What’s Good for the Goose is Good for the Gosling; Rarely

wrong Gosling...

“the Man that will make such an execrable Pun as that in my Company, will pick my Pocket”
–John Dennis according to an epistle written by Benjamin Victor in 1722

2 a.m. came with the caterwauling of two geese. I’m guessing the noise was a result of a fight they were having with a Bremerton raccoon. The prize for said was their eggs. I’m certain they lost, the geese. This is the nature of a Bremerton raccoon, they are not long on loss. They fight pit-bulls and Rottweilers for trash-can scrap lunch, in fenced yards, like a backyard cage-match. And they win. And this morning, a Sunday morning, we are deep into spring. Being on the business-end of Memorial Day weekend, I imagine that this time of year marks the salad days for the Bremerton raccoon.

Brief Aside: I’m not comfortable with the spelling of the word: raccoon. And I have no idea how to spell: brief, without the crutch of spell-check. I didn’t realize this until the raccoon became an integral character in this story. I am 43 fucking years old. My Vest Pocket Dictionary, prepared by the folks at Webster, is of little help. It does contain the word: rabid which is not ironic but it does strike me as counter-intuitive for reasons of comedy. Brief-adjacent, let’s move on.

The caterwauling was desperate but also a bit resolved to the idea that the geese were on the losing end of a battle for the survival of their line. They only get one shot a year. And they generally nest in the same spot every year. They’re territorial that way. And the blackberry bushes along the shore of The Port Washington Narrows are not easily protected from hungry raccoons. The geese lose this fight more often than not.

Maybe these are all clues to the ignorance of anthropomorphizing the geese and their actions, or lack thereof. But it must feel terrible to be so helpless in protecting one’s young. I would be terrified.
And isn’t all great parenting predicated, nay, motivated by fear? No? Okay…

When I was young, I can’t pinpoint the age exactly, but I remember the place, I was abused by a caretaker. Using the term caretaker in this context is both ironic and counter-intuitive. I’m aware.

Aside: I’ve tried to write about this abuse before. Several times. This is the point where I always lock up. I have countless unfinished drafts of this story. They all conclude with the previous paragraph…

…26 minutes pass as I watch the cursor blink at me disapprovingly…my stomach hurts.

The abuse wasn’t at the hands of my parents nor were they to blame. But when the events came to light and the dust had settled, it felt like I was being blamed. If not blamed per-se, I was never assured by my folks that it was not my fault. My entire life I’ve owned a portion of the responsibility for that violation. I still hoard some of it…jealously…

But this morning, in the cries of two roughly evolved dinosaurs, I heard the fear of my parents. The fear that I possess as a parent. The anxiety that these things happen, that some things can only be prevented in hind-sight with a DeLorean. I heard the cries of generations as they digest the horror that some predators cannot be stopped, that some bells cannot be unrung, and some eggs cannot be uncracked. Indeed, in a cruel world where: “you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet” is a platitude, the cries of the geese were probably an annoyance to my neighbors as they were trying to convalesce from drinking heroic amounts of alcohol in celebration of remembering. But for me it was a moment of Zen. I was also recovering. My convalescing is quicker as I drink like a hero every day. A simple hangover was no match for my instant of clarity.

I am not protecting my kids reliably…

That was 2 a.m., it is now 5a.m. and the sun is up in earnest and people are moving. And I am tired. The kind of tired that sleep is powerless to remedy. I’m tired of struggle of survival of caretakers and geese and raccoons and eggs and omelets and kids and parents and cruelty and platitude. My fear is that rest is countless miles from where I sit. Miles not counted by my own weariness but by the blood and sweat that life requires of me, of us all. We got quotas to fill, kid…

But: for now…I’ll try…

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Churchill’s Dog

You using that leg?

You using that leg?

“That terrible mood of depression of whether it’s any good or not is what is known as The Artist’s Reward.” –Ernest Hemingway

