Thursday, June 28, 2012

See the signs and know their meaning

Maura and Liam on our epic vacation of the Pacific Northwest. That's the Yaquina Head lighthouse
at Newport, Oregon, which we visited just weeks ago with Maura. This painting has potential;
a lot of flaws, but enough to suggest I need to take more cracks at watercolor.
Life circles back, as it will, kicking up dust of dreams in its arc, and I'm back in another time.

A sight, a sound, just a gesture, sparks fire of mind.

Right now I'm 18 years ago this summer.

Natalie Merchant has taken me there. She was singing "Stockton Gala Days" from a corner of the house, from back when she was with the group 10,000 Maniacs. My sister long ago had given us cassettes (yes, that long ago) of the group's "Our Time in Eden" and "In My Tribe" to hip us up a bit. (I know what you're gonna say; but one can't become hip in one step; we needed hand holding; and in 1994, 10,000 Maniacs were MTV-worthy. Though I've never been crazy about Natalie Merchant's dancing, or the way she sang off-key in live performances.)

(Good thing this is not about why I like this music and you should too. I'll never write a post like that. Probably.)

"Our Time in Eden" literally became our soundtrack for a family trip into the Idaho panhandle, for one last visit to my grandma near Spokane, Wash. before she passed, and across Washington all the way around the Olympic Peninsula and south along the Pacific Coast through Oregon on the way back home to Sacramento. We played that tape so much I'm sure we broke it.

When Natalie began "That summer fields grew high, with foxglove stalks and ivy …" or whatever the heck she was singing (it presents a grammar problem right away, and we never paid close enough attention to the fact that sometimes 10,000 Maniacs lyrics were often either morose laments paired with happy-go-lucky music, or were words written more to fit a beat than make much sense), I returned immediately to the wheat plains of central Washington, on our way to Lake Wenatchee, quiet among the mountains.

Could we, we'd still be there, suspended in time, watching our four-year-old son stand atop a boulder near the shore, posing as a superhero in his underwear, and our two-year-old daughter devouring a Washington peach nearly as big as her head.

(Carter's, the infants' clothes company had a slogan, "If they could just stay little 'til their Carter's wear out," which remains with me. Never bought the clothes, but never forgot the poignancy of that sentiment. This was a time before school and scouting and sports and all those daily dilemmas that, though necessary, I suppose, only made that breathtakingly brief time with our kids as wee ones all the more precious.)

We listen happily to "Jezebel," a rousing tune about a marriage tearing apart, as we fly west down Highway 2. Most of the gas stations en route to the Washington coast have new banners promoting espresso. We had no idea what that was, no idea that Starbucks was just beginning to spread its caffeinated tentacles across the land. The closer we got to Seattle, the more frequent the banners. Before we left the Olympic Peninsula, we were coffee junkies.

(The best coffee we ever had, out of all those Puget Sound mocha meccas, by the way, came from a pedal cart as a guy pushed his mobile business between the looooong lines of cars and their captive inhabitants, waiting, waiting, waiting to catch a ferry across to the peninsula. Go figure.)

When Natalie tries to coax someone out of deep depression in the danceable "If You Intend," I'm walking around neighborhoods of Aberdeen, Wash. (where Kurt Cobain was from), making sure not to go near the hospital that was treating our daughter for what we learned was called nursemaid's elbow.

In pulling our stubborn daughter up from a beach she did not want to leave, I had dislocated her elbow. She didn't cry; she just wouldn't use her arm anymore. In fact, it was because she wasn't crying that we did a doubletake (she wouldn't like us to say, but she was a tantrum princess in her time). In a panic, we brought her into to the nearest hospital, and we decided I'd bide my time out on the streets so some clinician wouldn't turn the incident into a child protective services issue.

Not all the memories of our 1,000-mile journey are good, you notice, but I wouldn't trade them. It was one of those trips that made us want to chuck all we had and reinvent ourselves at every stop, just make things up as we went along, the four of us and our balky chipped-paint Plymouth Voyager minivan.

All it takes is the distant gargly warble of Natalie Merchant, with her silly dance, and I'm there.
These are days you'll remember.
Never before and never since, I promise,
Will the whole world be warm as this.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Back to life, back to reality

One minute, 42 seconds.

That's what a year gained me.

What to make of it?

