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Tales from a lazy summer

by Amy Kingsley

I never went to summer camp, but if I had, I think it would have looked something like this. It’s a bright day with a blue sky — mostly blue, anyway — tall trees and a crowded activity bus with a novelty horn that blasts “Dixie.” I’m inside the bus with a party of 11, and we’re sharing it with two other groups, five coolers and several dozen inflatable tubes. Together we’re crawling up a winding flank of the Dan River that curls through a remote corner of Stokes County. It’s my first trip up this way, my inaugural dip in the currents of North Carolina tube culture. And now that I’ve done it, I know what my summers in this state have been missing. No other activity embodies summertime as completely as tubing. It’s an all-day affair that obliterates the potential for constructive activity. It’s ridiculously passive, an activity that requires little more than a nodding acquaintance with lounging and an ability to pop the top off the beverage of your choice. My team comes prepared with floating koozies and enough string to tether our entourage together for the day’s drift downriver. The bus pulls off on a dirt shoulder. We plunge down a vertical path and into the chilly water, which is holding steady somewhere in the mid-sixties. The trip takes two-and-half hours from bridge to bridge, our guide tells us. The river’s running relatively high because the county let out extra water yesterday for a canoe race. Tubing is not, by its nature, an eventful activity. If you’re doing it right, it’s just the opposite. It is what summer’s about: indolence, camaraderie, cold water and daytime drinking. And so it goes for us, at least for most of the trip. The river jostles us as gently as an egg sorter, occasionally stranding us in whirlpools or hanging us out on rocks. The Dan isn’t a deep river, it’s not built for leg dangling or underwater explorations. So I fold myself into position on top of my tube so I can pull my legs out of the water at the first sign of rocks. Half way through the trip, the river pools into a cove underneath a pale cliff face pocked with small caves. Three members of our troupe scuttle up the rocks and into a cave. One of the climbers, too inebriated to be scaling rock walls, drops into the shallow water below, cuts his feet and loses his glasses, which are recovered — miraculously — after a short search. The second climber makes it up to the cave, but slips on the way back down, cutting her feet and bruising her ankles. I marinate in the river and watch the last climber make it down to the tubes unscathed. We bump along down the river for another couple of hours, stretching the trip another hour, then banking on the big rock and pushing our tubes back to the shed. A handful of clouds come back across the sky, the parking lot thins and we pass the ride back in sun soaked silence. Here’s an appeal to everyone complaining about how nothing happens in Greensboro during the summer: Go to the Carolina Theatre for their Summer Film Series. I went to The Last Waltz on Saturday, a great movie attended by maybe four-dozen people total. C’mon people. What else are you going to do for five dollars on a Saturday night? I would like to see the film series return next year, but I’m not sure it’ll happen with attendance like this. I’m not sure how the other nights are doing. Greensboro’s old movie house screens Hitchcock on Wednesdays, leading ladies on Thursdays and horror movies on Fridays. The next film in the rock ‘n’ roll series is This is Spinal Tap. It should be a lot of fun. Don’t disappoint me Greensboro, come out and support something cool. The film series ends on Aug. 18 with a screening of Batman Returns, which is preceded by 20 classic films — which means there’s ample opportunity to get out and do something interesting in Greensboro before summer ends.

To comment on this story, e-mail Amy Kingsley at amy@yesweekly.com.

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