The Dreamcatcher Expedition

Two men travel from the headwaters of the Mississippi to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico gathering the dreams of river people they meet and sending them out to sea at journey's end in a sealed bottle, the ultimate message in a bottle of Hope for all humankind.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Into The Forest

Friends say, "Where are you? You're not blogging. Are you okay?"

Yes. I am more than okay. After two weeks of struggle, I am slipping gently back into soft old skin. I am melting back into desert time. Dream time, the aboriginals called it. The sun rises and sets outside Sanctuary, and unlike last week when I wanted so to be hospitalized for my own safety from my mad self, now I give in to the rhythm of the desert dream, and I sleep and rise to eat and read then sleep again and rise and read again. The wind's whistle siings me to sleep, gentle breezes even, talking thru thin lips of windowpanes barely open.

In one day, maybe two, I read "Into The Forest" by Jean Hegland, and all the while I am in two places, present desert and redwood forest of my youth. Two young sisters learn to subsist in a collapsing society waiting for lights and computers to spring back to life, waiting in vain. Uniquely protected by the location of their home deep down a forest road, they learn over time to live off their environment, to live with less and yet so much more. I read by lamplight with wicks fading, then headlamp with batteries dying. I am right there with them. I am in the story 100 percent. Then it ends, and I want to go with them steeped in their fiction. But the cooing of the wind and constancy of crickets bring me back. I close the book smiling and mount the loft for another slide into dreamtime. - RSM
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Friday, October 06, 2006

Filmmaker, Flame Meister

MY crazy cousin caught HIS crazy cousin on digital video doing a nasty little fire act on the Appalachian Trail in 2004. He's done an awesome job editing and adding music to it. I've always felt/known that Justin was born to make movies, and I'm glad to see he's moving in that direction. By way of brief explanation, that's me showing Justin, Jess, and Party Girl Molly how to ignite a soda-can-alcohol-stove using Heet as fuel. Here it is, ready or not:

(maybe you have to be a MySpace member, I dunno? Hope not)

The Grand Rapids Article, reprised

The way this Blogger shit works, it makes telling a story kind of difficult. The whole thing comes out ass-backwards. I printed it out the other day for the bathroom reading ease of a friend who doesn't compute, and jeezus. It took forever to unbuild the backwards time progression of the blog into the correct chronology in a Word document. And that was done in Bisbee's Copper Queen Library, not on my laptop, which means I gotta do it all over again cuz I couldn't save it. Incidentally, I donated a copy of "Dead Men Hike No Trails" to this, our local library, so that nickel-poor friends like me could read it. Five months later, they have yet to catalogue it and get it on the shelf. Now, whazzup with that? Shit.

[Postscript 11-16-06: The lovely librarians at the Copper Queen, hard-working and undoubtedly underpaid for their efforts, made a special effort to get my book on the shelf when I brought it to their attention. I apologize for my above rudely-stated impatience. I sometimes forget that anyone reads this shit, and I go mouthing off.]

Anyway, point is, I went looking for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review article by Marie Nitke that day at the library and all I could find of it was a reprint in some online mag called Paddler's News or some such thing. Well, I found it today over a beer, here in the newly-Wifi'd saloon at Bisbee's cool old haunted hotel, The Copper Queen. The article appears at the beginning of this backwards-blogged story, thanks to my friend Mary, under "August," but you may not stumble upon it if yer half as web dumb as I. So here it is again, cut and pasted but also linked, should you wish to go print it out from the original source (something I like to do, makes it more official-lookin'!). "Dreamcatchers paddle through town"

'Dreamcatchers' paddle through town
Marie Nitke
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 06th, 2006 12:19:05 PM

A line taken from the lyrics of the hit song, "Proud Mary," which was written by John Fogerty about life on a Mississippi riverboat around the turn of the 20th Century, states: "People on the river are happy to give." According to some canoeists who recently paddled through Grand Rapids, those words still ring true today.

The canoeists were Rick McKinney and Frank Grandau -- modern-day adventurers on a "Dreamcatcher Expedition" down the Mississippi River. They began their journey about one week ago from Lake Bemidji, and hope to make it to New Orleans by the end of October, collecting the dreams and wishes of river people along the way.

