Don’t I look so happy here? Well let me tell you, that’s a fucking LIE. Because I have never—and I mean NEVER—paddled a kayak ANYWHERE ON EARTH and NOT vomited within 30 minutes of leaving shore.
Was it the Outer Coast, you ask? No. Was it even the ocean? No, no it was not. It was a lake. And not a very big one, either. You see, no matter the body of water or the weather—and Mendenhall Lake was choppy today, the glacier smaller than ever, THANKS TRUMP—you can count on me like 1-2-3 to toss my cookies over the edge of our cumbersome, zillion-pound, precariously-bungeed-to-a-ski-rack beater Fulbot “canoeyak” within the hour.
Like hunting and fishing, kayaking is one of those Alaska things that I WANT to like. I WANT to be good at it, which I guess is why I keep trying it. Fresh glacial air, green mountains jutting up out of the water like a postcard, icebergs, nesting Arctic terns, yada yada yada.
Welp, all I can say is thankfully there’s hiking and skiing (although I’ve also been known to puke off the chairlift in windy white-out conditions). Otherwise, I’d just go back home to the Bronx where I belong, move back in with my parents like I’ve secretly fantasized about doing ever since I came to Alaska 13 years ago, and work for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or something.
Problem is of course, I don’t belong in the Bronx anymore either, if I ever did. Now that I’ve been living in Alaska for so long, my NYC game is rusty AF too!
I’m in a Catch-22 of geographic helplessness; a future weak-link for anyone’s Zombie Apocalypse team, unless cursing and self-hatred turn out to be necessary survival skills. But God help me if the Zombies have personal flotation devices, because they will outpaddle me and try to eat my brains, and literally my only defense will be to barf a turkey and avocado sandwich in their melting faces.
It will be fun, they said. We have out of town guests, they said. Every ding-dong off a cruise ship does this tenderfoot nothing of a paddle, they said. And by “they” I mean “Geoff,” who loves kayaking and has never seen me in a kayak without barfing, because that has never happened even once. Indeed, we still talk about some of my most legendary performances, e.g., Maui 2007.
When Geoff got us back to Skater’s Cabin (I was slumped down in the front of the canoeyak at this point), there were about three dozen or so of the aforementioned ding-dongs and their guides getting ready to raft around in this giant glacial bathtub from which I was sure I’d never emerge.
“Do you want some water?” one of the 20-something boy guides asked me, trying to be helpful and kind. “Nope,” I demurred. “Just gotta grab my usual after-kayak reverse lunch by this stand of spruce trees over here.”
Ever the empath, he was picking up on the signal of his mother’s dire straits and offered to take over her paddling duties on the return voyage; but he was too small, and truth be told, only a half hour earlier he’d whined for someone to “leave [him] off on this iceberg to die” because he “might as well get it over with.”
At least there are no sea lions in here. Those fuckers will chase you the fuck DOWN, I’m told.
Anyway, it was all a moot point now, because we were finally ashore where Geoff could re-rack the canoeyak and Isaac could whine some more about being cold. And I could sit in the passenger seat of our car and boot every few miles until we got home and I crawled into bed with disbelief that I’d made it back to my favorite place on earth, doing my favorite thing on earth besides sleeping, which is to go off on what an unmitigated fucking disaster I am.
I still have my winning streak of not having to be rescued by a professional though, so there’s that.