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.
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>
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...
As the Bookworm Turns
My childhood bestie, Care, reminds me from time to time about how it used to go down.
She'd come next-door at the cottage on a summer morning and ask if I wanted to do something: swimming, running around á la wild mustangs, making miniature ballrooms in the field, catching rabbits.
I remember spending those summers perpetually in motion, but evidently there were too many times when my answer was the dreaded, "Nah, I'm reading."
So far anyhow.
Some years I read less, but mostly I read a lot. Quickly.
I go heavy on novels, light on memoirs. I snack on essays and take sparse sips of poetry. I almost never read biographies. (That 5th-grade assignment on Betsy Ross <shudder>)
Generalized history gets a pass, but I do like specific topics (The Black Death in 1348, anyone? Rats in New York? ) and anything natural history-ish.
Stacks of books sprout wherever I perch: volumes I mean to read, books I have started, tomes I use for reference.
When Mr. Linton and I downsized, I culled about a third of my collection and still needed to rent a scissor-lift to get the rest of them up the stairs.
Sidebar Truth: While waiting for the delivery of the scissor-lift, and knowing the advantageous tide would wait for no book, Mr. Linton trotted the literal ton of books up stairs on tireless feet without a single complaint. Bless him.
I have reading recommendations the way pharmaceutical reps have sample packs and cronuts -- with roughly the same goal. Minus the commission.
Goodreads, which is connected in the cross-platform sales way of the modern world to Amazon.com (which is to say, Amazon owns the "social cataloguing" website), has become my preferred way to keep track of titles.
Instead of jotting down book recommendations on scraps of paper and then scotch-taping them someplace handy, a user can type in the name of the book (or a close approximation) or the name of the author and save it to the shelf of Books to Read.
Were I a slightly more nimble consumer, I could obtain any book with a few keystrokes, but my connections are not so tight.
Diversifying my stream: I read physical books that I buy. I read physical books that I borrow from the library. My sister (bless her!) gave me one of her extra Kindles, so I read on that, or on the iPad. We listen to books on CD or as podcasts or digital files.
I whittled a few titles off the "Books to Read" list recently and discovered one of my favorite bookchoices for the year. Some friends may be getting a copy of
The Fly Trap by Fredrik Sjöberg
Like all the best memoirs, the book –– slim, but promising to continue in another two volumes –– is not so much about Sjöberg's insects, but about what he has learned from his pursuit of them.
I should be more embarrassed at my giddy fan-girl response to Sjöberg's story, but as my companions will attest: I cheerfully read aloud whole pages for their enjoyment as well as my own.
Interested parties need to pace themselves. Seven days, ten days? Jeesh. That's a lot of click-click-clicking. That's potentially a lot of sleep-deprived calendar days –– even days set near Hollywood or Waikiki.
But I am happy to say there's a super-cool tracking site that shows all the boats in the several fleets.
Okay, super-cool –– but with a 4-hour delay, and the updates seem to come only every hour or so. So perhaps medium-cool.
Anyway. It allows those of us watching the race to follow the track and to guess at the weather. Plus, the class leaders get a little crown over their name. Which is nice.
Here's the link.
My favorite line from the Declaration of Independence?
It's not how "we hold these truths to be self-evident" –– even though that is one of the neatest summaries of all time (all are created equal, with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness).
Nor is it how governments "derive their power from the will of the governed," which is likewise very elegant.
That initial section endures and continues to inspire.
No, the part I enjoy most is where the reasons for the rebellion from Britain and its king are set out in full and querulous detail. It's a laundry list of offenses, including my personal favorite:
"He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation."*
This is just one of a couple of dozen of reasons that the 13 states agreed to start the Revolution. You can feel the outrage and exhaustion –– though it was written mostly by Thomas Jefferson, the whole document was agreed to by committee.
Sadly, other complaints against the King (like this one: "He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or incur miserable death in transportation thither.") didn't make the cut. How different a Republic it would have been had that one made it.
*Don't recognize these lines? That's okay. National Public Radio broadcasts the Declaration in full every year and you can read the whole thing in a careful ten minutes or so.. Here's a link to our fantastic National Archives transcription.
The middle of the state. The middle of the night. The middle of a large pile of gear.
From the middle, ground-control for my Everglades Challenge team seems like a way of life.
It's probably sleep deprivation (I write this at midnight, over a bowl of dairy-free frozen dessert, in between reloading various tracking pages and checking the social media), but here I go again, blearily worrying, along with a clan of like-minded folks as we follow the progress of the 100 or so boats as they paddle, sail, and row down the left side of the Florida peninsula.
For those who haven't been following, here's the overview: The Everglades Challenge is a 300-mile unsupported expedition race put on by a gang called the WaterTribe. Competitors get a WaterTribe name. My favorite skipper –– AKA TwoBeers –– is racing with his childhood pal, the offshore sailing coach for the Naval Academy, Jahn Tihansky (tribe name Moresailesed). They set sail on the first Saturday in March at dawn from Fort Desoto in St. Pete, aboard a boat called Spawn designed by OH Rodgers (Ninjee).
As expected, the WaterTribe tracking site is experiencing some kind of technological version of the vapors.