"This journey is all about hope and connections between people," said McKinney during an interview Tuesday. "We want to meet people as we go, and collect their dreams. I'm asking people what their life-long dream is, or what their wish would be if they were granted one."

These dreams and wishes are then written down on small pieces of paper, which McKinney plans to put together into a sealed and corked glass bottle. Like classic "messages in a bottle," the dreams will be sent out to sea at the end of McKinney and Grandau's expedition.

"This trip," said McKinney, "is a mission of hope."

In the last week, McKinney and Grandau have already collected about two dozen dreams, including a few written down during casual conversations and interviews the men had while dining at the Forest Lake restaurant on Monday night.
"We talked to the bartender, and some others," said McKinney.

Most of the "dreamers' the men meet either live or work on the river. Grandau, who McKinney describes as "gregarious and bolder than I am," paddles over to almost anyone he sees to meet them and spark up conversations. McKinney, meanwhile, talks to people directly about their dreams and the purpose of this expedition.

According to McKinney, Grandau is the logical, practical goal-setter, while he is more the artistic, creative type.
"He's the pragmatist and I'm the dreamer," said McKinney. "We make an interesting team. We balance each other out."
The friends met only two years ago, when each was on a solo hike along the Appalachian Trail in 2004. McKinney was hiking to soothe his soul from the loss of a friend to suicide, while Grandau had recently retired from 26 years of service in the Navy - most recently as a Captain - and completing the hike was one of his personal goals.

Although both men were complete hiking amateurs when they met on the Appalachian Trail, they enjoyed the physical and mental challenges of their feat. That's what made them decide, two years later, to embark on this latest journey, to which they are also amateurs.

"We're hurting," admitted McKinney. "Neither of us had done any real training, and, boy, do my shoulders hurt. But we've got a long way to go. They say it takes about one million paddle strokes to get from one end of the Mississippi to the other."
Sore muscles aside, however, McKinney said he and Grandau have been enjoying their trip so far -- and have especially appreciated the kindness of strangers they have met along the way.

For example, when the two pulled their canoe over to the shore of "Pinky" Jetland's home Monday night, McKinney said, they were pleased to be welcomed with unexpected kindness. Seeking nothing more than a place to lay their canoe while they stayed in a motel in town, the men were bowled over by Jetland's good graces. According to McKinney, Jetland offered to haul the men's canoe and equipment to Steamboat Park for them on his trailer, saving McKinney and Grandau a long walk around the dam.
"He was great," said McKinney. "People have been really, really friendly. It's been really nice to meet such friendly people along the river."

"The lyrics that go, 'people on the river are happy to give' are true," said Grandau. "People need to know that."
Those interested in McKinney and Grandau's travels can follow along at dreamcatcherexpedition.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Hunter Mann, My Man

Below is a wonderfully crafted, kind and warm-hearted salute to my recent fore-shortened journey, a gift of my dear friend Hunter Mann. Hunter is a very private man, especially with his words. He hasn't given me permission to print it. I'm just hoping this is one of those cases where asking forgiveness will be easier than asking permission:-> He's such a great wordsmith. I just can't resist. The trip down the Hudson to which he refers happened concurrently with my AT hike in 2004. He was part of film crew filming a man who swam the whole length of the river. In all likelihood, Hunter probably passed right under me as I crossed the Hudson high on some bridge in New York somewhere. Hunter and I, as with many of friends, are so "on the same wave length," or better said, we are riding the same blanket of clouds to some new, unnamed and far more interesting Heaven on Earth, together if often apart. - RSM

