So, I was back in Alabama for a second canoe/kayak race weekend. Yup, the second race in the Alabama series takes place on the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River. I am going to try and avoid talking too much about Roy Moore this time. He is a loser and lost and I don’t like much about him so, why ruin a perfectly nice story? The countryside North of Birmingham is beautiful. Spring makes most things pretty to me, and this rural countryside is no exception. And, there is excellent cell reception all the way into the most rustic areas, including the race site.
I love pulling into these competitive gatherings because they are locally organized; volunteers, competitors and the public are all mulling around in a relaxed yet energized competitive stir. Everyone here loves paddling and there are all types of paddlers. They represent the gamut of people with experienced, senior canoeists, toddlers whose parents drag them along in the tandem competitions, couples kayakers (some married, some not), teen s and others: they all come in ALL sages, colors, shapes and sizes. This weekend there was even an Asian American competing in the Ladies Amateur division. Of course, I can’t help but wonder, did she vote for Roy Moore?
I try to blend in with the crowd; be one of the racers. But I talk a bit different than everyone because I come from far away Miami. As I look around at the crowd, I also notice that I am dressed different than everyone else. I am the only one here with Gucci corduroys (I wore them because my fashionista friend Christian tells me corduroys are for hillbillies) and Prada boots. Now, don’t make fun of me; my boots are 15 years old, AND I bought them in Aspen at the 70 percent off Performance Ski sale.
I get my kids ready with their extensive cold weather kayak gear: long underwear top and bottoms, an air-tight “dry suit,” helmet, life jacket and a recyclable “clean canteen.” It’s all kayaker safety gear. I walk down to the creek and hand them off to their coach, Eli, aka the “canoe guru.” As I head back up to our parking/headquarters area a car with Tennessee plates pulls up next to mine. And who do you think gets out? The best 14-year-old in the Southeast—Willy the Worm. That’s what he calls himself on Facebook.
We call him “hair boy” because his hair reaches half way down his back. In typical 14-year-old boy fashion, it’s questionable when the last time it was washed? We also call him that to make light of the fact that he is so much better than all the other boys, including mine. When he and his dad get out of the car, I congratulate him on last week’s big win in the junior 18-and-under Kayak Slalom race. Horror of horrors, “hair boy” is lovely. He couldn’t be any nicer. He thanks me, smiles and makes some small talk. When we head our separate directions, I walk away with a new friend—a new friend who of course paddles much better than my kid and who will almost certainly win again this weekend. It would have been easier if he wasn’t such a nice young fellow. I guess you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or its teenage hair.
Well, this story ends the same as last weekend’s story. My son Sam paddled great. He made huge improvements. Of course, Willie the Worm, aka “Hair Boy,” won again—by a long shot.
On the car ride home, I reflect on Alabama and its crazy Judge Roy Moore. I think, like with “hair boy,” I don’t really want to judge books by their covers or their hair styles. What matter is what’s on the inside, not the outside; right?
As I round one of the many beautiful rustic bends in the road in our rented 4-wheel drive SUV, my two boys and I see an out-of-place ten story building in the distance. Why in the world would anyone build that tall structure in the middle of nowhere? As we approach the offending structure, the name becomes legible: Wallace State Community College. In my mind I can hear Governor Wallace saying: “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever!” Wow… It’s very hard not to judge a book by its cover.