Friday, February 15, 2008

Mike's symphony, in three movements

I was born about 30 miles from our Eugene farm, up in the mountains in a little one-horse logging community (honest, they only had one horse!), but I've been gone so long I had forgotten about the snow, mud, rain, cold, et al. My sun-baked Southern California epidermis took a short while to thicken and tolerate the less temperate winter conditions at this higher latitude. But now the cold isn't particularly bothersome. Flannel sheets helped. And a thermal sweatshirt. Oh yeah, and insulated boots. Um, and those fuzzy gloves... two pairs of socks...

The mud, however, is a different story. From late November on, workmen were sticking their vehicles in so deep they had to be pulled out, so they started parking on the lawn. Which accordingly now sports ruts that'll twist a camel's ankles. I spooned some pea gravel onto the less stable parts of the driveway so at least it could be walked across to the trash cans, garage, and Alpaca Store without sinking in, but after watching the rain wash down the drive, I've come to the conclusion that our driveway is and always has been crossed by the prevailing stream off the hills behind us. That could by why the cistern is where it is.

But thankfully, it froze and the mud became hard enough to walk on again. That was better. Even the pea gravel froze into a solid mass. We reveled in the fact we could walk to the barn without sinking in up to our ankles. Mind you, we're not talking legendary freezes here, just into the high teens and twenties, but with a daytime high of about 33F, it didn't thaw for a week or two.

And then it snowed. The first snow was on Christmas night, then it took a month's respite before returning with a vengeance in late January. Old Timers said it was the most snow they can remember. We were "snowed in" (well, okay, I bet I could have shoveled enough snow to get out if I'd really needed to) for several days, but we didn't really have anyplace to go anyway. So we just stayed aboard and had a great time looking at it, playing in it, romping the dog in it, etc. We even made a snowman and a companion Snow Alpaca on the lawn. I think maybe the workmen skidded into them though, because they didn't last long.

We planted our four foot living Christmas tree as the first of what we intend to be a row of evergreens along the street side of the upper yard. When I pulled out an old fencepost to plant it, subsequently landing on my keister in the mud, there was an actual running river at the bottom of the hole. I suspect there's a drain culvert down there that the fencepost pierced so many years back, the water was really running. Either that or I discovered the "headwaters" of the spring that runs... you got it... across the driveway when it rains.

But the craziest upshot of all this "weather related" diatribe is: I'm currently down in Southern California readying our sailboat-slant-woodworking-project for trailering up to live with us (where it can bug me until I finally get around to finishing it), and all the friends and neighbors are commenting how much I must really enjoy the wonderful spell of weather we're having. For some reason, it's too hot for me. I guess it always was, I was never really completely comfortable in this climate, but I always attributed that to being a tad on the "husky" side.

Who knows, might just have never been enough mud for me here.



It never occurred to me, until just now, to name a sailboat "Luna Sea" but one could easily say Lunacy is involved somewhere in there.

I was surfing the 'Net one night and chanced to see if I could find out anything about the One-Design class of sailboats I learned to sail in, the "Geary 18" (or as it's lovingly known, the "Flattie"). Sure enough, I made a connection with some of the people that still have them. The boat was designed around 1927 by famous naval architect Ted Geary, who went on to design many large luxury yachts and eventually merchantmen for the war effort. They are numbered up to about 1500, but there aren't many of the older ones left - maybe 50 or so - scattered all over the West Coast. I spent many a Saturday "racing", a moniker offered to wondering parents - more like just fooling around, in one of the real old ones: sail number 228. I had the idea of rebuilding an old one as a joint project with my darling daughter, as a way of teaching Perseverance by example.

So my loving wife and best friend said "Why don't you just buy one?" Yeah. Thanks a bunch.

Unsuspecting, I bought a damaged one for $400 in unmarked bills (hull number 272, originally built beneath an under-construction freeway overpass in LA around 1930), never received a stitch of paperwork with it, and have since come to some realizations:

  1. no amount of money can get you two pieces of 21' long by 2' wide clear Port Orford cedar, as called for in Geary's plans for the sides. Substitute $1500 worth of mahogany. Now I have eight 80' tall Port Orford cedars in my front yard. Go figure.
  2. finding a piece of 3/4" plywood 21' long by 6' wide is technically feasible, but how are you going to get it home? Substitute a few thousand more bucks worth of woodworking tools (darn), lots of wood joinery, and more expensive replacement wood.
  3. when you take one rotted piece of a boat out, almost everything it ever came in contact with, will also be rotten. Substitute another paycheck worth of mahogany, longleaf pine, etc.
  4. owning a boat when you have anything else to do with your life, is just plain Lunacy.