Written September 24, 2006
Hi Rick,
I've enjoyed the photos and river tales, your pen
dipped in muddy water this time instead of ink,
well... better muddy water than blood. Your blog seems
such a valuable use of the computer medium, not to
mention the hi-tech ease the Blackberry and other
tools have provided you a link to your readers.
Whether you're on the trail of dirt or the trail of
river water, you bring an intimate window to many of
us who are mostly rafting upstream, out here in the
badlands, the hinterlands, the wastelands, the
As I felt the whole two months I was along the
Hudson River, rivers are such a metaphor, as though
they are more poetic than actual physical, tangible
bodies of H2O. Stream of water, stream of
consciousness, streaming video, unspooling in real
time with the naked eye watching it all flow.
I salute your success that has been the river trip,
some things like this take longer than the scheduled
and press-released two month duration we promise the
world and ourselves. Well, do what you need to do,
which is obviously to stop being a slave to the
paddle, to ask the river for a break, so you can heal,
recondition and maybe return to where you last dipped
wood into water, or not, maybe just start a new
adventure, a new dream collection service, perhaps
even a cross country trip from Atlantic to Pacific to
then toss the bottle of dreams to the sea, for her to
swallow then regurgitate on a beach in Tahiti at
sunrise, where an old fisherman finds it, and takes it
to his great-grand daughter to translate into Tahitian
I know this sounds nearly Hallmark Card-ish, but you
gotta remember that it's about the journey, not the
destination. Whether you return to muddy waters to
continue the trip someday or just let it flow away
from you, the paddle trip is/was/will be what it was
to be, etc, etc, as they/I say.
I'm reminded of dear amigo Aaron Makinen, who rode
bikes with me from Seattle to Helena, MT. From their
he continued riding solo, zig-zagging the map. He was
29, and as he rode he wrote, giving ink to his
non-fiction road story he was calling Turning Thirty
Across America. He was nearly 33 by the time he
finished that continental crossing, since he had to do
it in hop, skips and stumbles to compete. Now he's
turning 43 and still editing his manuscript, so
Turning Thirty was just a poetic thought really, a new
title I guess he'll be fishing for along the river or
Be well, let the river flow where it does, life will
keep rolling, the waters will be muddy, clear, calm
and rough...that's why they call if "life."
Love and admiration,

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Injury or No Injury

I gotta say, I think I've been feeling a lot more remorse for the death of the Dreamcatcher Mississippi River run of 2006 than I realized, or let on. That, and guilt. It was one thing to come to terms with the fact that my body was screaming for me to stop and having to heed that warning, but yet another thing when three days later Frank quit, too. I felt REALLY bad, in fact, so bad that my mind's only defense was to just shut down, shut it out, work towards the next goal which was getting home.

Well, I'm pleased to have received these words from Frank in an email tonight. He writes:

"Don't kick yourself too much for stopping. Injury or no injury, the river was just TOO BIG for a little canoe this time of year. With the first of the winter storms just over the horizon, and water temperature dropping by the day, it would have been absolutely foolhardy to continue. One unfortunate dunk in the middle of a mile-wide section in the river and hyperthermia would have set in before we could get dry and safe. In this case, much better safe than sorry."

Thank you, again, to all those who helped us along the way. I will safeguard your dreams, I promise. - RSM

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bones, the Bale & a Genie's Bottle Waiting

Red Hot Chilli Peppers on the radio singing some jazzy funeral dirge for California, rest in peace. Radio. How weird to hear radio out here in the BF Egypt outskirts of Bisbee halfway to Palominas and just a stone's throw from Mexico. But I had to buy a little one, to hear the outside world. Back in the Bale.

Sanctuary. Today I take that name quite literally and be it ever so Munday(ne) in the outside world, clocks ticking and workaday people clicking their heels saying "There's no place like home," (I agree) I pay no heed and never leave the house to begin with. It's a snow day, kids! Donnie flooded the school! I've got the thermometer-under-hot-tap-water flu! Yahoo.

Now what? Emails comin thru. Dad says I oughta return to Maine where there are people who can help promote my book. Ski Bum says come to South America, join Deia and him on their round the horn hike to del Fuego and back up the continent's eastern flank. Mina in my mind says "Minneapolis." My heart of Hope says "Back to the river with ye! Deliver the bottle to the sea." Kate says "Welcome back to Bisbeeland" as do others, many a local friend.

