All posts by Dana Smith

Author and Entertainer

Guys and Falls

The likelihood of our correcting the current trajectory the human species is on appears to be no sure thing. As Benny explains in Guys and Dolls─ Nathan, I cannot believe that a number one businessman like you has fallen in love with his own fiancé─

We Need More Lifeguards

One of the hallmarks of this social media instant communications era is avoiding sounding like an alarmist, don’t punch the panic buttons, handle the hot potatoes the way you would your IKEA furniture assembly instructions, there’s no reason to become upset. If you work in journalism, you’ll want to deadpan the delivery, just give your readers the facts.

As threats to humanity go, I thought the crisis at Fukushima’s tsunami destroyed nuclear power station to be a pretty good wakeup call— right— hello anyone else— oh I see it looks like it’s just me. Meltdowns before taking your wedding vows or at a nuclear reactor tend to concentrate the mind. Instead in Japan what followed were the laconic desultory vocal stylings of nuclear engineers all proffering lozenges of atomic energy pablum, that there was little reason to be alarmed, there was nothing to see here, that we should all just get back to what we were doing, the world moved on even if Fukushima remains a colossal environmental life on earth threatening unfixable disaster, this is the poster child for never-ending catastrophe’s.

A few more years and a few more problems appear to need addressing. Apparently the modern way to handle something is to ignore it for as long as you can, then promise to look into it, then do some good looking, and then drop the whole thing until you are reminded you were supposed to be looking into the thing, by then its almost acceptable to just say there’s nothing anyone can do about it now.

Footsteps into the Side Streets

By now we’ve all become familiar with the phrase─ wet market─ you buy a live animal that is slaughtered then and there and is prepared for you to take home. Covid-19 can be traced back to Wuhan’s now shuttered wet market— they know precisely which booth— between 2017-2019 some 48,000 wild animals were purchased— customers were sold raccoon dog, hog badger or red fox— a fearless shopper lugged one nasty looking creature known as this beast known as a hog badger  home and made a meal of the virus infected meat. These are termed zoonotic diseases. In my personal operating manual, the one installed by God, it is otherwise known as common sense, the things I ought not to do includes eating wild raccoon dog or hog badgers for supper. This isn’t even a close call. You don’t want to eat monkey brains or day old road killed squirrel stew. Just don’t do these things.

Next week we will celebrate the pandemic’s second anniversary. Every time I drive past the feedlot halfway between San Francisco and LA I’m reminded of how this has to be a potential pathway for a high speed zoonotic outbreak. Factory farmed meat can’t be anything other than a potential zoonotic threat. People that like a good steak don’t want to face this potential threat. Selling a well cooked pork chop is profitable and there’s the rub right there. Another decade on we will have laboratory meat grown in stainless steel vats, the food will be safer, there won’t be a need to use antibiotics, there will be no effluent to worry about, lab meat used as directed can still cause coronary artery disease, but what the hell that’s way down the list of things to be worried about.

What is ahead in the lab meat business is likely to be a more hygienic meat production system. Pigs won’t grow up in confined in impossible to turn around in cages. Instead pig cells will be grafted and then using 90% less land and water will be cultivated into the best bacon you’ve ever tasted.

Bumming Around in Europe

In our current predicament we’ve several genocidal maniacs tyrannizing the world. I guess I got used to ignoring these miserable curses on humankind. Since 2016 I’ve had to get up in the morning to check on what that guy had done while I had been sleeping. I’d become sick of the whole chaos operation, it was transparent, decidedly authoritarian and lacking in any kind of coherence.

In Ukraine this week we’ve seen the Russian military attack two nuclear power stations. Russian dictator Putin has been fingering his stockpile of thermonuclear weapons, Syrian soldiers have arrived to fight for Vlad and there’s reason to be concerned about chemical weapons being deployed— nothing but the very best people.

Here we are waiting, we know another is coming, another variant is going to make its next move. We are hopeful creatures, we are eager for the next good chapter and ready to forget this lousy last one. We have no choice in this moment, might be we have a chance to catch our breath, if we can get things to smooth out, maybe we can drill on down into our humanity and give voice to our better angels. The battle has been joined, the fight is on, I’ve put my bet on our winning, we prevail ultimately while all kinds of not winning happens until then.

Food for Loving Others

Need to feel better about the world, go to the World Central Kitchen— throw a few bucks their way. We’re going to get through this, and feeding Ukraine’s refugees is where we start, from there we build out a better world than the one we’ve got. Here we go                          

South Beach Harbor

The list was long, the time horizon a decade plus but at long last our number was called. If you have patience, if you can stick to it, hang in there, wait, pay your yearly waiting list fee, then keep waiting you have to believe eventually you’ll get in.

Any boat will do

South Beach Harbor is adjacent to major league baseball’s San Francisco Giants stadium─ current name on stadium is Oracle Stadium. Depending upon your personal preferences this could be either your heaven or your personal berthing hell.

Berthing our sailboat serves many masters. Most of all it gives us a place to stay when we come to the City. South Beach is now after a 14 year wait our very own San Francisco pied-à-terre. This mad about sailing family originally signed up during Barack Obama’s first year in office. Obviously, it must be counterintuitive to even think of owning a boat in the midst of a global financial crisis but that’s who we are, the well positioned survivors of Wall Street’s version of an economic Armageddon.

Luxury is overrated

My dog Lacey was still alive when we signed up for the long wait, God bless that little dog’s tail, if the Vatican would consent, I’d sanctify her little canine soul─ so what the, the little dog’s loving soul was boundless, a kinder animal would be hard to come by. The two of us were still banging out 500 shows per year, a slip in South Beach would be rarely seen, perhaps photographs would have to suffice while I was on the road.

Sweet Seas arrived from Alameda into our possession in 2008, the single most expensive toy purchase of our lives. First, we berthed her at Pier 39 in San Francisco, this was always going to be temporary, soon after we moved her to Sausalito, better and enchanting but also inconvenient and sociologically offkey to the tune we hummed─ of course we loved Sausalito, but it’s also a tourist trap─ affluent plus-plus-plus only types are the only kind that can afford this exclusive town’s real estate, and sure we may be card carrying credit worthy’s but we’ve found the unstratified East Bay milieu more soothing to our world view.

I am East Bay to the bone, born in Oakland, more about that, just saying our Vice President was born among the glory that is the Left Coast’s version of Brooklyn. Berthing our boat in Emeryville was a deft stroke of insight, practicality, and deli-sandwich luck. I can spot a native East Bay born and raised male by haircut, slang and the beer they drink.

