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Month: March 2021

A Bathroom Review – or, why I don’t mind a portapotty (reprint!)

A Bathroom Review – or, why I don’t mind a portapotty (reprint!)

this is a reprint! for his birthday, my dad requested “presentations” from everyone, and this is what i chose (probably much to his dismay). i have made a couple edits since my first print of this, and i have added a postscript!

Some people are very particular about where they do their business. I know people who wouldn’t do doo-doo in a portapotty to save their lives. But when it comes down to it, everybody poos, and the end result is always the same: a pile of crap you gotta put somewhere.

During the summer of 2003, my dad planned a canoe trip to commemorate the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark floating up the Missouri river and then back down the Missouri river. He commissioned my uncles Jon and Greg, cousin Karl, and my brother (Charlie) to go with him. After sticking my nose in his canoe planning one too many times (I had, at the point, been on one canoe trip in my life), he relented and let me come too. Yes!

Looking back, it wasn’t a bad trip, but it wasn’t the greatest. There was a profound lack of estrogen in the company, my bro was a whiny little bugger, and the whole thing kind of seemed haphazardly thrown together (my dad didn’t pack any bowls… or spoons…and the menu for night two was stew). There was a lot more that happened on this trip, like the weird canoe and a Delorean, but that’s not what this story is about. This is a bathroom review. Back to the task at hand.

What was most inconvenient for me during this trip was the lack of bathroom facilities. Guys have it easy most of the time. Girls do not have it as easy.Now, I’d been on trips where the plumbing hasn’t been the greatest. Numerous times I’ve been in campgrounds where there is a vault toilet – a wooden building with a deep hole and a place to plant your butt to do your business. I’ve been out in the boundary waters where the facilities are much more open – no building whatsoever around the deep hole in the ground, but there was a place to sit. And sure, I’ve popped a squat behind a tree and visited plenty of portajohns (holding my breath, of course). At the times of these trips to the restroom, they didn’t seem like the best facilities in which to do a necessary deed. I didn’t know what was to come.

This canoe trip was entirely different than any other “roughing it” outing I’d been on. For starters, we didn’t stop at pre-assigned stops where there might be a building with a hole and a place to sit and all that jazz. We decided to stop at random spots. This, I learned much later in life, was my uncle Jon’s mojo, and I guess no one thought to question it. So, for the most part, I held it as best I could. But inevitably, ya gotta pee.

So, let me tell you about a latrine. It is literally a hole in the ground that you dig with your collapsible shovel. You choose a spot that is far enough away and shielded so that people don’t have to listen to you or watch you, but close enough so that it is easy to get to. You dig maybe a foot and a half down, and a foot diameter hole. The ousted dirt goes right next to the hole and the shovel stuck in the pile of dirt so that once you’ve finished doing your thing, you can cover it up with dirt so the next person doesn’t have to look at it or smell it.

When you head to the latrine site, you bring a roll of TP and a bottle of hand sanitizer.  Then, after finishing your business, you throw dirt in the hole. Of course, this isn’t the easiest thing to do because you’d have to dump a lot of dirt in to cover it up, and you want enough dirt to last the stay. So it’s not uncommon to smell or see past duties/doodies when your turn finally comes around. Once you’re done with your camping site, you shovel the rest of the dirt in the hole and pack it all down. Latrine!

The first night of our float was on an island with waist-high yellow mustard weeds all over that we had to stomp down to set up camp. Thankfully, it wasn’t raining, so this was easily done, and camp was set up rather quickly. That night, my cousin Karl was in charge of latrine duty.It was a quaint little latrine hole, and good start for the first night. Karl found a low-lying branch that was perfect for sitting on during your time in the latrine, and there was even a handy little jutted out branch that the TP roll fit perfectly. That night was a learning experience as I tried sitting on a bumply branchy woody piece of log to do my business. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but it was the better of the two nights we camped on the river.

The next night was also an island night. After a long day of canoeing into the gusty wind, a sudden storm popped up and we had to find a place to camp – fast. A little island with no trees was the choice. We camped on the lower, beachy part of the island, and the latrine for that night was on the upper, grassy part of the island, behind the biggest bush (well, the only bush). (Don’t think that this was some superlong hike up a hill to get to the bathbush – the elevation climb was maybe 6 feet.) Charlie was on latrine duty that night, and he made it quite clear that he’d found the best spot for the latrine and thank goodness he got it dug before the storm whipped through.

Except…. This latrine was literally only a hole in the ground with no convenience of branches or ANY support. Everyone peed before the rain hit that late afternoon, but the next morning the latrine was a soggy, muddy mess. A recipe for disaster, especially for a not-morning person such as myself.