At the same time four dozen people, some I've "met" through facebook, were swimming 28.5 miles around Manhattan Island, and more than a couple of hundred others were running 100 miles across the Sierra in the Western States Endurance Run, I was completing a 2.4-swim race, the Folsom Lake Open Water (FLOW, get it?) event last weekend.

Endurance, I submit, is relative.

Last June, running onto shore after the first lap to fetch my old goggles because my new pair flopped uselessly on my face for most of a mile, I finished FLOW in one hour, 31 minutes and 53 seconds.

Last weekend, swimming straight through (I have a habit of stopping several times during my regular swims), I finished the same course in one hour, 30 minutes and 11 seconds.

An improvement of one minute, 42 seconds. Which may be moot considering the time it took me last year to change out my goggles.

Like I may have mentioned, what to make of it?

My thoughts take two tacks:

1.) What, me worry?
(Call me consistent … or terminally mediocre.)
2.) I could do better.
(Call me a cardiologist.) 
I swim, ultimately, because I can. It's exercise that I can do — and want to do — every day. I never tire of it … well, today I'm tired, but I'm only taking a break for the day.

For the better part of eight years, I have swum at least four days a week; and for the last year and a half, I have swum exclusively in the open water; and 14 days out of 15, I have kept to the cold confines of Lake Natoma.

I like being "the guy who swims year round in the cold water without a wetsuit" to tangential acquaintances (though, full disclosure, I'm not the only one, even in this neighborhood pond.) But that's all I really am in the swimming world.

So be it. I've written quite enough, I'm sure you'd agree, about the green adventure of swimming Lake Natoma, and I can't get enough of it. Saying these words aloud to a swim friend, I realize I'm addicted to the lake, afraid to leave it too long and face the pain of having to re-acclimate to the cold. The weeks of stinging fingers and arms will come next November, as the lake temperature drops below 50, despite my almost daily dip.

So I don't worry … usually. I have befriended several people who make the swims enjoyable by their camaraderie and shared shiver misery and, eventually, cups of coffee and time to talk about all the amazing things these people do besides swim.

In the grand scheme, besides, not a lot of people can or want to do what I do, and the few of us who do share in that singularity.

But I swim in part to go places, to check off a kind of bucket list. Not only can I add dimension to road trips and campouts now, I have the opportunity to join storied swims, along the ocean, in San Francisco Bay, in a long list of lakes.

Which leads me to the path of most resistance: I could do better.

Therein lies my liquid angst: I don't know how I can purchase more speed.

If you've stayed with me this far and know something about swimming and fitness, you may be right to say: Is that so?

The truth is, I'd stopped looking for answers. This has been an unsettling year for me and swimming. It's not that I haven't enjoyed it; it's that those bucket-list swims — one in particular — tied me in knots of consternation.

A new 10k swim (6.2 miles) made its debut at Del Valle Reservoir near Livermore earlier this month. I didn't go, though I was all afire about it back in January, when I attended a workshop for it.

As soon as I heard swimmers had to finish the race in 3.5 hours, I couldn't comprehend anything else during the workshop. Mind and body told me the same thing: I couldn't do it. So I went to a pool to find out, and finished 6.2 miles (437 lengths of a 25-yard pool, if you're scoring from home) and did it in under four hours.

Hmmm. I resolved to pore over my swimming manuals, review the notes from the January workshop, step off the landmarks where I swim and practice sprints in the cold water to build up endurance and speed, exercise my core … to find the speed I needed.

All those resolutions went where resolutions usually go. All that remained is dogged determination to swim, just swim.

On a shared facebook page, many swimmers from around the world post their pool regimen, complete with times and codes for negative splits (swimming the last leg faster than the first) and short rest times to strengthen their tolerances in the big sprints.

I have ignored all of it.

So it was with blissful ignorance that I reached the end of my FLOW swim, tired but energy in the tank, that I saw a swimmer ahead of me — and if that wasn't wonder enough, I was gaining on her! I sprinted as best I could, crossed the finish line ahead of her, shared congratulations in having finished — and had the gall to think I might place in my age group.

Even as a member of a rather large old-person's age bracket (more of us than the 20-somethings, which I can't decide is affirming or disquieting), the third-place finisher had raced to shore almost a half-hour before me.

Medals (and their lack) are no more for me than an excuse to write about them, so either way I benefit; or you suffer, depending on your perspective.

But I'm concerned about what medals represent: That I could be getting faster, which will get me to swim places and distances I dream of before the day comes I can't swim.