Life threw us a few screwballs. The wife was off to Australia for work, I was soon contracted for shows in Mexico. What caused us problems was we had purchased a home, it was too big, wasn’t long before the custom Joseph Esherick digs began to overtake our lives and demand too much of our tool time. Being tied to the home and chores wasn’t a good fit, saw the chance, sold the place, plan was to temporarily liveaboard in Emeryville─ one year turned into nine of the best years of our lives. This was my second stint living aboard, my wife’s first go at such a spartan life─ she loved everything about marina life─ birds and manta rays, sunrise and sunsets, the play of tides, possibilities tantalized, but for a few challenges whatever inconveniences we suffered were accepted as a worthy price to be tied so close to nature.

I was doing three months on and three months off in the Riviera Maya, Eileen was working remotely and joined me, then she took a gig in LA, that ended her being with me in Mexico, and it made my being away for 12 weeks too high a cost to pay to keep our marriage on track.

View from the new slip, not exactly but close

Somewhere in all this was the planning to sail to Avalon, to spend the summer bumming around harbor to harbor up and down the California coast. Our sailboat needed upgrading, that busied the days. Everything from the new and classier toilet to purchasing new sails, and not just new ordinary sails but high-tech space-age technology sails demanded my every attention.

By the summer of 2019 I was off for shows in Canada, then a romp down the coast to Los Angeles, this time not as skipper but as crew two-handed in September, then a four-handed romp to Cabo San Lucas with another couple in December. New Year’s Eve little did we appreciate that our celebration in Avalon would be our last taste of the before time’s.

Here’s the Whole Enchilada

Upgrading dock lines is a first chore. Brightwork needs attention, sanded yesterday, and put first new coat on today. I’ll put another nine coats on, of course sanding between each coat, gives me an excuse to keep an eye on the dock lines, inspecting the lines for chafe, for those that don’t know much about boating is preventing your boat from sinking or breaking loose and going on an unintended adventure, these are two of the more basic watches that a good mariner must stand and guard against.

Then there is the dance of meeting new sailors. They come in all shapes and sizes, all ranges of experience, each with their own possibilities and foibles, each with the infinitesimal chance that they may become new friends. Because South Beach Harbor in San Francisco is such a particular place, with such a specific zip code, there are fewer sailboats here preparing for extended cruising. Fishing, sailing, motor yachting, all for the day, sometimes overnight, this is what my eye tells me is here. Of course the intoxicated dreamer’s haunt this harbor, this is as nature and sailing intended seeing into what you can do with all those tomorrow’s to be. What can we do with the wind and a dream, when can we go, what will we see, how can this change us─

Texas in Monochromatic Glory

As decades go this one has come out of the blocks hobbling. The world keeps throwing curves when we’re desperate for a fastball. It was with some measure of reassurance that I read that a CBS poll had found 80% of folk asked were against banning books from schools and libraries. You’ll take your good news where you find it.

Blow out

All of 11 years old I’d fallen for iambic pentameter, and poems were produced as I tapped out the ten syllables to each line. I liked rhyming patterns, I experimented. A Roget’s Thesaurus fell into my possession, I used new found words to punch up my poems. My boredom with school had to do with impatience, to do with daydreaming. School work was sloppy, my poems were precocious for a preteen truant. Teachers tried but I was hard to get through to, my middle school English teacher thought I’d plagiarized my work, maybe my sister was ghost writing for me, the teacher and I had nothing for each other, well there was the mistrust.

Four years later my feisty Jesuit English teacher was fascinated with narrative and treasured how story in novels and feature length films stirred imagination. Hud the film starring Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas and Patricia Neal was a coming-of-age event in my life. Womanizing, whiskey drinking, and foot and mouth disease drove the film’s fateful plot. I had never been exposed to a story with an anti-hero as the protagonist. The way Patricia Neal’s character could see right through Newman’s character─ how she had half a mind to have an affair with Hud, but she chose not to, encountering Hud’s dark character in adolescence affirmed the terms of engagement that were underway within my secreted self.

Empty Valley with a View

The Last Picture Show released in 1966 cemented Larry McMurtry’s impact, my imagination has never abandoned his influence. I gave the director Peter Bogdanovich too much credit, it was later I had realized that the power of a McMurtry scripted film is to do with the talent of the writer.

For some years I banged around small time West Texas doing juggling shows at schools, fairs and festivals. If a place was drying up, a building’s paint was blistering off from a scorching sun, this is where I preferred to incubate, progress in self-understanding was possible here.

Fort Stockton, Texas, a wiser up and comer walked it end to end. Filmmakers don’t have to shoot West Texas with black and white film, the region is monochromatic as is, it’s all dust and dirt, the brush is subsistent, water ain’t, you would be hard pressed to find a better edge of civilization to view the abyss from.

Fort Stockton makes no apologies for what it is and what it isn’t, it can’t be improved and if you stay, you’ll have to quell your lust and cravings for this stagecoach stopover. I feel Larry McMurtry’s melancholy in this town’s bones, the agency of his prose echo off the slow rolling big rigs heading east and west on state Highway 285. McMurtry elevated desolation against gleaming beauty, the adolescently cruel and curvaceous Cybil Shepherd’s character Lacy Farrow was a revelation, Jeff Bridges Cybil Shepherd obsessed Duane Jackson was my stand in stunt double.

The long drive and weary Fort Stockton arrival is purifying, what aches here is time forgotten human habitat, a place to pass through on your way, this isn’t a place to come stay, this is a corner of Texas you’ll want to be sure you bring your escape plan.

Fortunes are found in West Texas. Wind turbines send power to markets in Houston, Dallas, and Austin. The Permian Basin is nearby. Many a fortune has been won and lost here. If you like rattlesnakes, there are plenty, wind you’ll find even more.

I’ve played University of Texas, El Paso, hustling my supper by juggling, this I’ve done across the decades. El Paso’s signature consists of a diverse and multicultural hearty stock of citizens true to the cause. This is Beto’s turf. There is a sizable majority here, diverse from all corners of want and wander, a people ready to turn the page on the hard right, a border town knows the score, immigration is fact based, New York Post headlines are insult and unfounded.

My mother-in-law believed in her daughter’s pick of the pack from all the hounds pursuing her. If there is any benefit to being born an artist, it is witnessing the mother-in-law’s that come to the tight and penniless corner you are impaled upon. If art is gender sensitive, it is also open range, something feral, an intuitive animal. My mother-in-law wanted a heart driven man to love her daughter, she knew there was hell to pay, might as well stand up for passion, a more pragmatic path would devolve to an unhappy marriage. That first marriage ended on the rocks, even art can’t save something that’s gone wrong.

