The Daily

This River

Trying to find purpose, Trying to see meaning
Trying to make sense of the nonsense that I’ve called My Life

Cause only this river can bear me to safety
Only this river can bear me away

JJ Grey & Mofro, This River

In 1979, I nearly missed a week long trip rafting down the Grand Canyon and Colorado River because of an infection. Fred, my best friend since 4th Grade, managed the giant waterpark at the corner of Commercial Boulevard and Dixie in Ft. Lauderdale. It was late night (it always was). There were girls (all with Fred). And Fred had the keys, so …

A day or two later, my hand blew up to the size of a football – a few days before the trip. I was terrified of missing the trip, but more terrified of losing my arm – which felt like a distinct possibility as the days ran on and purple striations chased each other up and down my extremity.

I managed to make it to Vegas in time to catch Redd Foxx at the Hilton. We put in the River at Page, Arizona.

Dad at the launch. Page, Arizona

I didn’t know what to expect. We’d done a lot of rafting – mostly on the Chattooga River. But the Chattooga is wild and the Colorado was largely a slow moving beast until you get around Lake Meade where the trip ended with a very long paddle. The days were filled with spectacular sights, natural marvels and genuine adventure.

Dad having an adventure.
Me having an adventure

Our large rafts pulled giant nets filled with booze of every kind and make – using the Colorado to stay cool and available. The nights were cool, pitch black and the stars were enormous. The only word to describe the environment was the “bigness” of it. Everything – every rock, cliff, cloud, bend and feeder stream – felt outsized. It fit my old man like a glove, all of it.

I was young and trying to go a million miles an hour. I’m sure Dad had thought about the trip and the fact that I’d be moving out and on soon. We had more time alone on that River than we’d had my whole life. I had his attention like I never would again. We talked a lot. Mainly, we soaked in the primitive luxury of unspoiled nature (this was before they allowed motorboats to cruise the river). Lots of jokes (good and bad) and war stories (same) got told (Ted Hayneline and his boys – also in the Lauderdale legal community – were along for the ride). As the days wound on, it felt like an ancient rite of passage. In the end, the mind reached a very open and natural place, settling into a simple mode of getting past each obstacle and closer to the destination while enjoying the ride.

Near the end of the week, there was a set of Class 4 or 5 rapids then a very long, hard, slow paddle to the Loadout. I can still remember that paddle and silent drift. It felt like it would go on forever before we got to the disembarkation point. But it was a great time to reflect on what we’d just seen and experienced – nobody spoke a word.

Over the coming years, I’d head off to college and then law school. I came home but went my own way working for hospitals and doctors, soaking up experience from the relative safety of an insurance defense firm. Then, we worked together for five pretty glorious years.  I grew up a lot during that time. Because I was prepared to be my own man, my own trial lawyer.