Leslie in the box
Two days ago I took part in the Kiwi sport of "River Surfing." The first time I ever saw something like it was on some car commercial, I think for the Xterra. You put on a wetsuit, grab a boogie board, and hop into a freezing rapid and scoot down the river. I had forgotten about it until the hellishly long flight out here. One of the promotional videos showed some dudes doing the river surf thing and I thought, "That looks like fun."
So when I got down here to Queenstown, home of all adventure sports, I figured I would give it a shot. I had already done the bungy jump (I'll fill you in on that another time) so the next day I signed up for "Serious Fun River Surfing." Our tour guides were just what you expected: Mitch and Michael, two skinny guys in their young 20's who were having a hoot doing river crap. The main dude, Mitch, was a clone of our own Bradley Dot with about five more kilos of muscle on him. Michael was a young Mel Gibson look alike from Australia.
I killed time waiting for the van to show up talking to some random people out in front of the Bungy Centre here in town. They were on their way to ride on the almighty Nevis Bungy, a 134 meter drop into a canyon from a specially designed cable car. That's, uh, 300+ feet, my man, and it looks a lot scarier than the 43 meter jump I did into the Kawarau river. Anyway, this guy was stoked, and I talked bungy with him until Mitch came to collect me.
As Mitch drug me to the van, he confided that we had three deaf people on the trip, so it was going to be interesting. Cool.
I crawled into the van and sat next to a Japanese guy named Tetsu. I kept thinking of Akira, when Tetsuo and Kaneda are trying to kill each other and they keep hollering out:
I didn't bring it up, though.
Michael and I chatted along aimiably while we headed the 50 km outside of town for the river trip. Mitch was trying to talk to the deaf people by talking very slowly so they could read his lips, supplemented by a few written pieces of paper. Trying to explain eddy rapids and concepts such as "stay in the middle of the river" were hard with this system :)
But we made it to river, and we suited up, and we hopped into the water. I was ashamed to say that I was the most fit of the five of us tourists, at least when it came to swimming. While the others thrashed around a bit I had strapped my goggles on my head and my fins on my feet and boogied my way down the rapids. Class III, baby, with the reassuring names of Maneater, Roller Coaster, and Dead Cow Rapid. Niiice. Reminds me of all those climbs Cantone has done: Dwarf Toss Tragedy, Vagitarian, Dominator. Probably a bit of crossover in the whitewater and climbing communities.
Anyway, the deaf folks did pretty good. When we got to the end one was fixing to get swept past our cut off point, so I swam out, grabbed his board, and hauled him the twenty meters back across the river. On the way back up to the van, Mitch pulled me aside and thanked me for both my help and my patience. "No worries, mate" I told him with a grin.
Back at the van, Mitch asked "Who's keen to try it again?" Four out of the five us wanted to go again, so we headed the 5 km back up the river to do it one more time.
We get back down to the river and this time we're going to jump in to get off to a quick start. I let everyone else go first, and feeling like I know what I'm doing, I take an extra big leap into the water with my boogie board stuck straight out in front of me.
The board hit the water first and then my chin smacked down into the board, slamming my mouth shut. I was stunned for just a moment, then I felt something like sand in my mouth. I started spitting, ran my tongue along my teeth, and found that I had managed to crack about five of them.
Back into town, and I'm stressing a bit about my teeth. You have to understand that I've always had perfect teeth: no cavities, nothing sore, no fillings, no root canals, no braces, no nothing. In the genetic lottery, I made up for nearsightedness with perfect teeth. Now I've gone and chomped the damn things on down. And, I'm in fucking NZ. And, I don't have any fucking insurance being unemployed. All because I wanted to jump into a damn river with a damn boogie board.
You get the picture.
I get into town, open up the phonebook, and call the first dentist I see. They schedule an appointment for the very next day. Thinking of credit limits and ready cash, I sheepishly ask her , "Uh, how much will this cost?" She says it's hard to tell until they take a look, but that since "it's an accident, the government of New Zealand will cover most of it." Oh, really?