1967 500,000 plus… that’s my long gone dog Sunshine

Truck break downs are no fun, but an unscheduled Texas stayover has always cut my way. Rear bearing on an axle on my ’67 Ford pickup went lost in a rainstorm at the Louisiana border. Spent time in Anahuac getting to know four walls. Found a shop that could cut the bearing off the axle where it had seized on, and a machinist who could press the new bearing onto the half shaft. Five-hundred and forty-four miles later I was down and out on my luck in Fort Stockton. This time it was an ignition problem, everything was right, did the work as it should be, but some demon was set loose outside San Antonio and mechanical misery ensued.  

Parts of my yearning soul ached to be home, another part was in no hurry, motor didn’t leak oil, getting the engine back in tune was within reach, had the right tools, took my time. Once I had made the necessary repairs, I rolled further west pretending I was going to catch the sun. The mountains of West Texas cast a shadowy grey-bluish silhouettes upon the horizon, there are more than forty mountain ranges all on this western side, they got emptiness on loan out here, all for a handful of people scattered across the landscape, loneliness is affirmed here, it is a pristine view, near the famous portal to oblivion.

Place for Wind

There is a sense of entering and exiting such terrain. This is the endmost edge of the Western High Plains, to the north is the legendary Llano Estacado, a place described as 85% sky and the rest grassland. West and south by highway I place the demarcation of this lost world at the entrance to the Barilla and Davis Mountains. Once here you’ll have a hard time imagining such a place as Fort Stockton back there, must be all made up, can’t be real, must be something so actual as to make a good day go bad, and a bad day the closest shave with the end of time as you’ll ever have to face. It’s worth a look, sometime if you’ve got any to spare, and it will be just as good when you put this encounter behind you. I wish I could promise you more, but I have learned the world as we find it will have to be utilized to move souls by poets, storytellers and the now and again just passing through these parts homeward bound itinerate showman.  

Free Little Banned Book Library

The new desk will help. The file cabinet too. Writing long fiction doesn’t get finished if you are drowning in a sea of clutter. Norman Mailer used yellow legal pads and pencil. Once he’d exhausted three pencils his day’s writing would go to his transcriber and return printed out double spaced the next morning and from this, he would edit then return to his transcriber who would retype and return to the writer. This back and forth lasted until the author felt the work complete.

Little Bigger Library

Mailer’s first novel, The Naked and the Dead, gave the author a horrific look at a territorially ambitious nation of Japan trying to quench its desire for empire. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine would have Mailer sounding the alarm. It is unseemly to snatch sovereignty from a nation. Living under the petulant thumb of a madman is not the future of the world. Republicans sympathetic to Putin will rue the day they sided with this brute.

The invasion following the Winter Olympics, courtesy extended to China Putin waited until 2/22/2022 to begin. The two great nuclear powers have to be very careful as they circle each other probing for weakness and resolve. Ian Bremmer a foreign policy expert described yesterday’s speech by Putin as the most terrifying of the new century. It is not no accident he took Crimea in 2014 under Obama’s watch and moves now on the rest of the nation while Biden is President.

Cyber warfare will play a big part and likely we’ll feel pieces of this strategy over here. We know the price of a gallon of gasoline is going up, that’s intentional, Putin knows how high gas prices harm an American President’s approval ratings. Vast troll farms will be carpet bombing the social media platforms. You would be wise to verify sources before assuming what you are reading is true. Reuters it should be noted described the Russian military’s invasion yesterday as playing the role of  peacekeepers. That is a Kremlin propaganda favorite and I’ve been suspect of Reuters editors. I did some digging and couldn’t get my hands on the facts, but had heard this news outlet is possibly compromised. Maybe not, but be careful Russian soldiers are not peacekeepers.

Last night we got the first measurable precipitation, and it was little but something. After a promising start to January the storm window shut. The drought continues to wreak havoc across the American West. War in Ukraine could unleash as many as 5 million refugees fleeing to safety. Putin would like nothing better than to destabilize the surrounding countries with hungry, wounded desperate Ukrainians. Immigration is causing chaos wherever it spins out of control.

Building Bridges not Walls

The pandemic is winding down but the virus isn’t done with us yet. Many will have lasting heart damage done by this disease. David Kotok investment expert estimates several million workers will not make it back into the workforce because of lingering health concerns.

The Federal Reserve is wrapping up its quantitative easing program and set to raise interest rates sometime in the middle of March. The invasion of Ukraine has made the effort to control inflation even more complicated. If the invasion was part of their calculations, I’m not sure, but Fed’s must account for this turbulence.

I noticed a spring fling in Paris staying at the Ritz Carleton will set you back $1700 per day for one of the average rooms. I’m going to stay in my van, cook meals on the galley. You can’t suffer sticker shock if you won’t play buyer. Most of my career was on the receiving end of the globalized tourism trade playing to tourists. I’m kind of over this whole going everywhere only to find out that over there is hocking the same schlock as our tourist traps over here.

A funny woman I performed with in 2019 in Edmonton, literally a sketch comedy type, clown, improviser, she has been living the last years in Ukraine. The countryside and rural life please her, the land is beautiful and the people generous. I know businessman that employed Ukrainians in his engineering services back here in the states. I’m imagining that’s got to change.

Then there is the matter of the thickness of the sea ice in Antarctica and that it was reported today in the Guardian to be at the lowest level since they began measuring in 1979. That according to experts is today’s most important climate emergency news. I see polls that tell of more and more measurable majorities are alarmed by the fix we are in but for many reasons we struggle to mount the all-out effort needed to forestall further troubles.

The Real Dirt

All of us have discovered Little Free Library’s. We have plenty in my quaint leafy hamlet. The counterinsurgency is preparing to launch our dialed in for the revolution version. We mean no harm and sensationalism isn’t our goal. Still, we want the great literature to be available; To Kill a Mockingbird, The Merchant of Venice, and Executioners Song all need to remain in circulation and read by all. We are calling our Little Free Library the Free Little Banned Book Library. Our books will be curated. Trashy stuff won’t make it, controversial edgy stuff will. I’d like to think that you could find Eldridge Cleaver, Eric Hoffer or Martin Buber here.

Here’s hoping for a quick end to Putin’s war on Ukraine. The internet and social media platforms will broadcast this crime across the world. This will not end well for Putin. This is the intoxicated bear’s biggest error. He is bound to fail, history is not on his side.

