French Press Time Machine

Nearly a quarter century ago I bought a french press. It was Lexan, unbreakable, meant for camping. I bought it because I had acquired a drift boat, and I was suddenly unshackled from the onerous weight restrictions imposed by doing river trips in kayaks or canoes. Indeed, at the same time, I bought a Stanley thermos to keep the coffee hot, and a large, comfortable chair in which to enjoy the hot coffee by the river in the morning.

Over the years I’d done a lot of raft trips, private and commercial, but my heart was in hard-shell boats, and both performance and inclination kept things light. On Sierran overnight exploratories we used our Hollowforms, 3-meter 40-pound pointy tubs of lard whose only real virtue aside from momentum was that, generally speaking, they didn’t break. Once the excitement of having a pretty much indestructible boat died down, the drawbacks of their propensity to get pinned by the nose or wrapped from the side became apparent. For doing a 3 mile hike to the put in followed by a couple of nights out on a class V exploratory, weight became a primary concern. We brought almost nothing: no tent or stove, no utensils (we ate with sticks), certainly no coffee makers. Our doctrine was harsh and pure.

Multi-day canoe trips were much the same. As the whip hand on some of these with (ex)wife and a friend I demanded that they stick to the stern terms of my glorious past and drink cold instant coffee shaken with powdered milk rather than “drag a goddamn stove and pot down the river”. I’m not sure they got where I was coming from, but they did as they were told. Whence the (ex)?

The drift boat was another matter. I wasn’t about to go rafter whole hog with degenerate bourgeois comforts, but certainly a french press, stove, thermos and chair, even a tent big enough for me and my dog, and yeah, even a medium sized dog didn’t rise to apostasy? That I was a good twenty years on from the kayaking golden era might excuse some of this.

The coffee maker served me well. I honestly can’t count the number of 5-day John Day and 3-day Rogue trips I did with Buffy all in comfort and ease, just the two of us.

Drift boating was a good thing to take up near the end of my whitewater years. Getting a drift boat through Class III or even IV took all the river knowledge I had, and had the added spice of being unforgiving. I did many runs on the North Umpqua in both aluminum and wood boats and each time I had to mentally gear up like I would for a much harder river in a kayak. Besides being new and fun, I could take my dog, and even other people!

This was a fun time in my life. Without the stress of boating class V in a competitive setting, I was actually enjoying myself on the rivers. These solo (w. dog) trips on Oregon Rivers that I knew well and loved are a treasure.

This week the crack in the bottom of the press finally gave way. It had been there for a long time, maybe years, but never seemed to be a problem so I ignored it. When puddles of coffee started to appear beneath and around the press, I at first attributed it to spillover out the spout from pressing, which is commonplace. But after a couple of days of careful rinsing and pressing, I realized the jig was up, the crack was through and through.

As I stood in the kitchen, dead press in hand, this wave of memories, of rivers and rapids and dogs and people and trips and boats bought and built, holed and repaired, swept through and over me and has stuck with me through the day. Maybe this is why we resist losing materials from our past that we have stuck away in closets and boxes and haul these things around with us for years. For myself, lately, seeing more and more of the people that I know succumbing to illness and age, I have taken to letting go of these materials and instead keeping the feelings within me. Maybe I’m wrong; the press makes me consider it, but it’s out the door…

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