Tubing may seem like a strange undertaking to the uninitiated eye. It generally begins in the frantic, late moments of morning. Flustered youths wriggle into bathing suits, lather on the sunscreen and pile eagerly into a convoy of automobiles. Next, they descend on an unsuspecting gas station. After pillaging it for food, they gather ceremoniously around the Air Pump. Its mechanic exhalations bring hulking monstrosities of thick rubber and neon-colored plastic to life. As the sun passes its zenith, our giddy protagonists hurriedly close valves, lasso bulky air mattresses to the roofs of diminutive hatchbacks, and roar off up river.
Joel, self-appointed team leader for Operation Bobbing Plastic, instructs the others with zealous assured-ness. “There is only one way to do a car drop,” he begins, “you fill cars to maximum capacity and then you add a vehicle to drop at the bottom of the river. Sure, I’ll listen to your suggestion… Look. I’ve done this before and there is only one efficient way of doing a car drop… No, if we do it like that, then we will have to run loads of people back and forth. Whats the point of that?”
Minds are eventually bent to one purpose and the gaggle reaches the embarkation point. Final adjustments are made to the menagerie of old tire tubes, rainbow-colored floating thrones, blue dingy boats, unruly bikini bottoms and jam-packed drink coolers. A ritualistic offer of psychedelic mushrooms and other natural intoxicants is made. Not only does this superimpose a ‘sparkle’ on the already picturesque, bobbing landscape, it also supports the primary industry of the SloCan valley…
Take off is accompanied by hoots of ecstatic glory and squeals at the glacial shock of the water. Then, through an indomitable process of trial and error, body position is adjusted to catch enough sunlight and the faster currents. The more gregarious tubers flocculate into hulking macromolecular structures while members of a more pensive species float off on their own – in search of profundity and hermetic relaxation.
It is at this juncture that the cynical land-lubber may furrow his brow and profess his disdain for the twirls of the river-borne adventurers. What are they achieving? To what end does ostentatious neon, exposed skin and languid posture lead? Why tarnish natures symmetry and modest color scheme with your belligerent bellows and garish attire?
But there is a perspective to which only the tuber has access. He is inundated with wet dichotomies and refreshing paradoxes. He is subdued by Nature’s grandeur, buoyed by a sense of flowing freedom and grinning companionship. He embraces the towering metaphor of the river. He senses the intimate spooning of his freedom with his fate. He is rushed downstream elegantly, inevitably. Yet he retains a certain power to choose his course, to avoid potential snares and overhangs, to angle his way to the sunny side of the river. He directs the current of his thoughts. He is free to think.
He is comforted by technologies made possible by centuries of human innovation. An understanding of displacement, the weaving of plastic polymers that keeps him afloat and molds around his shoulders. Reflective metals are rubbed into his skin and stand guard against pernicious solar rays. Carbonated, fermented beverages cool his tongue, his mind eddies.
The tuber is not distressed by his confrontation with transience. He knows he will never step into the same river twice. but he is also aware the timelessness of the verdant horizon. His attention turns to the aching silence of the trees, the enveloping rays of the sun.
Look there! Do you see! The looming trees, like the red javelins of the Gods, thrown with sporting precision into the river bank? Witness their bare, fibrous roots – curling out of the ground like the scar tissue of the earth. How straight and colorful and gigantic!
Quickly! Look to the bridge! Yes! Two howling boys are leaping from its metallic girders! Thwap! Thwap! The slapping sound of irreverent daredevils breaking the water’s surface.
Quiet now, drift towards these creaking trees. A tangle of roots, like protective arms, hold each other back against the shore. Look how the sun filters auspiciously through the leaves! Look at the strange angle of these trunks, reaching out greedily into the stream for a photosynthetic feast.
There are no words to describe the phenomenon we worship, we humble disciples of the river.
They are beasts! Their heads swirls with the contagion of drugs. Their bellies swell with greedy handfuls of Old Dutch Potato chips, trail mix and pert, purple grapes. See that one there, crashing loudly through the bush, portaging his dingy. Hear his bellows of helpless irritation as shoreline mosquitoes feast on his soft underbelly.
An Australian girl shrieks from the shore. A mischievous garter snake slithers away from her into the bushes.
A bearded Nelson boy kneels prostrate on a sandy embankment. His hands hold a dripping plastic bag. Water sloshes back and forth amidst sodden clumps of marijuana. His trembling fingers struggle to pick a dilapidated joint out of the green muck. Although his brow is furrowed under the weight of his tragedy, his eyes burn with desperate hope.
The journey draws to an end. They crawl ashore entranced. Their toes – exhausted and content – squeeze on the white sand. A peaceful parade of zombies, they wander inland to deflated their steeds.
The cynic expires through tight lips, a judgemental Hrrrmph! He is not impressed with the lofty metaphors. His eyes roll at the loquacity of the Tuber’s pretentious musings.
He tries to glare at the Tubers. Their eyes turn to meet his naked skepticism head on. Eyes set like glimmering crystals above deeply bronzed cheeks. Eyes that grin, that brim with rich secrets.
He gasps, grappling with a realization. He fumbles with his own metaphor to comprehend it:
Being naked doesn’t mean you’re sexy. Being a cynic doesn’t mean you’re cool.