God’s Deli Tray of Delights

Some things never change─ whole swaths of our life are on a fated trajectory, there is an inevitability to our story, like juvenile delinquency, or what I refer to as the undiagnosed artist portion of this kids adolescence.

Happy aboard Spirit

I’d become accustomed to favorite freeway onramps being there for me just like they’ve always been. You know the drill, hit the peddle swoop into the righthander and straighten out and shazam, you’re up and running with the big dogs just like that.

The Tesla Model 3 comes with the least sized battery pack, good enough for trips here in the Bay Area. I’ve finally engaged the autopilot; it works as advertised─ think of it as the tempting fate accessory. We use the electric car for short trips and the internal combustion engine powered Volvo─ Sweden’s gift to safety and society─ for longer jaunts up and down the coast─ this is what the modern nomadic life is all about─ being safe and warm is overrated where wet and miserable allows for self-admonishment─ what were you thinking!  

Soho with my Jack Lacey

There are people that have a talent for remaining where they are trapped, I’ve got a serious wandering muscle, I’m incurable─ what’s called a case of being hardheaded, there are some afflictions you really don’t want cured, this particular disease is not fatal, the aches and pains of a knockabout make the heart pump with more zeal, curiosities are quenched, and there are worst things than getting a speeding ticket.

Lot of my kind, show people─ you know who you are─ prefer an itinerate life, it feels like we are making progress, not missing out on the big show, probably a fool’s errand but that’s fine, better to dance with the devil you are than the angel you’ll never be.

An irrigation timer I find calms my landlocked jitters. Being stuck with chores, having to remain behind to take care of the plants, to feed the goldfish─ automatic feeders, when all you have to do is flip a switch, and everything is taken care of─ see you when we get back─ for this jackal there is a perfect sense of prey and predator, stalking want is seed, spore, and royal sport─ long live the long drives to places you’ve never been.  

Going somewhere isn’t the same as it once was, folk are worried whatever normal life was might well never be what life in the future is going to be. I don’t spend a lot of my time thinking about communicable diseases, but there was a time not too long ago when there was no such thing as birth control. It’s not quite the same as a pandemic, but prevention is similar, you can wear a mask or put on a condom, this is all part of some odd grand prophylactic design.

Wanderlust Wisdom

Like for example using marijuana, taking mushrooms, having a martini─ these are common sacraments─ each blesses or curses the user as the gods, fates and winds may choose to blow. Mushrooms you may giggle, really, eating magic mushrooms─ but for many the psychoactive ingredient psilocybin can open a depressed mind and cure a soul from many common ethereal tormentations.  

What else is there to do─ where else is there to go─ these are the imponderables, here is where the rubber meets the one-way highway, the road with no way back. The irreversible mistakes have left their scars. Life in this moment is filled to the brim with contradiction, but it is more of a weak-willed form, where once great quarterbacks admit to having become taken in by snake oil and quackery. If ever there was a moment in history when those advocating for the wrong industry, the worst products, the most misguided policies would just let it go, set it down, walk off the playing field, let human ingenuity and progress take center stage.

The best mousetraps I have found come baited with the best cheese. Kissing strange girls, drinking too much whiskey, or breaking your vow never to climb on the back of that affectionate Arabian in the pasture, these temptations will put you in a corner of your own weak will.

Tom Varley Morro Bay

I’m due to travel to Ventura. Singer and songwriter Tom Varley and his Jack Russell terrier Happy are at the end of that ride. Tom and his backup band the Sundogs have hung up the spurs and put away touring. Tom had written about living free and doing nothing. The act itself was an accident he never planned to have a band and fame seemed useless. I sailed to Mexico with Tom. A sailboat has been a part of his life for near half his life. Now he’s got too much boat. Taking care of an 18 ton sailboat or a Jack Russell terrier isn’t for the weak of will.

Tom is some alternate version of who I am. It’s not like we are a spitting imagine of one another, but there are odd synchronous commonalities. If you have ever heard cosmologists discuss multiverses, and that if there were an infinite number of other universes, that mathematically the odds are good that somewhere out there is another planet with someone that looks exactly like me doing the same exact thing with the same kind of dog, the odds-theory tells us are better than good that the same thing is happening there as is happening here.

My Mom liked My Face

Maintaining your sense of humor is going to come in handy. You’ll want to laugh as often as you can. Take everything with a grain of salt, don’t forget the lemons, and be good to the beneficial insects and give the mosquitos a little more hell. Spring is just around the corner in this pickle of a fix we are living through here in drought plagued California. I’ve got some wood cutting chores out in the backyard. I’ll wear my hat as I always do, all those bright sunshiny days have added up and taken a toll. Don’t worry too much, finish your vegetables, and get out and take a good long walk.

Don’t Look Down

Pack your bags, bring your toothbrush, let’s get away from it all, if only we could. First order of business was to get the epoxy coating for the carport drop shipped from the East Coast via Michigan, don’t ask it’s a complicated supply chain thing.

High Heat and Low Humidity

Reviewing local weather forecasts and they tell of a high-pressure system off the California coast that is shunting storms north, that we are going to remain dry at least until the middle of the month, that it will hit 80 degrees later this week, and that there is concern about potential for wildfire.

A friend living in the Gold Country east of Sacramento in Amador City, the smallest incorporated town in California has been hit with homeowner insurance sticker shock. The policy jumped from $2800 per year to $6000. After some changes to his deductibles, he was able to get the premium reduced to $4800 and he feels lucky. This is playing out all across California’s urban wildland interface, and it is the runaway costs of the climate emergency socking citizens right where it counts─ in the wallet.

Too young to be a player in the Summer of Love, 1967’s perfect year for hippies, Haight-Ashbury’s gathering of the tribe, the counter culture that was going to change things traded all of those drug induced happenings for all these frightful challenges barreling down on us like an overfilled clown car. You know the bit where the tiny car parks center ring and out come this impossible to imagine number of clowns one after the other, clowns like drought, wildfire, earthquake, tsunami, hurricane, tornado, and heatwave. We are fending off sea level rise, wildfire smoke, volcanic eruptions and empty water reservoirs. Someone somewhere is keeping an eye out for undiscovered asteroids or comets potentially on a collision course, this is the human condition, modern life isn’t for the weak or the easily worried.