Churchill’s “Black Dog” is sniffing around my leg again. He’s not hanging around to hump it or piss on it. He’s waiting for me to be done using it. Then, he’ll pick it dry and clear the bone of marrow. Who knows what next, but my liver is well preserved so–if he’s smart–he’ll go for the heart. It’s not getting any softer, dog.
In the past, I would’ve kept this a secret for a while. On account of my shame. I’d have driven myself crazy imagining people drawing a corollary, or even worse, the direct cause of my depression being my recent religious conversion to: godless heretical heathen, or–what I call: reasonable seeker (6 of one and all that rot). I spent the bulk of my thirties both worshiping the son of god and being profoundly depressed. I medicated with prayer, pills, and lots of sweet, sweet booze. Nothing worked. And maybe the cocktail was to blame. But I’ve neither the time nor patience for armchair shrinkery. I probably have the time. But: time sans patience is a cruel trick.
It’s been a while since the dog has tracked me so tenaciously. I’m still mourning the loss of Kauai in a strange way. I don’t harbor the delusion that I could get back what I had when last there. But I haven’t felt “at home” since I got back to The Evergreen State. We were squatting at a friend’s old house and now we are house-sitting for another friend until this spring upcoming. The house is beautiful and I’ve always felt comfortable here, but it’s weirdly unsettling. Like playing house–with hubris. I have a new job. I think I can say without fear of hyperbole: I fucking hate it. And mayhaps that’s the crux of it all. With one caveat, I fear leaving this job will give me no reason to get up…no goal to employ the “one foot in front of the other” trudgery which is a wickedly effective salve to the soul. I’m too close to chance it.
The job is as Sisyphean as any I’ve had. I run a front-end loader around a rock quarry, digging out of various piles of rock. I then take those scoops of rock up a hill and dump them into a feeder that services a rock crusher. I am literally pushing rocks up a hill. I will grant you: it isn’t the same rock over and over again. But in a freezing December down pour when the entire quarry turns slick and purple–like animal husbandry–it is impossible to distinguish one rock from the other. At least from where I sit.
Worse still, is the complete lack of imagination shared by almost every one of my colleagues. Good conversation is a welcomed oasis. But it is every bit as deep and engaging as a mirage. I am a pretentious asshole. I own that part without loss of sleep (usually). I whittle the hours of my life there listening to podcasts and engaging in tumultuous inner-dialogue.
I work really hard to not carry that frustration home with me. But it is impossible. On good days I’m disengaged from the rest of the house. But on days when I am engaged I vacillate wildly between lashings-out and sullen apologies. And none of it feels real. It is all forgotten by the next morning. I wake up with a vague sense of failure behind me and more rocks and hills in front. Kristy has been my hero through it all. I nearly lost her.
I had come to fear that our trust was beyond repair. I was wrong. A definitive stance on such a topic when both bodies are breathing and willing is almost always: premature. But I’m no marriage counselor…you do what you like. I had a couple of friends do their best to help through that situation. I appreciated their help, but–in the end–I had to weigh the loss. There is no easy way to sum up twenty plus years of life. It becomes a gut thing at that point. Thank god for small miracles. Whatever that means.
I can say that there was one standout text that I received during that time. That time when I was scared and confused about what the right decision was for the future of myself and my family, whom I love. And I am aware that there are those among you who feel as strongly as anything that there is no confusion to be had in the face of such a decision, to you I say: I envy your self-assurance…I’ve never had it. But this text was as succinct as it was dismissive. It read: “I heard the news; disappointed man”. That may not be an exact quote, but it contains the exact sentiments from the text which originated 2-sometimes-3 time zones west of Bremerton. One: the qualification of “the news”, he hadn’t heard it from me, I’m not sure how many sources he’d consulted, but–nevertheless– it was “the news”. And Two: disappointment, the bastard-child of outright condemnation. The term: “disappointed” carries not the authority of its unavailable father, but it knows how to appease its father without over-stepping its bounds. “I lack the authority to condemn you, but good luck trying to parse the difference within the distinction, asshole”. Message received.
I had hoped to end this post with an heroic assertion: “Fuck it, I’m quitting my job!”…that’s not happening. As I write these final words, it is 8pm on a Sunday night and I’m staring down the barrel of a dismal, albeit short, but dismal week…shortish: half- day on Wednesday–that’s Christmas Eve. Santa’s Birthday I get off, that’s Thursday. But then I work all day Friday and 6hrs on Saturday. So–yeah–shit-storm week. With no end in sight. But, after talking to my friend Matt, I realized that my job is not the problem. It is not the solution. But neither is quitting said. The problem is adjustment…I’m not adjusting well, and quitting my job would be useless and reactionary. I have no problem with being reactionary. But I despise being useless.
And to the dog: find another leg, motherfucker. I’m still using this one…

Portable Potties; Portable Problems

hey, how 'bout those Broncs?

hey, how ’bout those Broncs?

“I have always found it quaint and rather touching that there is a movement [Libertarians] in the US that thinks Americans are not yet selfish enough.” –Christopher Hitchens

I have a couple of bigger topics on which I am working.  But I am in no mood for the serious contemplation of tropes like: Libertarianism or Neo-Reformers, whose appetites for control have more in common with the Diet of Worms (yes, the one from 1521) than with Luther.  Maybe it’s the heat…maybe it’s because serious discussion is as popular as the NFL of 15 years ago; when defenses won football games, and guacamole, as an issue, hadn’t even entered the periphery of the average fan.  Besides, there are no libertarians…not of the principled sort anyhow.  Most self-described libertarian tea-party types that I know make their living from the Federal Government in one way or another.  I live in Bremerton, WA where the influence of the Navy on the local economy is inescapable.  Hell, I know some tea-party types who work for the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.  A small-government conservative working for the feds…what can be said about that?  It leaves me with no other recourse but to quote the great Walter Sobchak: “…say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”  But, again, I am in no mood for the serious contemplation of such nonsense…