Back five nights now, drunk with James 3, maybe 4. Next day morning hungover psyche says "REHAB!" But even sober yesterday, today all day, shadows crawl across me, blot out all Hope. Stormy in my dreams returns, says "No pain will follow you into this night of nights." And I am tempted, by everything and nothing, and once again alone. Jack says, "Go roll your bones, alone." No, Jack. You went it alone with pickled nose and slur in young old age, and I don't wanna go that "Road," Jack. I wan't love again, or at very least a partner with whom I share scent attraction. Like dogs, yes, I gotta smell her. Let animal attraction do the rest.

Five dozen dreams sit in a lovely genie bottle on the table 'neath my loft bed. I fear I have taken on a mission I cannot finiish, a burden I cannot bear.

For now I will sit here in the desert and wait. Perhaps the genie will come for her bottle, roll me up and stuff me inside with all the others, assimilate me into the stuff of dreams. And I will think no more. - RSM
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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Temperature Warp

Holy Cheezusssss! I left Arizona in late May to escape the desert summer heat. I stepped outa the airport twenty minutes ago and bang! It's hotter than when I left! Which get's ya thinkin. Did I, in fact, ever really leave? If I got on a computer terminal right now and scanned back thru this blog, would I find that I had dreamed this whole past four months in New England and on the Mighty Mississippi? What the FUCK is going on?!

Man, maybe I should cut down on the drugs and flying thing. May.. be.


I'll be in the Autotransportes de Guasave shuttle van in a matter of minutes now, the lone gringo on an all Mexican shuttle bound for Douglas and my car. There will be air conditioning and the ever-soothing unintelligible banter of hispanic white noise (soothing because I don't comprende a word of it).

We will be somewhere around Tombstone when the drugs loose their hold. My brain will right itself, shake off these pesky bats, and this nightmare will be over. - RSM
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Cumulus Intoxicatum

I never leave the ground these days without the theme song from "Spiderman 2" blasting across the cathedral of my cranium. Today it was that, then Staind's Funeral March as we entered the clouds reclined out of our minds, then Peter Tosh chimed in just in time for a bumpy ride through the lowest of clouds with Stepping Razor.

I'm bad, I know. But I'm also 99 percent sure that the music from my mp3 player is not going to scramble the radar or jam communications from the tower. That's a bucha hooey. And I simply must have blastoff accompaniment music. MUST. So, I get it all cued up - the player tucked beneath my thigh, discretely install the earpiece in my window-side ear, tuck the other in my coat for easy access and, as soon as the last flight attendant plops down in their jumpseat, install the other earpiece and unpause the song, just begun.

This is usually right when the pilot calls out about being cleared for takeoff and the plane rounds that last bend and for a split second you can see right down the pipe, the runway all black streaked and badass, right where you're going, your immediate future, 100 or so riveting seconds of mad torque as the pilot stomps on it and it's damn the torpedos away! The music builds quickly, and it is loud enough to be heard very well over the jets a-roaring. It was recorded right thru a friend's DVD player with the input frequency bars topped out, full intake, peak volume. So it's the right song for screaming down the runway and reaching for the sky.

God, I love liftoff. Takeoff, whatever. Maybe someday I'll be om my back grinning with 5 or 6 G's and it will indeed be a liftoff! Yeee-hah! Chuck Yeager, here I come. Totally doable in my lifetime, I figger.

Yes. Have to put that on my list of life goals. Or stick it in the cool genie bottle given me by Carolle Oldenburg upriver a ways: The Bottle of Dreams. Gotta dream, friends. Gotta. Or nothing ever happens. How can any dream come true if no expectations were ever given it to stand up to? Look out. I've got a magic bottle and I'm comin' for you.

Hey, that's right! Got another dream last night in Groundhog Town! And three other great ones from friends Mina, Jan & Dave (Jan "Corktruck" Elftmann's husband Dave). Man can that dude cook! What a fabulous Minnesota sendoff meal he served me up the other night: Alaskan Cod, corn on the cob fresh as butter taffy, and melt in your mouth mushroom strips to give the finest cut of a cow a run for its money. Yum!

