Tag Archives: Character development

Silver City Shuffle

Silver City, Nevada is home to 200 citizens maybe a few more, depends on the day. You’ll find her about four miles off Highway 50 while you’re heading east out of Carson City. A friend hangs his hat here, calls it home, for the moment, for the last two decades. Whether he stays or not depends on what America chooses to do, he’s not the time or temperament to suffer through a takeover by enemies of democracy.

Good Dog Pino

His has been a privileged life. Street performer, renaissance fair entertainer, standup comedy showman, cruise ship juggling act and even contract work as a bit part actor in Hollywood. Having seen so much of the world the implications of leaving for some more peaceful corner of creation does not stir up fear.

If you like dogs you’ll love Pino. Rescue dogs usually come from the pound with something wrong, some bad habit nobody can break. Pino might too, but Silver City is so agreeable to this dog’s disposition it is hard to know what quirk lurks beneath his fur. Might be a miracle canine healing power of the place has occurred.

See if you can spot the Snowmobile

Water for Silver City comes off an alpine lake west in the Sierra Nevada. Kind of hard to explain the intricacies of all of this Silver City water. Long gone mine owner secured the rights by putting down a pile of silver and the rights to this water are ironclad, they’ve the best high mountain fresh water of any community near or far. Tourist trap Virginia City should be so lucky to have such fine water.

Mustang range through town. Up by the community hall the park grass is fenced off to discourage equine grazers. Homes are painted, doors and windows work as they should, a proper roof is always a must. Once you adjust your eyesight to small town Nevada everything comes into focus, the good citizens here are taking care of their property. By my eye many look fully improved turn key operations.

Yes, you can find a snowmobile that has been dissolving into a rusting heap alongside the salvaged metal remains of most of one century then all another hundred years and toss these last two can we have a do-over decades plus in for good measure. There is some pavement. The one highway through town is paved. There are no traffic signals.

Looking south you’ll see sky, clouds kick up, hell of a place for happy hour. Every kind of enterprise, industry and labor is performed in Silver City. Nevada’s state capitol Carson City is not far, Tesla’s Gigafactory is not close but if that’s where you find a a job and a living wage— it can be one of life’s cruel possibility’s. The best life is reserved for repairmen, that’s the ticket here. Fix an RV toilet, install a water heater, bannister refurbishing is popular and needed.

Baker’s Whispering Elms

Baker, Nevada is 8 hours and 370 miles east of Silver City. Baker is also a town of near 200 Great Basin souls. Silver City is the minor league’s when you think about emptiness and isolation, Baker plays in the to hell and gone league. You got so much nowhere out here that by the time you drive to somewhere you end up barely having gotten anywhere. Ely’s the next nearest somewhere— she too is a fine place and there’s plenty of it, they’ve got grocery stores, gas stations and saloons.

Whispering Elm’s Campground is where I stopped in Baker. A no-nonsense hard boiled egg of a woman checked me in. Took my money, smoked her cigarette, answered the phone and grouched back at whoever and whatever was on the other line. Her ride was an overridden Ford Explorer. No dents, started when you turned the key and the original paint was protected by a thick coat of Great Basin dust. I made small annoying chit-chat. I was here in March 2020 when the pandemic was breaking out— She had nothing to say— I carried on— he persists— pretty much talking to myself, she’d of preferred to hear from anything other than a two-bit likely two-timing no good for nothing nature loving Californian.

This is what passes for true affection in the remote eastern outpost of Baker, Nevada. I needed more seasoning is what a local likely thinks— a few weeks of wearing down would help before conversation with this invasive species would offer any potential benefit. You want to talk to someone that might listen you head right over across the street to the national park headquarters where they’ve got people that are paid to put up with a just arriving Great Basin hack explorer.

I’ve cracked more than a few hard nuts out here in Baker. They’ll come around eventually or by happy hour. There are hard lessons out here to learn. First is how to put two coins together. Younger more ambitious types with some spunk left get on at one of the ranches, work on road repair crews, maybe you’re cooking for a restaurant before it goes belly up then get hired on to cook for the next proprietor that gives hospitality services a try prior to the next collapse. Ghost town status is preternatural.

I’ve met a few lifer’s along the way, but most are here because they can’t take anywhere out there anymore. Rush hour, gridlock and stinking air pollution has converted more than a few to the virtues of a place like Baker. Most of these kindred spirits have a deep detestation for civilization, all of it, the whole kit and bumper to bumper caboodle. Only exception they are willing to make is for the ornery son of a bitches that they share this corner of the world with. Fair enough, everything has its price, I’m good with Baker folk sticking together and leaving me out.