I realized just this week that I am utterly disgusted by port-a-potties where-in the contents of said vessel have exceeded the pre-determined volume of sanitizing solution; a substance that will be, here-to-forward, known as: “Blue Juice”.  When I walk into a port-a-john and see scat islands (I’ve a sneaking suspicion “scat-islands” was supposed to have been hyphenated) rising out above the grip of the humid and tyrannical Blue Juice, I freak the fuck out.  Like: I’m Robby Keough and my suit just ripped–which we all know would be sadder if my part was being played by Gwyneth Paltrow (though just slightly) because there is a very strict threshold of diminishing returns when one uses the “Rene Russo” method of garnering sympathy–kind of freak-out.  “Oh shit, Sam…oh shit; it’s airborne!”

I walk in and right away I start scouring my brain for science trivia…or shit I’ve read on Facebook that might give me a clue as to which is safer: breathing through my nose or my mouth.  And I am never prepared for it…my lungs are filled with the normal quantity of non-public-toilet atmosphere that one carries when one casually walks into a room (even if that room is a blue sweat-lodge filled with the waste from a couple hundred inefficient hung-over colons, and I’m stuck wondering if shallow breaths through my now-t-shirt-covered-nose will be enough to sustain brain-function, or if I should turn around and face public ridicule as I open the door to fill my lungs with air whose hepatitis ratio has a less “developing-nation” vibe.  The funny thing is I have no idea whether or not any serious scientific research has been done on this topic.  But that doesn’t stop me from imagining what the New England Journal of Medicine has to say about this scenario…

The whole New England Journal of Medicine thought process quickly hits an intellectual check-point when I slowly (thanks, in large part, to my oxygen deficiency) realize two things at once: 1) The Journal probably has no appreciable advice on this topic (due to lack of evidence…due to lack of interest…due to doo-doo) and 2) I have never read the New England Journal of Medicine.  I don’t even know if that is a thing.  I don’t know if there is one journal with many volumes or if it’s just one huge Hogwartian tome.  I feel like if I was to see this Journal I would feel like a wiccan at my first bible-study.  “What’s with all of the letters and numbers?  No wonder why you guys love BINGO.”

Yeah I wasn’t feeling the BINGO joke either, sometimes you swing…

I’ve also come to realize that I hate the politicizing of the gospel.  I’ve never noticed this before.  The topic was always used in reference to political activists who see themselves as ministering to people through community service.  The connotation of which was always negative because their presence made the ruling-class of any given community uncomfortable.  There is something to be said for the comfort of the status-quo.  I’ve since come to realize that the most pervasive political opinion, in the church which uses the gospel as a justification, is indifference…

 

Breaking Hard is Up to Do 2: Break Harder

on the bright side, I have new shoes for travel

on the bright side, I have new shoes for travel

“There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”–Will Rogers

I’m starting to lose myself in this transition…I don’t think this move is going to kill me, but I doubt it’s making me stronger…don’t worry, Mr. Nietzsche, everybody says stupid stuff to make themselves feel better in times of despair; your optimism is a comfort to us all.  Though the house is on the market and people are showing interest, there is still much to be done.  I spend my days thinking about small things around the house that might not be putting the house’s best foot forward.  Then I clean and or fix those things.  I need to be thorough…I don’t want to let my family down on account of my laziness.  All these projects are slowly making my hands and back strong, and my mind weak.  Merle Travis, and later, Tennessee Ernie Ford were very clear about their views on manual labor.  I’m starting to think they were right.  We all owe our souls to the company store in one way or another.

Small projects, like the ones I have left to accomplish, are kryptonite to obsessives.  Yesterday I worked until around 10 in the evening detailing a stove that will probably be exchanged for a nicer unit within the year.  The little dishes underneath the burners (it’s an electric burner style stove) were caked with shit, remnants of nearly a decade of life.  I had to scrape them with a razor blade to get them clean.  Why?  I really couldn’t tell you.  The job was frustrating, the results: disappointing.  But that’s the nut of the problem with obsessive people, isn’t it?  My wife thought my neurotic fixation on this project was both funny and maddening.  When the job isn’t going smoothly everyone in the house pays a price.  When I am frustrated I should just walk away rather than cuss and scream the thing into submission.  She knows this and it’s painful for her to watch me make an ass of myself in front of God and man.  I know she’s right.

The thing about people who are obsessive or compulsive…or both is that there is no right answer once our minds have locked on to something.  I’m one of the lucky ones as I don’t lock onto much.  But when it happens, the cycle is nearly impossible to break.  When I’m fixed on a thought or project it is natural for the people around me to see that as being unhealthy and the loving thing for those folks to do is to tell me to stop…to walk away and come back to it.  The problem is walking away makes me feel just as bad as pushing through.  It’s not as though I’m thinking: “This sucks and I need a rest, but if I push through the reward will be great.”  My inner dialogue is more like: “This job sucks, rest sucks, nothing is working fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck, fuck!”  That’s the rub, I can’t rest while a project is unfinished.  I just think about finishing it the whole time.  When my hands stop hurting, I go right back to it.  My hands generally stop hurting long before my brain is emotionally ready to reengage the challenge. 