Captain says, "1,149 miles to Tucson, and we'll be traveling at 40,000 feet." Wow. That's high. Of course, high is a relative term here in seat #22F. Being high inside and out of own's body is, well, a lot like swimming in a pool of body temp water. It's nice. It's just what the doctor ordered. And the good doc never let's me down when it comes time to fly. - RSM
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Tomorrow Came

But did I roll over in bed to smell the sweet lilac scent of Andy McDowell's long black wavy hair splayed out across her pillow? I think not. Ipso facto: I think, therefore I go.

(I did enjoy a very comfortable night's rest in the plush guestroom bed at Frank's house. Thank you Frank.)

The commuter train rolls out of Punksatawny on this fine sunny morning - the next day, a day Bill Murray's struggle to achieve made for a great film plot. On the 9:48 am train I have escaped the commuter rush. The jovial chit-chat of retirees and ladies en route to a relaxed day of shopping in the big city flutter up to me from below. I prefer the upper catwalk section of these commuter trains and so sit perched above all others. I have the upstairs to myself. The car smells of plastic and cranked up air conditioning. My "ginormous" backpack takes up an entire seat behind me.

I watch the auto shops and pizza joints and car lots and clean industry of suburban Illinois race by like images in a non-sequential flipbook and try not think about the complex of trains, subways, shuttles and airplane that will compise my entire day. I am thankful merely to be moving.

Moving, after all, it what I do best. - RSM
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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

"I'm not worthy!"

What movie is that from? I dunno. The only movie I care about right now is the one I'm being a total sycophantic fan in, or of. I'm not so delusional to think I'm actually IN the film "Groundhog Day," but I have had fun running around the town square snappin' off digits like a tourist, or a location scout. But I doubt I could pass for the latter in a real town where the filmmakers used everything in town and built, so far as I can tell, only a handful of interior sets.

One I'm sure they didn't change a bit is where I now sit, the bar at The Dew Drop Inn, aka the town's only bowling alley, all 8 lanes of it (will spare you its real name). On pure instinct or perhaps just luck, I place myself at a barstool where the camera would have been and snap some shots. It's only after talking with barteder that I discover I'm dead on. Naturally, I'm pleased. But like every effin' bar in the U.S., the TVs on. Two of em, broadcasting alternately a sitcom on one, sports on the other.

(A few minutes later..)
Ha! The few patrons in the bar departed, and before the next came in, I leapt on the juke, a hungry leopard with a fiver in my teeth. I stacked the juke box with 15 classic rock hits, sat back at the bar, the sitcom now muted, grabbed my beer & Blackberry, felt very princely, set thumbs to keyboard and.. and in walked Frank.

Well bueno. We need this time to decompress together. "I don't mind telling you now," Frank says, "I'm sore and tired." Telling me now, I grumble, echoing his words. "Stoicism is greatly admired in the military," he continues. "It is a well-heeled virtue in my character." I'm speechless.

Frank is already scheming in his head about next year. "A re-attack," he calls it. "The soft approach didn't work so well." Deeply steeped in my own P.T.S.D., I am too shell-shocked to entertain future campaign ideas. As it is, Frank earlier made me a gift of one of his $285 paddles. It was a trophy I had hoped for in New Orleans. Having come only 500 miles, I didn't feel worthy. I graciously thanked him, however, and marveled at its magnificence, its weightlessness yet incredible durability. I wondered at how I'd get it on the plane.

Frank tells Kim the bartender what lovely, sparkling eyes she has. He's right. She has a certain twinkle. He compliments me on my jukebox choices, then pronounces to Kim and me, "You wanna know the best Rolling Stone song ever? Gimme shelter." Tonight both Frank and I will take shelter here in Punksatawny, beneath his very own roof.

As if reading my mind, the captain now jolly with a few beers whispers at me, "Well there's only one thing to do now. Meet a couple of locals, get in their car and drive down the railroad tracks."

On the juke, Manfred Mann sings the poetry of my 70s youth from Blinded by the Light. "She got down but she never got round, she's gonna make it thru the night."