I'll finish the thing someday and sail it on Fern Ridge reservoir or Dexter Lake, but next week I'm starting the second chapter of the adventure by boldly trailering it (on those little 8" mini wheels) straight up Interstate 5 for about 800 miles. My job tomorrow is to wire it for lights, since some of that drive will be in rain and at night. Nobody alert the Highway Patrol, please. Oh, and by the way, I'd stay away from I-5 the beginning of next week if I were you.



We prepped our house in Southern California for sale last year and put it on the market. Detecting this miniscule flutter of butterfly wings, the real estate market across the United States promptly imploded. So we are left with a large and pristine home, richly upgraded at extreme expense, that we now find we must rent out and wait for the market to recover.

So to finish emptying it, I find myself back in the land of SoCal, in the town in which I lived for nearly 50 years. My family is still in the area, beloved members are interred here, and I still have a few surviving high-school friends as well as many other friends of more recent acquaint. However, this trip has invoked a great deal of solo-ness and I find myself sleeping on the floor in a house that's now been completely emptied of familiar accoutrements. Even the Internet connection has long since been turned off and I find myself stealing tincan-and-string level connectivity from some neighbors down the street who neglected to set a password on their wireless router. The echo in this empty house, once so warm and vibrant with friends, is the clarion call that it's time to move on, physically and metaphysically.

And right on cue, the 20-year-old Oldsmobile minivan I'm driving started giving me trouble. Nothing monumental, it still goes down the road, but the driver's side window locked in the wide-open position, for instance. Admittedly not a show-stopper. I could still get back to Eugene, but it'd be pretty darn uncomfortable driving through February weather with an Oh-Dark-Thirty departure and arrival and 18 hours of window-thunder between. With no "fat" in the schedule to allow me to find a cost-effective solution, a trip to the GM dealership put the window mechanism back in showroom condition. They even washed and waxed the beast for me! All for only.... about half the market value of the van itself. But like I said, there was no time to shop around and hope someone else could get the right parts the first time.

But what I really can't figure out is where all this STUFF comes from. When we emptied the house to sell it, we thought we had emptied it down to where one more van-full would take care of the last of the stuff. Now it seems, in the darkened privacy of the closed closets, the coat hangers have multiplied and we now have a van-full of coat hangers, a van-full of potted plants, a van-full of empty pots for plants, a van-full.... well, you get it. I'm being as ruthless as I can about throwing the "that's only barely used" piece of soap away, but the Stuff-o-Meter on our storage place keeps going up regardless. I'm worried they might surcharge us - out of the corner of my eye I noticed the clerk at the storage place hanging watchfully around as I put the last bunch of Stuff in. I think the door was bowed out just a little when I closed it.

And I don't think I'm getting any less Stuff in the van for the trip home, either. Every cabinet I open, even those I think I cleaned out the other day, seems to have Stuff in it. Someplace in a different universe, some guys are having a beer, pushing a button labelled "Multiply Mike's Stuff", and laughing at me on the monitor. "Quick, he's not looking, put some more Stuff in there!"

All right you guys, knock it off! I got my hands full here!

Tomorrow, I think I'll do a "test load" and see how much Stuff I can get in the van, then take it all back out and put it in the middle of the floor where I can keep an eye on it. Applied quantum physics - if I continually observe and am only open to the possibility that I have 1X amount of stuff, it can't multiply on me.

But sadly, I'm feeling like an interloper in a town in which I know every rock on every street by first name. Neighbors have remarked "isn't this weather wonderful?" and I find myself biting my tongue to avoid saying: "Naw, too hot." But maybe that's normal - I've only moved to a different town once in my life, and that was from the Eugene area TO Southern California, about the time the speed limit on the freeway went from 50 to the breakneck 55. This trip back north, with a van-full of (multiplied) stuff and towing an antique sailboat, will be at 55 miles per hour as well. That's some sort of circular experience, I guess.

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