice over the flowing highway. It’s kind of like a stoned simulation of the American missile defense system, with similar rates of success -- and we wouldn’t stop until we all four of us got at least one, preferably two, solid intercepts. Hundreds of launches, with only occasional breaks for fluids and fresh air… and before that was an hour’s worth of plain ol’ hit-the-log for a warmup.

Who needs riverside commercialization? It’s perfectly possible, you know, to have fun that doesn’t involve getting a receipt. I’m just about as happy as I’ve ever been, here and now, and when it comes time to buy food and drink there’s any number of taphouses with deepfryers just up the slope. I agree it’s nice to enjoy a drop of wine with the sun shimmering on the river – and I just did that, without tipping a waiter, without rezoning a park.

Before we leave, we decide to send a message in a bottle, a single slip of paper declaring its truth to some lucky downstream scavenger: OUTFALL 239 RULEZ. Sweetening the pot, we include a delicately dried crab claw found wedged between two little boulders, and a piece of Chinese “hell money” that from two feet away looks exactly like an American hundred. Seeing the glint of greenback in the riverborne flotsam, will somebody let avarice put them in harm’s way? Probably, but… hey; that’s comedy!

The setting sun’s flickering shadows over us, right through the windows of the passing LRT. We set our Gallo Galleon into the river…

… and huck rocks at it, desperately, until it’s out of range and on its way. What else can we do? This evening, hucking rocks is our thing.

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