The bowling alley, near vacant when I entered, is suddenly alive with some league game. But I hear little of the racket of balls and pins, tucked as we are back here in the bar. I hear only Frank to my left breaking down the fortress waters of the Mighty Miss into algorithms (sp?) and logical rationale. And in stereo I hear my chosen music:
Joe Walsh - Rocky Mtn Way
George Thorougood - One scotch, one bourbon, one beer
Steve Miller - Fly like an Eagle
Rolling Stones - You can't always get what you want

Not long after, Frank and I depart for real food on the town plaza. Together we devour some two dozen baby back ribs, chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, goumet salads, Octoberfest beers and cheesecake. It is a gorging, the kind of feeding that ferries romping summer and hard-won harvest into the winter of hibernation.

"Even Lewis and Clark took the winter off," quips Frank, to which I add, crass but not dishonest to my own needs, "Sure, and if they were smart they were fucking squaws."

Unplanned, but it'll be nice to know as I sail at 30,000 feet tomorrow back to my native earth that my captain is not out there going it alone, and furthermore that he, too, is happy to be home. - RSM
(Pure Gonzo Journalism, hot off the fire to you!)
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A Groundhog Kinda Day

I'm in a car zooming down the freeway headed toward the Chicago area. There's a canoe on the roof. A yellow, Kevlar canoe. Frank's sister Cherrie is at the wheel, I'm in the pasenger seat. In the backseat sleeps Clyde with his master, Frank, at his side. There's something oddly familiar about all this.

Yes, it's true. Captain Frank is now off the river as well. He's headed home to manicure his lawn and walk his dog in peace. After three days of paddling (not alone but with his guest paddler Cherrie) he came to the same conclusion we together had once or twice come to upriver: we were nuts. In this case, he realized he would have to be crazy to continue on, alone.

Frank spoke of how, even with his sister in my place in the bow, he was humbled by the massive 6 or 8 or 12-packs of barges (each one huge in its own right but all lashed together - whoa!) being ferried downriver by tugs. "And the size of the river!" He exclaimed. Beneath the Twin Cities, the Miss had really gone mighty on him. Monster barges, speedboats flying by with no heed for the tiny canoe being tossed and sloshed by their violent wakes. And the lakes.

With not much exception, the Miss is really just a big-beaded necklace of lake after wide lake all the way to St. Louis. "It's not fun anymore," he sighed. I could relate. It had been a hardass endeavor from the get-go, but thru northern Minnesota it had at least been pretty. I felt sad for him, but the result of those early hard days zapped me like a taser as I forgot myself and tried to lift some gear with my right as we prepared to pack the car. My race was run. There was nothing I could do to help him, not anymore.

And so officially ends Frank & Rick's Mississippi bid for the Fall of 2006. We're goin' home. But The Dreamcatcher Expedition? That ain't over til I say so. That ain't over til I quit collecting dreams. That's the beauty of a conceptual journey. It's boundless. You can't kill it. It has taken on a life of its own. And right now, this very instant flying across land in a late model silver sedan, right now it is morphing.

Speaking of things you can't kill...
Frank lives in Woodstock, Illinois, that old town square and gazebo town that anyone who's seen Groundhog Day has had burned into their memory forever. How could we forget it? We walked its cobbled streets time and time again with poor grumpy Bill Murray until he got ungrumpy and learned to do good for others and appreciate the simple things in life at which point his time-loop curse was lifted and he got to wake up in bed with Andy McDowell.

Well, things generally go back to their source, and here am I on my way back to the fictional Punksatawny, PA where, after we've unloaded the canoe and gear, I have every intention of strolling over to the non-fictional, very real bowling alley featured in the film and sittin' down for a beer right where Bill Murray sat before deciding to take his local drunken buddies on a suicidal ride down the railroad tracks that pass by right near the alley.

This wasn't in the plan. I was merely to drive Cherrie's car dowriver to wherever they ended up after three days on the river, then ride into Chicago with her (she lives somewhere nearby), hole up in a cheap motel room for the night, and fly outa Midway Airport tomorrow afternoon.

But things are morphing, like I said. Let's just hope "tomorrow begins tomorrow," as the rock lyric goes, and I get to leave Punksatawny and tomorrow night lay my head in an Arizona desert bed. (smile) - RSM
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