There I was, in the best position I found for latrine business: one leg out of pants, squatting as best as possible, feet as far from the edges of the latrine as possible. The mud just made everything 100 times more difficult. I tried to keep my pants out of the mud and keep me out of the mud at the same time. The TP went on the bush, but there was always the possibility that IT could’ve fallen into the mud as well. As I finished my business, I suddenly lost balance. I could see my possibilities flash before my eyes. On the one hand, I could take my chances with adjusting my footing, possibly slipping feet-first into the muddy, poopy, icky latrine, or go with the sure thing and throw my exposed self the opposite way onto my pants and into the large prickly bush covering me from peering eyes. So little time, such a harrowing decision. I chose the bush.

My pants were all wet, I had prickly bush scratches all over my legs and bum, and I lost my shoe for a moment, but I was unpoop-scathed. And the TP survived.

Later that day as we floated down the final leg of our journey, we stopped for lunch at a designated rest stop on the river. And I have NEVER EVER been so thrilled to see a vault-style, hole-in-the-ground poop-station. There were walls. There was a door. There was…. an elevated place to sit. There was even a roll of toilet paper on a holder. For that moment in time, I think I reached nirvana. I at least reached civilization. Sure, it was stinky. Sure, it was probably dirty as all get out. But it was bliss.

That night, we reached the end of our river journey with flush toilets and a comfortable place to sleep, not to mention other people and a little store where you could buy junk food and other essentials you’ve missed in the wilderness. The next night, I spent a half hour in the shower at my aunt and uncle’s house washing away the five days of grime that had built up on my skin and in my hair.

Besides a horrendous sunburn on my chin and thighs, I came away relatively pleased that I went on the trip and with a greater understanding of the uses of sunblock.

Despite the scenery I witnessed, despite the ongoing bets of when my brother would give up, start crying, and throw himself into the river, and despite my awesome blistering chin, when people ask me about the trip down the Missouri River, the one story I inevitably tell is how I averted the disaster of falling into the latrine. Then I explain that I will never, ever fear a portapotty.

A post-script:

Since this trip, I’ve experience quite the array of different bathroom offerings. A few highlights on the facilities, as it were:

  1. MN State parks have quite the system with their vault toilets, and I recommend them to anyone. They are clean! If you keep the lid down, they don’t stink! They’re in every park, and I’ve actually stopped at a park just to use the vault toilet.
  2. I learned a couple summers ago that cousin Lori apparently doesn’t do vault toilets, but has a goal to pee in the woods in every state park.
  3. When in Mexico… you don’t flush toilet paper! Paper products in general aren’t great for water treatment, so much of Mexico has gone fully out-of-toilet with their paper. When you’re done, just drop your used paper in a handy wastebasket next to the toilet. It was a little weird at first, but after a while, you got used to it, and it’s better for the environment.
  4. I’ve since gone back to the boundary waters for another canoe trip, and while you may think that you don’t need that extra roll of TP to take up space in your pack, it’s probably good form to bring it just in case. By the end of the trip, we were all drip drying. Thank goodness my bowels were in discord the night BEFORE we got on the water.
  5. The portapotty status at Ragnar is definitely dependent on when they get cleaned out. Sometimes you’re lucky, and they have just unloaded the rows of portajohns and pumped in a “clean” scent, which does absolutely nothing except cover the smell of portapoos with disinfectant flowers. Or you get not so lucky and note that if you decide to use this portaloo, your bum will touch something that’s not the seat, and no thank you. I do not go THAT far. The good news is that I have noticed that the farther away the bank of johnnyonthespots, the less frequently used they are, generally, and I’m definitely willing to walk another 50’ to get to a better place to plant my bum.
  6. EXCEPT WHEN IT’S 37º OUTSIDE HOLY CRAP NO ONE WANTS TO SIT ON AN ALMOST-FREEZING TOILET SEAT, EVEN IF IT’S CLEAN, SAAADD FACE. My poor, frozen bum didn’t get warm til I got home and took a bath.
thoughts on lesley

thoughts on lesley

i checked my email this morning, and there was an update on lesley fightmaster from her husband duke.

he asked for comments about lesley to share during her memorial. here’s what i wrote. 

What I loved best about Lesley is that her practices were exactly what I needed at exactly the right time. One day, I’d had an especially disheartening review at work and was working on building myself up, but I knew that I would be all right when I brought up Fightmaster Yoga and the new video for that day was yoga for letting go.