I nibble down a little soup, go see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (awesome flick), and generally feel sorry for myself. I'm counting off the minutes until I get to the dentist.
The next day drags by. I take the opportunity to tell everyone I meet that I cracked some teeth on the river yesterday in an effort to generate some sympathy and get out of my funk. It turns out to be an excellent conversation starter. I slurp down another bowl of soup for lunch, and then I'm off to the dentists, Hopkirk and Buchanan.
I walk in, sit down, fill out one 4 by 6 inch form, and then the doctor comes out to see me. He says, "Hello Alan, my name's Jamie, and what can I do for you?"
So I proceed to tell him all about it, and how I'm bummed out about my used-to-be-perfect teeth, and how I'm sure that I've done a phenomenal amount of damage to myself. In my mind, I'm thinking they're going to have to order off to Auckland for some special device to fix up my teeth and that I'll be stuck here for weeks.
Jamie clamly listens to me gibber away, then pulls out a photo album. It's a before and after type thing. He shows me a guy who smacked himself in the face with a paddle while rafting and literally broke a tooth smooth in half, right off at the gumline. The next picture is the same mouth, tooth replaced and you can't tell the difference.
Jamie reassures me that all is well, lays me back, whips out some plastic stuff, fiddles around in my mouth for about twenty minutes, and then pulls out some sort of drimil tool type thing. "I'm just going to shape it up now," he tells me. Whiirrr, whiirr, whirrr, then he asks me to bite down. He's got one of the teeth just a bit longer than it used to be, so he whirrs away again. A few more times and the bite is back to normal; it reminds me of nothing so much as hanging a door plumb.
While he works, Jamie tells me stories about all sorts of folks who have come in, and he tells me, "It's a shame this happened, but you're lucky in that we have an awful lot of experience with this." Then we're done, and he says I'm free to go. Curiously enough, he also thanks me for my patience, and my "confidence in an unknown doctor and a new procedure." Then I'm out in the office, fill out a simple form to claim the New Zealand accident insurance, and pay a measly $NZ50 for my filled in teeth.
I walk out of the the office a new, and whole, man once again. I can feel some ridges on the back of my new teeth, but I figure that I'll forget about them in another week or two. I go for a long hike, then get some dinner with my new teeth, and finally see Crouching Tiger one more time. What an awesome movie. My teeth were still a bit sore, and I wanted a drink after the walk, so before the movie I bought a flask of whisky. Then I had trouble getting to sleep, so old Jimmy Beam came to the rescue.
So, here I am, with two movies under my belt and a new set of teeth in my head.
The last thing I want to tell you is from the movie: Chow Yun Fat tells, uh, Zheng Ziyi (I think) that she cannot use the Green Destiny until she learns "to hold it in stillness." Ah yes, stillness, the heart of every martial art. I think about it and I think about this bit of patience that I've been praised for lately. Some things really send me off, but other things do not. Waiting for a deaf guy on the river, I can wait all day. Waiting for a waiter in a restaurant, I don't want to wait even a minute.
I think about the first instance, and I realize that I am indeed holding the sword in stillness. It reminds me of those perfect sparring matches we would have, where everything would click and everything inside became silent. Or some of those long runs, where you felt like you could run all day, and the legs felt okay, and you didn't even see what was around you anymore. Or, even, surprisingly, the most gratifying times of working on coldsmoke here, when time flies by and you have no idea how much you've written or how far you have to go, but you're just cruising in the moment.
Holding the sword in stillness.
I was feeling sorry for myself over the teeth thing, so I put some Wilco lyrics off on the side there. New Year's Resolution: Do Not Feel Sorry For Yourself. Okay. But I'm smiling to myself right now because I've just realized something. The Crazy Girl hated that I was short on long term goals; the current girl is terrified because she thinks that I have too many :)
So misunderstood. Pobrecito :)
This web site was last updated on 2/10/2001, from across the Equator and the International Date Line.