If you were blindfolded and set down in Baker or Silver City and asked to identify where you are the tone of voice and the quality of joy in the voice of the citizen would give the whole guessing game away. Baker occupies a wee little corner of the Snake Valley. If you go half cocked off in any direction you will find yourself in a place that can kill, maim or make misery on your foolishness in a heartbeat. A breakdown out a dirt road could be your last lousy mistake. The paved roads are safest. Some graded dirt roads aren’t too risky, but then there are these other less seldom used two track trails to nowhere you’ve got to think twice about.

Baker now has a reliable cellphone signal. A few years back all you could do is dial to a number and use your voice to talk to someone, since those days they’ve added data so now you can look at your mail or if you’ve got the stomach for it read the news. This may or may not be progress, jury is out on whether the Pony Express might have been a more reliable service. If you do or don’t come here that’s your choice, you are only missing Great Basin beauty and the ugly truth.

A Nevada art’s organization offers a winter long residency here. If you are a writer they’ll set you up in a shack give you enough money for food and let your stew on whatever it is you have swelling up inside that needs expression. Once full-on winter sets in things go from soft core to hardcore. Instead of maybe a dozen or two dozen vehicles arriving by the day you can expect maybe one or two every couple of days. You build fires in the wood stove, watch the weather reports for snow and ice, and hitch a ride to Ely to resupply when its safe to go.

Last few miles before making it to Baker I surprised a coyote crossing the highway. This animal scattered like buckshot into the sagebrush glancing back once just in case I was going to give chase then the critter kept running for its life trying to reclaim its stealth like presence. I slowed then stopped and studied the animals efforts to get away, there was an economy of effort, fast enough to do the work of fleeing but not so much as to risk running the tank of coyote gas empty before the job was done. Since I’m not often running for my life I mean who am I to judge one coyote or another— fast or slow running for your life is running for your life. Hell we’re all running, out here in the high desert that running is just less complicated or disguised. You either make it or you don’t, no hurry, take your time, once you’ve found cover, taken a sip at the watering hole, had a chance to catch your breath, it’s all good, you’ve made it, you are safe, for the moment, eternity can wait—

Password for Fix is Yardwork

Montara manzanita is a native plant that lives along the coastal range mountains south of San Francisco. I took a chance on one and brought it home. My one-year-old relationship with my manzanita is going better than I could have ever imagined it would— first and foremost I know next to nothing about gardening and that plants a gardener grows— I’m not just a novice I am ignorance of all things to do with what we sometimes refer to as yard work. The Montara manzanita is adapted to our climate it thrives on little water and sunlight. The megadrought we are suffering turns out to be the perfect civilization threatening weather for my new companion.


When inventorying my plans for the day, schedule for the week, what I’m going to do next month, next year, there are even plans for the next decade that I have included on an ambitious list I’ve set to complete before I travel on from this planetary outpost.
Autopiloting a Tesla wasn’t a must-have experience, but here I am and now I’ve had it. My favorite time to use this function is in bumper to bumper traffic, especially when the going gets tough. This technology works better than I do because it is paying attention and that is a problem because that is not what I am always doing when cornered by gridlock.

Superchargers along Interstate 5 shade is extra good for walking


Returning from LA Sunday I played with the autopilot function while blasting north on Interstate 5. One of its safety features is that you must tug on the wheel every minute or so to indicate you are still there and not somewhere else. Interrupting my daydreaming makes the function somewhat less than fully automated.


Our Tesla is a standard range plus, this is the smallest battery pack version you can buy, and that’s fine, 90% of the time the vehicle is used to buzz about for local errands or the short hop over to San Francisco and back. The longer road trip meant more stops but that’s fine there were plenty of charging stations and we’d plug in and take a walk, by the time we got home we’d gotten in our 10,000 steps.


For those keeping score at home had I driven the Volvo it would have cost $240 to go round trip to LA and back, the Tesla was like $60.
There was an excellent autopilot on the boat I helped deliver to Southern California last week. This is a hydraulic ram style affair that attaches to the steering quadrant below decks to keep the boat on course. The technology is connected to both the wind speed and direction instrument, speedometer and chartplotter (you’ll need a rudder angle sensor to complete this trick of steering the autopilot by wind angle). You can select a point on a map and tell the autopilot to steer to this specific spot. You can go by compass course, or you can press a few buttons and direct the autopilot to steer by wind angle (in this case you’ll need to course correct while underway to your waypoint). Best of all the technology works better than a human being, especially at night when it is harder on a pitch black sea for a sailor to keep a boat on course.

