In light of past years' performance, I anticipate a few cri de coeur about the failings of SPOT as a personal locator, but new year clean slate, right? The personal locator is how the tracking maps keep track of the 100+ adventurers. So, while sometimes the locater maps are slow, sometimes it's the personal locators corking the bottle.
The SPOT is a hockey-puck sized piece of kit that promises to ping a satellite every 20 minutes or so. It also has a couple of buttons for specific messages ("We're OK!" "We're in trouble, but we're safe," and of course the panic button that calls the Coast Guard). It's proven finicky.
Yes, we have heard that GARMIN makes a superior product with far nicer interfaces and reliability. Had we the option ten years ago, we would have chosen differently.
The SPOT hasn't failed, really, but it's disappointed me by not performing as I hope. We weren't ready to invest in yet another piece of expensive electronica for Spawn, so we'll be SPOTTING again this year.
Here's a link to that website. It follows Spawn only.
How long will the adventure last?
I have an entire country-western song bemoaning that exact question. It's already playing in my head.
The short answer: we hope the gang starts arriving in Key Largo on Sunday evening, but the awards ceremony and official end of the time limit is the following Saturday. It's really anyone's guess.
If never have you ever flipped open the cover of a new book –– or an old one, I'm not judging –– and taken an appreciative sniff, just keep scrolling.
Or give it a try. Page-sniffing is a thing.
I don't know how others turned into readers. The conversion interests me, seeming to divide the world into two groups (yeah, yeah, those who divide the world into groups and those who don't?). A hard binary system of readers and non-readers.
My sister is a reader. She wasn't for a while, and then in around fifth grade, she suddenly was.. I think it was a biography of Miss Harriet Tubman that swallowed her up during –– was it a car trip?
I want to remember the name of the paperback book Freedom Train, but I was a bystander, and this only my recollection. Did she read it over and over? I think she did.
So perhaps when I found a book that worked its wormy magic on me, I was only following her steps.
There I was, awake in a hospital bed, contemplating the small but disgusting remnants of my appendectomy, bored at age 8 as I had never imagined being bored.
It's a signifier of years under my keel that back then I spent 5 days recovering in the hospital. After the first dramatic 18 hours, the novelty of ginger ale, a nurse on call, limitless Jell-O, and four industrial-green walls wore off quickly.
Mrs. Horack, fourth-grade teacher and all-round civilizer of the savages we were, brought a small bouquet and a get-well package of cheerful messages from my erstwhile tormentors and classmates and –– oh joy! –– books from her latest Scholastic order.
A small stack of cheap paperbacks.
There was a Disney movie novelization called The Mystery in Dracula's Castle.
And one of Clifford D. Hicks' Alvin Fernard series –– Alvin Fernard's Secret Code perhaps?
A third that might have been another Disney novelization. I'm not sure. The Parent Trap with movie stills of Hayley Mills and Maureen O'Hara, maybe? Anyhow, forgettable fiction.
And...tahdah! Walter Farley's The Black Stallion.
The story of Alec, a boy who tames the heroic black stallion. While marooned on a desert isle. And who brings the wild creature home to Queens.
It surprises me a little that –– it appears –– nobody has based an academic dissertation on the works of Mr. Farley. The storytelling was like a barn fire: a smoulder for maybe the first sentence, followed by a five-alarm blaze for 18 chapters. Action! Horses! Danger! A Big Race!
The Black Stallion was published in 1941, the product of a college boy who knew and loved horses (it shows), which means it's had 80+ years to percolate through popular culture. The movie version, thank you Francis Ford Coppola and crew, is gorgeous.
I believe that JRR Tolkien produced the granddaddy of all modern fantasy novels in his Middle Earth (not that there weren't ancestors before then, but still –– not one Dragon, not one Dungeon, not one Song of Fire or Ice but which can trace its ancestry...) Anyhow, I likewise believe that The Black Stallion is, if not the first (hello, Anna Sewell's 1877 masterpiece, Black Beauty, not to mention Smokey the Cowhorse by Will James, which won the Newbery in 1928.) then it's the ideal exemplar of the horse-story.
The Black Stallion went on to sire a whole line of descendants. Not just look-alikes when kid meets horse, kid tames horse, horse and kid win big race, but Walter Farley wrote close to 20 sequels, and a son continues to produce new books in the series.