I’ve been practicing Fightmaster Yoga since 2013, and after we lost Lesley, I considered finding a new channel. BUT – I found that grief is best spent honoring the one you lost. And so I continue to spend my evenings with Lesley. I love her gentle manner toward ourselves, I love her lilting, encouraging voice, and I love that she is there – and will be (thank you, Duke and family).

Right now I am in the middle of YogaFix90, and I felt a jolt of happiness when I heard Indy was also practicing it. And when Emma Kitty came on screen while I was watching this video, as I was petting my Stannie cat, I could do nothing but smile through tears for Lesley. I never met Lesley in person, but I do my best to honor her legacy on and off the mat.

yay axial tilt!

yay axial tilt!

too often it seems i am deriding the axial tilt rather than giving it a pat on the back occasionally. so, here’s a little ditty about the positive axial tilt we’re seeing this time of year! i know many people think daylight saving is horrible, but you know what? if i can get out of work at the end of the day and have a chance to relax just a bit and then go on a run rather than rush around to get a run in before the sun sets, I’LL TAKE IT.

so, spring is on its way. meteorological spring was march 1, and come march 20, astronomical spring will be upon us. it won’t be another month at least until the ground and grass catch up, but the birds are out there chirping away, and chipmunks are chittering and trying to take over my garage. due to the lack of snow this winter, i was able to avoid having to dig out a ditch for the snowmelt that runs down my driveway and into my pond.

and there’s definitely a lighter feeling in the air, whether it’s due to the long last year we’ve been through as a collective people with the pandemic, or i’ve just been so inured to the winter blahs* that anything different is great.

i went shopping on saturday evening, and it was definitely a different atmosphere out there (and not really for the good). i don’t know if i’d just not been out on a saturday night recently or what, but there were a lot more people out in the stores without masks, roving in gangs. i have to feel bad for the employees having to deal with this, ugh. once i get my vaccine (AS SOON AS I CAN, DAD!), i’m still wearing my dumb mask. (i also can’t imagine any of those weirdos were vaccinated – you can spot a redneck from a mile away. however, they may have had covid already.)

i was able to get out for a 7-mile run on saturday, which is the first time i’ve run that distance in probably 4-5 months. and it wasn’t bad! in fact, i’d say it was pretty good. my time was good, and my muscles were pretty chill afterward (usually my muscles are ready to poop out after mile 5, but i maybe could’ve gone another mile and been ok). we’ve got another couple chilly days coming up, but maybe wednesday and probably thursday i’ll be able to get out for an outdoor run. (the treadmill isn’t retired quite yet.)

i have a short work week this week and then on friday i’m off to st charles for birthday fun. unfortunately, my workweek is going to be nutso and i’ll be burnt out, so that 3-day weekend will probably be just me unfizzling just in time to go back to work. this is not a fun time of year at work.

anyway, this has turned into less about axial tilt, so let’s bring it back. a haiku:

yay axial tilt
slowly pushing the north to
a sunnier place

*i have said in the past that february is really the worst month, but you know one good thing about feb? the light stays up longer. it may be edging into second-to-last place. (sorry november. you lose.)

warm weekend welcome

warm weekend welcome

first of all, let’s just give a shoutout to the weather. i know it’s unrealistically optimistic march weather and there’s still a lot of opportunity for snow, but let’s take what we can get after that deep freeze we had a month ago.

so this weekend, i had my best ever 10k run at 11:12 / mile on saturday, then i went for an “easy” run on sunday and ran that at about 12/mile. this is the sort of treadmill to road transition i always hope for, and i’m not holding my breath that it will last, but i’ll take what i can get.

also this weekend, i had about 24 hours of vaccine gloriousness during which i thought i was eligible to get the covid shot for educators. i made an appointment! i was ready to go tuesday morning! i was gonna take a selfie and post it all over! but alas, i had to cancel because centracare couldn’t go against MDH rules, even though they had appointments open and are having trouble filling them.

know what this tells me? if you haven’t made an appointment yet and are in an eligible group, get your shot! (dad!)

but the highlight of my weekend was having an argument about plural possessives on twitter. like, has the general populace just never retained anything they learned in third grade? so many people just did NOT get that 43 families’ homes should not be 43 family’s homes or, weirdly enough, 43 families’ home. unless we’re talking about a housing complex. so, thanks to NPR originally for a giant typo in the article that prompted this. they could have avoided all this if they had just said 43 homes. good grief.

so, another couple warm days before we dip down to regular march temps, but that’s still better than -20, so welcome spring. in more ways that one!

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