You wouldn’t expect 7 wires would take so much effort


I’m finishing up the installation of our heater/air conditioner unit we’re installing in the small writing space we’ve built in our backyard. I’ve a few wires to connect, then I’ll vacuum pump the 15’ circuit before releasing the refrigerant into the system. I didn’t want to do this job, but I got a $3000 quote from an installer and that settled the matter. I’ve had to buy a pressure gauge, crowfoot wrench set, those two items set me back about $200 but it was still cheaper than the alternatives. Once this whole system goes up, I’ve got a company that will certify my installation for $275. I turn the documentation into the city’s building permit department and I’m done.


The Thompson seedless grapevines I’ve planted need attention. Planted last year the vines require some guidance. This is all new terrain for me. I spent a few hours reading through a PDF file put out by the agriculture department from University of California-Davis. Not sure how any of us did any of this in the days before the internet.


Maurizio is a sage irrigation specialist. He’s helped rebuild our drip system and taught me how to add a circuit as the garden expands. He’s close to retiring and dreams of returning to Mexico to live out his last years in the village where he was born. My work is plodding, slow and my inexperience shows through, I am a rank amateur compared to Maurizio. His English is good, his accent is thick, we spend a lot of time completely in the dark, he doesn’t understand me and I am absolutely convinced I would never understand him even if I was fluent in Spanish. This is a trivial matter since we seem to somehow figure out what each other wants, in this respect our relationship remains on the best of best foundations. Maurizio knows how much I respect him. The old man works in gardens because it is his calling, it is his passion, helping others in their gardens is a matter of great consequence. Gardens help people on their path, gardening among other things brings us closer to the mystery of sunlight, seed, soil and water.

Pretending like we have time for any of this


I’ve ordered double braided polyester dock line from Fisheries Supply. I’ll put eye splices on the end of 6 different lengths of line I’ll use to secure our boat to her new berth in San Francisco’s South Beach Harbor. If you haven’t seen how an eye splice is made surf over to YouTube and have a look-see for yourself. I’ve spliced before, but I’m a rank beginner, each splice takes everything I’ve got, most sailors parcel this work out to a rigging shop. Last week I spotted a boat berthed in Marina del Rey, the boat was a beauty, and not one piece of her was slipshod, there was a consciousness to each detail, a lot of effort was put into her dock lines. I’d had something similar in mind and now I no longer have to imagine I took pictures and will copy these boats mooring line system.


I’m juggling in the backyard. I had been away from my juggling equipment during the pandemic. After juggling nonstop since 1973 a sabbatical was in order. I was burnt out, juggling had become a chore, and that is the saddest thing to make what you once loved into a grim dutyBest of all my time off has allowed my appetite to return. I’m feeling voracious again, especially good news for a juggler of a certain vintage, my arms and shoulders appreciate the workout. For those unfamiliar with juggling, it is also a mental workout, the right side of our brain controls the left side of our body and vice versa, in other words juggling also scratches at parts of our intellect that can be difficult to reach without juggling.

Guru doing more spiritual practice


As guru’s go there is none better than Tom Varley. First off his guidance pertains to all things to do with sailing, Volvo’s or Jack Russell terriers. One look at the engine room aboard his sailboat Spirit helps the uninitiated to understand why I’ve made this man my go-to advisor. In vain I tried to revive my 23 year old wind speed indicator, I did as told down to each and every detail, but the wind meter has evaded my every effort of allowing me the satisfaction of bringing the old piece of gear back to life. The hours invested, the money spent on parts, none of this matters, it is the fixing that is most important, because you fix something for reasons that transcend the thing being fixed. This is the fix we are all in, fixing is the opportunity to get out of bed and falling flat on your face before you’ve even had time to make your coffee. It is in this corner with the greatest of trepidation that I’ve inched closer to buying a brand spanking new wind speed instrument knowing that there is every chance that if something could go wrong something will go wrong during the installation and that it cannot possibly be as simple, easy or as inexpensive as it appears to be.


I am sure you’ve a garbage disposal on the fritz, a button to mend and a spouse to amuse— there is not a moment to waste unless you want to contemplate how it is some guy with the last name of Shakespeare did what he did like none before or any these many centuries after. You have to wonder if by some quirk of fate Shakespeare showed up in this century and gifted the world with new fresh piercing plotting and dialogue if anyone would even take notice. It must be asked if this great writer would find his writing clicked on, forwarded, or if it would like so much of this digitized era go lost among the riot of information rushing toward us all.


