Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Rolling on Shabbos

I don't understand it. I get strikes all the time in baseball, but can't seem to translate that to bowling.

My sister will be having a child in three short weeks, which means I should be able to beat her at bowling, right? Incorrect. She beat everybody. Including her daughter Anna. In the following photo you can see Jessica reaching over to mess with Anna's delivery. That's pretty low down if you ask me.

I asked Claire to examine my bowling form to see if she could find what I was doing wrong.

She figured it was my lack of follow-through. Also my form. And general uncoordinatedness.

Another bowler to watch out for is Grandma Mary Ann, known to the illegal high-stakes bowling circuit as "Pin Killer." Do not bet this woman on what she calls a quote "friendly game" to quote "make things interesting." You will quote "lose."

I do like the rental shoes though. I will say that about bowling.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Close-knit with a loose weave

Extended Director's Cut of 'And Furthermore' column, Wallowa County Chieftain, Nov. 14 2012

Teru was a 25-foot sailboat I lived on in Hawaii. My sailing experience before that involved many long hours of really, really wanting a sailboat, and that was about it. I did some speed-reading of all the how-to-sail books from the Lahaina Public Library, bought the cheapest boat afloat in the Hawaiian islands and started sailing up a steep learning curve. I had mixed results with this crash course approach, including one crash. Teru was driven onto a reef during a storm and I hope to never again hear the sickening noise of a fiberglass boat grinding on coral. Friends and I were able to save her, but it took a lot of hustling. 

Scan of an old battered photo. Moored off Maui.
The occasional hair-whitening moments of terror were offset with ideal moments on the boat, like falling asleep listening to humpback whales songs drifting through the hull. Or coffee in the mornings with a sea turtle who sometimes showed up to visit.

My sailing days were a stack of calendars ago, but I still like me a good boat talk when I can get it and got a dose when I ran into Lee Phelps, back home from his job on the old-timey square rigger Bounty. Lee stopped by my house for a Halloween shindig and we talked sailing. A few days later I saw the headline that his ship had gone down. Couldn't believe my eyes, so looked again and it still said the Bounty had gone down.

I had a very different conversation with Lee after the Bounty sank that ran in the Chieftain last week ("HMS Bounty sailor home when Sandy sinks ship"). Lee is sorry he wasn’t there. I would expect him to buy lottery tickets during such a run of luck, but no. One friend killed, his captain lost at sea. Ship went under in a hurricane. That’s nightmare material to most people and Lee regrets not being there.

I think I can understand Lee’s reaction, but it took me a while as I have very clear memories of being frightened in a few bad situations on my boat, wishing I was anywhere else provided it involved me being on land. Any land. I made deals with myself that if I got back safely I’d get rid of the boat and quit sailing for good. Then along would come a perfect day with dolphins swimming alongside, the wind just right, everything rainbows and mermaids, and I’d make a different deal that involved sailing around the world and doing this always.

At one point I was trying to outfit my scrappy little boat for a crossing to Fiji. The list of things I needed outpaced my bank account, so I tried to cut corners by imagining worst case scenarios and planning around them with limited resources. Turns out I'm far better at imagining horrific situations than planning around them. And that's when the nightmares started. I read every sea disaster story I could find to acquaint myself with what to expect, then went to sleep and had real, honest-to-goodness, wake-up-yelling scary dreams of sinking, storms, being adrift in a liferaft I didn't have, all sorts of fun variations. I gave myself a black eye one night, jumping out of bed in a panic and slamming my face into the low cabin ceiling overhead.

4 1/2-foot headroom. Watch your head.
So I had to think about this subject of wishing you were there for a hurricane.

It was Lee wanting to be there for his friends that makes sense of it for me. He answered my question of why on earth a person would wish to be involved with a disaster at sea and convinced me it was simply to be there and help.

Lee, on the left, with amigos.
This may sound sappy and dramatic and I hope it does, because that’s what I’m aiming for. The sailing community was very good to me. Watched out for me. Out of pity, most likely, but I was surprised with continuous and gracious help and support. The little boat communities of Mala Wharf and Manele Bay where I kept Teru put me next to some of the kindest neighbors a guy could hope for. 

One particular crusty and antisocial loner went out of his way to help, and not because he wanted to be friends. He made it crystal clear he would prefer not to be speaking to me, or anyone, but had to point out things on my boat he could help me fix. He wasn’t even nice about it, as he was being nice. Eventually he just left parts on my boat when I was gone with no note, no explanation. He refused payment, saying they were spares he didn’t need and I did. I think he did it because ... boats. Just boats. I know he didn’t like me. He didn’t think much of Teru, either. But still he kept helping.

Sure, boats are a hole in the water you throw money into. Yes, the two happiest days of a boat owner’s life can be the day you buy it and the day you sell it. But some people have their whole lives centered around living on those holes on the water. I sat on boats and looked at photo albums as proud owners showed pictures from early construction to shakedown cruise to living aboard with the same feeling parents show baby, graduation and wedding photos.

Close-knit with a loose weave, is the best I can do to describe the sailing community I got to know. Individuals on a big ocean all doing their own thing, but determined to help other boats when needed because they’re all essentially in the same boat. Wallowa County reminds me of a land-based version of that cooperation.

My own little shipwreck close to shore doesn’t compare to a 180-foot ship going down with loss of life. But I still had friends rushing to be there, in the water, doing whatever they could. So I can understand Lee Phelps saying he wishes he’d been there for his friends. And if Lee is that dedicated to his friends, I sure don’t want to get on his bad side.

Teru hauled out after her scrape on the reef.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Free Parking and Paintjob

This guy has a woodstove to spraypaint and no meddlesome breeze drifting overspray onto his, or the nice truck next to his, is going to stop him.

Just going for it. A nice Columbia River Gorge wind dispersing black paint directly onto his and a stranger's truck. There's even windmills in the background, fer chrissakes. That's how wind-prone it is where he decided he'd break out the rattlecan.

I didn't stick around to see him beaten to death with his own can of spray paint when the owner of that white truck came out of the gas station store, but I bet it was quite a show.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Attack of the scorpion crawdad

Rolled over a piece of firewood from a pile in the yard and almost got attacked by this monster –

Yegads. I haven't been in the desert for a while, but my brain still hit the 'Scorpion Alert' button that makes you scream like a little girl and jump back.

Then my brain hit the 'Um, It's Just a Crawdad' button. Which makes you look around to see if the neighbors are aware you just screamed like a girl.

There's a little stream about 30 yards away, so this creature had do some traveling in order to hide under the pile of wood and scare me. Good one, crawdad. You got me. And you tasted delicious with butter and lemon, by the way. No, no. I carefully placed him back in the water. After stomping on him with my boot. No, no, no. He went home unscathed. 

Here's something interesting nobody will probably find interesting. These trees here are sharing a stump, but not genetics. It's an odd couple with a larch on the left and a fir on the right. Again, I find that interesting and you probably don't, so let's just agree to agree that I'm fairly easily amused when I'm out in the woods looking at trees.

To make a crawdad scorpion trap of your own, find a tree and cut it down. It will look something like this –

Then cut it into smaller pieces, pile it in your yard. Let it rain for a day to draw the crawdad.

Last step is to stack it under your porch and get ready for winter.