Raceowl.com is doing better, but it means translating four-digit numbers back into familiar names. Spawn of Frankenscot is 3092, Safety Dance is 2969, Spongebob is 3072, the German guy, Schappi, is 3068, Jarhead is 3154, Puma is 3134, SeadogRocket and BermudaBoy are 3104, Ccock 3043. Et cetera.
Yesterday started for the Spawn team at o'dark thirty, when Jeff and Jahn and I piled into Charlie Clifton's van with yet more piles of gear, and made our way to the beach at Fort Desoto. Where we were met with a whole tribe of people wearing head-lamps and lycra-enhanced fitness clothing toting bales of stuff out to their various watercraft.
The Challenge begins, fiendishly enough, with the competitors needing to push their boats from the high-tide line into the water at the signal at 7 am. Some folks have wallowed in the sand for seemingly hours. Not my fellas!
The launching of the fleet was relatively slow this year –– not much breeze. Still, the moment passes in a twinkling of the eye.
At seven, the beach is packed, by a quarter after, only a lonesome boat or two and spectators are left on the beach.
I don't know what other ground-control people do, but given that Moresailesed was shedding virus and coughing like a consumptive, I cleaned up with a vengeance. Seven loads of laundry, autoclaving the dishes, a possibly unhealthy number of Clorox wipes, followed by a quick nip around to the non-dairy frozen dessert section of my local grocery and a nice cat-nap.
My phone is buzzing more than usual: Spawn has a following, and even with the light wind there's an element of nail-biting suspense. Moresailesed send along a photo from onboard –– roughly, I am thinking, from the spot where they spent some time last year recovering from a bit of excitement.
Evidently the mosquitoes are making an appearance on board Spawn –– last year, the poor devils couldn't make headway agains the wind. Each Challenge is different, I suppose, and a new test of the competitors' varying skills.
Les Fleurs de Quoi?
"Chrysanthemum" comes from the Greek for "gold" and "flower."
You know these flowers: big tidy pots of blooms that last for ages. They show up for sale in the front of high-end grocery stores and at the big hardware warehouse stores. Mums, as we call them in English. Mums at Halloween, autumn colors for Thanksgiving. In Australia, mums are the traditional flower for Mother's day.
In China, they are the symbol of autumn and purity. The chrysanthemum is the official flower of Chicago. Who knew?
In India, a girl wearing chrysanthemums in her hair is said to bring happiness to her family. And in Japan, they represent longevity. The royal family sits on the chrysanthemum throne. But also –– so I understand after reading one of the Sano Ichiru mysteries by Laura Joh Rowland –– it's a symbol of homosexuality in samurai times. Yeah, don't think about it.
But in France, they are the flower for tombstones. People put them in the graveyard on All Saints.
For years, I have mistakenly believed that Charles Baudelaire's famous book of poetry Les Fleurs du Mal –– a chunk of which I translated in college, for pity's sake –– was both "the flowers of evil" (a metaphor) and also an actual flower: chrysanthemums.
Whenever I saw the cheerful round faces of chrysanthemums, my busy brain would supply the subtitle, "Les fleurs du mal!"
But nope. Baudelaire anyhow wasn't referencing these particular flowers in his poems about the pursuit of novelty and erotic decadence.
How odd: such an infinitesimal and utterly trivial prejudice against an innocent flower, but I have held it for decades. Of course, it's worth remembering that one might also translate the title of that book (which I don't recommend, btw, as fun reading) as "the flowers from evil, or from suffering." Or something.
Anyhow. They are long-suffering and colorful blossoms, no matter what I've mistakenly held against them.
But when I do –– oh heckydoodle, who am I trying to fool? Whole chunks of time are left bleeding and helpless in my wake.
I'd like to be bigger and better than this, but I just kept hoping to find a more flattering match for my own face.
Time, I will not pretend, was laid waste in the mostly fruitless effort.
Portrait of a Man Dressed as a Shepard, Sigh. Portrait of the Danish King Christian. Heavy sigh.
Fine fine fine. I didn't go so far as to put on make-up, which I hope explains why me and King Christian both look a little, um, fatigued.
Still, even when I went way, way, way back, to the passport photos that didn't turn into my first passport –– kind of a funny story. I was pretty sure I had been adopted after the passport office rejected my application MORE THAN ONCE –– guess who Google says I look like?
In a Gibsonian twist, this kooky effort to lure customers to buy more is all math; it's called a recommendation engine. I imagine it puff-puff-puffing trying to get up the hill. (P.S., yes, I know he's Canadian.)
Facebook's friend suggestion of the month came with an unremarkable name and a North Country photo. I looked at it for a solid minute, thinking, really? Could it be? The boy who rode my school-bus all those years ago? The ricketty kid who captured flies against the smeared windows of Mrs. Gamble's Bluebird and ate their fresh-plucked wings in what may have been an attempt to impress the girls on the bus? In truth, it did leave an impression.
Again, wow, thanks anyhow!
And don't get me started on the social media's version of "news."
Oh, heckydoodle, it's too late...Believe that when you see another outrageous story about <fill in the heinous-mingus blank> it's not necessarily happening more often.
Perhaps, once upon a cyber time, you clicked and paused for a nanosecond longer on a story in a similar vein. The recommendation engines chug on.
Gah, what a tangled interweb have we wrought. Here's me avoiding it.
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