Bureau of Reclamation Plumbing

All the false prophets (profits) of yesteryear had assured us to follow along while we engaged in rampant outsourcing (offshoring─ a much less offensive term), financialization, monopolization, deregulation, and just-in-time logistics. Turns out our competitors took out a can of whoop-ass over there so that they could make us miserable over here. I smelled a rat as soon as the fat cats unbolted the Schwinn Bicycle Factory and sent it lock, stock and barrel to China. Our leaders have been too sheepish, stupid and stubborn. That famous sucking sound turns out to be us, we didn’t need anyone else providing us with sound effects, this was an unforced error.

Trail of the Deep Diver

I did a deep dive into a story about the foreign ownership of America’s farmland. What could go wrong? Water for agriculture is a big deal in a decades long drought, and you can’t really get to the core dysfunctionality of how we squander our water without giving your brain over to the geostrategic blunder being made by policymakers that have surrendered control of our food production system. When the Can-Tan-Con-Man slapped tariffs on China, and in retaliation they responded by canceling purchase of soybeans, and then Washington replaced the lost revenue by providing subsidies to the farmers, and that it turns out many billions of those dollars ended up going to multinationals located in other countries to compensate for the losses they took on farms they owned in America. Hard to flowchart all that losing, screwing and double dealing but friends there you have it, we are up to our elbows in one gargantuan mobbed up racket.

Our current members of the Supreme Court are not oriented by way of ideological fanaticism to care one whit about any of the many ways we are self-destructing. Let’s just say for the fucking fun of it that almost anyone can buy American farmland, biggest foreign owners are Canada, China and even Saudi Arabia’s got their hands in America’s dirt. It’s plain as lavender mascara that we’ve been sucked into a sinkhole of stupid. All this nonsense about the invisible hand of the free market is a bunch of neoliberal doublespeak. We already pay farmers to grow or not grow specific crops, there are subsidies for dairy, corn, soy, and cotton. The market is anything but free.

Goobering up our food system took a disastrous turn in the late 50’s when it was determined what we wanted to do was maximize the number of calories we cultivated. Farms and ranches were incentivized to grow commodity crops, the crops then blighted our population with heart disease and diabetes, and as these commodity producers have been in control for decades, they have no intention of surrendering their control over our food chain or their gravy train and there will be hell to pay if anyone dare try.

Inane Homily by Libertarian Types

Iowa is the poster child for what is widely understood to be the ethanoyl disaster. Decades ago, we decided to make fuel from corn. Never mind that it takes more energy to make ethanoyl than the energy you can get out of this biofuel, but subsidized corn growing was good for Iowa farmers and that was good enough, pretty much an open and shut case of shut your mouth. But you be right to wonder if we’ve been getting our money’s worth for helping Iowa, appears we’re not even close to a fair exchange. Iowans are in the grip of an ultra-sharp swerve to the right of the political spectrum, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst voted for Biden the day the vote was certified but not before making the most tepid remarks over the fiasco we know as the January 6th insurrection. Nobody is for defunding the police, but I am tempted to want to defund ethanoyl price supports that go to Iowa because patriotism ain’t getting its money’s worth. Trust me Iowa gets more back from Washington than it sends, and then it bites the hand that feeds it, that my friends makes it right to reconsider the fact we aren’t getting much back for all we give. I’m not into retribution but I’m also not into stupid. Time has come to get all those cotton-picking complainers to fulsomely embrace the right side of history, patriotism and democracy or suffer the loss of all this largess we’ve been squandering upon the ingrates.

There is clarity, spiritual liberation, and soul healing in understanding how perplexing the conundrum that is the interplay between crop and water subsidies. Top four subsidized commodity crops that the Department of Agriculture supports are corn, soy, wheat and rice. There are more but these are the four biggest crops. Then, over at the Department of the Interior, this is where the Bureau of Reclamation is located, and it is here that a good many water subsidies are handed out in one of the most irrational welfare programs and this quasi-legal water grabbing goes on right under the taxpayers’ noses. This isn’t water for the poor or the weak, these are for the powerful and connected. Given the ongoing megadrought in the American West there is every reason to evaluate and reimagine what crops we ought to grow where and if and how much water we are going to use.

You can pound the table, scream as loud as Pavarotti, stink and skunk it up, but you and nobody are going to bring this scrambled pile of misbegotten policy to heel. Like a thousand and one other things under the sun and on this continent, we have a lost our legislative spine to react to current realities and then make new policy.

Knocking on the Door of Change

It’s going to require a massive, colossal unimaginably enormous climatic convulsion before anything is going to shake up this over-intitled elite. And don’t you know that’s where we are and what the forces of nature are doing to the entrenched members of what we call the water nobility. Every politician knows to duck and cover when the topic of what to do about the water shortages out here in the American West come up. The powers that be clam up, get tight lipped and literally lose the power to speak when questioned about this century old fiasco. The plain and simple of the thing is that change is coming, and it arrived about two decades ago disguised as the mother of all droughts and until about now there was still time to do something about the thing. Time’s up and the bill has come due.

 Don’t Look Down could be 2022’s next hit film. And this time it isn’t some celestial object colliding with the world it is the stubborn entrenched special interests threatening the collapse of almost half our nations farmland. How this movie ends is the comedy I’m trying to write.

Buckeye Tree

Harbingers of spring, the California buckeyes are budding now. I expect most will flower by April and by June they’ll be one of the first plants in the landscape to lose their leaves. Closer to the coast if the fog is thick and persistent, the buckeyes will hold onto their leaves and linger into the season.

February 3, 2022 Buckeye leafing out

Much of the trails I explore are at the base of Mt Diablo. Where there are creases and intermittent streams, you’ll find buckeye dominating this terrain. Scattered among the buckeyes are valley oak, California live oak, willow and Pacific madrone. On the eastern slope of nearby Las Trampas Peak you will find big leaf maple, box elder, and canyon live oak. Up higher you’ll spot coulter pine, grey pine, and knobcone pine. Manzanita is found up here, I find it higher up the slopes.

Much of this habitat is dominated by chaparral or oak savannah. The recent rains on the bone dry hillsides has sparked new growth. The terrain is green, creeks are running for now, we need more rain, and soon.

Here a snippet from my most recent novel, it is the central character, Joann Triche out for jog near her home in Yountville, California. Habitat is much the same as here.

“Right here was squeezed so tight until all there was room for was road, riverbank and hillside. Jo wasn’t always so generous, she didn’t always take the time, but here along this stretch was her favorite part of what she imagined herself to be. This was who she was. The forest canopy was the sanctuary that had held her here. Her work would take her away, out of town, on the road. She’d miss seeing her oak woodlands shrouded in dank fog. She’d miss gazing at the starlings synchronized flocking maneuvers, the murmurations against days growing shorter, nights that would by then be cooler.”