What to make of it?

Addendum: The winner of the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim last weekend, a Yale senior named Abigail Nunn, finished 28.5 miles in seven hours, 30 minutes and 26 seconds — more than 17 minutes ahead of the second-place swimmer. That's nearly four miles an hour, an astounding feat even discounting the aid of changing tides. It was her first attempt at the marathon swim. At my 35-minute pace, I could complete that course (assuming, of course, I could complete the course) in 16.5 hours, more than twice as long as it took Nunn.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

My own private East of Eden

A bad screen grab of a logo
I made for a Sacramento-area
Little League, where my son
played and I coached; a better
version is locked away in 20th
Century storage technology I'll
have to pay someone to pry open.
It was really one of my first forays
into digital logo design via
Adobe Illustrator. A cleaner
monochromatic version is here
(scroll down). I'm not sure whether
this league, small and having to
play other league's teams even
then, still exists. The Techno
typeface comes standard with
Adobe software products; works
here, I think. I never used it again.
Little Leagues around the world are wrapping up their regular seasons. All-star teams are starting their practices, disrupting summer plans for a chosen few families.

The closest I get to Little League any more is the chance glance of kids in their uniforms, wandering into a McDonald's or a Starbucks with their families headed out to or from the field.
Maybe it's the chance encounters that remind me: Nothing sews together the swatches of my life so well as Little League Baseball. Nor can I find a truer mirror to humanity in all its nobility and ugly shortcomings.

It's a well meaning, imperfect, hypocritical part of our landscape. Just like us.

Starting with me: Despite being my son's longtime coach, I managed to keep intact his love for baseball, which has rooted deeper than mine. Along the way I may also have helped a few other kids like baseball. But in a loss of my common sense I also spat a terrible curse word in a young player's face. I yelled at a teenage umpire — a kid who was probably enjoying his purely volunteer work up to that moment — for not calling the play at home the way I saw it. As if, in life's complex balance, it made any difference at all.

From childhood to adulthood, for better and for worse, Little League was that constant.

Little League baseball is my own personal East of Eden, an epic struggle across generations, good versus evil, with evil triumphing sometimes. It informed my childhood and early fatherhood, and will likely form the third leg of this stool I'm making of my life, when I'm watching grandchildren from the stands.

Or maybe it's my own Lord of the Flies, a long-running social experiment, ever demonstrating that humanity is a long way from humanity.

Little League was the great equalizer. Where I grew up, the rich people were largely corralled onto knobs of oak-strewn hills around a golf course, their internment known as the Village Hills Country Club.

Back row, second from left, inveterate blogger; also pictured, a venture
capitalist who passed away too soon; a dentist; a mechanic; the sacred
and profane scattered who knows where, but we were the same that day.
Of course, everywhere else was similarly segregated. Vandenberg Village was largely the middle class, airbase and civil service personnel, and it was subdivided at Highway 1; and my neighborhood, Mission Hills (sometimes called Welfare Hills, and probably not the Mission Hills you've heard of), comprised the lower middle class. All the neighborhoods that feed Village Hills Little League sit on a great mesa above the city of Lompoc in its coastal valley. The city below was a baseball power, and that's a different story entirely.

All classes, all colors and backgrounds met on the same field in Little League, to learn the same game and share in the complex struggle over what that meant.

With my own kids reaching Little League eligibility, I realized Little League is not really the great equalizer. Families pay the same amount for their children to play — with the occasional large-family discount — but players don't play the same amount. The families of players who aren't very good subsidize the families of players who are. Good players get most of the playing time; weak players get the minimum that Little League rules allow. The fact that Little League has a minimum-play rule reveals the inequity.

It was ever thus. We kids saw it, and I saw it as a coach. I wasn't much of a player; baseball at first was an unfortunate collision of physics and partially wired muscle and cognitive development. Over time I carved a niche as the league's only left-handed catcher, with a propensity for the position (and a wild screwball that made my niche a liability later on the 90-foot diamond), but I didn't start hitting until freshman year in high school, with a history teacher/coach who not only knew the fundamentals but knew how to teach them.

My dad, who led me and my sister to the game (she was the first girl in our league!), did his best teaching me the game, but "Just meet the ball" goes only so far and needs breaking down into 16 different steps to derive benefit.

