Best Friend I’ve Never Met

For many years I’ve had a total friend crush on John Young who started the original Guerilla Drive-In in West Chester, Pennsylvania (note below that he claims I had the idea first). This year, finally, the Hudson River brings us together.

Here’s his sweet version of this story:

Kate, Lydia, and I are headed to Albany today to meet Wes Modes’ shantyboat on the Hudson river!

Eighteen years ago, Kate told me about an artist with the moniker “Rico Thunder” in California showing movies in empty lots, reclaiming land that was supposed to be public, but that was fenced in and ‘protected’ by lots of bullshit ordinances.

I was enchanted by Rico’s “Guerilla Drive-In” project, and I started my own in West Chester. Mine was more of a goofy scavenger hunt with fun tools. Rico and I had a great time, and every June when “drive-in nostalgia story” season rolled around, both Rico and I would end up quoted in the articles: me with my “this is a fun thing to do to get people off the couch” quotes, and Rico with his actual capital-A Anarchist credentials.

I now know Rico Thunder as Wes Modes, and Wes is just about the best friend I’ve never met in person. Wes teaches art at UC Santa Cruz, and his guerilla drive-in was just one of an amazing list of projects. For instance, he and a group of friends would get together and make rafts out of found materials, then float down American rivers for a week.

That “Punk Rafting” project has gradually turned into an amazing expedition and documentary project called “A Secret History of American River People.” If you’ve read this far, you should just go ahead and watch the trailer, because it explains the aim of the project beautifully.

As I write this in a hotel room in Mahwah, NJ, Kate, Lydia and I are about to head up to Albany, NY where the shantyboat is moored on its trip down the Hudson river. I’ll get to meet Wes in person for the first time, hurrah!

John, Kate and Lydia met us in Mechanicville. We had our usual little intention-setting discussion we have with all new shipmates (which given their Quaker heritage didn’t freak them out). Some safety talk and rope tutorials and we cast off.

We went through locks C-2 and C-1 and then pulled around to the shallows after the spillway and swam. We ate a leisurely lunch. We talked a lot.

We pulled into Waterford, explored town a bit and watched the sunset.

Good day, good people. Thanks Hudson.

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