I really don’t have time for this. I’ve discovered the olive tree has leaned away from a towering Italian pine and has pushed up against our mailbox and broken through one corner rendering our mail wet when it rains. I’m going to affix a post to the existing post and move the mailbox over about one foot. Then I’ll restrain all the wood making the project look properly finished and of course we can then enjoy our life knowing the olive tree may now harmlessly continue growing as trees are wont to do.

Near bliss state perhaps just an edible— you choose


This is how it is how has always been and will always be. I thought when Sears folded so would much of the rest of all this nonsense, but no that isn’t true at all, nature abhors a vacuum and all the tools required to keep all that open and free time on your calendar fully crammed with otherwise thankless tasks and idiotic fixes to things you would not miss for one single second. If you can prove me wrong you’ve much too much time on your hands and need to get an untrained puppy and begin at the beginning.

Soul with a Chaser of Wind

Casting my fate to the wind I confronted the last most credible year of my life— I had turned out to be a 29-year-old cornered by a demanding profession, the quest to find success in show business had left all matters large and small, both onstage and off devoured by the rapacious appetite of my most insecure self. Drowning in my own shallowness turned into trying to repurpose my time— I tossed a life preserver to my foundering soul and signed up for sailing lessons. I had no clue if this was even something I would like.

Outbound into the Alliance

Lessons were taught in a classroom and on an 18’ sloop rigged keelboat. After passing all the tests both on the water and off, I was qualified to charter a boat— I could go sailing on my own. Sailing solo seemed to matter— listening to the wind, feeling the direction of the breeze on my ears, making visceral contact, relearning how to be present without suffocating my feelings with words— to see and sail by my wits with the wind. 

Sailing on the Oakland Estuary, this was where the new sailor practiced. There was no plan to do anything more. There was no motor, no running lights, no electronics, no accommodations for eating or sleeping— there was just a boat and water, wind and sail, and this fragile younger newly minted beginner trying to reintroduce himself to the missing person I had become.

Until I’d taken lessons skilled sailors aboard larger sailboats had not attracted my attention— I’d hardly taken notice, my curiosity had gone missing. 

Maestro fitted out

In 1980 the Nordic Folkboat was a common sight on the San Francisco Bay. Fashioned of wood, 24 feet in length, the hull was constructed by lapstrake planking, the cockpit was an open design and the sailor sat low to the water— it was an advantaged position from where the helmsman could read firsthand how the boat was working with the wind and water.

Friends have come to play

Racing had no appeal, what I liked most was knocking about on my own terms without a care, playing with whatever wind and sea state I might encounter. The sage Folkboat helmsmen wore khaki— pants, shirt, and cap— khaki was the rule. In 1980 aviator style sunglasses were fashionable among this group. If a jacket was needed men would wear barn coats fashioned of waxed canvas with chocolate corduroy collars. 

Not ready to toss my youth away I resisted the khaki sheik raging fashion of the time. Polyester was only in its infancy, but brighter colors and tighter stretchier fabric was easier to move around on while sailing in a cramped cockpit. All these choices— what to wear, what sunglasses to sport, all was subliminal— I wasn’t going GQ so much as unwilling to toss my youth away and join the khaki craze— it would have been a uniform indicating I’d become a member of the Sears & Roebuck house of worship, — cementing my sobriety and celibacy to a fateful unquenched misery.

The socially in the know sailor is by nature smitten with the fine figured opposites found sipping white wine along the waterfront cafés. Among the vital maneuvers even a beginner sailor can refine is the nonchalant docking of a boat near such a drinking establishment so that you might pause to go fishing for the love and affection that incessantly goes missing in a boatman’s life. There is no such thing as luring a sullen moody above the fray catch while clad in khaki— this is as true now as it was then, it is this invincible khaki clad cotton constructed barrier to a more amorous life that must be avoided lest you toss away all hope of finding what instinct insists you must have in abundance. 

Live Aboard 2004-2007 and 2013-2020

Beer drinking on hot days— when one arrives after sailing the helmsman and crew will regal the day’s romp on the water. A thirty-something anoints the end of a sail with beer brewed bravado— these are peak experiences— no other cohort of desperate lads can mount a more well played winding down of the day. Distracted, suffering from a lack of affection and then once sated the landlocked misunderstood mariner returns first to the sea and then the saloon. Heartbreak runs rampant among this kind.

By 2001 my footing straddled both sides of my aging self. I could still finish off the day buying a round in a pub, but the lines controlling both a boat’s sails and a man’s interior tethers were afoot. My sailing skills had advanced— the newcomer to the sport was no more.