Before the stove project I got locked into pressure-washing all of the concrete and the cedar fence around my house.  It took me the better part of 40hrs to get it all done.  40 miserably cold and wet hours holding on to a wand that was hell-bent on causing permanent nerve damage in my hands and wrists.  Three days after the project feeling returned to the tips of 9 of my fingers.  One of them, the one I smashed between to ductile-iron pipes when I was a kid, has yet to relay sensation to my brain.  During the entire project my wife was encouraging me to take a rest.  She was probably right; the project would’ve gotten done just as surely with breaks in between as it did with none.  In retrospect I can see the value in what she said…I can see the truth.  Right and wrong and truth and lies are all so damned esoteric in the throes of a good obsession.  It becomes the comedy of reasoning with an ant.  Everything becomes impenetrable save the task at hand.   

Cry much, diaper-baby?  It’s not all bad news…actually none of it is bad news per-se.  It just is what it is, and I’ve found that it rarely is what it isn’t…so there’s that.  The house is looking better and better, and I’m confident it’ll will be someone’s dream-house realized in short order.  On an unrelated topic, if you know anyone looking for a nice house in the west Bremerton area here is one.

 I learned how to blog from watching television’s Doogie Howser, M.D. when I was a kid.  Most of us did.  Doogie always ended the show by journaling on his computer…he would type out a paragraph and then stare of into the distance while the sickly green cursor would blink at us stupidly and impatiently waiting, like a reasonless ant, for its next group of letters to drag–from God knows where–onto the screen.  Doogie would come up with one beautifully succinct sentence to conclude his thoughts…it was always so perfect.  I’ve found that those lines are more abundant on television…

Consider the Birds of the Air…

Trees?  Who needs trees?

Trees? Who needs trees?

“Consider the daffodil.  And while you’re doing that, I’ll be over here, looking through your stuff.” –Jack Handy

I live in a city, name of: Bremerton.  It’s more like a large town and it is about an hour’s ferry ride out of Seattle, Washington.  It is only a city in the most technical way.  It’s built in a grid pattern and we have a police department, and a fire department.  It is called the Bremerton Fire Department.  Its initials are BFD which are painted on the back of the fire engines.  I guess no one is in charge of checking these things, but it doesn’t inspire confidence.  Anyhow, in spite of its smallness, my town has the tendency to be very busy.  I live on one of the busier streets.  My street is so active that if I wake up in the night and it is quiet outside…no car noise…I can guess confidently about the time of morning it is…dead quiet means 2a/m to 4a/m.  I woke up the other morning it was dark and quiet, clearly later than 2 a/m.  Then I noticed a single bird chirping, so daylight was coming sooner rather than later.  I guessed it for about 4a/m.  The thought occurred to me that what I was hearing was the early bird…you know the one about which your boss or dad always told you. 

I started thinking about this industrious bird out there all by himself eating all those worms.  Then I thought: What a stupid little bird, if only he kept his mouth shut he could eat all the worms that he wanted.  He could just feed on worms while all of the other birds slept lazily.  Why was he drawing so much attention to himself?  I imagined what would happen to a bird who ate worms silently and greedily.  His slight body slowly turning into Jabba the Hut with wings…or if not Jabba per-se, another member of the Hut crime-family.  I can’t imagine their body types are too dissimilar.  I guess this type of bird behavior would lead to another platitude.  “The mid-morning raccoon gets the fat bird.”

The adage: “The early bird gets the worm.” is one that was born of a need to motivate workers whose productivity didn’t satisfy their superiors.  Or, if it wasn’t born of that need, it quickly was disfigured into such.  It carries with it the weight of competition.  It’s peer-pressure…a begging of the question: “What have you done for me lately?”.  The only thing about which a boss truly cares.  Leastwise the good prolific bosses whose bosses inquiries are also thinly veiled.  What indeed.  “Consider the birds of the air”, he said to his boss on his last day of work…

The song-bird in my yard had no fear of competition.  It was not worrying about what other birds might come and discover the fruits of his diligence.  Don’t get me wrong there is plenty of competition in the animal kingdom.  I’m sure that this bird knew, on some level, that more birds equal less worms per bird.  What struck me that morning was his lack of worry.  He was just eating and singing.  He was not committed to either to the point where he could be robbed of the joy he found in both.

I really have no envy of birds, they posses very few attributes that I would find useful.  It was surprising to me that flight, the characteristic I’ve envied most about birds as long as I can remember, became the second most attractive aspect of the bird.  At least it was in the moment I shared with that bird in my yard.  The connection that we shared that morning was so intimate that I nearly shed a tear when I shot it.  It was too early and I needed sleep…sleep deprivation really tends to cut into my productivity…at least that’s what my boss says his boss says…

Punk Show @ The Chuck

“In baseball, you don’t know nothing.”