Spring doesn’t much arrive here in these climate shifting times, the bright warm days feels as if spring is a constant, trees are beginning to bud, others already have, many of those are ornamentals purchased at nearby nurseries, they are non-native and reacting to signals from previous generations, back from where they first came up.

Cattle loving buckeye

Still there are as ever cold nights ahead and plants that can be hurt by a late frost. Even with that this is California and there is no snow in the forecast, not here in the Bay Area or even further east in the Sierra Nevada where snow was once more reliable and frequent.

The dead of winter characterizes Northern California’s weather pattern. By spring westerly breezes will pipe up and begin blowing off the Pacific Ocean. Sailors have to readjust to the stout winds.  Unless there is a low-pressure system moving through the air is stagnant and becomes hazy from pollution. In some instances, the air becomes trapped, and the air quality alarms are sounded. This is becoming more and more apparent as the state continues to grow, all of this growth brings traffic and with all of this comes dirtier air.

Another paragraph from Women of the Oak Savannahs.

“Venus thistle standing high as the human eye gathered at the dried edges. The loading chute and spring fed water trough was surrounded by damp muck.  Raccoon tracks set memorialized where they had come to drink from mud puddles left by downpours. Anna hummingbirds hovered over thistle blossoms plunging their beaks into the nectarous red prickles. Jo walked with a pregnant mother’s rocking motion, Buzz hobbled to keep up. They went over the locked gate giving no mind to the trespassers will be prosecuted signs. The shade-soaked trail was marked with fresh coyote scat. The fire road had been cut between two precipitous hillsides, squeezing until the two-track path just fit. Poison oak and blackberry vine beneath the oaks were tangled into impenetrable knots. Ahead where the land opened was blue sky filled with a procession of billowing white clouds.”

Trail of the obsessed

Aesculus californica─ the California buckeye is stirring even in these first days of February. I only began giving the tree attention in the last 15 years, I was too busy, too on the run, too young and too self-obsessed to give them my attention. Chastened by foolish youth I give them my time now, finally, at last─ not because I’ve wised up, it occurred that it appreciating the buckeye tree is good for my soul, like you know eating all your vegetables. The trees have made their presence known, they’ve never disappointed, theirs is a great show, a magnificent early call to joy of renewal, of another chance to witness the grand design of nature. Buckeye blossoms are a proxy for arboreal bombast, for making something big and giving it class. The seeds are the size of baseballs, they are toxic, some of our first people figured out how to leech the seeds then grind them into powder. Nobody eats buckeye seeds today, there are easier, less dangerous more tasty food sources to choose from.

Anna’s hummingbirds thrive on the buckeye blossoms nectar. The closest trail from my front door there are many hundreds of buckeye trees to be found, there must be many tens of thousands of blooms within just a few miles. Anna’s find them a reliable food source, and their early blooming must be a boon while waiting for the Venus thistles to flower.

Tantalizing blooms along the trail

Finishing a conversation with a friend in route to help his father, the old man has been stricken with Covid-19 and while recovering is suffering from brain fog. The father has a son that loves him, and is willing to help nurse him back to health. Standing along the footpath putting my phone in my pocket, I was taking in the green shoots, the first signs of leaves, appreciating this delicate dance we all do with our lives, these fragile and uncertain forces we are surrounded by. Standing amidst a favorite tree along a trail within a cluster of more trees and counting my luck that I have my health and I can still enjoy the buckeye trees.

The Secret Sauce

Start with at least 35 cloves of garlic. That will get you into the club, at least through the front door. For the longest time because for so many decades I’ve been on the road touring, there was not enough space or kitchen equipment to scratch make my own tomato sauce.

It isn’t complicated, but you do want to work with a time tested recipe and you do want to follow the expert guidance to the letter. In this instance I’m following the much admired Missy Robbins recipe. In 2018 Robbins was recognized as Best Chef New York City by the James Beard Foundation, and was also awarded Esquire Chef of the Year.

To solve my unattainable ingredients problem, I landed at the Berkeley Bowl where whatever had been missing is at this location found. To make the Diavola sauce you’ll need olive oil, garlic, double concentrate tomato paste, crushed Calabrian chiles, chili flakes, fennel seeds, and two big cans of whole San Marzano tomatoes.

We begin by simmering a colossal quantity of garlic in the olive oil. Once soft and slightly browned we’ll mash the 30-50 cloves with a fork, add the crushed Calabrian chiles, heaping tablespoons of chili flakes, fennel seeds and then blend all of the ingredients with the double concentrated tomato paste. You’ll take a few minutes until everything turns dark and is combined into a luscious batter like consistency that is then drown in the San Marzano tomatoes. You mash the tomatoes until broken apart while mixing all and then simmer on stovetop for something less than an hour. Robbins directs the budding cooks following her recipes to add just enough salt, in the recipe it is denoted as QB, quanto basta (just enough).

This is a punchy red sauce and of the three in Pasta, it is the beginning without end to making scratch made tomato sauce. I use Ms. Robbins recipe on my cornmeal pizza dough and have also used it on my fettucine scratch made with semolina dough.

Best not to dilute or distract from the purity of this dish, best to not add a single thing more. Missy Robbins and her tomato sauce recipes are the result of what she describes as simplifying, we are instructed to trust the austerity of her ingredients and for this we will be rewarded with a more tantalizing tomato sauce. Someone give this girl an award.

The semolina dough is the only in her book that doesn’t use egg. That is fine, it is unbound and there are no limits to how it may be used. Pasta is worth every penny just for the tomato sauce recipes.

I’ve got my eye on one dish, chickpea pappardelle with chickpeas, rosemary and garlic. Chickpea pasta is made with Tipo 00 flour, a scant amount of chickpea flour and─ get this─ two dozen egg yolks. Al I can hear is the Sondheim line, “Isn’t it rich, aren’t we a pair, me here at last, you in mid-air─”.

My life on the road in part ran through the county fair circuit where chow wagons were referred to in the trade as either a salt or sugar wagon, that was it, you had two choices. Making scratch made pasta is a world I’ve only recently encountered and would fit squarely into the salt wagon carnival food concession business. After a few tries my third effort at making fettucine was a success. This was the eggless semolina dough, a guiltless, egg-less pleasure, and once properly prepared made the perfect elemental companion with the Diavola sauce.

The recipe calls for parmigiana to finish before serving. Next time I’ll get some vegan parmigiana, if you are curious, it comes close, certainly not what is specified but you get the idea, paying homage to our arteries lands square upon the tempting fats used in Italian dishes.