Not appreciating the magnitude of the task, with a kind of blithering innocence I undertook the task of fully restoring a derelict wooden sloop. Between 2001-2007 I made seaworthy a 25’ sailboat— the class of boat was named the Golden Gate. Not only had I the pleasure of knowing every fastener, every board, every piece of bronze I had also sparked the unanticipated deeper cultivation of pieces of my most difficult to repair character. From the boatyard where I would labor, I developed my focusing skills, breaking tasks into incremental pieces— fix one thing then the next— doing whatever is required for as long as it takes— getting it right was more of the point than the time it excised from my charade filled exploits as a land-loving sunburnt Romeo of a kind. Fixing a wood boat with tools and by hand had moved both man and his future forward— fixing the boat had indeed also help fix this sailor.

Maestro San Rafael Yacht Harbor 2005

My wooden sloop had been owned by the bass player for Huey Lewis and the News. Even prior to this glancing blow with rock and roll fame several other owners had sailed this boat to best boat of the year and season’s championships. Built in Sausalito in 1959 Maestro had earned much notoriety as one of the swiftest of all the 17 Golden Gate’s ever to sail on the bay. Flush decked this is a sailor’s sailboat— her personality on the water and in the wind marked her as one of sailings most capable craft. With the wind in her sails Maestro again and again said to her helmsman that something was right with the world and this right feeling you knew to your core, this boat spoke to you through the varnished tiller in your hands.

I bought her, fixed her, lived on her, sailed her and sold her. Maestro was shipped off to Moss Landing, her new owner would sail from this fishing harbor in Monterey Bay. 

I thought I would hear from Maestro, she was too palpable, so capable, so tangible, my hands were stained with her varnish and paint, blisters on my palms were still healing from the hours of swinging a caulking hammer. After I had dedicated to Maestro my best— just like that she was gone and in her place was fit a new boat— a fresh brand-new uncharted course. This four-decade long boat alliance was far from over, there were still too many lessons to be learned, too many ways I could go lost or be found— a sailboat enables the sailor to remain closer to the interior pieces of his soul, the right boat will share their spirit, you will know your boat and your boat I am convinced will come to know you.

Let the garden speak

August is aching over autumn’s scent. The vegetable patch has gone over to the other side. Sunflowers are on the edge of the dance floor. Romeo’s have all been thunderstruck, the only true optimists, the flitting lizards race from rock to rock. The squirrels only know love by lust of the feline skirt chasers. The neighborhood is haunted by brittle dry Monterey pines.

Hibiscus flowers are a powerful antioxidant

The Chinese mail carrier knows this misfit resident by first name. The Japanese maple in the front yard thinks me to be stingy, whereas in the backyard this red bark maple imagines I am a saint. Crows have been absent leaving me to wonder where they’ve taken off to. Acorn woodpeckers are beside themselves chattering away in the live oaks they are so fond of making home.

My neighbor no longer speaks to us without great discomfort, we planted photinia to remedy the view of his deferred maintenance. One day the photinia willing we will not peer into the disorganized cerebral cortex of our neighbor’s procrastinations. Nothing about his untidiness will change.

Voles are rampaging. Attempts to repel by castor oil have met with better than good results- but still they plunder the landscape like Robinhood’s, the rath of the king is soon. They have fallen all the corn stalks.

Heavy artillery is being brought in. Vegan paradox and Buddhist inspired directive to first do no harm, that it would be best if you do not execute the voles has by unanimous consent been voted down. We march on the voles at daylight.

Just One Fig

Then there is the solitary beauty of the one fig on the new tree. There are the hibiscus flower buds multiplying by the day. There is so much promise and such a paucity of tangible results. Gardens in my delusional blind date with fertilizer stir both feast and famine.

The two are concerned over my reincarnation

Chickens next door, in the back, the fence is wire, we can see each other, agreeing by eyesight there is much to recommend, we have a thing for one another, according to my gypsy king philosopher predictions the roost and will of the flock is on my side. There are lifecycles I hold in awe, this tormenting by egg laying is not on my list of things I would wish to try should I return reincarnated as a hen. Wish me luck. Karma because I’ve worked with chickens suggests my fate might well have already been sealed.

Ants made a dash for water at the kitchen sink. They have been removed. I sent a letter to their agent asking they not return we’re in the middle of a different scene from a different movie and it doesn’t include these rogue invaders.

Pole beans are coming up, the kale is not, the spinach hesitates. I’ve a whole furrow prepared for collard greens.

