This is a piece from my friend Mike. To understand properly what’s going on here, you need to understand a few things. First, some people call me Coach. It’s a nickname from college and a long story. Second, I am Welsh, just in case the name Emlyn Lewis didn’t tip you off. Third, I take myself too seriously, which is why I have friends like Mike (the writer) and Chris (the kayaker). Finally, Mike has, for this piece, adopted Chris’ style of writing, which comes from the ’80s’90s zine scene, and was probably originally made popular by Aaron Cometbus. Is that weird enough for you? Good. Go with it.
So me and my friend Chris went Kayaking the other night. We met up at my place and waited around for a while for John “Coach” Emlyn Lewis to show up but he never did so we ended up just leaving without him. Which was sorta sad because the whole kayak-to-the-wrecks-and-check-them-out-at-twilight was his idea. He loves outdoor stuff and this was something, kayaking that is, you pretty much can only do outdoors.
Anyway we had loaded up the Mazda 3 with two kayaks, one on top of the other. One of them is a hard shell with some internal bulkheads and the other is just a polymold so the hard shell, which is shorter, wider and slower went below and the thinner and way longer and still heavier kayak was on top. The whole mess was knotted down with some straps and pool noodles and thick foam mat. Which put the total load on the roof racks at about 160 lbs, and possibly more on account of wind resistance, sheer, airframe and so on. So at the end of tying all this stuff up it kind of looked like we might be going on a European Vacation on account of how Europeans will strap way too much stuff to cars that are way to small and then drive for hours to damp camp sites known for their fog and faint odors of canned sardines and ancient conflicts. Plus there’s all this strap and weight detail because Coach is pretty interested in techniques of load bearing because of his love of building bicycles. Load bearing bicycles that is.
(Plus I have seen Coach load his own Mazda Three with so many toys including kayaks, bicycles and soccer balls that I figured, if he came looking for us later, the over-laden vehicle would be like a signal to him- a sort of them’s my people…code.)
Well despite trying those straps and cinching them as tight as we could, Coach still didn’t show up to go kayaking with us, so, like I said before, we left without him. Anyway as we got to driving we were reminiscing about all the fun times we had with Coach, even though he wasn’t with us. Like all the times he talked to us about soccer (which he calls football in his blogs) and bicycles, both of which he really loves. Loves talking about them, and writing things about them, and looking them up on the internet. Not to mention thinking about load bearings and weight distribution not just on bicycle frames, but on even- get this- the impact angle of a foot on a turgid soccer ball struck by a genius like say the French Footballer Paul Labile Pogba, aka Pogba, who Coach has blogged about before. And well he just loves them more than kayaking so we were cool with that and figured maybe the reason he didn’t come out was because he was blogging about either soccer/football or bicycles or maybe he was looking at his bicycle or even riding it, pulling wheelies and jumping over logs trying not to break his good collarbone.
Anyway, we made it to the boat launch, a sorta professional looking place for legitimate seaworthy craft, and after unloading our European Vacation Vehicle and its junkpile of kayaks , we got to paddling and pretty soon came across some cool birds. We saw some Ospreys and we saw some Eagles. And it turns out, what’s the out one thing Coach likes nearly as much as not only his family, philosophical discourses, punk rock, bicycles and soccer?
That’s right, birds.
This is a photo of Chris in the kayak in front of a bald eagle standing on a big pylon. The bird is hard to see, it is in the background, but Chris is not hard to see, he is in front. The second photo is that guy Chris again in front of an Osprey nest. One thing you can see in that first photo more than the second is where Coach would have sat in the long polymold kayak. He would have sat in front of Chris, there was plenty of room for his rickety Welsh bones up there.
So after we had seen these birds Chris said:
“Hey Mike you know who would like this, I mean, really like this?”
“That guy Coach…. who loves birds!”
“Yeah that’s true, Chris, you sure do have a way of matching people with experiences they might have had in the good ‘ole outdoors!”
Anyway we laughed about that and kept paddling.
We finally got to the wrecks which were pretty cool. They looked like ships that maybe carried coal or stacks of cut peat from places like Wales to places like Ireland. Chris and I agreed it could also be vice-versa. The ships were falling apart, which is why they call them the wrecks, and anyway, sometimes this place is also called the Boneyard by the Tulalip tribe that lives nearby, and the whole thing had this general sense of decay and ghostly undeadness to it even if the birds were very live and real.
“Hey Chris, you know who likes Wales? And Coal?”
“I’ll give you a hint, he also talks about cutting peat and mining down pit…”
“Ohh I know, that guy Coach, he loves talking about mines and really goes to town talking about mining labor strike strategies circa 1981-2 in Thatcherite Britain.”
“Yeah that’s true, that’s true, can’t argue with that.”
“Well no one can argue with him about that because no-one really cares about the plight of Welsh Miners anymore.”
“Seems like a truth that is pretty hard to feel good about.”
Well of course none of this ever happened exactly like that, no one says stuff about miner strikes in Thatcherite Britain except maybe this other friend we have called Shawn who like kayaks and bicycles and soccer also, but not as much as Coach. But it did get us to thinking if there was a social hierarchy in Wales of miners, specifically do the Peat cutters look down on the Coal miners or vice versa. I mean in the long arc of geological history the peat pretty much becomes coal, at least when strapped under layers of heavy sediments, so you would think they would probably be equivalent, though Europeans get caught up on notions of hierarchies that are hard to fathom.
So we poured some of the tasty beverages we had brought on the Kayak trip out into the great Pacific and said a mental prayer to all the miners who used to vacation on beaches known for fog and campgrounds where they might have trouble backing their Citroen minivan into on account of a trailer (that doubles as a sort of cage or portable goat/child pen) and an absolute crapload of kayaks, paddles, bicycles, soccer balls, heavy multi-roomed canvas tents etc on top of the van (or within the cage) and maybe a shit-ton of kids all of who are screaming in the back and wayback of the Citroen. Or maybe Peugeot. I mean those are both popular European vehicles, and both make minivans, but I figured I should mention Peugeots because they also build bicycles, and you know who likes bicycles?
Well things got quiet as we pondered the wrecks and how our friend Coach would probably be talking about- if he was kayaking with us- either bicycles, or the plight of black-lunged miners facing possible Covid or COPD on account of all the coal soot they had inhaled. Maybe he would speculate on coal and peat carrying capacities and the varied of abilities of the constructions laying rotting before us to tolerate a squall straight from that Lusitania-swallowing hell known as the Irish Sea. Which is the sea that borders both Wales and Ireland.
Anyway it was a really fun paddle and apart from a little more wind than the forecast had called for, we made it back safe to ponder some other trip, maybe with our friend Coach, who despite not making this trip is an all-around good guy, even if his favorite books are the Eamon Gruffyd-Jones’ three volume collated set of Welsh Mining, Bicycle and Peat cutting Jokes.
Volume two, Page thirty eight:
Q: What’s the difference between an Irish Peat famer’s house and a Welshman’s?
A: The Welshman has a bicycle out front, the Irishman doesn’t.
- by Mike D.