-Yogi Berra

Saturday night, April the 14th, my friend Matt and I went to a show at The Charleston on Callow Avenue in Bremerton.  The Chuck, a name given to the venue as both a term of endearment and further evidence that we have precious little time to communicate in this mixed-up crazy world, is a punk venue.  There are no two ways about it.  It is an all-ages club that serves alcohol; as such it requires a little more security than your average all-ages club.  The Chuck pulls this off without seeming too Draconian…nice work Chuck.  This was my first time enjoying a show at The Charleston, and I was surprised by how perfect a punk venue it is.  The room is small, and there is a bar from which you have a great view of the stage.  The club smells like a punk club should, a mixture of human waste and hobo sex which I found delightfully reminiscent of my years playing in similar clubs, save for Portland clubs which incorporated notes of crack smoke in the aroma…least ways that’s the way it was in the early nineties (90’s).  Matt had outgrown his love of this smell.

This night six (6) bands were there to shine…and shine some did, but alas it was a punk show.  Punk shows are wont to stuff ten (10) pounds of shit into six (6) pound bags.

The first band was a Belfair WA outfit name of “Fresh Paint”.  I’m not sure if this is meant to assure you that its color will become lighter as it dries (which is the opposite of what the band needed) or this band is as boring as watching fresh paint dry.  Actually, this band had a beautifully selected rhythm section who was plagued by a young front-man who lacked the angst his lyrics demanded, and an underwhelming persona at the guitar spot.  But, they were not horrible…and that is the best I can do…hopefully the same is not true for Fresh Paint.

Next up was a band called Savage Henrys.  A three (3) piece out of Richland WA, yeah that’s the east-side, they came out west to melt your ugly mugs right off of that sub-standard substrate you casually call a head.  These guys were built for speed, and they knew it.  When they fire-walled the throttle they didn’t give two congressional shits about whether or not you’d had the good sense to grab a safety rail.  With the movie Tron playing on the movie screen behind them, they played around five (5) songs.  It was the kind of experience that erased my cynicism about music for fifteen (15) blissful moments.  Then it was over, and I wanted more…and that was perfect.  Long live Savage Henrys.

A band called Burn, Burn, Burn had the unenviable task of following The Henrys.  They hail from Tacoma WA…Washington’s cradle of punk.  They are the type of punk band in which a diabetic would eventually die.  I say this for two reasons: (1) They are high-energy and (2) They are a five (5) piece (which in terms of punk lingo means broke).  I could imagine any of these guys going into a coma on stage should a blood-sugar issue rear its nasty head.  The band was good fun, the gang vox sounded great.  The lead vocalist had a fascination with the Cleveland Indians which my friend Matt thought was cool.  Then Matt told me that Brian Wilson of the San Francisco Giants was injured which I thought was not cool, as he is the most interesting thing about baseball—the sport of accountant despots.  I’d see them again…Burn, Burn, Burn that is.

During Burn’s set my friend Matt walked into the men’s room just in time to witness a long-haired straight-edger pissing into a urinal from the distance of seven (7) feet.  Matt began to laugh.  The kid inquired as to what Matt found humorous to which Matt answered you man, you.

After this, the line-up got a little confusing.  But it matters little.  The bands were not as good as the Henrys or Burn; the show had peaked in the middle.  After two (2) other bands played for what seemed like the north-side of forever, one more band made the stage; they had inexplicably been promoted to the headlining act.

Y.I.A is a four (4) piece band, who call Bremerton WA home.  The show was pretty good; it was everything you’d want in a punk show with bright spots from the drummer, and the lead vox.  The lead vocalist looked like a homeless man with questionable emotional stability.  This is an important element in a band that is “neither here nor there” musically.  It forces one to keep an eye on the disheveled lunatic with the microphone to such an extent that you tend to overlook the middle-of-the-road aesthetic the rest of the band oozes.  This aesthetic was not shared by the drummer.  He was more than capable of handling the responsibilities to which he was assigned.  All in all I’d see Y.I.A again, but I don’t think they should headline.

The show was great and I met some really cool people, I will return to The Chuck.  That is all.

Meandering the Fringes: Thoughts in the Wake of the Emerald City Comicon pt. 1: The Smells; The Horror

“Aspire rather to be a hero than merely appear one.”

