We spent a week vacationing in Phoenicia, New York.
Tubing seems a big deal in Phoenicia. Actually, Tubing is the only thing to do in Phoenicia. The fast flowing Esopus Creek runs through the tiny Catskill town and there are two businesses entirely dedicated to this activity. The other business is a liquor store. We signed up with the less busy outfit along with five other people mostly because we liked the liquor advertisements on the side of their buses.
We signed waivers stating that we understood that tubing could break bones, cause paralysis, cut your skull open, make you sterile and or estrange you from your family. My wife, Jean signed her form without reading it and walked off with her required life vest. I noted the shelves full of unused helmets, as they were optional. Footwear was highly recommended and we had that covered. I caught up with Jean as we piled into the tubing bus with the other victims and a giant pile of black inner tubes.
“Did you read the waiver?” I asked Jean. “It said we could break bones, crack our heads open and or contract ‘spousal amnesia’ doing this.” I made up ‘spousal amnesia’ just to see if she was listening.
“Yes, I like the liquor ads too.” She responded as the bus headed out and up the hill to a spot in the river where they dump unsuspecting tubing tourists.
“This is not a controlled water park” the driver barked as he threw inner tubes at us. “You are responsible for watching out for obstacles in the water. Rocks, trees, bears and or amnesiatic tubers from the previous group.”
Soon after that we found ourselves floating quietly down a calm stream in our tubes, enjoying the wonder that is ice cold water in it’s natural setting. How serene.
The next thing I remember, I witness Jean in the distance coming up gasping for air and grasping for her tube as the other people in our group gave out cries of fear that were unintelligible over the roar of the white water. Jean gave me thumbs up to let me know she was somewhat fine, and I shouted for her to just go with the flow of the river. It was then that I looked up to see that the flow of river was about to slam me against a rock the size of a Volkswagen Beetle. The original type 1 beetle. You know, commissioned by Hitler. I was suddenly unseated and underwater but I managed to hold onto my tube. They charged you for the tube if you lost it. I clawed my way up on top of some rocks and caught my breath as I tried to figure out how to jump back onto my tube so I could rejoin the other injured people being dashed against the jagged stones. Jean was coming at me. I waved. She looked at me with out recognition. I gave her a questioning thumbs up to confirm that she had recovered from her spill. Nothing, she sped by me without a glimmer of acknowledgment. At that moment I realized what had happened. My worst fears realized! She was suffering from spousal amnesia.
I spent the rest of the trip trying to find Jean as I avoided, or mostly NOT avoided large painful obstacles. Half my foot was numb from a painful impact, but I paddled on during lulls in the white water attempting to catch up with or find Jean.
It was near a particularly rough and swift area under a bridge that I spotted Jean and she me. She seemed to realize I was an important person in her life and we tried to paddle towards each other. Up on a high bank above us, I spotted elderly folk with canes and in wheelchairs watching us.
“They’re here to watch young people die.” I told Jean as we got almost within touching distance of each other. She looked up at them and waved. They didn’t smile, laugh or even wave back at us. “See?” I said. “They’ll smile when our skulls split open on these rocks and not before.” Just before our fingers could touch, the swift water tore us apart and the rapids took us.
I didn’t see Jean again until we reached the point at which we were to crawl out of the river and return our tubes to the man who tried to kill us. My foot was still numb and my body bruised. Jean floated up behind me bruised and cut in tender places. Her shorts were worn and ripped from rocks and or fresh water piranha. She looked at me and asked if I could help her find her husband.
There was a family on the rocky shore with some teen age kids as Jean and I assumed fetal positions on the ground and rocked back and forth.
“How was it?” the mother asked.
“Great!” I said. “A lot of fun. I recommend it highly.”