I’ve a pile of rocks I’ve promised to move on last time, after having moved them the last time on three previous occasions. Seems as if things change and the rocks mark the exact location of where the next changes are located.  I’m trying to imagine changing without having to move a pile of rocks. This appears to be harder to do than simply busting my butt moving a pile of rocks one more time. The house wren in my yard sees the futility in my actions and flitters about experiencing a deep knowing that this rock piler can’t possibly be a more intelligent species.

Our red Mandeville we hope will climb the new lattice work I’ve built. The ferns have been moved and are happy in their new neighborhood beneath the oaks. None of these preferences were known by this novice gardener. I’m getting the hang of understanding that under certain conditions each plant will thrive should their needs be met. Like the pile of rocks, I seem to have a knack for picking the perfect place for many of my plants to struggle.

Montara Manzanita

I have potted a manzanita that I will Banzai. Shears are sterilized. I’m waiting for this native bush to reveal itself further. This manzanita hales from the coastal hills of San Mateo County near Montara. I have taken a stinging bit of criticism for bringing this specimen 20 miles further inland than is native to this plant, but so far the glorious Montara manzanita likes what it sees.

On my short list of indigenous trees to plant are madrone and buckeye. Madrones are notorious for being difficult and this is believed to be a perfect fit since I am so difficult myself. Buckeye grow wild in the neighborhood, but I’ve had no luck sprouting one. This tree blossoms in early spring and loses its leaves by early July. I’ll put it near the Meyer lemon tree that tends to ripen its fruit in the last days of autumn. I think the two trees might appreciate one another for their being so out of sink with most all the other plants in the yard. This is the plant world theory of opposites attract.

I’ve revived much neglected roses that are now scaling new heights on posts and wires I’ve constructed. Raspberries are gaining height and putting on good size. I’ve a thornless marionberry I’m especially pleased with.

Grapevines require proper pruning. I’ve ordered more wire and stakes for the vines to use. Netting will likely be necessary to protect next years fruit.

Density seems to be something I have no knack for. I’d been warned to give my blueberry bushes plenty of space, so they don’t stress each other by being planted too close. The cantaloupe has wanted to do more. The yellow squash has overtaken one of the raised beds and will not concede an inch to its neighboring plants.

By late afternoon the patio umbrella is opened. I sit out of the sun where I’ll read. We’ve had lots of tomatoes, sunburst squash and basil to add to the pasta. I’d prefer whole wheat pasta but use chickpea pasta reasoning there is benefit in it providing my body with a good source of protein. I have no strength of character around whole wheat pasta and will finish off any amount I’ve cooked. I see this as a proxy battle where in my youth I would indulge in all manner of enticements, dancing until sunrise, sleeping until afternoon, kissing my loves until they were convinced, I’d imagined it was my kisses that had provoked their surrender.

Hard won wisdom like my pile of rocks I’m fated to move to make way for change is not all that it’s cracked up to be. Knowing better is not to be confused with authentic goodness. I take the chickpea pasta to be the proxy for knowing better and the authentic goodness to be the whole wheat pasta.

I mean to do good work in my garden but my strawberries know I am weak.

Looking for a few ears

Motorcycle Racing Champion and the Circus Arts Aerialist

Women of the Oak Savannahs

I’m still thinking this scene may represent some of the best writing I have ever done. There you go. Just my opinion. I wouldn’t mind finding out what other listeners think. If you do spend time with these two characters, Buzz Jackson and Joann Triche drop me a note let me know how the scene works for you.

Sausalito then and now

Foggy Streams Sweeping Inland at Days End

Sailing has been part of my life. My first lessons were on 14’ sloop rigged sailboats in the Alameda Estuary. It wasn’t long before a sailing friend purchased his own, a modest seaworthy boat, strong enough to cross oceans, slow enough to make a sailor think twice of doing so.

In 1980 there was a small parking lot operating as a boatyard in the center of Sausalito. After a long day in the yard prepping the boat to go back in the water a short walk across the street landed skipper and his second in command in the No Name Bar.

Sausalito on my horizon last evening

Sterling Hayden was easy to spot around town. Alan Watts nearly always drunk and irritable made his home here too. Best of the locals was the famous circumnavigator Bernard Moitessier.

Having run out of money in Tahiti he sailed his steel ketch Joshua to Sausalito to rid his life of what he termed the “hungry cows.”

I studied celestial navigation aboard Joshua with three others. Bernard’s berth was located toward the back of the boat near the stern. I remember his bunk enormous, piled high with multicolored quilts, blankets, and pillows. History’s most accomplished sea gypsy slept in a gauzy fantasy world of paisley’s, spangles and curiosities.