–Baltasar Gracian

On Saturday, March 31st I was able to do something I’d always wanted to do, but never had the opportunity given to me quite so readily.  I went to the Emerald City Comicon, but you probably already knew that on account of the title of this post…well played, young Jedi.  The Thursday night before the convention my friend Rick (who doesn’t have a desire to be mentioned in this blog, even though he already made a cameo in “Fog City pt.6”, so—for reasons of respecting his privacy—will be called Ricker) (Slam-Dunk!) asked me if I wanted to go the “Con” as he called it, and continues to call it; he’s so into this stuff.  I am not a huge sci-fi fan or a huge comic book fan, I love all of the “entry-level” stuff that has enjoyed commercial success: Star Wars, Star Trek, Star Blazers, and that nice Jewish kid who dresses up like a bug and fights crime: Toby Spiderman.  I read a great deal of Spider-Man comics throughout my high-school years, actually, and I loved the Secret Wars series.  Nonetheless, my level of commitment to the genre was called into question upon stepping on to the ferry in Bremerton, from where I hail, an hour and a half short of entering the “Con” (as Ricker calls it).  We were standing in line in the galley of the ferry for coffee and snacks…when all of a sudden…BOOM!  There was Mario, of Super Mario Brothers fame.  He was a girl.  Madness!  Really I’ve gone off track here though…this is a post about the smells of Comicon from a semi-casual, and bemused observer.

The “Con” (as my friend Ricker calls it) is held inside the bowels of the Washington State Convention Center, bowels through which you’ve driven if ever you’ve found yourself headed through Seattle on Interstate 5.  As such, there are smells native to this center.  The main floor has stores, restaurants, and cafes.  This floor had a very professional smell, a smell of copies, and faxes, and coffee, and power-lunches (the most powerful meal of them all).  But, as we were all funneled into lines and up escalators, those smells dissipated and gave way to heavier, more impressive smells.  Super smells, if you’ll allow it.  Which is actually not true, the superness of these smells exists without regard to your allowances.  Or mine.

Once crossing the sky-bridge that acted as a DMZ between the “Conies” and the “Normies”, there is a pervasive smell of musty comic books—a comforting smell—one that would be quite useful to bottle should one ever get caught up in the sport of nerd hunting.  It is the smell of mother’s basement…a fantastical place where one can peruse the respective universes of Marvel and DC and all of the other less relevant comic houses who put out better comics than anyone could’ve imagined (except for the people who did imagine them…and me…and Ricker).  It is a smell that says, ”Hey, don’t worry I won’t let anybody near you, you’re safe here buddy, and who knows maybe once you’re through reading some comic books, we might could find the things you’re going to need to make that pipe-bomb you’re always talking about”.  It is the smell of solitude…fortress or otherwise.  Ricker looked at me and said, “I haven’t smelled anything like this since last I went nerd hunting, a fine sport if ever there was one!”  I looked warily at Ricker, and determined to be less enthusiastic about this affair, lest I become his next prey.  “Yeah, me neither”, I chuckled nervously.

The next odor, in order of most to least prevalent, was the smell of cats.  Not urine per-se or cat hair or kitty-litter or spray or cat-nip, but an ungodly hell-potpourri of them all.  Cats are the most pensive and self absorbed of God’s creatures, save for comic-book nerds…and writers (all writers).  It makes sense that the bulk of those in attendance at the “Con” (as my friend Ricker calls it) would own one or more cats.  I personally love cats, I just can’t eat a whole one…ZING! (That joke works better for dogs, I could totally eat a whole cat…I would then have to go and purge it, my girlish figure doesn’t happen by accident, and certainly would not exist if I was given to eating whole cats whenever the thought tickled my fancy…or any other part of my hypothetical anatomy.)  Great another parenthetical that wanders wildly from my point.  My point being: you never see a cat at the “Con” (as my friend Ricker calls it) but their imprint is everywhere.

Finally, there were some scents that were drifting in and out fouling this hard-found nerd musk.  Smells like that of concessions, in the form of pizza and hot dogs.  But the most interesting of the fringe scents was that of purell.  Many of the booths in the center were those of writers and artists.  They were there signing various artifacts that attested to their existence, and as such, there needed to be a barrier of some sort, some invisible shield to protect the artists from whatever the events of the fan’s day prior to this meeting had held…private events.  There seemed to be a direct correlation between the strength of purell odor around a given booth, and the aloof attitude coming from the occupants of said booth.  It went like this: the stronger the purell scent, the nicer the booth occupants; it was as though they felt the purell was doing the heavy lifting, in terms of aloofness.  The nicest people had, what smelled like, a thin layer coating every inch of their skin that wasn’t already covered by an ironic t-shirt or skinny jeans.  Skinny jeans?  Good stuff.  Skinny jeans were about as scarce as fit Princess Leias, but that is another post all together.  The summation of the smells had an insular quality about them, at least those chosen by the folks who wore them.  They all had an air of protection, an air of comfort.

The Race of the Jessie-O: pt. 2

“By Jove! this is the deuce of an adventure–something you read about; and it is my first voyage as second mate– and I am only twenty–and here I am lasting it out as well as any of these men, and keeping my chaps up to the mark. I was pleased. I would not have given up the experience for worlds.” –Joseph Conrad Youth

We were still waiting for the Harbor Cops to clear us on the Hudson when over the radio came a call that was a blow to morale for which we were not properly prepared.  “We are still half an hour from having this package cleared—please continue to hold”, the voice dead-panned.