Imagine living in a city of 9 million souls and that of all that are there it is your recipes, restaurants and dishes that are recognized as the best of the best.

I’ve made these grand red sauces a number of times now. I’ve almost got them memorized. Best of all you get the knack for how each step follows the next step and where you are trying to land the dish on the plate, the final destination by this cookbook is home cooked sublime.

I’ll do the Diavola sauce recipe, make scratch made semolina dough pasta and serve with a simple side salad, perhaps no more than lettuce, red onions and tomatoes with olive oil and vinegar dressing.

Missy Robbins dishes feature discipline, attention to detail and precision. You’ll want a scale and measure each ingredient exactly as the recipe instructs. You want to improvise, and you’ll be making one of a thousand previous errors that this book has by time and testing eliminated.

Because of the pandemic we’ve been cooking here at home where we feel safest. We have loved our time out on the town dining here and there, making the scene where we can see and be seen. To placate our enjoying getting out and about working through Pasta has provided us a mortal alternative and a safe one too.

To put the finishing touches on the endeavor I stopped in at Kermit Lynch’s Berkeley wine shop. Kermit has been importing wines from Europe for decades, most of his inventory is out of my price range but we’ve a good supply of his affordable Italian reds on our wine rack now, and even at the lower end the wines will not disappoint. Next door I’ll dip into the Acme Bread Company’s bakery and we’re all but ready.

There will be a next time, we will go to New York City, we will go to Williamsburg, and with some persistence we will feast upon the clever delights of Missy Robbins dishes.

That would be a fitting celebration to the end of this pandemic.

The Best there Ever Was

Word on the street is that it was good, my buddy Joey said it was very good, in fact he tells me that it was the greatest, the best of the best, the big fat perfect game of all time. The lay-abouts, you know them, they recite stats, dates, records, teams, talk about this quarter of that game, these are informed fans in possession of seismic sporting events and God only knows how but they can recall the whole mountain that is the Everest of sporting achievements, and it is this cohort of collective wisdom that claims yesterdays Bills-Chiefs playoff game was the Big Kahuna of sport thrills. Cecil B DeMille if he were still alive would order his studio to make the movie and release it as a spinetingling surprise ending epic faceoff between two quarterback titans of the sport.

Someone put a pin in a calendar, it was 1892 when the first professional football game was played in the United States. One hundred and thirty years later all we are talking about down at the corner of the bar where the well-oiled fans loiter is that there has never been a game like the one played late Sunday afternoon. “Not in my lifetime, yours or your mother’s, there ain’t ever been anything better.” Says this wise Joey, “Not ever. No way.” This was the one, the one and only.

Two preternaturally gifted quarterbacks played the greatest playoff game in the history of the sport, perhaps in the history of all sport. This was Frazier-Ali, this was Tiger Woods, Babe Ruth or Jack Johnson. Nobody is sure what the hell just happened, but whatever that was had to be as close to the best thrill in sport anyone has ever seen.

So, this is what we are talking about. In the last two minutes of the game between the Buffalo Bill’s and the Kansas City Chiefs with 1:54 on the clock the Bills take the lead 29-26. It takes 52 seconds for the Chiefs to answer with a touchdown. There is 1:02 left in the game and Chiefs go ahead 33-29. Forty-five seconds later the Bills roar back hitting Gabriel Davis for 19 yards in the end zone reclaiming the lead, it is now 36-33. There are 13 seconds on the clock, that is all the time the Chiefs would have to receive the kickoff then bring their offense back onto the field to try and score. That’s not nothing, but 13 seconds doesn’t leave much, in fact most figured there was no way any quarterback was going to pull this one off, it’s a damn pity someone has to lose after playing such a good game. With his lucky 13 seconds Mahomes passes left to Hill for 19 yards. The ball is placed on their 44-yard line. Each side uses a timeout. There are 8 seconds left on the clock. Mahomes takes the snap and throws to the middle of the field hitting his tight end Kelce for 31 yards. The ball is now on the 31-yard line within field goal range with 3 seconds on the clock. Kansas City Chief’s Harrison Butker kicks to tie the game 36-36 and sends the game into overtime.

Because of various rules to how the playing clock is started and stopped it took a little more than 6 minutes and 30 seconds to play the last 2 minutes. Buffalo’s quarterback Josh Allen tosses two touchdowns completing 5 of 7 while Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes also tosses two touchdowns hitting 8 passes out of 11. Together they combine for 246 yards and four touchdowns as time runs out and the game is tied.

Buffalo’s Josh Allen stands 6’5” and weighs 237 lbs., where Patrick Mahomes is 6’3” and weighs 230 lbs. Mahomes runs a 4.8 second 40-yard dash to Allen’s 4.6. On the ground in Sunday’s game Allen gained 68 yards in 11 attempts, Mahomes gained 69 yards in 7 runs. It’s one thing to be fast, but to be this big and this fast is rare, bigger men are usually a step slower, that much less agile, not this pair, these two are top notch. Both quarterbacks are big quick allusive players that are hard to tackle and will punish an opponent for trying.

One team had to win and as it turns out the winner in overtime was picked by a coin. Nobody can prove the first team to get the ball would score but that’s what happened, and I don’t think a soul in that stadium had a second of doubt. Josh Allen had called tails and the coin came up heads. Kansas City would receive the ball first. The rest is history, there were two short runs and six passes, the last to Kelce who catches a pass in the endzone and scores the game winning touchdown. This was a game between two of the best that have ever played the game and Sunday afternoon two teams gave football fans perhaps the biggest thrill the sport has ever known.  

Jigger of Gin Lessons

Sipping wine on the foredeck as an afternoon sun settles into the mists of the San Francisco skyline. Commuters bound home from work to scatter about in the East Bay and further. Bill Evans playing with his trio, recording from 1959 connects long ago to a less frantic present day.

List of chores is short. I’d had to do some cleaning of my battery terminals; electrics aboard keep a sailor busy. Then a walk along the shoreline. The walk is for our health, the shoreline views for a place to cast our imagination. I’ve been upping my game trying to walk 5 miles a day. Breaking it into two helpings.

On mooring ball at Avalon

Some days I’m gassed, other days there is not enough time. Then there are those other days where not a lick of ambition can be summonsed. Fixing the little things today, nothing too challenging please. Deck and topsides are ready to be washed. Next sunny day a coat of varnish over my teak rails, there is not much brightwork and with a few new coats next week I’ll be good until late summer.

