I snapped a photo of the television while awaiting landfall of Hurricane Eta. It's not unsurprising that local newscasters, who should certainly know better, position themselves near a body of water and start casting news.
If it's not a weather person suited head to toe in Goretex, announcing that the waves are throwing the yachts around violently (in the background, a tranquil day at a marina, the boats bobbing languidly under an overcast sky), it's some would-be Jim Cantore shouting about the force of the winds when it's, you know, breezy –– but not brutal.
In this photo, I love the cognitive dissonance: this newscaster was talking about how Tampa Bay residents were battening down their hatches and frantically preparing for the storm, while in the background, the usual cast of fishing characters are lounging on the pier, baiting their hooks and hoping for a good bite.
Come on, man.
P.S. This is not to say we don't have anything to worry about. People die from hurricanes, and houses are washed into the sea. But hyperbole is flat out unnecessary.
Tell the story that is, not the story that sounds more exciting. And that's my wish for the new year.
This time of year, you're apt to overhear a lugubrious but truncated version of "Happy Holidays" around our house.
Not that Andy Williams doesn't already win in those dubious lugubrious stakes, but ugh, I can't stand that song. One of us will start belting it out and then, if it's me, stop and swear briefly. Every year, the third week of December rolls around and somehow, this annoying song gets onto my internal jukebox.
And because that's how I play, the words of the song get a quick change-up, so I'll unwittingly start singing, "Hippy Hoppodays!" only to stop, swear briefly, and try to change the channel.
Without resorting to "The Girl from Ipanema," of course.
For instance, I might try for a sarcastic version of "Here comes Santa Claus" or a full-on 39-and-a-half-foot-pole version of "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." Thurl Ravenscroft rocks.
Or possibly the most upbeat offering of the season, Bare Naked Ladies' "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."
May your winter holidays be joyful and full of good noise.
Doesn't everyone have this impulse to shuffle chunks of granite or marble or gneiss from one place to another?
Perhaps the rock-moving thing is in the blood.
Heaven knows there are stone workers by the shovel-full up the family tree: tin miners in Cornwall, copper miners in Tennessee, the odd silver-miner crushed in freak accident in a Colorado mine.
His reserved "hello" morphs into a grinning, winking welcome. "Oh! If only..." he always ends up sighing. Charming Aunt P makes conquests left and right.
I know she had the quarryman and his crew move and readjust rocks over and over and over again until she had her flagstone patio just the way she liked. It's to her credit that the quarryman made it beautiful and remembers her fondly.
You have to listen to them or learn to live with some half-assed, unbalanced construct.
What can be more beautiful than an elegant old stone wall? Running mostly straight, like a seam across a landscape -- ooh, ahh.
Before google was a verb, we passed one North Country blizzard by pulling "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" –– stanza by sing-song stanza –– from imperfect collective memory.
I remember the blue light of the overcast sky reflecting ice into the dim living-room. The sinking presence of cold at the glass. And the dozens of running, stumbling starts it took for one of us to finally say the poem complete from start to finish.
* My favorite Sumerian quotation is "there is nothing new under the sun." Which, as it turns out when I research the citation, isn't Sumerian at all but Ecclesiastes. Huh.
My second favorite Sumerian quote? "What kind of a scribe is a scribe who does not know Sumerian?"
It was a decent warm-up, as the team remembered (when prompted by text by an alert ground control) to turn on their dang SPOT tracker when they were already halfway down the Bay.
Which is why their track looks like a point-to-point sail rather than the actual circle route that it was.
Fans of the team will be surprised to know that zero major innovations are planned for the 2021 event (starts the first Saturday in March at dawn at Fort Desoto Beach! Bring bagpipes!). Of course three months does leave room for all sorts of shenanigans. We'll see.
Thanks to Dave Helmick, Dave Clement, Andy Hayward, and Nate Villardebo, most excellent WaterTribesmen, who offered help, companionship, and a place to park. Good luck in the most challenging part of the Challenge: getting to the beach.
*Time of year coming up...when armchair adventurers and make-it-real dreamers to prepare to participate in (or just watch) adventure: human powered watercraft (from kayaks to SUPs to catamarans, etc.) take an unsupported 300-mile-long voyage south along Florida's west coast.
The event offers both genuine danger (the waiver spells it out: "You could die") and possibilities within a budget's reach (a couple hundred bucks worth of required equipment, a little boat, ten days of vacation...).
The starting line –– the high tide line on the beach –– offers an astonishing vision of people living their dreams. And alarming, of course.
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