“An announcement of delay came across the radio on our second pass to the start line, we were beginning to think this race was never going to get under way”, Jamie continued.  The delay was a result of the aforementioned black beast.  The SSN-21 Sea Wolf, a U.S. Naval Submarine, was preparing for sea trials.  She had one Tug, a Coast Guard Cutter, and an annoying little Rapid Response boat—what looked like a 330x Defender built by Safe Boats of Bremerton—running intercept on any boat getting too close to the Sea Wolf.

The race finally started at 12:05 p.m., an hour late, we slipped passed the start line first in our division, followed closely by the Aleyone, the only other boat in our division, though we thought there was another.  At the start we had 30 seconds, give or take, on her—but we would need to beat her back with 11 minutes to spare in order to win against her.  But she was the least of our problems, there were many more boats, many times quicker than our own, and we had to sail efficiently, with only half of the inlet to use; on account of the Sea Wolf, and her eager Coast Guard security detail.  We took the best possible route, and tried to hold that course for as long as possible.  Slowly we were making time on the Aleyone.  We were holding out on our first tack for as long as possible, but we were getting close to the shore, so we thought we would have to tack soon.  All of the sudden, with sails full—and no presently explainable reason, the boat quickly decelerated.  My dad looked over-board to see the bottom of the inlet less than six feet from the devil, with a shock he realized we had run aground.  Our 22 foot sloop, the Jessie-O, had a retractable keel, so it could be pulled up, giving us five more feet of clearance below the water.  “Crank up the keel”, my father yelled.  Quickly, Patso scrambled below decks to man the keel crank.  Up it came; we tacked, and were free.  Patso returned the keel, and went back to his job of trimming the foresail.  Glancing over the port rail we noticed that we hadn’t damaged our lead on the Aleyone too badly.  We were on our toes at that point, and really made some decent time on our way to “marker #2”, off of the east side of Waterman Dock.  Having put some distance between us and that ugly shallow spot we looked over the stern to notice that the Dulcinea had also run aground in the same spot we had just left.  She was a fixed-keel vessel, so she had to wrestle with the inconvenience a little longer than had we.  Her crew worked frantically to free her, but she was only one of a few boats that were behind us at this point.  We were the first to leave, one of two slow boats, and the Division 2 and 3 boats had begun to over-take us.

As we neared the marker we had to fight traffic that had already rounded, most of whom had been hassled by the Coast Guard, an unpleasant experience we had avoided by being in the right place at the right time.  The boats who’d over-taken us, now had right of away as they had the wind at their starboard rails.  We beat wind to get to marker 2 and we came in hot, made our tack, and headed south.  The Aleyone rounded the marker 7 minutes behind us…an encouraging sign, given the fact that we had three more markers to round.

We were being destroyed by the quicker, purpose-built, racing vessels and were not surprised.  However, there were two boats we held within reach, the Aleyone, and the Joannie II.  The Joannie II was ahead of us, and the Aleyone was behind us by around 30 minutes now.  We were on our second-to-the-last leg of the race, around an hour over-schedule when the wind died out, leaving us desperate.  We were being pushed by the current but that was only giving us about 1 knot of forward progress per hour…dismal, I went below decks to study charts, and remove myself from this frustration.  The mood up top was no better, when a crew looses wind they will resort to anything for a remedy.  I went back up on to deck, and performed several, Polynesian dances with the intention of intimidating the competition.  It seemed to work we were slowly reeling in the Joannie II.  We looked over our starboard stern to see the Aleyone clear across the inlet by the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard; she was not suffering for lack of wind like we were.  This was a problem.  We came up on the starboard rail of the Joannie II and made our pass.  We cut across her bow, in an attempt to make a straight shot for our final marker.  She held her course and passed us.  When doing so, she shadowed us and took what little wind we had for a split second…she beat us to the marker by 40 seconds.  Over the stern, it was clear the Aleyone was making up time hand over fist, and we were left with five minutes lead on her.  We rounded the mark and tacked, in an attempt to find wind…the wind changed direction at this point and we picked up speed as we made our final tack for the finish line.  We crossed the finish line, second to last, at about 4.5 knots per.  The Joannie II had beat us by less than one minute, and the Aleyone came behind us three minutes later, we had lost to her…we figured ourselves dead last.

It was not so, the Joannie II was a division 2 vessel, and hadn’t had a large enough lead on us, so she was last…we had two victories that day: we finished the race, which is not an automatic assumption, given the sketchy persona of Puget Sound winds, and we didn’t finish dead last.  That day marked the beginning of a bitter rivalry between us, the crew of the Jessie-O, and the scow—Aleyone.  She took us that day…we were resolved to not see that again.