ANYHOW, I veer from me me me and my experience. The Black Stallion was the book that gave me my first immersive escape from physical surrounds. I dove into the dark and salty ocean with Alec and the Black while their tramp steamer foundered, forgetting about the discomfort an IV needle and the too-tight bedclothes, the scent of infection and Lysol, the hunger and weariness. It was magic.
The experience of reading and immediately re-reading the novel ––the pages of my copy are watermarked and foxed, scarred by tea and littered with petrified toast crumbs –– made me into a reader.
Of course I had pretty specialized taste at first. Researching for this blog sent me to a Pinterest page showing column after column of vintage horse-story books. So many old friends among those covers!
Horses and books, books and horses. Not all my book friends had horses, but a surprising number of friends know this two-pronged hayfork: Mumsie herself of course, and Cousin Shirley (Hiya!), the gang of Jill and Sheryl and Megan, plus Robyn, Jekki, Wendy, Arial, and more.
Decade after decade I crack open a book or swipe the Kindle awake, press the delta of "play" for an audiobook, absolutely certain that I'll be visiting a new world between the covers of one book or another. Right now there are two SF novels beside the bed, the latest Robert Galbraith/Cormoran Strike audiobook on the phone for Mr. Linton and me, and a handful of who knows what options on the Kindle. In fact, I should go update my Goodreads list.
Gentle readers, name the book that made you part of this strange clan. Or say what book you're reading now. Or which one bucked you off like rodeo bronc.
You know, talk bookly to me...
Imagine butterflies metamorphosing –– but in reverse. One by one, brightly-colored creatures alight and begin removing their orange and yellow vests, their chartreuse-and-black drysuits, scarlet wetsuits, gloves, booties.
They are encrusted with salt. Their swollen, water-softened hands quiver. They struggle with zips and buckles, sometimes having to stop for a revivifying sip of nectar.
But they finally peel their waterproofing cocoons and emerge at Key Largo: smaller, barer, larval.
The transformation needs only a blast of the hot shower and some hours of sleep before, voilá! they transform into human caterpillars again, full of stories and potential, committed to mowing some vittles.
Off Cape Sable, as Spawn of Frankenscot skitters along under spinnaker a, a 5-foot-long tarpon lifts itself clear of the surface –– four or five feet out of the water –– big jaws agape, sides shining like a mirror, and splashes down just shy of the boat's port water-wing.
A near miss to a legendary fish story. Moresailesaid, from the other side of the boat, "What the hell was that?"
At Checkpoint 2, Bill Wright is the volunteer in charge of the administration of the race. Under Bill's watch, the duties include gleefully filming the technique of each team as they navigate the viscous grey mud that separates water from shore at low tide.
His videos are accompanied by an evil chuckle worthy of a Bond villain.
Stumbling Thunder recounted the singular joy of sailing out Murray Channel to find a –– is it a congress of manatee?–– manateeing around.
He also said he was surprised by the number of porpoises that swam up to the boat to give the program the side-eye, as if to say, "Y'all crazy!" Mind you, he and JustAnotherSailor were on a 2-hour watch system, so they were not as sleep-deprived on the mighty Dovekie as might others have been on their various other kooky vessels.
So, my favorite skipper, TwoBeers along with Moresailesaid sailed in the kind of conditions that are hard to top for Spawn racing down the coast: good breeze, mostly NNE, with favorable tides and excellent luck.
"We've never pancaked so much," announced TwoBeers, meaning that the boat was skim-boarding along large swaths of the racecourse, occasionally outrunning the scrim of water and belly-flopping into the soft sandy mud. The new gasket he'd installed along the centerboard worked well, but sadly, they forgot to close the automatic bailer. Hello Old Faithful of stinky mudflat mud.
The team crossed Florida Bay in an astounding 4 hours moving like a scalded cat under reefed main and jib. The water-ballast and trapezes came into play on and off.
As they often express, they got their wish to finish before the second sunset, each sailor getting a couple of hours' worth of naps as the boat planed off on a (port) run.
In fact, the vast majority of the Challenge was completed on port, aside from the odd tack and jibe through passes.
