Authors / Watch & Listen

Kola: Jon Lurie and José Perez

Milkweed Staff — 06/13/2017

Feeling a lack of meaningful connection to their cultural roots—Lurie as the son of a reticent Holocaust survivor, José attempting to access a communal histroy obliterated by centuries of oppression—Canoeing with José is the story of two men who embark on a two-thousand mile paddle from Breckenridge, Minnesota to the Hudson Bay. Faced with mosquitoes, extreme weather, suspicious law enforcement officers, tricky border crossings, and José’s preference for Kanye West over the great outdoors„ the trip becomes an oddysey of self-discovery and companionship.

Their friend, Markus Hoeckner, produced a short documentary about their friendship.

“I can see, looking back, that our canoe trip was more than just a canoe trip,” says author Jon Lurie. “This wasn’t about recreation. This was a healing journey. We had signposts along the way that told me that, and that gave me the confidence to know that it wasn’t just the two of us out there, that we were being spiritually cared for.”

“One of the very first instances that I decided to write about was our experience going over Low-Head Dam, about a half hour into our trip. I wanted to run it to test our skills and see what we could do, and I believed we could do it. But, as it turns out, Joseé sort of panicked, and we ended up in the water with all our stuff bobbing down the river. I later spoke to a Lakota elder friend of mind and told him what had happened. He said, ‘You didn’t tip because José had a lack of experience in the canoe, and you didn’t tip because you guys didn’t use the right strokes. You tipped because you both were spiritually out of balance. The act of tipping the canoe put you back into balance.”

“In Lakota,” José says, “we have a term called kola. It signifies a friendship, a bond with anyone significant in your life. A person you can learn with and grow with. I view Jon as a kola, as an ally.”