Thursday, April 12, 2012

Up the Lake: Windy-ness

What color is the wind?
Or
Blown Away

One thing the lake that Up the Lake is “Up the” has in abundance...is wind.  At a mile long, and only a ninth of that wide (all distances estimates, your mileage may vary), a pronounced wind tunnel effect down the long axis of the lake was created.  A bizarre phenomenon this effect displays is that the wind invariably blew the opposite direction that one was rowing or swimming.

Very often someone was claimed as a victim of the wind if they fell asleep sunning themselves on a raft, and then woke up floating somewhere down the Mississippi.  Sleepers were not the only victims, however.  For example, there was the time in their youth that my sister Kim, and her friend Tracy, were out floating on one of those giant double size rafts that can be used as a slip cover for Rhode Island in the off season.  As each of them could only reach the water with half a fingernail, being blown away was inevitable.  No one on the beach was concerned; as we figured eventually they would become bored, and swim back pushing the raft (the SOP: stupid operating procedure, in these cases).  Suddenly, their screams echoed around the lake, like some crazed jungle bird with its wings caught in a blender.  Overprotective big brother that I am, I threw on my fins and rocketed down the lake to find out what happened. 
GUESS WHO?
As I approached the raft I saw the two of them scanning the water while simultaneously trying to stand on each other’s shoulders while yelling incoherently.  I swam up and calmly inquired,

"What happened?"

They both yelled back exceedingly uncalmly

 "A SNAKE!"

Up the Lake contained black, gardener, and water snakes, plus copperheads.

The good news is:
The water snakes weren't poisonous.

The bad news is:
Copperheads swim.

Now while I have no problem with snakes in general, sharing my personal space with a snorkeling viper is not high on my fun things to do list.  I joined in feverishly scanning the water while they yelled,

"Come get us!" 

Apparently they did not care that the snake would need to fire itself out of a cannon to mount their behemoth of a raft, while it wouldn't even work up a target heart rate going after me. 

Finally, in desperation, I asked,
"What kind was it?" 

Kim promptly answered,
I don't know, I think it was an anaconda." 

Irrespective of the threat to my own life posed by the dangerous (and apparently very lost) giant Amazonian water serpent, I pulled the girls back to safety. 


As a final note, the following conversation occurred on our next trip to the Bronx Zoo, as we stood next to the twenty foot long, several hundred pound reptile:

Kim asked, "Is that an anaconda?" 

“Yes," I said. 

"Oh," she expertly replied, "We didn't see one of those."


Sadly, in a majority of the "getting stuck due to wind" stories I have been involved with, I was not the rescuer, but a hapless victim.  In fact, I'm not sure if I've ever had any "hap" in the first place.

Two of my more interesting getting stranded by the wind stories occurred because we listened to the girls.  Now I fully admit that, in general, guys are naturally stupid.  Women, however, seem to have the magic ability to make things far more complex than needed.  As an example: Nick, Skip and I decided to take one of the owner’s new dock sections out on the lake one evening. (Like ya do.) 

We pushed the large barge like object into the middle of the lake, and jumped off it until dad and his friend came down for a surprise post dinner swim. 

We cleverly yelled,
"Uh.......it floated out so we came to get it".

"Right,"
They replied, using a tone of voice indicating exactly how much they believed out expertly concocted ruse,
"Just bring it back." 

We did, end of story. 

However the time we were hanging out on the similarly sized “Ketel's dock” with Nick's older sister Chrissy, and her friends Katherine and Patricia, it was less of a simple tale, and more of a traveling circus.

(Note: “Ketel’s Dock” is pronounced that way, but has a very different spelling.  Unfortunately the misspelling must stand, as the actual spelling in no way resembles how it sounds, and I believe contains seven silent letters, some Cyrillic characters, and the symbol for the planet Neptune.)

Ketel's Dock was located a little ways down the lake from our beach, and had been used as a hang out spot since the first teen aged Neanderthals didn't want to be on the same beach as their parents.  It was just one of many days the six of us were on the dock, along with a couple other kids, who will be played by extras in the film version.

Yes, once these tales are all recorded, there will be a movie, as soon as we get Mel Gibson to stick a cinnamon tic tac up his nose - but that is yet another story.

Sort of as a preview to later events, a giant wood spider which had just escaped from a George Pal film (Picture a tarantula in training for a marathon.), crawled out of the cracks in the dock, up Nick’s leg and back, did a swan dive off his head, and then scuttled across the lake’s surface back under the dock.  The one leg that Nick left on the ground stood stock still, while the rest of his limbs flailed like a windmill with Tourrette's syndrome.  Once we had reduced the "skeeved out" factor to manageable amounts it seemed like it was going to be a dull day.  This was until the ever present gallon of iced tea fell into the water and floated under the dock.  We couldn't get at it from the sides, causing the girls to suggest untying the dock from the shore and pushing it out a ways to retrieve the gallon.  "Duh...OK", we men responded in unison. 