Prudent superstition did not permit them to utter the words "record" until they were safely ashore in Key Largo, but they finished in something like 33 hours, breaking their own course monohull record from a few years ago by a smashing three hours.
We stretched out the clean-up and putting away of gear for a few days in Key Largo so that we could share in the triumph of other finishers; the event passes so quickly!
Until next 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.
A title like that and you're still reading? Bless you! I hope I can make it worthwhile.
As a rule, I prefer to share stuff I adore. Rare finds. Unlikely but likable things. Unexpected pleasures. Books that I think deserve a wider readership, for instance, or experiences that I'd like to encourage others to have.
But that basic human urge to share the other side --the irresistible impulse that says, "Jeepers, this stinks! Sniff it!"
Is there a Germanic term for this instinct , like schadenfreude? There ought to be.
It would be generous to imagine that our impulse to share things revolt the senses is like –– as the old phrase has it, trouble shared is trouble halved.
But I don't guess kindness is any part of the underlying motivation. I believe the reason we love sites like cake wrecks and people of Walmart is NOT to reduce the shock one feels. Sharing amplifies that shock but also, like a clever party-goer, scrapes off the offending image or scent onto someone else. Here, look, isn't it awful?!
So when I say the three worst songs in my music history are as follows, I am not simply trying to entertain.
And as a bonus, because back when irreverent reporters waited for results or otherwise idled in the Sports Department of The St. Petersburg Times, the game we played was to pick the line-up for the band that was playing in Hell.
Karen was always on the skins.
For many years, my book-loving Mumsie used to tell me about stories she remembered but hadn't had in hand for several decades. She had an ongoing quest to find a copy of The Swish of the Curtain, which she'd adored as a child.
It was, she told me, about a group of theater-mad children who staged shows in their English village. She looked for it at every used bookstore, but when I told her I'd located a copy (ah! early days of the internet!), she shied away from actually getting it. She said she didn't want to find it like that. She admitted she'd rather not test her memory of its charms.
Naturally, in these internet days, there are online services that can help.
For a couple of bucks, Loganberry Books helps the hive mind focus on your need.
The Library of Congress has a page of suggestions for how to find lost books/lost lyrics and more. The LoC site links to a veritable warren of rabbit holes, by the way, if you are so inclined (declined?) to potter around chasing other people's trails.
Like this Reddit page, this specific one, and so. many. more. <shakes head vigorously>
Everyone knows someone who is irrationally (well, that's all in the perspective, right?) afraid of, say, legless reptiles or eight-legged wall-walkers.
Not just slightly averse to these creatures, but seriously, panicky, clawing-a-way-out-the-window fearful.
Each of my parents had one. For my father and his siblings, having survived a canoeing accident as children where they and their mother clung to an overturned boat while long strands of seaweed brushed their legs, the fear was snakes.
I never noticed Mumsie's issue until that first summer at the cottage. We'd gone to take a quick look at what they had purchased –– waterfront! as is! Bill Bailey blue! furnished with toys and musty furniture! –– on the shore of Lake Ontario. We ended up just staying all summer. Daddo went off to work downstate during the week while the three of us swam and read books and played with the neighbors (each according to her tastes. Mumsie was not much for running around pretending to be horses).
Naturally, given the body of fresh water, the long Northern summer days, and the untenanted nature of the cottage, there were spiders. But it was a summer cottage. When sweeping, you directed the little pile of debris down that knot-hole in the floor in the hallway. On Thursdays, before Daddo came up, we'd eat ice-cream for supper. It was a Platonic ideal of summer cottage life.
Except for the spiders. One morning, we all scooted out of the house while Mumsie sprayed some sort of aerosolized poison. We must have been gone all day. Or maybe it was stormy when we returned, because while my sister and I, diminutive then, walked into the shadowy cottage without incident, our mother entered to a suspended carpet of deceased arachnids. All hanging at about eye-height from the ceiling. The horror. The horror.
Eventually, she dredged up a memory for me. "It might be this," she said, draping her paperback over her knee. "When I was very little –– on the farm in Springville –– I was playing in the creek." [The word "creek" in the geography of rural northern Pennsylvania was pronounced "crick." A thing I miss from her.]
She turned her head in the same questing way as when she was trying to recall the details of a dream. "I was splashing the water with a stick and there was an enormous water-spider. I hit it and it burst open and dozens –– hundreds?–– of baby spiders spilled out."