My last year of Little League, on the varsity field at good ol' Cabrillo High School. I was playing the way my
freshman coach taught me: Always be alert and ready for the play.
Freshman year, my last year in Little League, was the only one in which I felt like a ballplayer. It ended in the most fitting way: In the last at-bat during the regular season, I had a chance to help my team go ahead for the win in the bottom of the last inning, with runners in scoring position. I hit Brian LaMay's curve hard to deep left center. The only way John Duffey was going to be able to catch it would be to fling his body like a bullwhip into the air and will his glove to gather the ball. Which is exactly what he did. Coulda been a triple; I hit it as hard as I could; John ran as hard as he could. That's baseball.

Fast forward. Our son gets to the age where he might be interested in baseball. T-ball had been invented since I was a kid, a cute little division of Little League where every kid hits and every kid plays the field. They stand like a clearance sale of garden gnomes, filling the infield, while coach/parents run about, politely urging kids to pay attention so they don't get hit by the padded baseball. Kids at that age understand trying to hit the snot out of the ball, but that's about it. Foraging for dandelions trumped fielding. I had a great time with our son that year.

The next year looked like it could be fun too. Minor League. Players play Little League rules for the first time at that level. Scores are kept. And coach/parents begin to reveal their competitive aggression. This is a time of baseball in which hitting still rules; fielding is slowly catching up but still lags. Groundball putouts are rare, caught flies miracles.

Rather than adjust for this discrepancy in running and hitting, and having hitters stop at first or second, opposing coaches would just have the runners circle the bags, knowing what we all knew: That no players on either team were going to be able to do a thing about it. Almost every time a kid on the other team made any contact with the ball, the coach was sure to make him keep running for home.

After one game, I suggested to an opposing coach that perhaps all of us coaches could agree to limit hitters to first or second, to give defenses a chance to think about what to do when the ball comes to them.

His reply: "If your hitters had more discipline, we wouldn't be having this conversation."

Discipline. While I arrived an hour-and-a-half before the game to water, rake and chalk the field, and set the bases, to give me time to warm up with my team, the other coach showed a half-hour before first pitch, unrolled his contraptions designed to help his players be better hitters, did no fielding work with them (why bother?) and offered no help with the field before or after the game. Discipline.

Still, I was having fun. I knew I'd be doing a lot of fieldwork by myself, and I accepted it. For one thing, I had a flexible work schedule, so I could. For another, I saw my dad do the same thing many years for Village Hills Little League (he called himself the Ways and Means Committee, and I laughed even though I wasn't quite sure what that meant).

The fun lasted up to the day one of the league board members invited me to a meeting. I didn't realize until I showed up that she wanted witnesses that would side with her in a Hatfields-and-McCoys feud among board members, so strangled with unresolved personal hurts that they couldn't manage the day-to-day operations of the league.

It was then I knew that grownups have ruined this organization, meaningless except for the sole goal of letting kids have fun learning baseball.

Though I tried to distance myself from the board level shenanigans, in short time that board imploded and the league operated with a group of adults who strived to keep the league afloat. I had no choice but to be involved. I'm sure we ran things wide of proper procedure, but we kept things going, even if we had to reclaim forgotten fields with sickles and donated paint, and travel to neighboring leagues to fill out the full schedule for older players.

Sierra Little League was long past its halcyon days when we joined. Old pictures from the '50s and '60s show manicured fields, crisp uniforms, crowds in the stands. The main fields, tucked in the far corner of an elementary school grounds, had long been abandoned. The remaining fields showed their fatigue in a string of little parks and school grounds. Ours wasn't the worst league, by far. We traveled to a league in a Sacramento neighborhood called Del Paso Heights (where I eventually taught); organizers had done their best to prep the high school varsity field, all dirt, for our game, but I had to gently point out to the president that the kids needed to play on a 60-foot diamond, and the raised mound was going to about just about where second base should be. We moved the game to a softball field, and were it not for some thin rubber bases in the trunk of my car, we would not have been able to play the game.

Village Hills, where I grew up, had its own place, carved out of the chaparral behind the high school. Buildings were made of utility poles stacked like log cabins held in place with concrete mortar; GI-built, I'm guessing. The crumbly sand was tamed by years and years of liberal applications of fuel oil. The sharp smell of diesel still reminds me of the place. We spent entire Saturdays there, showing up early so my dad could prep the fields, my sister and I playing at some point, dad likely helping coach, mom selling burritos and baseball cards out of the snackbar, me showing off a girlfriend during our brief springtime relationship, dad cleaning up and setting the sprinklers after the last game was played. Many Sundays we'd come back and mow the fields.

