"I imagined a hobo’s life would be a fine thing. I would sleep in haystacks and do exactly what I wanted all the time."

Two summers ago, Matt sent an invitation that I could not ignore. He was in Minneapolis, building a homemade raft, and had put out a call for a crew of “boat punks” to help him pilot the vessel the entire length of the Mississippi River, all the way to New Orleans. They would dig through the trash for sustenance. They would commune with the national mythos. They would be twenty-first-century incarnations of the river rats, hoboes, and drifters of the Mississippi’s history, the sort who in Mark Twain’s time would have met their ends tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail. Catfish rose in my mind; ripples expanded outward and scattered any doubts. I wrote back straightaway and asked to join up.

A modern-day On the Road, replete with gutterpunks, anarchist conventions, and megalomaniacal captains.

Once upon a time in Azerbaijan, a friend and I planned to build a raft from bags of discarded plastic soda bottles. We'd sail it down one of the rivers there, to raise awareness about pollution and littering, playing harmonicas as we floated. We couldn't quite figure out, though, which one of the rivers was heinously polluted, and which was moderately safe. The project never quite worked out.

Baku Bay from the Hotel Absheron