Lake Berryessa, Napa County, CA, Summer 1973: My cousin Bruce was a video wizard, and he lived in Berkeley. (This was some years later than the time he pulled the plastic bra off the 30-foot tall woman in San Francisco.)
He invited me and Barbara A, the writer, to go a-boating. This was because he had a new boat. Well, sort of a boat. It was a yellow inflatable boat, and he was eager to take it for a sail upon the nearest lake.
Barbara A. and I foolishly agreed to go.
Bruce and Leanna brought their young son, Mordred, oops- I mean Nathan. Well, he was a little obstreperous, but then so was Bruce. (And, truth to tell, me too.)
So the trip in the car seemed eternal.
This may have been due to our supply of green cigarettes. All things considered, considering the confusion, cross-conversation, maps, questions, squabbling, and wrong turns, it is miraculous that we found the lake at all.
The lake, eventually, turned out not to be one of those wooded alpine beauties tucked quietly among the hills. Rather, it was a man-made long blue swatch lying among brown summer hills out in a vast nowhere somewhere east of the city of Napa. All the same, it was a big stretch of quiet blue water, and we lugged the boat down to a bit of deserted shoreline. Then we lugged the boat back up to the car, and with a motorized gadget plugged into the green cigarette lighter, we pumped it up.
And then we carried the inflated boat down to the water and set it upon the lake.
We piled it with oars and a picnic basket. The two women climbed in. Little Nathan scrambled in. Bruce and I got in.
Then, because the boat was sitting on the bottom, Bruce and I got out and we eased the boat to deeper water and clambered in again to take up our oars.
We paddled out a bit, and enjoyed the blue water around us, as we sat under the broiling sun. Somehow it now seemed that going over to a stretch of trees along the far shore might be a good idea, cooler for our picnic. This decision was long and involved, and somewhat difficult, but finally all were agreed: we would paddle to the trees and have our picnic.
I sat in one end of the boat, with Barbara near me. I could hear Bruce and Leanna and Nathan talking and squabbling behind us. I paddled.
And I paddled.
And I paddled.
It was hot, but I kept on paddling.
But the odd thing, I slowly realized, was that we seemed to be making no headway at all, even though I was paddling and paddling and paddling.
Barbara and I discussed this, as I paddled, and after a bit of discussion and comparison of certain trees and rocks, she agreed: we were making no headway.
Calling out to Bruce behind us, we got him and Leanna to consider the phenomenon. They couldn’t quite agree whether we were making headway or not. Bruce was cussing in between paddle strokes, and I’d become tired of trying to follow their conversation, and I quit paddling.
Suddenly I noticed that the boat now seemed to be going backward!
Turning around, and looking at Bruce’s back, and him still paddling, I found the mystery was solved.
The two of us were paddling in opposite directions.