I was 29 when I studied under the guidance of this great Frenchman born in Vietnam. I had not read his books yet. His confidence was stunning. He possessed the greatest powers. There was no Global Positioning System deployed yet. To sail the oceans you navigated with compass, sextant and chronometer. Moitessier remains one of world’s most accomplished circumnavigators.

Gossamer Clad Golden Gate Bridge and Sailboat Daring to Kiss its Edge

There exists a shortlist of heroic types I’ve had the pleasure to learn from. Each had favorite poets and poems. My hero’s were deeply spiritual, I would go so far as to say each were touched with a sense of the mystical. All seemed to be wedded to the notion of traveling to faraway places. Most cared little for material things and shopped for clothes at second hand stores. These were spirit guides with vast appetites. Skinny to a one, craving to seize the day, and fulfill their hearts desires. Passion was no stranger among my North Stars.

The rail thin sailor was easy to find. We made a habit of chasing him down aboard his boat. We wouldn’t outstay our welcome. Weather permitting we’d stand on deck. Bernard smoked hand rolled cigarettes. Conversation was a meandering experience. We’d talk politics with a sailor who had looked firsthand into the fabric of power by having harbor hopped the nations of the world. We talked about different aspects of sailing. And then there was always this circling back around to our youth and Bernard’s quirky way of urging us to listen to our own hearts, to do what we want to do, be who we truly are. Bernard insisted we had to honor our dreams. Bernard had become our friend.

A Raucous Wind Awaits a Sailor on Such a Sight as This

Sausalito was storybook in 1980. Homes were improbably perched on perilously steep hillsides. Fog hovered on the ridge and in late afternoons would stream down through the gulches in one place but not another.

By nightfall the anchorage would be overcast. Foreign accented voices were common, exotic sailing craft from all corners of the world set at anchor in Richardson Bay. Levi clad long haired men and women populated the waterfront, merry wide eyed dreamers to a one.

I’m anchored off Sausalito, anchored here last night, reminiscences of the good souls that brought me to this moment, having helped steer my life, helped set my direction. A fine man Moitessier, he spent his last days in Normandy along a favorite piece of coastline. I was blessed with his sure hand and chiseled smile.

Time Whispers

I am no longer at the intersection wondering how much further I have to go. The cast playing the Edmonton International Street Performer’s Festival needn’t say a word. Time whispers in my ear.

Street theater is physical. The quickest wits, the sharpest reflexes, these gifts on loan from the gods are asking to be returned. Another season in our life arrives, another page to our story is written.

I have wanted to be a street performer for more years of my life than I have wanted anything. I’ve wanted to be my best version. That is enough.

The kind audiences here in Edmonton allow me to slip into my show. Gracefully I am allowed one more sip. Obey the unwritten rules. Go about the work. Be kind to the children, be comfortable in your own skin. Have an unshakable faith that what you have been put on earth to do is exactly what you are doing. You are enough. You are fulfilled.

I lean into the wind. Hold my wife’s hand. Piecing together next steps. I hear it is wise not to keep holding too tight to yesterday, to not look out too far ahead to tomorrow, to spend most of what you can on making good use of today. I’ve two shows. For today that will be enough.

Character

Sweet Seas Avalon

Jeanneau Sloop’s Southernmost Mooring…

Avalon, Santa Catalina Island

Moitessier 1958, Sailing to the Reefs, “The deterioration in the weather was sudden and without warning— it was just a simple call to order to remind me that winds are not always favourable and that fine weather never lasts for ever. As always when I am obliged to move about on Deck at night in a squall of rain, I came out of the cabin swearing that God’s providence is a myth.”

To one degree or another admitting where our talents lend our sailing advantage is a must. Knowing what we are best and worst at is to keep our wits about us.

I am quick to change sails as the wind builds. Although I’ve suffered from sloth and torpor and been meted out punishment for the inaction.

Point near Avalon

Long Point, Catalina Island

The Length of the Trial

In preparation for the passage north from Los Angeles to San Francisco I’ve noticed a particular form of grit seeming to have been found inside. I’m determined that I will return my sailboat to her home port. I have suffered bouts of grave doubt but have fended off the demons for the moment.

Characters

Character Enhancer Seated to Left

An old now deceased sailing companion had brought his Tahiti ketch from Baja back to San Francisco’s Bay View Boat Club many times. Carl’s strategy was simplicity itself… patience.