Gulp. Okay then.
My sister shares the distaste for spiders. We've often agreed that should there be an unfortunate single-car accident in her life, it's a near certainty to have involved a spider emerging from under the dashboard and landing on exposed skin.
As for spiders? I understand they won't actually kill me, but I find it hard to casually look away once I've noticed one nearby. I find their globular bodies shudderingly distasteful.
Be that all as it may. I actually meant to write about weird phobias. There's no shortage of oddity in the world. And phobias are the most common of mental illnesses.
Mental illness. Huh.
I've felt claustrophobia. Couldn't get into an elevator for two years. It was a side-effect, I think, of a dreadful boyfriend and asthma.
Once I nearly fainted –– and me a farm kid! –– at the vision of a big splinter protruding from someone else's finger. All the blood and guts in the world, and I was about to keel over from a splinter. I couldn't even help her yank it out.
But that's pretty mundane stuff. What's more intriguing is the fringier fears.
One of our elders has what's known as "White Coat Anxiety." Whenever confronted with a doctor or medical professional in a clinical environment, her blood pressure goes sky-high.
I worked with a woman who couldn't stand scissors. We'll call her Peg. Another co-worker, Liz, a capricious but observant creature, had noticed that Peg invariably moved books and files so that a pair of shears on a colleague's desk would be hidden from her view
Mr. Linton has been fishing pretty regularly, though because of last summer's red tide, he can't bring anything home. Social distancing is easy on the water.
And naturally, he has a lot of boat-work to fill his days on shore.
The two 2.4 Meter boats (one fresh, one experienced) are slowly coming into alignment. Jeff's re-rigged the older boat so that it's indistinguishable from the newer one. Fresh paint, fresh lines, carbon-fiber bits and bobs. He orders stuff on-line and obsessively checks delivery times. He splices lines while watching Bosch in the evenings.
Given that many of our upcoming regattas have been cancelled, he seems content.
And me, I'm always looking forward to a chunk of time in which to write but as it happens, I've been distracted by real life. It's hard to make up a story more exciting than the news right now.
So instead, I'm doing a lot of reading (check out my goodreads shelf for the bookwormy details).
And making stuff.
We're avoiding the grocery store –– taco Tuesday involved some freezer-burned ground beef that I might normally have donated to the fishes, but it tasted fine with the fresh greens from the garden –– and keeping our IRL social distance from the world. I've become a big fan of FaceTime right now for actual social interaction. Yay internet!
I'm hoping to settle into whatever this new normal is and get back to my keyboard sometime soon, but in the the meanwhile, as they say in one of my favorite movies, "Rule #32: Enjoy the little things."
Wishing you safety and kindness from here...
Everglades Challenge: On Line
But be that as it may.
Here's a link to the Watertribe Challenger Tracking site (or just click on the picture!).
The event starts Saturday morning at dawn. Charlie "Gaajii" Clifton will be official shoreside support, chasing the team by land as they sprint down the state.
We keep our fingers crossed...
Volcano, Iguana, Finch
The story varies.
In any case, Galápagos mockingbirds are also distinctively different from mockingbirds on the mainland. And they are different from one Galápagos island to another.
Which leads, step by painful step, to Darwin's theory of evolution and the eventual publication in 1859 of On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Phew.
Sidebar drama: Interestingly enough, as a Christian, Darwin was troubled by the implications of what he discovered. However, when a naturalist pal of his, Alfred Wallace, came up with a parallel theory, Darwin's misgivings subsided enough for Darwin to polish up his own manuscript and send it to a publisher. It became an overnight sensation.
While we were doing our own exploration in the Galápagos (zero collection of specimens, thousands of photos, great guides, and a tidy ship thanks to AdventureLife), we stumbled across a little mockingbird family drama on Floreana.
I've got a theory or two (as usual) about this scene. It might be a long-held rivalry between the matriarchs who were born sisters but grew to their own greatest rivals. It might be a fresh incursion between an upstart gang and the Boomer family they rejected.
Or maybe it's a daily show staged to entrance the tourists –– 14:00-15:20 beached walrus pups, 15:20-15:40 mockingbird display, 15:40-whenever tortoise crossing.
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