Village Hills is still going strong. Sure, some disgruntled parent blew up the clubhouse a few years back, but volunteers put the place back together again.

Little League lives or dies, literally, by a peculiar rule that players have to live where they play. Babe Ruth baseball, by contrast, takes all players from however far they're willing to travel, but Little League requires you show proof of where you live in order to play in each particular league. By dint of demographic changes, our Little League was wheezing while across the main street in a more affluent neighborhood the Little League was thriving.

I pointed out to Little League that the residency rule posed an invasion of privacy — one woman in our league, for example, would have to reveal she was living apart from her husband with another man — but it never acknowledged my letter.

It sounds self-aggrandizing, but my main goal as coach was to make it fair for all who played. All these families pay an equal share to have their kids play equal time. It could be done; it took a lot of work to figure out the lineup each game to make it so, and it took an understanding from players and their families that they needed to hold up their end of the deal by making it to practices and showing up on time for games. Good players still enjoyed ample amounts of playing time, but players who needed more practice got many more opportunities.

I'm not sure my son realized until the last year I coached him that he would always sit on the bench to begin our opening game. I wanted to send families the message that I wasn't coaching so my son could shine; I was trying to help all of the players get a chance.

Coaching made me think about teaching. I was trying to figure out how to coach, which I now know is called pedagogy in teaching. Little League used to send around these two guys from Canada, former players and teachers calling themselves Big Al and Little Al, who not only knew magical ways to teach every aspect of the game so kids could understand and apply it, but they recognized that every team has Big Als (good players) and Little Als (developing players) and coaches should give both plenty of opportunities to do both.

Inspired, I went back to practices with what I learned and began breaking practices into rotating stations, enlisting parents to help. At any one time of practice, players were practicing throws, catches and a couple of different ways to hit.

But I'd bet most teams still practice the old way: Thirteen kids stand in the field, bored to death, while the coach throws 18 so-so pitches to the batter. Though Little League endorses the Big Al and Little Al clinics, it doesn't do much more to promote better baseball.

Long after I yelled at the teen umpire, I finally mellowed out and wised up. I was practically telling players when to breathe and how to walk. Suddenly one game I became so physically tired of hearing myself talk that I sat on the bench and closed my mouth. At Sierra Little League's fields, the bars supporting the cyclone fence in the dugouts block an adult's view of the field, so from then until the end of the season, I sat on the concrete pad of the dugout and watched the game from there, saying no more to the players than "Good job," or "Think about what you wanna do," or "Attaway!"

My reward was hearing players talk to one another (they hadn't bothered before because I was doing all the talking). The best moment was hearing a left fielder, playing his first season, call in to the infield letting players know where to throw the ball if it came to them.

By the time our son was going to Senior League on the 90-foot diamond, we had moved, which put us in a different, larger league. Our son, like a lot of kids, had a hard time adjusting to a much larger field, and his body was growing in wildly uncontrollable ways. I helped the coaches as much as I could, but made it clear to my son that I was stepping away and supporting his effort.

Practices were the same old boring stand-in-the-field-while-one-player-bats kind of thing.

It was back to the minimum-play rules for our son, the same thing I was trying to change, and after eight or nine games of watching him sit the bench except for one at-bat and three defensive outs in the field, I quietly asked the coaches about his chance to play more, and even suggested what I did to give all players optimum chances.

"If we did that, we'd be Oh and eight right now," one of the coaches said. Another thing he said: "It's not easy to coach. Why don't you go out and get your own team, if you know so much?"

I was back to subsidizing the coaches' kids to play. Our son went on to high school ball, didn't play a lot (high school baseball is a different world, in which he and I understood he would have to earn his place on the field) but absorbed the coaching and strategy of his veteran freshman and JV coach before becoming interested in other things.

He grew up loving the game. Would he bring the next generation to Little League? I wonder. I wonder what he'd bring to the league to try to make things better. I wonder how he'd work with the same imperfections, in himself and the league.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The recklessness of water

It was a stupid thing to do.

From the outside looking in, maybe.

By the end, it was a manageable risk, an unabsurd adventure, and a memorable evening, embedded in the soft shimmer of glow sticks the morning after, and bedsheets that still smell of campfire.