I’m crewing south aboard a friend’s sailboat— it is a Hylas 46’ we depart as weather allows at the end of March. We’ll run off the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The only must stop while sailing south is Santa Barbara. Not stopping would be an injustice to self-indulgence. True we remain stuck in the tricky terrain that the pandemic has wrought. That bit of misfortune may well be in a lull by then, perhaps all of us might be able to venture out, maybe the worst will be behind us. It’s not just harbor hopping but then there is the lost art of the pub crawl, a slice of pizza and liar’s dice.

We received much needed rain and snow last month. A few inconsequential days of drizzle since. Water managers can only hope it keeps raining. So far since, that has been all hope. Sailing in winter is spotty. San Francisco can be clear and calm, the dead of winter, not a breath, not even a wisp, sailing is futile. We’ll motor over to Clipper Cove to anchor out overnight. On anchor is where we do our best sleeping. A sailboat rocking with its hook set sure will induce the deepest sleep. Other times it can be a burden, the wind kicks up and you’ve got to get out of your bunk to be sure the anchor is holding. San Francisco Bay is mostly mud and anchors dig in easily, but there is eel grass in some spots and cutting through and getting the anchor to bite then hold can take more than a few tries.

Smuggler’s Cove dead ahead

Once untied from the dock the boat is your responsibility to sail, anchor, to get from one harbor to another, one island to the next, up the coast to the next port, down the coast where you might drop the hook in a shallow protected anchorage. The reason sailors keep such a close eye on the weather is to avoid being punished by cold rain or gale force winds. The rain is just miserable a full gale can become existential. Dodging squalls and other nautical hazards requires less due-diligence in this the modern era of satellite weather imagery. Then, up and down the coast the telemetry comes in from the US Coast Guards weather buoys strategically placed off the coast. Forecasting is something apart from current conditions, but there are plenty of marine weather forecasters to choose from, and as ever be careful, choose wisely.

The sail south in the Hylas I expect will go off without a hitch. I know the boat, know what maintenance the boat has been given, what parts replaced, what safety equipment she comes fit out with. I know the skipper, he’s an experienced ocean sailor, by training an engineer, his passion for sailing means that he gives a lot of time to the sport. His navigational skills are first rate, his understanding of his own sailboat is comprehensive, and the skipper needs to be on top of his boats many systems, a Hylas 46’ is a much more complicated machine than my 36’ Jeanneau sloop. Gratitude is a cruising sailboat, she’s outfitted with a big headsail, then a staysail and a roller furling main. If it gets nasty nobody need risk working up forward on the deck. With little effort sails can be furled from the safety of the cockpit.

Morning coffee at Prisoner’s Harbor

Off the coast we’ll steer a course south that keeps us well off the shoreline by 10 miles or more. In reduced visibility of night or fog we’ll run radar and the Automatic Identification System (AIS). Both show up on the chartplotter display. If we feel it prudent the AIS gives us the name of the vessel we are approaching and if need be we can hail them on the marine band radio to confirm our course and that they can see us too.

If you get too far off the coast, you’ll end up in the shipping lanes where the big craft are transiting north and south along the coast. Best to steer clear of the commercial traffic as the craft move much faster and there is risk of collision. Having a 500-ton container ship closing on you and not knowing if they see you or not is one of sailings least pleasant vulnerabilities.

All four crew will be responsible for standing watch. The boat will steer itself with the autopilot, but then there is confirming the boat is remaining on course and that there are no vessels nearby. Sometimes the wind kicks up and a sail change is necessary. That usually involves getting the skipper on deck as it is his decision how the boat’s sails are set.

Once off watch there is food to make, reading to be done, and sleep to be had. The sound of water parting at the bow and then the wake rolling off through the swells. I like the sense of harmony that is provoked, how the boat works and strains against the swell and wind, how the simple task of moving a boat from one harbor to the next satisfies some kind of sailor hunger for netting breeze into a sail, departures can be mundane where almost always the arrival portends some measure of contentment.

Anchoring alone off the Channel Islands is always evocative of arriving at some place time has been kind to, something far from ordinary, something simple yet rare, so distant from the mainland it has been left unmolested, it is raw and less altered, this wildness is a distinct pleasure of a kind.  

Planning is underway to bring a sailboat from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to San Francisco, California. I have been following along as the sail plans are drawn up. There is some piracy off Vietnam, that’s one hazard. Typhoon season isn’t a concern. Still, to cross the Pacific a sailboat would sail north 3000 miles to Japan and then go further north and west nearer to Alaska than Hawaii for another 5100 ocean miles to San Francisco.

A Seawind 1260 is a 41’ performance catamaran, the speed is calculated to average about 8 knots. Portion of this sail are upwind; this is harder adding time and distance to the passage. Crunching the numbers, it looks to be at minimum 40 plus days and more likely at least 50. I’m enjoying viewing the planning of this trip while far more likely to be tied to a mooring ball in Avalon off Santa Catalina Island waiting for the catamaran’s arrival in San Francisco.

Avalon Santa Catalina Island

Sailing the North Pacific Ocean in summer is the right time, but low pressure systems are common up at these higher latitudes, then there are gale winds and tall seas that make for an arduous time at sea. Usually, smaller craft either deploy sea anchors, a device something like a horizontal parachute, or a device called a drogue that is dragged from the stern to slow a speeding boat being pushed too fast by a strong blow. All of this is ordinary blue water sailing. A skilled crew would have its work cut out, at sea for 50 days plus your odds are good that you will be overtaken by squalls and gales, seas in the North Pacific would be mountainous at times, you would definitely know you had been to sea and lucky to have made it through.

Sailing off the coast of California means you might be underway for 2 to 4 days, sailing closer to shore if weather deteriorates you can run for shelter at the nearest harbor where you can wait out the heavy weather. Full on ocean passages are another level higher in difficulty. Then there is the reality of being out to sea for nearly two months and that is for most sailors of small craft a very lengthy period of time. I know I’m more than qualified to sail to Avalon, and I do make a pretty good martini, shaken not stirred, prefer it up not over, use more vermouth than the average slinger. I could go, but it might be the wiser thing to let the wilder younger rascals have at this. I’ll make a martini now and give this halfway around the world passage further consideration. I’m not unaccustomed to dropping everything, packing my suitcase, grabbing my sleeping bag and signing up for a year on the road with a circus, and that was a whole year, this would be done start to finish within two months, give or take a brush with death or in fact actually being killed by unforeseen circumstances─ now, where did I put that jar of olives─