Rather than have his will broken, rather than attempt to advance to his destination he opted to rest, wait, and pick his spots rather than have Mother Nature punish his boat or his backbone.

Carl exercised patience and judgement. His sailing skills were sufficient to the task. Pragmatism and common sense was perhaps his greatest talent—-but hardly his only. Of course he had made careful study of the weather patterns along the West coast. He knew as much as his mind could hold. Tides, currents and where the next place to anchor north of his present position was built into his plan.

dolphins on bow

Escort Services

I had once ignored Carl’s advice and in my haste wasted hours beating against a current. As the current slackened a fresh and rested Carl joined me in San Pablo Bay for a sail back to San Francisco. I arrived exhausted. Carl returned unruffled and rested.

We will see what we see in the next few weeks. I’ll pick my way north with my sage sailing friend in mind. I’ve a good twenty days to make a trip that ought not take more than three under the better circumstances. Toss away two rough days waiting at anchor to advance one good day seems sensible.

In that light provisioning and a second hand that can abide the captain’s strategy will bring the capable sailboat safely home.

Edited Red Star

 

A Stitch of Time

On the Hard in Preparation

Fresh wind bit my neck. I’d turned sizing up the blow. My sailboat is a capable partner to be running with. Going against this howler would tax the durability of the helmsman’s spirit. Not destiny but the downwind harbor made this leg of the journey a more valued lesson.

With the compass I read a course heading South and the least bit of West. I am making my way quick as life will allow. For a lapse of necessary time I anchored secure in stillwaters claiming refuge.

Sacks of fresh potatoes, tins of garbanzo beans, jars of tahini, cubes of sugared ginger, pounds of dark roast coffee to buck up sagging spirits…. provisions meant to stiffen a spine and strengthen resolve.

Time itself is thrown into question. How much, how dear, how little, when to go, will we return, is this the moment? Does passagemaking make the kind of expeditionary sense in such a compact and well charted world?

In an event horizon measured by lifespan what piece of this sail– in all its vicissitudes– can be refracted and focused to provide a more accurate glimpse of what has been too self-sure arranged within?

Can a closer brush with the front range of our ambitious questing to the unexplored corners sail us any nearer to the more fully realized self we hear whispering to us in the wind?

Forces scaled to the size of nature’s wit and wisdom have a way of clearing the view from a cluttered mind. A good passage is what we find and feel from start to end— pieces of the experience can provide a sailor with satisfactions found out of reach just beyond the horizon. A good passage is a promise fulfilled.

End of Day

What’s in Your Wallet…

trail doctor two

Outdoorsmen have had their camouflaged knickers knotted by the scorched earther’s embedded in the bowels of our Department of the Interior. Secretary Ryan Zinke has risen way beyond his ability to grasp the circumstances his constituents face.

Montana can be divided into many pieces of a kind, but the most common is a man or woman with a job that doesn’t pay much and a benefit package that provides even less. You are in Montana for some kind of love that pertains to other matters than “what’s in your wallet?”

Big mining, big timber, big ranching and gigantic bellyaching are time honored traditions here in Big Sky country. Preservationists are a luxury item. There’s a hay crop to bale and a cow to turn fat before another bout of frostbite comes nipping at the loners noses. —You go sustain some other piece of paradise, move along before we send you back to where you belong.

Whitefish Energy, a two-man operation arrived in Puerto Rico with a 300 million dollar no-bid, no-questions-asked and none given contract. Poor as dirt, hungry as a mouse in an abandon high prairie drought strickened chapel these business operators descended upon the more miserable seeking to pave their way back to gold plated paradise.

Montana does farm some but resource extractive industries, the kind that own mining claims, grazing rights and timber permits tend to bully and bluff the state legislature in St Helena. Mixed into this mortar of citizenry trying to hold the center together are hunters, fishermen, and impossible to understand outdoor recreationalists who go out into the magnificent wilderness areas and do lyrical harm to nothing. —This kind are worse than poets.

Good Old Zink’ knows all about this skirmish. The Interior Secretary even speaks with heartfelt insincerity to the human recreationalists. Hunters and gatherers are living and doing some further learning.

Desperate times require desperate measures and there is not a more determined kind than a retired Navy Seal turned real estate developer, oil and gas pipeline investor and now Secretary of the Department of the Interior.

Willow Lake Two

If the radical environmental activists preservation and sustainability strategies win then the developers and resource extractors lose. On the other hand, if Zink’s crowd prevails, then every last one of us, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends and not friends, folk on both sides, we all lose.

“So, what’s in your wallet?”