The mission: Swim a cove of Folsom Lake under the full moon.

"We should do that," Dan said, a year ago. Seemed like a good idea then, even though I had no clue what it required, and it only seemed like a good idea because we weren't actually doing it. Then again, I had just finished swimming where I had not been before, and I was flush with the feeling I could chew off some more.

A year passed. I corresponded with some swimmers from La Jolla near San Diego, who not only have the privilege of swimming in the ocean every day, but swim each holiday in goofy themed gear. Last month, they swam under the so-called Super Moon, the full moon on steroids.

"We should do that," I repeated.

"Let's go June 3," said Doug, who I now realize was putting some thoughtful research behind this. Not every full moon cooperates, allowing one to swim beneath it at a decent hour. The June 3 (actually, it was full June 4) would permit us to jump into the lake at 9:30-ish.

Invite our whole online swim group and see who shows? Nah, we decided. Some in the group think a few of us are unsafe as it is, swimming at sunset, swimming alone sometimes. We'll invite a small group of known crazies instead:

Brad, who has crossed the 22-mile length of Tahoe, as well as a mile in 40-degree water in Tahoe in January, and who thinks nothing of swimming four to six miles in cold Lake Natoma for practice. Doug, a lifelong swimmer who churns San Francisco Bay regularly when he's not speeding through Lake Natoma, which is often. Dan, who swims, runs barefoot, and roller skates for miles, and in fact roller skated in the dark to our meeting place for the full-moon swim. Me, the slowest.

Doug, me, Brad, Dan, campfire.

(Two of the usual crazies found the late-Sunday evening appointment too crazy for the miles they would have had to travel. Next time.)

If we survived, maybe we'd spread the word next time.

Blinkies (those small clip-on bike lights), glow sticks, swim gear, cold gear, firewood, newspaper, matches. camping reservation (because Doug figured it was gonna be difficult to just walk into a state park and start swimming), wine, beer, Doug's wife, Brad's wife, my wife. Check.

One camera, which only made it as far as the campfire ring. No one who wasn't swimming was gonna follow us out to the water. It was crazy enough just to come out here in the moonlight with a bunch of swimmers.

Doug forgot his waterproof camera, so we were left with an artist's rendering of the act.

"Maybe we should just ditch the blinkies and glow sticks," Doug suggested. "No point in drawing attention."

None of us knows whether swimming the lake under the full moon is illegal. If a ranger wanted to cite us, we decided, then we would have another story to tell. We kept the lights.

The moon cast our shadows as we found a trail out to the parking lot to the beach. The black shapes of Canada geese got up out of their slumber, mumbled, and moved aside.

We could see the other side of the cove under the moon, and the large round oak tree we aim for. The water between was dark, with the moon behind us. The buoy marking about halfway across the cove was invisible.

OK, I was scared, but holding it in. Swimming into darkness, not really sure where I was going? How much fun could this really be?

But the water was warm and not completely black. It was dark dark green, and the bubbles from our strokes glowed softly. I counted strokes and sighted on the red lights blinking from the heads of my compatriots.

In fewer strokes than I expected, we were at the buoy line that defines the Beal's Point swim area.

"I figure the buoy over there," Doug said, pointing off into the night. We followed. Lost in the stroke count, I was surprised to come upon the group, suddenly stopped. "How we doing?" Doug asked, and pointed again to where he though the buoy was.

Off we went. Lost to the idea of swimming through the warm blackness, I didn't notice the group stopped again so soon. Darn if they didn't find the buoy in the middle of watery nowhere.

"I'm up to whatever the group wants to do," said Doug, meaning swim across the cove or head back.

"I'll do whatever," said Brad.

I laid out my case. "We did it, we could swim across, but the campfire is already going and we're not going to enjoy any of it if we swim all the way across."

After a moment bobbing and enjoying the sky, the low lights along the shore, we headed back. Dan got way wide on the way back. Thank god we decided to keep the blinkies and glow sticks. Finding each other in the choppy water would have been a tiring chore.

Proud peacocks, we dripped along the trail back to the campfire to tell our tales and drink beer. A ranger drove nearby as we walked the trail, shirtless. The ranger stopped and looked, then drove on.

Midnight snuck up on us. We broke camp while a ranger was arresting nearby campers for driving under the influence. Time to go home and think about Aug. 3. The next convenient full moon.