The Race of the Jessie-O: pt. 1

“The masts fell just before daybreak, and for a moment there was a burst and turmoil of sparks that seemed to fill with flying fire the night patient and watchful, the vast night lying silent upon the sea. At daylight she was only a charred shell, floating still under a cloud of smoke and bearing a glowing mass of coal within.” –Joseph Conrad, Youth

It was a cloudy, chilly morning.  We sat on the deck of a forty-eight foot sloop waiting for our turn to be let loose of the harbor in which we moored for the night; there had been a need for provision, and now we were stuck as the harbor police tried to sort out the mystery of an abandoned package at the end of the break-water.  The mood was lazy, with little to do but wait out this annoying set-back on our week-long tour of the Hudson River.  I was near dozing when all attention turned to the first mate as he began to tell a story from when he was a kid.

“It was a morning much like this”, Jaime began.  The crew was gathered at the slip prepping the Jessie-O for her first race of the year, we were already running late and the air was filled with a mixture of tension and anticipation.  I was the first mate and it was given to me to pick up on these things.  My dad was the captain of the twenty-two foot sloop and he trusted me to see to it that the ugly mood of the crew was as little a distraction as possible.  You may be tempted to the thought that I received my first commission as first-mate based solely on the fact that my dad was the captain, and I can assure you that any vocalization of this sentiment will find the business end of my right hand leaving you to muse both hapless, and confused.  I was first-mate because I’d proven myself able.  There were five of us, too many to be sure, but the old man wanted to make sure we didn’t end up short-handed at the last minute, which this shiftless crew was wont to do—leave a captain in the lurch on the day of the race.  The morning was such as to convince any man that the Jessie-O was in no mood to race.  But it is given to a few salty-dogs to push a vessel beyond her imagination, and we had a race to get to.  We were fifteen minutes late, and we made ready the sloop and got underway.

The first indication of the poor luck of the day came at the hand of the least able hand on the Jessie-O (though he was the oldest in years); we had barely cleared the end of the slip with the boat’s bow when he fumbled for the tiller, and engaging the outboard kicker’s transmission into the forward position, was given a clear order for “More Throttle” to which he shut the throttle completely down and stalled the motor, sending us adrift with little room for correction.  My dad scrambled back to the cockpit and revived the sketchy old Honda, and gave the tiller over to me and we headed out of the marina.  Having cleared the break, we fire-walled the outboard and were under way south to the Port Orchard Yacht Club to register for the race.

We were fighting current and wind when it was noticed that we were woefully low on fuel.  “That’s it!” said the captain.  “Send everything overboard that is not useful.”  We began to lose all unnecessary provision to lighten the burden.  We had disposed of every conceivable thing, and still we were running slow, add to that the weather had turned the kind of foul that makes one wonder if there were not a black cloud, or two, on the boat herself…having considered this possibility we began drawing lots to see who among us was the bearer of bad luck.  First one, then two deck-hands were cast over-board, leaving our crew of five reduced to three: my father Chad, myself, and the butter-fingered green-horn who’d set us adrift in the marina, name of Patso.  It was still clear that nothing short of a miracle would get us to registration on time, but we were not to be deterred that easily…we motored on.

The weather had begun to look better, and things were looking up as we swept passed the port rail of the registrars boat, and handed him the proper paper-work.  We proceeded past the rest of the boats already gearing up for the start of the race.  We shut the motor down, brought it out of the water and began hoisting sails.

Having run through various drills, and preparatory exercises, we were on our way back to the starting line with the intention of clearing it just as the horn sounded the start of the race for division one vessels, of which we were one.  It was not be.  There came over the radio an announcement of postponement, the race would not start for half an hour.  It seems the inlet was host to a foul beast, long and black as a moonless night.  She laid low in the water.  She test-fired her generators and her breath reeked of desiccated dinosaurs; her stench choked out the inlet—this cold-war hold-over.  Her atomic power was harnessed by the United States Navy, for the most part, but today she was nothing more than a nuisance, she and all of her “Coastie” bridesmaids.  We tacked back toward the southern tip of the inlet and decided to eat some sandwiches…the day was showing itself to be less than productive, and my mother’s BLTs were a great remedy for days stacked with crippling disappointment.

Fear not Bremerton, or You are Already Dead [ A Poem by Patso

The stranger walks amongst us.

Strange?  If in nothing but his wiring.

The filter’s gone.  No rights?  No wrongs?

Synapses misfiring.

The meek?  The strong?

Amongst us the stranger walks.

What is ours for the taking?

Ours?  All we have is ours.

“Hold on Loosely”, 38 poets said.

Life slips; blood pours.

Reflect once dead?

Ours is for the taking.  What?

Abandon redemption if you dare.

Do you dare?  The notion?

Every great story.  Dare you?  Do you?

Naked against the ocean.

The end is near, Atreyu.

If you dare, abandon redemption.

What, truly, do you fear?

You, the filter; his filter.

Amid the night, fear dances.

Justice off kilter.

Second glances?  Second chances?

Truly, what do you fear?