Friday, November 16, 2007

Past Light Cone

I had never spoken to Ray, the guy who sat behind me in Algebra, but I read about him in the newspaper. Apparently he had been hanging out with friends at one of their house’s when someone discovered what they thought to be an older brother’s cocaine stash. After inhaling the entire quantity between them they quickly succumbed to the affects of PCB and one by one fell into a deep comatose state. Just before collapse one of the girls had dialed 911 and Ray, hearing this, miracously climbed into the attic and hid there until paramedics found the open door to climb in and administer cardio pulmonary ressesutation. That, to me, represented a certain level of experience and dedication.

Our Algebra class took place after lunch and I frequently smelled booze on Ray. That, Ray’s reputation as an ass kicker and the fact that he was older and had an easy hundred pounds on me combined quite effectively to instill draw clenching fear every time I sat down. Still, I knew that if liquor was detected in our vicinity the blame would certainly fall on him since no one at the time suspected I was drinking my lunch. I would have let that happen too as I knew that the address given with the police report had listed Ray as living at some church, and I imagined a poor derelict orphan rattling around echoing halls badgered by clergymen to do homework. I didn’t care what happened to him.

In the silence of our first Algebra test a finger in my ribs pushed me to the side of my chair. I understood and let him copy my answers.

The school was undergoing a large renovation project then so afterwards I ducked into a construction zone for a smoke. When I was done Ray was just heading in, surprised to see someone like me there. As we stood for a moment he looked over and said “cool”. I knew he was talking about the exam.


I was a loner yet also a bit of a loose cannon, and there happened to be a rather pleasurable circumstance with a nicely formed specimen which had gone awry. I didn’t blame her but apparently that generosity of spirit was not reciprocated. During an inopportune moment surrounded by many people she accused me in a loud tone of being gay, and I let loose. The verbal assault attracted a great deal of attention, including that of some athlete type senior year dork in the mood to play night in shining armor. Undeterred I went on as this guy came in for my neck, but just as he was about to land he was yanked from the ground. Ray. After the smoke cleared a gym coach came through the waning crowd and asked me if she called me a “fag”. I confirmed that and he smiled and said “well done. I didn’t see a thing”. Imagine, a coach and a 225 pound juvenile delinquent abandoning their differences to come to my side? The feeling of that sort of comradery during my time of duress has stuck with me to this day.

Last night I was hanging out with a bunch of guys down by the cay. We were all more than a bit schnockered and feeling pretty good. I didn’t know everyone but, you know, I knew someone that everyone knew. One of the guys I didn’t found it necessary to grab his guitar and smash it against a tree. I thought to myself What an impetuous fool, stay away from that one. And then I remembered Algebra, how I had been deceived by my early impressions, understood that all I knew about this guy was that he
harmed nothing but his own guitar.

It turns out that Ray truly was the orphan I imagined him to be, and to many people made the mistake I did in class. So now, even though I’ve forgotten most of the Algebra, I’m going to remember the sentiment and see if I can save the next guitar.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


For the past four weeks I’ve been aboard the unregistered Pacific Seacraft Dana marked Collette off the coast of Eastern Central America. The waters have been, for the most part, calm and delightful. As I’ve tacked easily across the Gulf schools of fishes have been traveling afoot as I’ve teased them with my fly rod, using circle hooks to ensure that most could be safely released. Because the owner has installed a propane refrigerator I have had reliable food storage so I take about one fish every other day. On the first day I have sashimi then throughout the second and sometimes the third I have yaki sakana and ceviche. Other than that I read, listen to shortwave radio and scan the horizon, always beset with guilt for not doing so for fear of missing a distressed vessel or crewman.
Though I have experienced remarkable sites during this delivery I have not enjoyed the sensation of sharing them. I have painstakingly corroded two circuits on my radio to provide an explanation should the Coast Guard board Collette. I do not watch TV or movies. The lapping of wave on hull is small comfort to my ears.
Very Large Crude Carriers known as Panamax or VLCCs frequent these waters, and sometimes when I go to sleep I wonder if I will succumb to their inertia and mass, woken only to drown among sunken fiberglass splinters. I’m sure I would not be the first and only wonder how many Chinese junks Collette would join in heaven.
Unforeseen factors aside I will birth in Miami in three days. Before then I will adjust the aspiration on the spotless Volvo diesel and test, analyze and monitor the entire electrical system. I will polish teak with lamp oil and eat from cans to maintain a spotless deck. Within one day’s sail I will no longer allow weary birds to rest aboard ship as they will be well within land’s and other’s reach.
On the morning of the last day I will also uncleat collette’s halyard and lower the jib, spray it with fresh water, allow it to luff dry, then stow it below. Within an hour of port I will do the same with her mainsail. Both will be inspected carefully beforehand.
Shortly before port I will shower and don a ridiculously pretentious nautical cap, blazer and slacks. I will wave only to sailors, then motor in awkwardly so that my skills appear to match my outfit, cleat up and come ashore. I will hand the keys to Collette’s cabin and electrical system to a man who has been hired specifically for the occasion to relive the harbor master, strip off my cap and glasses in a rented car and disappear into traffic.
Twelve hours later a flight, a bus ride and a cab will bring me to the cottage. I will double check my pockets and backpack for any paper, put my marlinspike in a drawer and step on the scale in my bathroom. As the mechanical dial spins I will take a deep breath, hear my weight finally register and come back into being to prepare for my bed. In Vermont. Impossibly inland from VLCCs.