The girls pushed the dock, grabbed the gallon, and then kept pushing until, much like the Minnow, we were adrift.  The wind caught us instantly and our little float shot down the lake, seemingly controlled by a mad weather god.  Unfortunately the movement disturbed Gargantua, Queen of Spiders, and our enormous eight legged friend resurfaced.

Everyone stood in a circle around it and tried to destroy it solely with the power of their voices, by screaming at it.  Eventually, I walked into the center of the panicked circle and tossed the beast into the lake.  No one would talk to me for a while after that, and I also learned the speed with which rumors grow. 

The next day I heard one little kid on the beach telling another that,
"There was a HUUUUUGE spider on the dock, and Jeff ate it." 

In an effort to return the dock we did not own to its natural habitat, two of the girls sat on the end usually on shore, and attempted to paddle.  Sadly, that dry (until recently) section was the living quarters for the monstrous spider’s offspring.  The Brady Bunch had nothing on this family.  What can only be described as a "countless" number of little spiders spewed forth from the dock to where Chrissy sat, causing her to execute an Olympic style springboard dive from a sitting position (an athletic first). She then refused to return to the dock, even after Nick, Skip and I swam it back into position, until we assured her the whole place was uninfested.


After this little adventure, it would seem obvious that we would refuse their invitation to join the girls on a borrowed sailboat. 
Especially knowing that's how far we would inevitably be blown...

However, we joined them because

A) Teenage guys are even dumber than adult guys where girls are involved
(And in every other way, really). 

B) Five little words which turned out to have absolutely no basis in reality whatsoever:

"We”

“Know”

 “How”

“To”

“Sail" 

Throwing caution, the sail, and probably our lives, to the wind, we set out.  Once the fragile craft hit the center of the wind tunnel effect, we rocketed the entire length of the lake. I am convinced that, at many times, the boat was a good two feet above the water.  We finally ran out of lake at the other end, where a bunch of inner city kids had been bussed to swim at the old "Boys’ Camp". 

When we expressed our interest in returning to our hemisphere, we happily learned the limitation in the girl's knowledge when they said,

"Oh, we don't know how to sail AGAINST the wind." 

With no hope of using it properly, the sail served only as a means to push us in the direction we didn't want to go, so we lowered it.  Then, looking like some Discovery channel special about disabled otters, we attempted to swim and push the boat against the wind.  The lack of success was truly astounding.  As it was agreed it was their fault, and chivalry dies quickly when you’re stranded in a lake on a stupid little orange sailboat being insulted by city kids, the girls swam back for help and we stayed with the boat.  

To kill time while they were swimming over a mile against the wind, we attempted to figure out the whole sailing thing.  Naturally, we couldn't get the sail back up correctly.  Therefore Skip worked the rudder, Nick held the sail, and I stood on the bow, resembling a confused hood ornament, holding up the boom. 

The problem with our clever arrangement was
(Aside from our general foolishness),
whenever we turned
(Every three seconds or so thanks to our crack navigational skills) the boom would knock me into the water
(Ole’). 

Usually moving at flank speed by that point, all I could do was grab the rope tied onto the sail, and water ski on my face behind the boat.  My friends would then yell helpful things like,

"Don't move we're goin' good." 

Fortunately, our faithful, if exhausted, female friends made it to the beach and my mother and Skip's aunt came to get us. 

Unfortunately, they were as pissed off as humanly possible, without actually spontaneously combusting. 

Skip claimed he could see my mother’s teeth from half way down the lake, and that they looked like they were going to, “jump out and get us".  My mother greeted her stranded son with the love filled phrase,

"IF YOU EVER GO ON A SAILBOAT AGAIN I'LL BREAK YOUR LEGS!"

To which one of the city kids helpfully added,

"Break 'em now!"

Exhausted, and in wicked trouble, we finally returned home, albeit late for dinner, which my mother reminded me of every day until finished my Master’s degree.

We did eventually learn to sail, although I still managed to get clocked in the skull by the appropriately named "boom" and repeat my face water skiing trick with alarming frequency.  After a couple summers, the guy with the sailboat stopped coming up, and our days of high speed on the high seas ended.

I never missed it much, though.

Sailing gives me a headache.

2 comments:

Bruce Fieggen said...

Pretty good post, though a little disjointed. I suggest adding some transitions between the different stories. Also, check the spelling of Tourette's suyndrome.

The last story was luagh out loud funny as my cube-mates can affirm.

Jeff McGinley said...

Thanx for the insights, Bruce, and the laughter. Some of the older Lake stories go through extensive rewrites before posting.
Others go through, "Oh crap, I'm leaving on vacation and need something!"